Flying interstate over the break? Broadsheet’s city cheat sheets cover everything from new players that live up to the hype to old favourites that continue to deliver. This is a hit list that’ll have you making the most of every minute in Melbourne, no matter where you’re staying.
Holy Crumpets started life as a market stall, albeit a very popular one, and now it’s a tiny city shop dedicated to the golden discs that form part of many at-home Aussie breakfasts. Order yours loaded with smoked butter, taleggio and thyme.
Just up the road from the Queen Vic Market, 279 specialises in modern takes on a traditional Japanese rice dish called musubi, with bacon-and-egg and katsu chicken versions, as well as excellent filter coffee.
Still in the city, Liminal is an elegant art deco eatery by Melbourne cafe heavyweights, but it’s only open weekdays. Grab a seat on one of the olive-green banquettes for socca, a French flatbread with salty hunks of guanciale, or try the mozzarella-and-anchovy toastie.
The outrageously popular Lune Croissanterie has two equally striking outposts – one in the city and one in Fitzroy – both serving the famed croissant that was hailed by the New York Times. Choose from plain, chocolate, ham-and-gruyere or almond versions, or the occasional cacio e pepe or Black Forest special.
Also in Fitzroy is Smith & Deli, a vegan take on a New York-style deli serving plant-based smoked brisket, Singapore noodles, custard tarts and more, as well as Napier Quarter, which we keep returning to again and again for its anchovy toast and casual European atmosphere.
On the other side of the Yarra, Melbourne’s favourite fromagerie Maker & Monger opened a laid-back cafe earlier this year inside Prahran Market. Order the Calabrese, a toastie with smoked scamorza, ‘nduja and oregano.
And if you can’t make it to Attica, hit up Baker Bleu instead. It’s a totally different experience, but the 400-square-metre Caulfield North bakery supplies bread to Ben Shewry’s fine diner, among others.
If you’re in the city, nab an outdoor seat at all-day Italian bistro-wine bar City Wine Shop – just over the road from the grandiose-yet-stoic Parliament House – for a wind-down wine and a plate of natural oysters.
Equally juicy are the xiao long bao at HuTong, and the fish dumplings at ShanDong MaMa, which is tucked in an alley arcade in Chinatown (there might be a line at the door, but it moves quickly). And try the lobster roll at Supernormal on Flinders Lane – it’s a classic.
Beyond the CBD, Half Acre is a stunning south-side eatery with a gabled glass roof in an old mill, and Kenny Lover in Thornbury is a new ice-cream and hot-chip shop with flavours such as yuzu-sake; Davidson’s plum and ginger; and soy sauce, which is a bit like salted caramel.
Newcomer Gaea is a small but imaginative diner on Gertrude Street that uses house-fermented and foraged ingredients in intricate, delicate dishes.
Over in Carlton, Agostino is a modern take on a classic Italian enoteca, and Lagoon Dining’s playful menu draws on the Chinese, Thai and Malaysian backgrounds of the owners (try the hot-and-sour shredded potato with black vinegar and pickled enoki, and the togarashi-dusted fried chicken).
More central is Sunda, an inventive modern Southeast Asian eatery that looks a bit like a construction site; Cheek, an adventurous American barbeque joint; Lesa, a refreshingly quiet dining room with a truly idiosyncratic wine list; and Di Stasio Citta, a big, brutalist eatery where the After School Sandwich is a must-order. For a more casual pit stop, sit at the bar at the iconic Pellegrini’s and order a big bowl of spaghetti bolognaise.
Three not-so-everyday pizzerias are top of our list when it comes to dining after midnight: Leo’s by the Slice, a rollicking good-times spot with an interior that channels Pizza Hut in its heyday; Lazerpig, a northside bar with disco vibes; and Bar Romantica, where you can order pies until late.
If pizza’s not your bag, get subterranean at Bar Margaux, a basement bistro that serves burgers with bordelaise sauce and duck frites until 5am on weekends, or walk a few blocks to Butchers Diner for a yakitori-style ox-tongue skewer or a classic Reuben sandwich.
The city’s prettiest rooftop bar is Peaches, with an enormous disco ball dangling from the roof and white terrazzo tables. Johnny’s Green Room in Carlton has a stellar rooftop too, with views across the north, but if the weather is grim, head to one of the cosy booths at dive bar Nighthawks in Collingwood.
By the water, St Kilda’s Espy is a Melbourne icon with 12 bars and two restaurants. Arbory Afloat (which now has a pool) is another waterside gem, right by Flinders Street Station. And – in a sense – so is Moon Dog World. The Preston brewery is a bit of a hike, but its indoor lagoon alone is worth the trip. Another urban brewery worth a look is Bodriggy, a massive 400-person warehouse in Abbotsford with pét-nat and cherry-coffee cocktails on tap.
Pre-dinner, post-dinner (and dinner if need be):
Angel Music Bar is one of those spots that somehow has a distinct personality but a multitude of personalities all at once, with straight-up booze, easygoing staff and excellent tunes. Heartbreaker has no dance floor (though one always seems to materialise on Friday and Saturday nights) and no DJ – instead make friends with the jukebox. Dessous is an underground bar that’s all marble and low lights, where cocktails riff on classics but their flavours aren’t always immediately recognisable, and The LuWow is a fun take on a tiki bar where the drinks are as tropical as they are boozy.
Theodore’s: This family-friendly spot is hidden in a residential Brunswick backstreet, and does bottomless filter coffee for $6 (and morning-appropriate cocktails designed for boozy weekend brunches).
King & Godfree Espresso Bar: Old-school Italiana is the vibe at this heritage-listed spot, where you’ll find robust house-blend espresso, as well as filter and cold brew.
Gold Drops: This CBD space is compact, elegant and welcoming, with wood, mirrors and lots of marble. The coffee is all-natural, too.
Everyday Coffee: The name says it all. This spot serves consistently outstanding coffee every day in a converted warehouse in Collingwood.
Industry Beans: This warehouse cafe’s backstreet location is often quiet during the week – you might even have the tranquil front yard to yourself.
Keith Haring | Jean-Michel Basquiat: Crossing Lines: More than 300 works by late American art icons Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat are on show at the National Gallery of Victoria until April 13. The works span street art, sculpture and photography, taking us back to the glory days of graffiti and hip-hop culture in 1980s New York. If you don’t have time to see the show, check out the resurrection of an iconic Haring mural on the NGV Waterwall.
Gertrude Street in Fitzroy is a home for local fashion, homewares and independent boutiques. Check out consignment store Bruce, and one of only two Le Labo stores in Australia. Armadale's pretty, terrace-filled High Street is one of Melbourne’s best shopping strips for local designer labels, international fashion and fabulous one-off finds. In contrast, High Street in Northcote offers up an eclectic mix of vintage stores, antique furniture shops and more.