“What good new restaurants should I try?”

Broadsheet’s editors field this question, or a variation on it, most days. While we’d just as soon recommend one of Melbourne’s straight-up best restaurants or a long-standing institution, the pull of a hot new place is hard to deny.

So here it is: our edit of the best new restaurants in Melbourne from the past 12 months, updated monthly. Some of these places are redefining the way we eat and will go on to become classics. Others will be shorter lived. Either way, these are the spots we’re enjoying eating and drinking at in January.

Related Pages:
Best New Bars in Melbourne
Best New Cafes in Melbourne
Best Restaurants in Melbourne
Best Restaurants in Melbourne’s CBD

Crofter Dining Room & Bar

Although it’s in the former Hellenic Republic Brunswick East space and it’s still operated by Made Establishment, Crofter couldn’t be more different from its predecessor. It’s English-leaning, veg-centric, snack-heavy and attractively priced. Try sweet, charred zucchini with a roughly chopped salsa verde, or summer beans with a vegan XO sauce. Mains reflect England’s multicultural national cuisine: you can enjoy a Middle-Eastern lamb shoulder with a garlic naan on the side. Desserts are naff, but delicious. Go for the one which combines an Eton Mess with a Pavlova.

434 Lygon Street, Brunswick East

Hazel

When cafe specialists Nathan Toleman and the Mulberry Group announced that their latest project was to be a multi-storey bar and restaurant double-whammy, there was a degree of trepidation. Toleman is no stranger to ambitious venue concepts (he’s behind Liminal and the now-sold Higher Ground) but together, Hazel (the restaurant) and Dessous (the underground bar), presents the group’s first foray into night-time trading. Hazel is all about pared-back elegance. Yes, the wine list namechecks all of the blockbuster regions but you’re welcome – encouraged, even – to pair it with something from the toast menu (which consists of charred sourdough topped with anything from fried nduja to beef tartare). Almost everything on the rest of the menu has a go over the flames too. It all comes in a modern dining room accented by touches of baroque and chintz.

164 Flinders Lane, Melbourne

The Hardware Club

The Hardware Club sets itself apart in thecrowded field of Italian restaurants thanks to its homey, comfortable feel (despite being on Flinders Lane). Childhood friends and owners Nicola Dusi and Andrea Ceriani were looking to channel the neighbourhood eateries of their hometown in northern Italy. On the menu, that means bold and robust wines from small-scale vineyards paired with simple flavours such as tinned anchovies on house-baked bread; or roast chicken with baked brussels sprouts. The trattoria feel extends to the fit-out, which pairs a warm colour palette of yellow and red against wooden accents and ecru walls and tiles.

Level 1 43 Hardware Lane, Melbourne

Frankie's Tortas and Tacos

Frankie’s Tortas and Tacos, which opened back in November last year, is one of the only spots in town offering tortas, a variety of sandwich that’s a staple street food in Mexico City. A torta combines a white bread roll with grilled cheese, black beans, avocado, greens and pickles, and your choice of protein (the pork al pastor was our favourite). The tacos here are also worth your time, as is the house-made horchata. Frankie’s is little more than a stall, so seating is scarce. Our recommendation is to get in early and order big.

384 Smith Street, Collingwood

Marameo

Sarti was a veteran of the CBD’s Italian dining scene. But after 13 years, its age was beginning to show. Co-owner Joe Mammone decided a total refresh was in order. Now, we have Marameo. Changes have been cosmetic – the previously dark and moody space is now bright and peppy, although the rooftop courtyard has been mercifully left as is – but the dining has had the most significant reskin. The voguish menu here taps into current pasta obsessions such as cacio e pepe ($15 at lunchtime) and cavatelli with pan-fried pork sausage; bolstered by larger, protein-heavy mains. The wine-list has an emphasis on Australian and Italian varietals, while the easy-drinking spritzes are the name of the day over on the cocktail side of things.

6 Russell Place, Melbourne

Old Palm Liquor

When Fitzroy North wine bar Neighbourhood Wine opened back in 2013, its food offering garnered just as much attention as its wine list. Five years later the team’s latest venture, Old Palm Liquor, is turning heads for the same reason. It’s a great spot for a quick drink (the house red, a drop from Koerner in South Australia, is better than any house red has a right to be) but it’s worth settling in for longer. Almost everything on the menu touches the charcoal-powered grill, giving every dish – from king oyster mushrooms to pork chops to rockling fillets – a delicate smokiness.

133b Lygon Street, Brunswick East

Frederic

Frédéric feels different to Bistro Gitan and L’Hôtel Gitan, the other two restaurants owned by siblings Antoine, Edouard and Nathalie Reymond. While their first two venues draw heavily on the family’s French roots, especially in terms of techniques and service, Frédéric steers in a different direction. The menu is broadly Mediterranean, with some Australian inflections. Dishes include a flathead ceviche with dill and ginger, and grilled octopus with black-garlic mayonnaise. There’s also a dedicated steak menu. For dessert, opt for the loukoumades with brown butter crème anglaise.

9-11 Cremorne Street, Cremorne

The Happy Mexican

Along with Punt Road, Hoddle Street may just be one of Melbourne’s most universally disliked stretches of road. But amid the Hoddle chaos is The Happy Mexican, an improbable oasis of calm and one of the best new Mexican restaurants in Melbourne. The fare on offer here is an undiluted, down-home interpretation of Mexican cuisine. We enjoyed the generously stacked tacos (especially on Tuesdays, when they’re half price). Other highlights include the California-style burritos and the Mexico City tortas (sandwiches). The team here is small, and they’ve yet to iron out a couple of kinks, but be patient and give them a chance. It’ll be worth it.

106 Hoddle Street, Abbotsford

Di Stasio Citta

This refined new eatery from restaurateur Rinaldo Di Stasio (Cafe Di Stasio) is all about old-school Italian hospitality. There’s a real minimalism to the menu, with dishes such as angel-hair pasta with briny hunks of crab and grilled radicchio served fanned out on the plate, dressed simply with lemon and oil.

35 Spring Street, Melbourne

Bar Margaux

From the folks who gave us The Everleigh and Heartbreaker, Bar Margaux goes well beyond just being a bar. It's a subterranean late-night bistro with a substantial, unapologetically French menu. And with its red leather banquettes, subway tiles and forgiving lighting, it's the kind of place you could lose a whole night in.

Basement 111 Lonsdale Street, Melbourne

Gaea

Gaea is a degustation-only restaurant with an intense focus on local ingredients, expressed through eccentric riffs on classic European techniques. You could find anything from cured wallaby to brined and charred dandelion flowers served with a pumpkin puree made from fermented pumpkin juice. One dessert dish involves roast-hay ice-cream served with a charcoal-infused milk-cream sauce. If you’re still feeling adventurous on the drinks side, order the Spontanbasil, a Danish brew that’s exposed to wild yeasts and bacteria – it gives the beer a slightly sour finish.

1/166 Gertrude Street, Fitzroy

The Alphington Social

A neighbourhood Italian diner in an old bank building with a cheese fridge that takes up an entire wall. Before you get to that cheese though, you might want to look at the pizza or the mains menu. The osso buco is not to be missed, and the standout pizza is the broccolini and pork sausage. The dining room itself is relaxed yet polished. A taxidermied deer head hangs proudly on the exposed red-brick wall, while a long wooden communal table dominates the centre of the space. And there’s a small courtyard perfect for a grazing, wine-sipping afternoon.

7 Rowe Street, Alphington

Agostino

Wine bar Agostino is modelled on a classic Italian enoteca. Here, the compact menu will always include some salumi (such as Wagyu bresaola or culatella, a punchy Italian ham served with thinly sliced salted persimmon), and a handful of house-made pastas. It's all set in a moody ground-floor space in the heritage-listed King & Godfree building.

297 Lygon Street, Carlton

Le Lee

At this new Macedonian restaurant in Northcote, everything is designed for sharing. Start with some meze (share plates) and rakia (a traditional fruit brandy) to sip with the dishes to come. Repeat until very happy and full. Try the shopska salad (tomato, cucumber and onion covered with feta), vegetarian moussaka and clay pots filled slow-cooked meats. For something sweet at the end of your meal, go for the sour cherry and walnut baklava. Oh, and order another rakia – there are 18 different kinds to choose from.

236 High Street, Northcote

Pepe's Italian & Liquor

Melbourne’s obsession with New York-inspired Italian restaurants shows no sign of slowing down. But Pepe’s is a worthwhile new entrant into the mix. After 10 years operating as Trunk Bar and Restaurant, owner Nick Kutcher felt ready for a refresh, and looked to his annual trips to NYC for inspiration. The space was overhauled and given 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.

275 Exhibition Street, Melbourne

Omnia

Omnia isn’t technically new. Its first life, as a Toorak Road pop-up, kicked off back in early 2019. Now that it’s moved into its permanent digs underneath the impressive Capitol Grand development, it’s brought enough fresh things in tow to warrant a re-entry to this list. Executive chef Stephen Nairn has refined his menu, which elevates standard European bistro fare thanks to a focus on local produce and fine dining flourishes. Try the 14-day dry-aged whole duck for two, and order the ratatouille and the crisp potatoes for sides. Then, if you have the room, opt for the crème brulee – it’s one of the best renditions on the classic French dessert in town.

625 Chapel Street, South Yarra

Bodriggy Brewing Co

This mammoth new brewery in Abbotsford is also the best new spot in Melbourne for Mexican cuisine (with some Peruvian influences). Order one of the cocktails on tap, then settle in for dishes such as jalapenos stuffed with smoked swordfish or anticuchos – a sort of Peruvian satay or shish kebab, which combines beef heart and grilled potato.

245 Johnston Street, Abbotsford

Eazy Peazy

Chef Dan Chan, formerly of Hong Kong's Yardbird, heads up Eazy Peazy's kitchen. His yakitori menu offers wings with salty yuzu spice, and tender thigh skewers complemented by juicy charred leek. Eazy Peazy's owners also own Toji Sake, and the Japanese spirit is available here by the glass or bottle. It also shows up in cocktails such as the MSG: matcha, sake and gin.

108 Swan Street, Richmond

Mono-XO

Everything about Mono-XO – from its 22-seat room to its single 60-centimetre by 30-centimetre charcoal grill – is small. But the atmosphere and flavour in the food and drinks? All huge. Chef and co-owner Sam Stafford is focusing exclusively on Japanese kushiyaki-style cooking (food grilled on skewers). The flavours across all the skewers here are bold, sweet and salty, a perfect accompaniment to the outstanding wines and cocktails on the drinks list.

Rear 191A Smith Street, Fitzroy

Maha East

Low-key Middle Eastern wine bar Maha East opened in May on Chapel Street. The 40-seater has a wine list that spans new and old-world wines from Israel, Turkey, Lebanon and Morocco, alongside a few local drops, with a food menu that deftly balances heat and spice.

36 Chapel Street , Windsor

Daughter In Law

A vibrant rose-coloured and peacock-feather-blue Indian restaurant from chef Jessi Singh. Order the yoghurt kebab – a slightly sour yoghurt patty coated in salted breadcrumbs and fried, served on a sweet beetroot sauce. Another essential is Colonel Tso's Cauliflower, a mound of fried sweet-and-sour cauliflower.

37 Little Bourke Street, Melbourne

Lagotto

This all-day Italian restaurant and cafe from the team behind Congress is striking: lipstick-red leather couches, marble counters and burnished timber tables practically beg to host long lunches, and that's what they've been doing. It's worth trying while the weather's still miserable, because as soon as Melbourne starts warming up, getting a table here will be difficult.

1 York Street, Fitzroy North

Bia Hoi

Jerry Mai is one of Melbourne’s most accomplished chefs and exponents of Vietnamese cuisine. Her restaurants Annam and Pho Nom are two classics, but they’re both in the CBD. So when she announced that her latest project would be in Glen Waverley, there was palpable excitement for those in the east. Although Bia Hoi is in an unassuming location (attached to The Glen shopping centre), the beer hall and barbeque spot more than lives up to its promise of bringing Mai’s patented brand of fun, family-friendly dining to a venue outside the CBD.

235 Springvale Road, Glen Waverley

Pretty Little

At this new diner, every guest sits around a single 20-seat communal table. At the far end of this table, head chef Josep Espuga presides over a little robata grill. The menu changes each night, but expect dishes with a modern Australian mantle, flecked with hints of Spain and France.

296 Carlisle Street, Balaclava

Prince Dining Room

Steered by head chef Dan Cooper, Prince Dining Room's menu is broad strokes Mediterranean, with a heavy emphasis on seafood and vegetables. Just as confident and relaxed is the design, which revels in the space it's afforded. Tables are generously spaced apart, walls and floors are light and bright, and art-deco lines throughout make everything feel smart-casual.

2 Acland Street, St Kilda

Leo's by the Slice

Chef Nick Stanton's love letter to New York slice shops combines classic pizza toppings with quality ingredients and produce. The slices here come out thin, crisp, piping hot and, most importantly, foldable – just like the paper plates they're served on. Leo's serves the Chapel Street late-night set well – slices are available until 3am on Friday and Saturday nights.

363 Chapel Street, South Yarra

Citrus

This new Sri-Lankan restaurant is all owned and run by one family. There’s an a-la-carte menu here, but the star attraction is the all-you-can-eat buffet: a nightly carnival of 15 or so dishes from across Sri Lanka. It changes daily, so you might find anything from yellow-lentil curry, devilled chicken and fried soy beans to spicy coconut sambol. Mixing and stirring everything together is encouraged. The buffet is $15 every night except for Saturday, when it’s $19.90.

252 St Georges Road, Fitzroy North