Best Lunch in Melbourne’s CBD

Updated 6 months ago


What makes a good CBD lunch spot? You might be meeting a prospective client and looking for somewhere central and impressive to dine. Or you could be a time-poor worker looking for a place with reliable food and fast, efficient service. Or maybe you’re a tourist looking for the kind of restaurant that Melburnians eat at day in, day out.

Whatever the case, there’s a spot in here for you.

  • Small, lively and theatrical, this barbeque-powered Thai restaurant is a top spot to try dishes from all over the country, paired with highly complementary beers, wines and cocktails.

  • Beautifully executed Japanese (and other east Asian cuisines) by celebrated chef Andrew McConnell. Come for Melbourne's most famous lobster roll, steaming bowls of ramen at lunch, Korean-style barbequed meats and Shanghai dumplings.

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  • Sit at the omakase bar for robata-grilled marron with kombu butter; clam and miso soup; and fried rice amplified with Wagyu, shiitake and cod roe. All in a heritage-listed building full of original bluestone features and brooding black marble.

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  • Andrew McConnell's all-day eating house combines the star chef's typically excellent food with smart interior design. While it's not his most famous venue these days, the polished service, considered wine list and inventive dishes at Cumulus Inc. are still worthy of celebration after all these years.

  • Winner of the best-pizza-in-the-world 2014 is also at Crown.

  • An Italian-influenced Argentinian spot from the team behind San Telmo and Pastuso. Expect meat and fish cooked over the asado firepit – a specialty here. The layout is a nod to a classic steakhouse, plus there are private rooms for special occasions.

  • Pepe’s is a New York-inspired Italian restaurant. The space has all the terrazzo floors, plump leather booths and dim lighting you could ask for. So grab a Martini, take a seat in one of those booths and scan the menu. Clams Casino? Veal parmigiana? A hot-fudge sundae? It’s hard to go wrong.

  • This three-storey love letter to Gippsland and its produce is by Alejandro Saravia, the chef behind CBD classic Pastuso. There's a deli with house-made pastrami rolls; a suave restaurant with a focus on cooking with flames; and a greenhouse-like rooftop oasis.

  • There aren’t many Melbourne restaurants left where they’ll open the door for you, pull out your chair and fold a napkin on your lap. Impeccable service is a fine backdrop to a three-course meal of traditional Italian decadence.

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  • Venetian elegance, New York energy and Melbourne nostalgia collide at restaurateur Chris Lucas’s lavish brasserie and grill. Settle into the grand dining room for charcoal-fired bistecca, show-stopping tiramisu, quintessentially Italian cocktails and lots of tableside theatrics.

  • Asado is Spanish for roast. And that’s exactly the focus at this tan-leather-filled restaurant, which showcases grilled meats and big flavours. From the team behind San Telmo, Pastuso and Palermo, Asado encourages you to share a spread of tapas as well as meat, seafood and vegetables charred on the parrilla.

  • Bar Carlo sits below The Waiters Restaurant, one of Melbourne’s oldest Italian institutions. It’s a little more refined, plus it’s open in the morning for Italian-style breakfasts. Later, it’s grappa, spritzes and an all-Italian wine menu to go with cicchetti – little Italian snacks to go with your drink.

  • Cookie combines rowdy European beer hall with standout Thai food that beckons to be shared. It’s fun, versatile and subtly influential, preceding similar restaurants like Chin Chin. Bring a crew, order the banquet and plan to drink.

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  • Chequerboard floors and a meat cabinet create an authentic American diner experience at this fast-casual, hole-in-the-wall burger joint. The menu honours timeless American classics like the Reuben sandwich, chilli dog and cheeseburger. More adventurous carnivores might enjoy a black pudding and devilled egg burger.

  • A vibrant pan-Indian diner that’s proudly “unauthentic”. Sink into a plush booth for sweet-and-sour fried cauliflower, colourful thali and Tandoori-fired-pineapple cocktails before spilling out onto Chinatown after.

  • A DIY okonomiyaki restaurant. Slip into a semi-private booth and have a go at the hotplate, either à la carte or all-you-can-eat okonomiyaki. There’s also sushi, salads, fried chicken, donburi, gyoza, yakitori and Japanese beer.

  • A Michelin-star global dumpling chain that started as a roadside store in Taipei. Intricacy and precision undergird the specialties here (each xiao long bao is folded 18 times). Robots deliver a fast yet impressive menu that features kung pao chicken, wonton soup, noodles, bao and pan-fried seafood.

  • The ambitious cafe – by the hospo heavyweight behind Dessous, Hazel and Liminal – features a menu from 10 star chefs. Find cumin-lamb pancakes with chilli oil, a Portuguese pork sanga and an ube waffle with whipped Pepe Saya butter.

  • Empty stomachs are a prerequisite at this upscale American barbeque joint. Go for the signature share platter, which might include hearty beef brisket, pork shoulder or pulled mushrooms. Pair it with the beer tasting of Australian and American lagers.

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  • Stop by this inviting sandwich and wine bar for Axil coffee and Penny for Pound pastries, or linger with a Martini made with Four Pillars Olive Leaf Gin. Plus, dishes like breakfast pasta and crackling-coated porchetta rolls.

  • The world-famous chain has been perfecting its ramen since 1985. It’s loved for its signature hakata ramen (a rich, creamy, pork bone broth with chewy noodles) while its tonkotsu akamaru shinaji ramen is made from a 25-year-old recipe.

  • A neon-lit Thai joint serving fun, modern twists on the country’s cuisine. Whether you’re here for bottomless brunch or a late-night snack, there are plenty of versatile spaces to drink and dine in. The mezzanine hosts DJs most nights of the week.

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  • Meet Melbourne’s quintessential CBD rooftop bar. It’s appeared in films, has great views, and serves damn fine burgers. And in summers past, it’s morphed into an open-air cinema showing cult films and blockbusters.

  • An Argentinean restaurant and wine bar that features a traditional parrilla barbeque.

  • You’ll find some of the best dumplings in town in an arcade off Chinatown. Don’t let the long line deter you. The staff at this stripped back, all-day Chinese diner keep the queues moving quickly. Shandong is known for its seafood so be sure to add a plate to the order.

  • An elegant all-day bar and restaurant in an iconic building.

  • A dependable brasserie serving French classics to the suited and booted.

  • The Moat is more than just the Wheeler Centre's bar and eatery. It’s an intimate, below-ground bunker of Mediterranean flavours, good books and better wine.

  • A casual dining space with one of the finest views in Melbourne.

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  • The prefix for an international call to Italy is a fitting name for this tiny pizzeria (with big European energy). There’s enough pizza variety to satisfy any aficionado and an extensive antipasti selection, if you’re so inclined.

  • This lively cantina is all about home-style Mexican. Expect beef tacos exactly how they’re served in Mexico, prawn-and-chorizo tamales and a jiggly chocolate flan. Plus: eight different Margaritas and hard-to-find agave spirits.

  • Quincy Melbourne’s fun Southeast Asian diner is helmed by a former Chin Chin chef. Come for playful takes on traditional curries, stir fries and dim sum, served in a sleek dining room overlooking Flinders Lane.

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  • Open almost round the clock, this swish, marble-clad bistro serves granola and bacon and egg rolls in the morning, tiger prawn linguini around lunch, and cocktails and French food until late into the evening. Its lunch specials – which often include a pasta, sandwich and salad option – are available Monday through to Friday.

  • Starting in the 1940s as a place for migrant waiters to unwind after a shift, this Melbourne icon still serves reliably good pastas and desserts. There’s nothing fancy here – just good wine in glass tumblers, humble family-run hospitality, and a chalkboard menu of hearty Italian classics.

  • A neon-lit Thai diner serving dishes rarely seen outside the country. Order punchy betel leaf wraps, caramelly mackerel and ant larvae soup. Plus, there are lo-fi Australian wines and disposable cameras to capture your night.

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  • This sea of olive leather, grey velvet and art deco touches is not your everyday foyer cafe. On the menu: French flatbreads you can fold up like a taco, and salads with porchetta or rotisserie chicken.

  • Hidden in a city carpark, this Thai street-food spot has become a cult Melbourne favourite. Brave the queues for aromatic boat noodles, spicy papaya salads, crying tiger (slow-cooked and grilled beef brisket), mixed Thai hotpot and more. Plus, BYO wines from the natural wine shop next door.

  • Soak up one of Thailand’s most-loved street foods at this laidback, family-run restaurant. It turns out nine versions of chicken rice, including the original with tender skin-on chicken, alongside fragrant rice, cucumber and tao jiew (fermented soybean sauce). Plus, find cold Thai beers, fun cocktails and Australian wines.

  • A bastion of exemplary Hakata-style ramen in the city centre. Visit for house-made noodles, consistently excellent broths and a creation known simply as the “cocktail draft beer”. If you drink too many, do as the shop prescribes: keep calm, eat ramen.

  • This Indonesian sandwich and coffee shop (by an ex-Navi sous-chef) serves Aussie cafe favourites with Indo flair. Find gado gado sandwiches, sambal-spiked Filet-o-Fish and sweets like kaya crullers. Plus, Dukes coffee all day.

  • This casual Korean eatery serves up lesser-known dishes like yukhoe bibimbap and mandu-guk. The menu runs the full gamut of flavours and textures, from fermented and fiery to crisp, cool and refreshing.