As far as city dining goes, Melburnians have a tonne of choices. The recent opening of upscale food hub Ella really ramped up the options for casual city lunching, and now, further south, another high-end food hall is attracting attention.

St Collins Lane is a shopping hub that runs between Collins and Little Collins streets. The building dates back to the ’90s, when it launched as Australia on Collins, a series of mezzanines accessed by a confusing network of sloping ramps. But after a 2016 redesign by ARM Architecture, the shopping centre – home to labels including Sandro, Coach, Tag Heuer, Zadig & Voltaire, and Australia’s flagship (although soon-to-close) Debenhams store – is much more streamlined. And importantly, it has a swanky new food hub to match.

Ascend the escalator to level two and step into a contemporary space that feels more hotel lobby than food court. Green lanterns hang from the ceiling, stretching across the entire length of the second-floor canopy. It’s still a food court, but it’s more elegant than most. Four new food stalls have recently joined the party – here are the best dishes to try.

Kurobuta pork sando, $15
Saint Dreux
Japanese-inspired coffee and katsu sando bar Saint Dreux is by the team that gave us specialty coffee shops Slater Street Bench and 580 Bench. The futuristic shop was born from the owners’ love for Japan’s katsu sandwiches – soft white bread, Panko-crumbed fried meat, mayonnaise and tonkatsu sauce – available at vending machines and train stations all over Japan.

While Saint Dreux’s $28 Wagyu sando has gained a lot of attention, its humbler (and arguably tastier) sibling, the kurobuta pork sando is a standout. A juicy pork cutlet is fried, crumbed, then sandwiched between two fluffy pieces of white bread (known as shokupan) with creamy mayo. It comes neatly packaged in a minimalist black box, perfect for taking away.

Matcha castella cake, $7
Saint Dreux
Castella is a sponge cake that originated in Portugal but is a specialty of Nagasaki, Japan, after it was introduced to the region by Portuguese merchants in the 16th century. Each delicate cube is baked in a traditional wooden frame to keep it moist and perfectly shaped. The pick here is one made with matcha, a finely ground green tea powder. It has all the characteristics of a sponge cake, but is a bit less sweet, with a slick of matcha icing on top.

Tune-A poke bowl, $9.50
Poke Workshop
Poke bowls are having a moment, so it’s no surprise to see another one pop up in a Melbourne food court. Poke Workshop is the sibling of Nosh, another Melbourne nourish-bowl chain known for its Japanese-Hawaiian fare. Here, you can build your own bowl or choose one from a set menu, which is then made on the spot. The Tune-A poke bowl is cubes of fresh tuna, cucumber, edamame, crispy shallots and sesame seeds on a bed of rice, with a spicier-than-you’d-think Sriracha aioli. Pull up a chair or take it back to yet desk.

Beef brisket, $19
Meat the Challenge
Get a taste of Texas at this meat-centric spot. The signature beef brisket here is smoked for 16 hours, so the meat is super tender and infused with a solid smoky barbeque flavour. Pieces come thinly sliced, charred on the edges and marbled with just the right amount of fat through the middle. Get it topped with barbeque sauce and alongside chunky chips, coleslaw, rocket salad or potato salad.

Sushi Step degustation, $88
Sushi Boto
This corner shop, by the team behind White Mojo, takes the sushi train to a new level, delivering dishes via boats on a water channel. The store is one of the largest in the food hall and has Japanese vending machines, claw machines, dine-in seating and a takeaway bar. For a quick lunchtime stop, the sushi boat and takeaway bar are ideal, but if you’re looking to linger (and are willing to splurge), the Sushi Step Degustation is worth the time.

Ten courses arrive on a stepped plastic structure. As the steps increase in height the dishes increase in saltiness and fishy flavour. At the bottom there’s raw New Zealand scampi, oysters, Hokkigai clams and garfish. Then work your way up to the Foie Gras Don, a French-Japanese fusion.

Black ramen, $14.80
Shujinko Express
This big, warming bowl of tonkotsu pork broth comes with charsiu (chargrilled pork belly – order double pork for an extra $3) bok choy, spring onion, bean sprouts, marinated egg and two types of seasoning – one spicy, the other a black powder made from shellfish that gives this ramen a fishy kick. This is the fourth Shujinko – there are other outposts on Russell, Flinders and Elizabeth streets.

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