MIFF 2021 Food and Film Guide

Updated August 6th, 2021

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Last year the pandemic forced us to enjoy Melbourne International Film Festival from home – and though MIFF 68½ was a phenomenal effort, nothing can come close to catching a film on the big screen.

This year Australia’s longest-running film festival is back where it belongs: on dozens of screens in the best cinemas in town. (But you can also catch nearly 70 of the best movies online with MIFF Play, thanks to 2020’s forced innovation.)

If you're choosing to enjoy MIFF at home, we recommend stopping by Handpicked Wines's Cellar Door – it's prepared a range of "MIFF Packs" of snacks and wine to order. Head in-store or order online.

The 2021 schedule is one of the best yet. It’s packed with films from just about every genre imaginable. There are stirring documentaries, big-name releases filled with star power, independent projects from around the world, collections of shorts and plenty of home-grown efforts from some of Australia’s most promising up-and-comers.

So head to the city, and catch a MIFF 2021 flick at the Capitol Theatre, the completely refurbed ACMI, Forum Melbourne, Hoyts Melbourne Central or Kino Cinemas.

Regardless of which cinema or showtime you go for, each of these spots is right next to some of the best eating and drinking in Melbourne. So fire up the group chat, book your tickets and reserve a table at these favourites. Just be sure to save room for popcorn and a choc-top.

ACMI

  • Dine on the best of Bangkok, Taipei and Shanghai in the glow of red neon.

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  • 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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  • 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 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.

The Forum

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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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Kino Cinemas

  • An urban cellar door that pours sustainable, organic drops from the Handpicked Wines range. Visit for tutored wine tastings with cheese and charcuterie pairings. And you can visit for the full cellar door experience any day of the week.

  • 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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  • 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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  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

The Capitol

  • 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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  • A gelataria that serves sweet brioche, has a chocolate tap and does affogato Italian style. This year Pidapipó has partnered with MIFF to create a special one-off flavour that tastes like a frozen, deconstructed Snickers bar.

  • Enjoy Japanese-inspired food at this moodily lit diner, from the team behind Saigon Sally and Hanoi Hannah. The stars here are crisped-up sticky eggplant, karaage chicken, miso-baked cauliflower and tender duck breast in brothy udon.

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  • A bona fide meat dungeon.

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  • 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.

  • 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.

Comedy Theatre

  • 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.

  • 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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  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

Hoyts Melbourne Central

  • 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.

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

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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.

  • 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.

  • Two childhood friends are behind this breezy upstairs Italian spot, which pays homage to the neighbourhood eateries of their hometown with textbook pastas, cacio e pepe toasties and a daily dessert that’s best paired with house-made amaro.