Melbourne Money

Updated March 1st, 2023

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The CBD has seen better days. The last year and a bit has taken its toll on everyone, but postcode 3000 – and its cafes, bars and restaurants particularly – have borne a disproportionate brunt of the pandemic’s economic impact. These venues, the places that make Melbourne feel like Melbourne, need your support.

The City of Melbourne and the Victorian Government have partnered to create Melbourne Money – a rebate that gives you 20 per cent off your bill at any hospitality venue in the city (and surrounds). Just spend at least $50, take a photo of your receipt, upload it to the website, and you’ll get 20 per cent back into your bank account.

This guide is here to jog your memory, to remind you of all of the brilliant places the CBD has to offer. You’ll also find our picks for where we’ll be spending our Melbourne Money. Just remember though – almost all businesses that sell food and drink are eligible for this scheme.

Go on. Eat, drink, have fun – do it for our city.

Related Pages
Best Coffee in the CBD
Best Lunch in the CBD
Best Restaurants in the CBD
Best Bars in the CBD

Restaurants

  • Legend has it Pellegrini’s was the recipient of Melbourne’s first espresso machine in ’54. Now a Bourke Street icon, its appeal is evident in the diverse clientele: office workers, theatregoers, students and tourists all chasing hearty pastas and watermelon granita.

  • Andrew McConnell's signature flair is all over this grand bar and dining room, from the exacting service to the comforting European dishes. It’s named after the classic cocktail, and the calibre of drinks here speaks to that. You’ll find us at the marble bar, Gimlet in hand.

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  • 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.

  • After all these years, moody Tipo 00 still attracts queues of people hoping for a taste of its simple yet meticulously assembled pastas. A couple of secondi and dolci also grace the menu, alongside salumi best enjoyed at the marble bar, spritz in hand. Make sure you arrive early – very early – if you don’t have a booking.

  • The flavours at celebrity chef Shane Delia’s opulent Maha are familiar, but they’re assembled with more finesse than your average Middle Eastern restaurant. Vibrant mezze, a must-have lamb shoulder and an affordable wine list make this a winner for group dining.

  • 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.

  • It’s tricky to pin down Coda’s flavour-punching dishes. Modern Asian? Euro-Vietnamese fusion? Pop in pre-theatre for some scallops and a glass of wine, or do your next special occasion here. Coda is supremely versatile, and one of Melbourne’s best.

  • The restaurant responsible for igniting Melbourne's love for modern Spanish food.

  • This is the Melbourne outpost of the globally-renowned Nobu Japanese restaurant chain. Peruvian flavours are expertly combined with Japanese cuisine in dishes such as yellowtail sashimi with jalapeno and black cod with miso.

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  • The CBD sequel to restaurateur Rinaldo Di Stasio's St Kilda institution goes just as heavy on the hand-made pastas. But it also throws high art into the mix, with video installations and dramatic artworks lining the walls of the restaurant’s brutalist, contemporary interior.

  • Indian flavours are far too uncommon at the top-end of dining, an issue Tonka has been smartly redressing for years. The wine list is a cracker, but we're more partial to the smart cocktail menu and its wealth of refreshing, South Asian-inspired mixes.

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  • 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.

  • Scott Pickett's take on a mod-French brasserie brings old-world European elegance to a heritage-listed CBD building. There's ritzy deep-green marble, dramatic arched windows and candelabras throughout. Start with black truffle and foie gras toasties, then move onto French-style gnocchi, and finish with a gin-and-raspberry baba.

  • 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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  • Spanish food served with genuine flair.

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  • French dining from renowned chef Guillaume Brahimi.

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  • This pared-back eatery from the Higher Ground, Top Paddock and Liminal team specialises in woodfired dishes that are unfussy, yet easily live up to the gold standard set by their other Melbourne venues.

  • 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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  • The fiery Southeast Asian diner Melburnians and tourists have been queuing for since 2011. So why's it still such a hit after all these years? The service remains fast and efficient; the energy is always high; and Benjamin Cooper's food continues to nail that sweet spot between flavour, tradition and fun.

  • This is one of Melbourne's best Japanese restaurants. It's certainly its most ambitious. There's a New York-style sushi bar at street level, a pumping izakaya-style basement and an upstairs private dining room – Kuro – for intimate kaiseki-style meals.

  • If you’re after the gold standard for Cantonese cuisine in the city, look no further. Flower Drum’s been serving it since 1975. Its low-lit, seductive ambience and consistently impeccable service are reasons to visit alone.

  • You can choose your own adventure at Bomba. Come for tapas and imported Spanish wines at the restaurant downstairs, or escape to the fifth-floor rooftop for cocktails and DJs every weekend. Either way, you can’t go wrong.

  • 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 three-storey Italian joint geared for good times. Head to the first floor for a woodfired pizza feast, or up again to the public bar for lambrusco and pool. The rooftop is one of the city’s best spots to drink with a view.

  • Classic-but-contemporary dishes from Melbourne’s French-cuisine master.

  • The Next Hotel's in-house diner is run by former Saigon Sally, Tokyo Tina and Neptune chefs. The menu skews Italian – with stracciatella-stuffed oxheart tomatoes, crisp chicken-wing parmigiana and Campari-glazed roasted duck. There’s also an intimate barrel room producing aged Negronis and Martinis, and a grandiose cheese-and-charcuterie cabinet.

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  • Tipo 00’s younger sibling stretches beyond the pasta bar concept with meat and seafood dishes straight out of a modern Italian osteria. An enormous cellar below stocks Italian necessities like wine and house-cured charcuterie.

  • 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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  • 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.

  • 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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  • Longrain started in Sydney in ’95 and came to Melbourne a decade later. Since then, it’s been at the forefront of contemporary Thai dining here. Order a banquet and try favourites like caramelised pork belly and som tam salad.

  • At the W Melbourne’s in-house restaurant, Coda chef Adam D’Sylva draws on his Italian-Indian heritage. His globe-trotting menu includes luxed-up lasagna, pasta-less cacio e pepe (a surprising triumph), and spicy duck curry. Plus, an excellent roster of theatrical cocktails.

  • This dim, characterful basement serves a wide range of proper tacos until 3am every night of the week. Do you even need to know more? Okay: there are over 70 mezcals and 20 tequilas on the back bar.

  • There were Mexican restaurants before Mamasita, but it was the first one to bring a faithful representation to Melbourne. The “hot babe” has been around since 2010, but its grilled corn and flavoursome tacos still attract queues.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Luxury and tradition collide at Cecconi’s, where Venetian food is the star of the show. The kitchen grows its own herbs, fruit and vegetables to use across the board, be it a seasonal risotto or garlicky seafood linguine.

  • An Italian eatery tapping into pasta obsessions such as cacio e pepe and seafood linguine, plus protein-heavy mains. It’s designed to feel like an Italian dinner party – so gather your crew and make for the all-seasons rooftop courtyard.

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  • Owner Chee Wong quickly made his mother-in-law’s char kway teow (and the special sauce) a hot commodity. Choose one of the seven options of the popular Malaysian hawker dish (including original with prawns, and vegetarian) for a sumptuous midweek meal. No booking? No worries.

  • This sultry sibling to Sunda is every bit as stellar. The menu effortlessly blends Southeast Asian flavours, native Australian ingredients and ancient techniques.

  • Tasia and Gracia Seger might be reality TV stars, but their Indonesian restaurant proves their talent is definitely not just for show.

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  • 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.

  • Sitting behind a Victorian terrace frontage, this intimate Sri Lankan and South Indian restaurant employs old family recipes, but the menu isn’t strictly traditional. Find hoppers with goat’s curd and pomegranate pearls, dosas with bacon jam, and chai-infused Old Fashioned cocktails.

  • Bring a group and choose your adventure at this moody, red-lit Sichuan diner. Feast on all-you-can-eat hotpot cooked at your table. Or order go-to dishes like Sichuan lamb ribs, kung pao chicken and dan dan noodles.

  • Pastuso brings Peruvian flair with a menu of ceviche, grilled meat and plenty of pisco. The dining room is a riot of colour, but we say grab a seat at the marble-clad bar and take in all the action, Pisco Sour in hand.

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

  • The tables at Bottega spill out onto the footpath much like they would in Rome or Florence, luring in passers-by with an energetic atmosphere. Mains usually feature produce from owner Denis Lucey’s farm, while an expertly curated wine list offers around 150 bottles from both Australia and Italy.

  • Choose your own adventure at this cosy underground institution. If you fancy casual Italian dining, pull up a table in the cafeteria opposite the bar. For a more refined atmosphere, make your way to the dimly lit trattoria lined with bottles of vino.

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Bars

  • Walk down the nondescript staircase and let your eyes adjust. There’s no natural light at this New York-inspired French bistro – that’s why it’s so easy to lose track of time here. It's also home to one of Melbourne's most famous late-night burgers.

  • Nominally it’s a wine bar, but Embla’s charms are far more profound than those two words suggest. Come here for some of the city’s best food, paired with an idiosyncratic wine list poured by staff who give a damn.

  • Across five rooms and three balconies, this opulent bar channels old-world glitz and glamour with champagne towers, fancy canapés and theatrical cocktails bubbling with liquid nitrogen. To really start the party, order the pineapple punch – served inside a huge bronze swan.

  • This dimly-lit dive bar is one of Melbourne's most treasured and iconic rock’n’roll venues. Though it's moved out of its original ACDC Lane location, it's rocking just as hard as ever, with live music multiple nights a week. Expect anything from psych-rock to doom metal, sometimes followed by a DJ to close.

  • Check your everyday life at the door – it’s pure fantasy at Melbourne’s favourite tiki bar. There’s bamboo, leopard print and tiki statues everywhere. If you can’t get a good Painkiller, Zombie or Mai Tai here, you can’t get it anywhere.

  • 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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  • This audiophile spot serves bar snacks with a side of sub-bass. Things are fun and loud downstairs, with great drinks and a few bar stools to enjoy them on. But it's on the upstairs dancefloor where the volume really turns up.

  • The cherry-red neon sign at Heartbreaker is a beacon for late-night punters chasing a good time. With pre-batched cocktails and classic rock on the jukebox – there’s only one result here. Wear your dancing shoes in case.

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  • Not only is this outdoor shipping-container bar one of Melbourne's most iconic and enduring drinking destinations – it's also been one of the city's most reliable places for a boogie since 2006. Veteran DJs spin here regularly, favouring hip-hop, funk, soul, reggae and more.

  • You won’t find another bar in the country like Boilermaker House. It’s devoted to the timeless pairing of whisky and beer, and with more than 700 drams on the wall and a constant rotation of beers on tap, the flavour combinations are seemingly endless here.

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  • Follow the sound of hip-hop to find this fun laneway cocktail bar. Fresh, modern tiki drinks await you inside, named after many of the heavy-hitters featuring on the soundtrack. If you’re hungry, you can bring in takeaway from one of the excellent neighbouring restaurants.

  • There are few surprises in a place called Gin Palace. This specialist basement bar has been shaking since ’97, with a page of its extensive menu devoted to Martinis. Its combo of velvet, dim lights and plush seating hasn’t aged a day.

  • This massive pub has room for 800 punters across four leafy levels. And you can’t go wrong in any direction. Hit the front bar for parmas and pints, the basement-level cocktail bar, or Tippy Tay for fun Italian vibes and Negronis.

  • Descend a dark spiral staircase into this theatrical basement cocktail bar. Wrapped in a cocoon of timber, it’s the recipient of some major international design awards. But don’t let the incredible space distract you from the drinks – expect smoke, bubbles and plenty of flair.

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  • Curtin House’s dark, glamorous second-floor bar.

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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.

  • Two world-class drinks innovators are behind Byrdi, who work with native Australian ingredients in an on-site lab to create their peerless, Australian-inspired cocktails. The food here is no less inventive – come for small plates with a big focus on seasonality. Either way, you’ll never have the same experience twice.

  • This rooftop bar above the Melbourne Supper Club has unrivalled views over Spring Street. It’s also one of the few CBD spots with a cigar menu (and humidor with hard-to-find Cubans). If smoking’s not your style, the cocktails will be.

  • A bar experience that’s part-theatre, part-history lesson and all class. Its menu begins in 1806 (when "cocktail" first appeared in print), and there's a classic libation to represent each decade since.

  • This Palm Springs-inspired rooftop has room for 400 punters. If you’re chasing a very good Martini or Whiskey Sour in the CBD, this place has you covered. It also serves a tight selection of low-and-slow American barbeque, courtesy of Fancy Hank’s downstairs.

  • Melbourne’s answer to the old-school Italian wine bar. Choose a bottle to take home, or crack it open at the restaurant (with a corkage fee) and enjoy with pastas and small plates, alongside the rest of the post-theatre crowd.

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  • This extravagant rooftop is best described as a cross between a garden party and a country club bar – on top of a skyscraper in the middle of the city. Madame Brussels is famously over-the-top, and it revels in it. Come here for big spritz jugs and a signature poached chicken sandwich.

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  • New York-style pizzas out front; one of Melbourne’s best-kept secrets out back. Once you’ve finished a slice or two, push past the black curtain at the end of the dining room to find a comfy, sitting-room-only bar specialising in classic cocktails.

  • Lively cocktails and refined snacks are on the cards at this dark and daring basement bar. But it’s really the wine list you come here for – it’s an adventure in unfamiliar regions and varietals, and focuses on biodynamic and sustainable drops.

  • A charming bar from the City Wine Shop team. There are few places in town that manage to balance new-world informality with old-world sophistication, but Kirk’s pulls it off with aplomb. Like the wine list, the European-influenced menu has something for everyone.

  • It's hard to describe this place. Is it a karaoke bar? Is it a dumpling joint? Is it a great rooftop bar? Yes, to all of the above. Either way, odds are you'll find yourself with a barbeque pork bao in one hand and a mic in the other at some point during an evening here.

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  • It’s not the theatrical cocktails, world-beating whisky list or European-inspired snacks that put Eau de Vie up there among the world’s best bars. It’s the laser-like attention to detail at every turn, and the fact that someone here knows what you want to drink – even if you don’t.

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  • Seamstress has everything a bar should, with an intimately designed interior and a serious cocktail list.

  • Lily Blacks is more than just another art deco Melbourne bar. It’s a cocktail aficionado destination, mixing precisely diluted classics as well as inventive house creations. Come early on a Friday to grab prime position before the post-work crowd files in.

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  • At this long-running rooftop bar, there's an emphasis on cocktails and comfort. The team lets the cocktails, snacks and view do the talking. And the retractable rooftop makes it a great all-weather option.

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  • A retro-futurist Viking dining hall filled with handmade axes and whole-beast cooking.

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  • This bar and restaurant inside Curtin House is all about agave-based spirits – but the food's no afterthought. Baja-style rockling tacos, achiote chicken quesadillas and Mexican doughnuts with salted espresso dulce de leche all go dangerously well with a margarita or the spicy riff on a pina colada.

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  • Floating on the Yarra in the concrete jungle of Melbourne’s CBD.

  • A two-storey portal to another land that works as an opulent bar and your own personal fairytale to get caught up in.

Cafes

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • A coffee roastery and cafe with an environmental conscience.

  • This Japanese-inspired bakery is from the team behind Little Rogue just across the street. It's selling whole loaves of shokupan (fluffy milk bread), flaky almond-yuzu croissants, Danishes piled high with berries, and soft buns filled with cream cheese, then doused in garlic butter.

  • A Collingwood coffee favourite in the CBD.

  • The second outpost for Melbourne's most revered croissants. Expect to queue for at least 15 minutes, if not longer.

  • A small laneway cafe where work from aspiring artists adorns the walls.

  • The team behind Kettle Black and Top Paddock go beyond cafes with this CBD spot inspired by hotel hospitality.

  • The eighth outpost for Axil specialty coffee roasters – this time with full kitchen service.

  • If you’re yearning for New York, this coffee and bagel specialist might help.

  • Good coffee with no fanfare.

  • A multi-use venture combining a cafe, gallery and regular workshops.

  • Traditional bagels with innovative fillings.

  • This tribute to the Big Apple offers the finest deli-style food around.

  • Baguettes, doughnuts, pastries and coffee on the edge of the CBD.

  • Prosciutto, pears, smoked salmon and cheese blends – this isn’t toast you make at home.

  • A tiny, light-filled space with a touch of Miami Vice from the founders of Pillar of Salt, Touchwood and Barry.

  • High-end, handmade, US-style doughnuts and coffee.