Ask yourself what you fancy. Perhaps you just need a tasty bite between the NGV and shopping. You might have heard about the excellent Asian flavours on offer around the city. Then again, it might be a time for celebration – a birthday, anniversary or just a ‘why not?’ evening. You can get all this and so much more in Melbourne.
If you don’t want to break the bank and just need a great pick-me-up there are many cafes and restaurants, from funky to low-key, to pull up a chair. On a sunny day, the courtyard at Trunk Diner [275 Exhibition Street] does excellent quesadillas, salads and a fantastic burger. Also specialising on things between bread (and bagels) is Bowery to Williamsburg [16 Oliver Lane], down one of the famous laneways. For a real taste of Melbourne, though, the pork belly roll at Earl Canteen [500 Bourke Street] can’t be beaten – although the duck confit roll comes close. Just head up the stairs of NAB building and you’ll find it in the courtyard.
Whether it’s lunch, dinner or some time in between, dumplings are always a solid Melbourne choice. A firm favourite is HuTong Dumpling Bar [14–16 Market Lane], famous for its xiao long bao (soup-filled pork dumplings) and very handy to the designer stores on Collins Street. It may be hidden in an unassuming arcade, but Shandong Mama [Shop 7, Midcity Arcade, 200 Bourke Street] has a lot of fans. The fried mackerel dumplings are a must-try. New to town is the world’s cheapest Michelin star restaurant, Tim Ho Wan [206 Bourke Street]. Expect a line to get in because nothing on the menu costs more than $10 and the baked barbecue pork buns are some of the lightest, sweetest parcels of goodness you might ever eat.
Want to eat at a perennial favourite? You’re spoiled for choice. For contemporary Thai flavours head to Chin Chin [125 Flinders Lane]. It’s always busy, but if you’re offered a seat at the kitchen bar, take it! You can watch the chefs at work, while enjoying the amazing flavours. The first espresso machine arrived in Melbourne in 1954 at Pellegrini’s [66 Bourke Street]. Now, this family-run Italian cafe is a go-to for anyone wanting a bowl of spaghetti bolognese or plate of lasagne. Sure, you can get better pasta in Melbourne – Tipo 00 [361 Little Bourke Street] is our tip – but the cosy, vintage vibe is hard to beat.
For something a little more special, Supernormal [180 Flinders Lane] is chef-about-town Andrew McConnell’s slick restaurant with an Asian-tinged menu. There’s even a karaoke bar downstairs. Want something more European? Head to his other spot, Cumulus Inc [45 Flinders Lane] just up the street. For great city views, book a table at Taxi Dining [Federation Square, cnr Swanston and Flinders Street]. The rustic modern Australian cuisine is a real crowd pleaser for any occasion.