Here are 9 Restaurants Will Make You Want to Book a Flight to Melbourne ASAPDecember 10, 2014
- Jessi SingsonWords
Over the past few years, I’ve fallen more and more in love with the beautiful city of Melbourne. While I didn’t see it at first, the quirks and whimsies of eating out in Melbourne became gradually more obvious. There’s an unparalleled obsession with brunch, with Melbournites taking their coffee and eggs on toast with a fevered seriousness. Each corner introduces another family owned café with their twist on avo toast, seasonal muesli and porridge bowls, and eggs benedict with whatever meat you can name (pulled pork has so far been my favorite).
But, besides this undeniable (and definitely not fleeting) trend of brunch-goers, there’s a swiftly growing undercurrent of globalised cuisine. Melbourne is pulsing with rich influences from Asia, America, and Europe. I’m not talking bastardised orange chicken and soggy carbonaras laden with wet cream (though these can be found without much difficulty) but rather, respectful and true interpretations of things like Southern crab boils, Japanese teishoku, and some of the best gelato I’ve tasted.
1. Hammer & Tong
Hammer & Tong is without a doubt one of the most talked about cafes in Melbourne. Their daytime dishes range from five-grain porridge with coconut foam, mango and black sesame seeds to breakfast ramen, with a 62-degree hens egg, bacon, mushroom, spring onion and bacon dashi.
But what they are really known for is their signature soft shell crab burger, where pillowy sweet brioche contrasts crunchy battered crab, a zingy slaw, and freshly ripped herbs to create a balance that so many others fail to find. Almost every dish has a touch of flair that is intriguing and often also beautiful, like the spanner crab risotto cooked in vegetable stock, with mandarin and champagne gel. The café transforms into a bar at night, with an equally impressive dinner and bar snack menu.
Hammer & Tong
Address: Rear 412 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy, Melbourne, VIC 3065
2. Coin Laundry
Coin Laundry is a fantastic corner café in suburbia, that was yes, you guessed it, a former coin-operated laundromat. Some may call it a little bit hipster, but I say it’s bright, family-friendly, staffed with beautiful people, and has the best meatballs I’ve ever tried.
If you find they’re on the specials when you visit, be sure to order them. Can’t go wrong with three spicy meatballs in the richest tomato capsicum sauce, topped with melted mozzarella.
The café is simple and unassuming, like many of the greats in Melbourne, and has a big roll of brown paper with handwritten daily specials right by the entrance. While much of the menu is standard café fare, like fritters, muesli, and French toast, there’s a nice variety of salads, sandwiches, and egg dishes that, while simple, are delicious. Their wagyu burger is just plain good–seasoned well with bacon, lettuce, tomato, fried egg, and beetroot. We get it every time we visit.
Address: 61 Armadale Street, Armadale, Melbourne, VIC 3143
3. Tuck Shop Take Away
Notorious for their burgers that run out as early as 7 or 8pm, and their ever-changing homemade flavours of ice cream, Tuck Shop is an ode to the simpler things in life.
With inspiration from old school tuck shops and milk bars, the restaurant sticks to what the kid in you craves: burgers, jaffles (buttery filled and toasted sandwiches), milkshakes, and soft-serve.
Some of their weekly soft-serve flavours are so good that customers beg for their return after their week is up. My favourite was the cornflakes and honey, but I’m patiently waiting to taste the revival of cult favourite toasted marshmallow, or my personal childhood obsession, froot loops.
Tuck Shop Take Away
Address: 273 Hawthorn Road, Caulfield North, Melbourne, VIC 3161
4. Miss Katie’s Crab Shack
With an American chef from Maryland, USA at the helm, this crab-shack-cum-live-band-bar is spilling with Southern favourites that will make you lose all sense of decorum (read: bibs on, and hands washed ready for action).
The most important thing you need to know is to order Katie’s Low Country Boil. Succulent organic blue swimmer crab, corn on the cob, and smoked kransky is doused in some magical concoction of old bay garlic butter.
An order of cornbread to mop everything up goes without question, and if you’re really hungry, you’ll get some Southern fried chicken and waffles. If you’re not really hungry, get them anyway.
Miss Katie’s Crab Shack
Address: 238 Victoria Street, North Melbourne, Melbourne, VIC 3051
Akasiro operates Teishoku-style, meaning with your main dish, you get unlimited rice, a bowl of miso soup, and a standard crunchy salad of lettuce, cucumber, and finely grated carrot with vinegar.
Pot lids are scrawled with side dish specials (who knew that sweet corn and roasted cauliflower could be so exceptionally delicious together), and customers can watch the chef whirl through the open kitchen that takes up almost half the restaurant.
The tori karaage is consistently flawless; marinated in soy and ginger, it is never greasy, but delivers that famous fried crunch. The menu is small but meaningful, with clean Japanese flavours and well-cooked meat.
Address: 106 Cambridge Street, Collingwood, Melbourne, VIC 3066
6. ABC Chicken
While there may be more famous Korean fried chicken houses in Melbourne (like Gami, which I also love), ABC is a definite contender for the best. Korean fried chicken may not be the most unique or innovative things out there, but in comparison to what we have in Manila, there’s something so much fun about it here. The chicken is served in monstrous proportions, making it perfect for a group of friends.
Each piece is huge, juicy, and so satisfyingly crisp that the logical progression is washing it down with a cold glug of beer. This is the ultimate pulutan, whether at the start of your night, or the very end. There are a variety of sauces that the chicken can be drenched in, but the best thing to do is order them on the side so you can retain maximum crunch in each glorious bite.
Address: 361 Queen Street, Melbourne CBD, VIC 3000
7. Chin Chin
Another of Melbourne’s most talked about spots is lead by executive chef Benjamin Cooper, who is also of Kong and Masterchef Australia (guest judge) fame. They never take reservations for parties smaller than 10 and are almost always full and buzzing with a line out the door. The dishes are Thai hawker-inspired, with some Indian and Vietnamese influence; and the restaurant gives off an electric vibe of casual Bangkok.
Plates are meant to be shared and passed around, but that’s definitely the last thing you’ll want to do when you order something as good as the soft shell crab dry red curry. Chin Chin is so great at balancing complex spices and adventurous curries with a freshness that allows you to keep eating more and more. If the menu overwhelms you, just utter the words “Feed me” and you’ll get all their favourites for a set price.
Address: 125 Flinders Lane, Melbourne CBD, VIC 3000
8. Nieuw Amsterdam
For a date or something a little bit more on the fancier side, Nieuw Amsterdam offers an array of refined American food with the occasional twist. The menu has a pitt grill section full of real, slow-cooked barbecue reimagined, like smoky beef brisket with kimchi and roasted garlic and Southern style pork belly chops with sauerkraut, apple sauce, and crackling.
A sin to miss is also their legendary pork trotter and ham hock nuggets with burnt onion jam. Everything is elevated here, but retains an element of comfort. The tender meats are jazzed up just enough to be interesting, and the bistro is dimly lit, rather unpretentious, and almost homey.
Address: 106-112 Hardware Street, Melbourne CBD, VIC 3000
9. Gelato Messina
Messina is heaven for gelato lovers and casual snackers alike. With principles rooted in making gelato from scratch as traditionally as possible, the gelateria takes pride in using entirely raw and natural ingredients from the beginning in classic and also some more new wave flavours.
Best-sellers include salted caramel and white chocolate, and pandan and coconut, while some of their more inventive flavours include peanut butter, fried brioche bits and banana jam for the Elvis, and saffron gelato with saffron vanilla rice pudding for the Risotto Milanese. Even in the middle of winter (yes, I somehow ended up there despite the three layers of clothing required to keep me warm), the shop is bustling with customers looking for a cold treat.
Address: 237 Smith Street, Fitzroy, Melbourne, VIC 3066