Best Restaurants in Carlton

Updated 1 month ago

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Carlton’s top dining spots are mostly clustered along Lygon Street, near the corner of Elgin. This stretch – which extends all the way down to Victoria Parade in the south – isn’t the force it was in the ’80s and ’90s, but it remains one of the better places in Melbourne for Italian food.

In fact, nearly all our favourite restaurants here are Italian, with a few notable exceptions such as Epocha and Abla’s, the Lebanese institution that's been cooking since 1979.

  • The pretty Victorian building in the heart of Carlton is a modern eatery with a European-influenced menu and wine list.

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  • Take a seat at the black granite bar for hot and sour shredded potato, charcoal-roasted char siu and cured pork belly with rolled rice noodles in XO.

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  • Is it a cocktail bar? A wine bar? A bistro? It’s all of that, depending on your mood and the occasion. Visit for standout Martinis with creative house twists, plus devilled eggs, veal schnitties and the possibility of making good friends.

  • A Greek- and English-inspired restaurant inside an 1880s terrace building. There are share plates of crudo, housemade bread and market seafood; and the Euro wine list. There’s capacity for up to 120 people, plus the option to hire the grand and rustic space for functions.

  • This fun Italian joint, from Bar Liberty’s crew, takes plenty of cues from North America – with deep-dish pizza “squares” and rich, fermented base “rounds”. While the US gets a big look-in, the wine list is almost entirely Italian.

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  • In 2018, this Euro-Japanese fine diner moved from its home in Daylesford to Carlton. We're glad it's made the move to the city. The dishes here, delivered thoughtfully across several multi-course options, are a compelling argument for fusion done the right way.

  • Originally a lockdown pasta delivery service by a stood-down chef, this swish spot doubles as a restaurant and locally focused wine bar. Come for signature tortellini, sterling seafood and classic Italian desserts in a chic neighbourhood dining room.

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  • When veteran restaurateur Rinaldo Di Stasio started serving pizza for the first time, people duly took notice. Come for classic Margheritas and luxurious lobster pies in a colourful, artwork-filled space.

  • Inspired by Italy’s Piedmont region, the Scopri team plates up house-made pastas and heavy-hitting secondi such as kid goat cooked on the bone. Don’t be fooled by the starchy white tablecloths – there’s nothing but a friendly, welcoming vibe at this Carlton classic.

  • A Lygon Street espresso and cicchetti bar.

  • This Mexican eatery makes its own tortillas and grows its own chillies and herbs. To drink, there’s wine on tap or you can buy mezcal from the in-house bottle shop.

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  • Come to this buzzy restaurant for pizza like the Italians eat: simple and brilliant combos that don’t overload the palate, with a focus on best-in-class ingredients. It can be hard to squeeze in on a busy night – that’s half the fun.

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  • The food and ambiance at this Melbourne institution have comforted generations of Lebanese Australians and introduced the cuisine to countless others. Come with a big group – if only to try as many dishes as possible.

  • This 19th-century gastropub, with a vintage front bar and bistro, is among Melbourne’s best. It’s serving modern classics (including schnitzel with chicken butter) and a set menu that wouldn’t look out of place in a classy restaurant.

  • This paddock-to-plate cafe and bistro sources much of its produce directly from the owners’ Gippsland farm, and uses it to serve up hearty breakfasts, plus harvest dinners with local DJs and booze.

  • Leonardo’s is the kind of place you can accidentally spend hours at, and wake up far dustier than planned. The pepperoni is a classic, and the jalapeno number with fermented pepper and bechamel is a spicy wake-up call in the low-lit diner.

  • Under the watchful eye of a 1.5-tonne steel dragon, Australia’s first outpost of international chain Panda Hot Pot is serving fiery DIY soup with a choice of 80 ingredients.

  • Looking to avoid the lines at the original, which set the gold standard for Hakata-style tonkotsu ramen in Melbourne? Head to Carlton.

  • The green heritage-style facade and mid-century decor give all the impressions of another classic pub. Yet the plant-based menu says otherwise. The eggplant “schnitzel” and fried cauliflower stand out; the diverse beers are a bonus.

  • Little Italy wouldn’t be the same without this little joint. People have been lining up across its chequerboard floors for generous pastas, pizzas and parmigianas since the ’70s. But fear not – the queue moves fast.

  • As with its older sibling next door, you don’t come here for theatrics or artful presentation. You come here for no-frills Italian fare. Here the focus is on pizza. For the full experience, grab one of the outdoor tables on Lygon Street and order some cannoli for dessert. You won’t regret it.

  • An all-you-can-eat Japanese barbeque joint where you’ll be cooking wagyu over the coals and sipping ice-cold matcha beer.

  • This casual Indonesian eatery features all your street food favourites, with an entirely halal-friendly menu. Plus, you can browse the mini grocery section and take home hard-to-find Indonesian snack foods.

  • A cosy wine bar with quality pasta, hard-to-find wines and waiters clad head-to-toe in white Japanese denim. Set within an iconic heritage building, this place is a Melbourne interpretation of a classic Italian enoteca.

  • It might take you a minute to find the door, hidden inside Hareruya Pantry. But up the discreet staircase lies a beautifully minimalist bar with expertly crafted temaki rolls (cone-shaped hand rolls), and a 50-strong sake list favouring female brewers.

  • A loyal clientele and a satisfying pan-Asian menu have kept this vego institution humming for more than 30 years. Go for the signature satay skewers, nyonya curry and laksa. Kylie Minogue and the late David Bowie have been fans of this spot for a reason.

  • Hit up this community-focused watering hole for Aussie wines, Melbourne beers, and produce sourced from Victorian farms and businesses within the bar’s five-kilometre radius.

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  • It was once Bob Hawke’s favourite watering hole; these days it’s a rock’n’roll icon. Bands often pack out the upper level, while DJs spin vinyl downstairs. Sonny’s, the in-house diner, has Southern-style fried chicken and banging burgers.

  • This pasta spot has big nonna energy. Come for rigatoni doused in rich Napoli-style ragu, Italo-disco tunes and a yarn with the two owners – who draw inspiration from their upbringings in southern Italy.

  • Seafood comes first at this family-run 12-seat restaurant. Its fishmonger owners once ran a popular seafood stall at Footscray Market. Come for buttery lobster rolls with salmon roe, and blue swimmer crab marinated in gochujang.

  • This bistro leans into white table-clothed dining, vintage wines and timeless dining. The menu defies definition, offering French onion soup through to Southeast Asian-style desserts like lychees with coconut custard.

  • Kahaani, which means “story” in Hindi, showcases deep cuts from India’s diverse regional cuisines. Try the refined reshmi kebab, or the family-recipe goat curry that predates Partition.

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