Most of these places I have visited, with a smattering recommended by others.
Ding Dong Lounge, 18 Market Lane (close to Chinatown)
Rock ‘n’ roll meets modern Australian in this decidedly cooler-than-thou bar in central Melbourne. Shades optional.
Flower Drum, 17 Market Lane
Considered to be one of the best restaurants of any cuisine in Australia, the Flower Drum is almost impossible to get a table in. But well worth the wait.
Ezard at Adelphi 187 Flinders Lane
Teage Ezard is the gastronomical high priest of Australian fee style food, as he calls it. A visit to this restaurant is less of a night out than a pilgrimage. The eight course tasting menu is recommended.
Bennetts Lane Jazz Club, 25 Bennetts Lane
The Melbourne equivalent of Ronnie Scotts and the home of the Bennetts Lane International Jazz Festival
Cookie, 252 Swanston Street
You will find an obscenely long bar in this place, with a similarly impressive wine and beer list. The balcony is a good place to people-watch.
Victoria Market, 513 Elizabeth Street
Victoria Market is a historic landmark in Melbourne – it is the largest open-air market in the southern hemisphere. Originally known as a food market, it is now the place to buy anything from organic fruit and veg, authentic Mediterranean food, hardward and of course Aussie souvenirs. The Night Market takes place on Wednesday nights in summer, Its major focus is on food and entertainment. About 20 food hawkers provide a culturally rich range of food including African, Mexican. Spanish, Malaysian, Indian and Middle Eastern street food – not to mention the wineries who set up stall and sell fantastic wines by the glass or case! A great place to spend a summer’s evening.
Shop UR2, Upper Level, Southbank
Beautiful views of the river from the sheltered balcony, waitresses in kimonos and delicious food. What’s not to like?!
This is so popular with local office people that the company I’m temping for call it “the boardroom”. An easy-going popular place with outside tables right on the river, E Gusto has a good Italian menu and a relaxed feel.
This is a great place to meet with friends as the menu is so wide it pleases everybody. Wood-fired pizzas with original toppings are my favourite, although the Asian fusion dishes are also tempting – try the beef curry. Wine list is short enough but well-chosen with almost everything available by the glass.
A trendy bar in the Southgate building, it’s a great place to people-watch after work or on an early summer’s evening. Cocktails are good and bar snacks hit the spot.
Right beside the Tasmanian ferryport, Campari has an interesting mix of Mediterranean food on its wide menu. Tapas are fresh and varied, the paella is authentic and rich, the pastas to die for, and the hot plate dishes are a meat-lover’s dream. The inside is not as atmospheric as the outside tables – a bit café-ish – although they are open for breakfast too (try the churros and chocolate). But sit on the deck and watch the passers-by watch you eat with the beautiful people.
Man Mo, 42 NewQuay Promenade, Docklands
This beautiful restaurant with intriguing curtains made of kitchen sieves and tea strainers, offers the very best of Chinese food with excellent views over Melbourne city.
Bhoj, 54 NewQuay Promenade, Docklands
This new version of the famous Templestowe original is reputed to have stolen the crown of best Indian restaurant in Melbourne. Certainly looks the part! Looking forward to checking this place out from the inside next time I am in town.
Livebait, 55b New Quay Promenade, Docklands
Occupying one of the best locations in the new Docklands development, Livebait’s speciality is modern seafood with a strong Mediterranean influence.
Cargo Restaurant & Supper Club, 45 New Quay Promenade Docklands
Famous for its unisex electromagnetic toilets, made from transparent glass which only turns opaque when the toilet door is locked! The 270 degree views across the Melbourne skyline are pretty good too.
West of Town
Thien An, Footscray
Little Vietnam is full of cheap and cheerful eateries, many within or beside the cavernous Footscray Market (recommended by no less than Rick Stein for the quality of its fresh produce, meats and seafood). Closer to the train station, though, is a famed little place which has a loyal following – you will see a small crowd of people waiting outside each evening before opening time. It’s BYO (bring-your-own) as you would expect, and $20 a head will buy you a substantial three-course feast.
Thai Angels, Barkly Street, West Footscray
Hidden down in West Footscray, this tiny place boasts a lovely coffee shop during the day, but serves up some of the best Thai food in Melbourne at night. The young waiting staff are friendly and attentive, and if you ask for “Thai hot” your taste buds won’t be disappointed! It’s BYO too although the wine list has plenty of good-value choice too.
Sirens Restaurant, Williamstown Beach
One of my local favourites – this lovely restaurant in the old art deco bathing pavilion looks out over the bay, and is a great place to watch the sunset or the pelicans flying past
East of Town
Café Sienna, 402 Chapel Street, Prahran
No visit to Chapel Street would be complete without lunch at a café watching all the Melbourne beautiful people going by. Where better than Café Sienna – if there is nobody interesting wakling past you can always watch the clientele… lunchtimes bring a mix of drug dealers, students and rich girls. Caeser salad is pretty good too!
Botanical, 169 Domain Rd South Yarra
Botanical’s recent transformation is complete – with its style and exceptional food making it the Good Food Guide Restaurant of the Year. According to their website, the Bubble Bar at the Botanical is the perfect place to take somebody if you wish to seduce them!
Thy Thy 1, 142 Victoria Street, Richmond
“Bloody good cheap grub” is how somebody once described this great local restaurant, upstairs above the shops on Victoria Street. Service is efficient in this slice of Vietnam right in the middle of Melbourne. You won’t get to linger all night – or even have a table to yourself – but the food is worth it every time.
Stokehouse, 30 Jacka Boulevard, St. Kilda
The Stokehouse is a bit of a Melbourne institution, located right by the water on the St. Kilda beachfront. Downstairs is casual dining and drinks, with an outdoor terrace – great for anytime of the day or night. We used to come here when I had no money and sit for hours over a coffe, watching the St. Kilda people roller-blading by. Upstairs is fine dining, with similar spectacular views across the bay.
Soul Mama, St. Kilda Sea Baths, Jacka Boulevard, St. Kilda
Great vegetarian food and fantastic cocktails, with spectacular views across the bay.
Café Tien Tien, 217 Barkly Street, St. Kilda
A wonderful Chinese/Singaporean restaurant with a great wine list and facinating décor including a genuine Buddhist shrine. Food is beautifully presented and service is impeccable.
Chinta Ria Soul, 92 Acland Street, St. Kilda
This is the first Malaysian restaurant I ever visited, and my niece had to order for me! The food blew me away the first time, and every time since. The music is laid-back, and you don’t have far to fall to find a great cake shop for dessert afterwards.
25 Fitzroy St St Kilda 3182
They say the food isn’t completely authentic, but it’s still delicious! Sit on the sidewalk and sip a sangria and let them bring you a parade of tapas as you watch the world go by.
71A Acland St St Kilda 3182
It’s a bit of a see-and-be-seen spot, but a truly democratic crowd from locals to backpackers to people just off the beach. Modern Australian food, a decent winelist and buzzy atmosphere.
130 Acland St St Kilda 3182
A Melbourne institution, Cicciolina’s is reputed to be the best Italian restaurant in Melbourne. Owned and run by women, this cosy restaurant is the favourite eatery of many of Melbourne’s biggest chefs – and I guess they know their stuff. The back bar is where Melbourne’s finest wait for their (unbookable) table, and the wine list is legendary.
Lygon Street, Carlton
This famous street specialising in great Italian food is an absolute must. Just pick a restaurant and you won’t be disappointed!