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This sultry sibling to Sunda is every bit as stellar. At Aru, chef Khanh Nguyen is effortlessly blending Southeast Asian flavours, native Australian ingredients and ancient techniques. And while there are unexpectedly playful riffs on classics – like banh mi, Peking duck and mi goreng – they never feel gimmicky, just modernised and expertly refined.
Stan's Deli and Sandwiches
This deli and sandwich spot is inspired by New York's old-school delis. The team behind the slick white-and-green spot includes co-owners of Leonardo's Pizza Palace, and Frankie's Tortas and Tacos. Go for 5 & Dime bagels smeared with whipped ricotta, cheesy pork-and-fennel-sausage muffins and a hefty eggplant-parm sandwich.
Nico's Sandwich Deli
This sandwich spot from a trio of experienced hospo players was supposed to open in March 2020. One pandemic and a long Fitzroy pop-up later, Nico's has made its way back to its original home in the CBD. Come for jazzed-up Italo-Japanese-leaning sangas, strong coffees and sweet shakes.
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.
At the W Melbourne's in-house restaurant, Coda chef Adam D'Sylva is drawing on his Italian-Indian heritage. The star chef has created a globe-trotting menu that includes luxed-up lasagna, pasta-less cacio e pepe (a surprising triumph), and fragrant, spicy duck curry. Plus there's an excellent and fun roster of theatrical cocktails.
This three-level spot, from the guys behind Dexter and Takeaway Pizza, bears little resemblance to its former self (Peaches, Dexter). Go for focaccia-like pizza with house-made mortadella and garlic-fermented honey, chevre-stuffed potato skins, plenty of Aussie spirits and a pool table.
Three Blue Ducks
An all-day diner at Tullamarine’s surfable wave park from the popular cafe chain. Get spanner-crab scramble and a Bloody Mary for breakfast; pizzas, Portuguese-style chook and tomato-and-chilli mussels with garlicky Baker Bleu sourdough after midday; and non-alcoholic cocktails and beers pre-surf.
To find this dimly lit Italian bar and eatery, look out for a flashing red neon hand in the window. Inside, you’ll find old-school breadbaskets (loaded with carbs to salsa-verde-doused burrata); garlicky spaghetti vongole swimming in oil; a cocktail list centred around Vermouth; and more.
Saltwater Phillip Island
This laidback group-friendly bar and restaurant serves crowd-pleasing pizzas and a wide variety of tapas. Plus, there are eight taps of craft beers (including the house brew) to enjoy. Enjoy it all while you watch over the Newhaven Jetty and Mainland Bridge, from the toasty dining room or the sunny upstairs deck.