What is the flavour of Australia? Bush foods? Kangaroo? Prawns on the barbecue? Maybe. But perhaps it’s a more complex flavour profile including (but not limited to) a touch of European sophistication, a lot of good coffee, great wine, fresh produce of all sorts and a polished yet laid-back way of serving it all up with gorgeous views and lots of fresh air on the side.
Wherever you’re from and however long you plan to stay, we want you to go home with memories of beautiful meals. Melbourne – surely the gastronomic capital of Australia – is a great place to eat those memorable meals. Here are a few suggestions. Enjoy!
It’s a little difficult to concentrate on your meal when you first arrive at Eureka 89. So here’s a tip: make an early booking for your table 89 floors up the Eureka Tower, Melbourne’s tallest building.
Take a break between courses of the contemporary degustation menu to ogle the view of the city, suburbs, bay and mountains. You want an overview of Melbourne? This is eating with an overview.
Level 89, Eureka Tower, 7 Riverside Quay, Southbank. 9693.8889.
Here’s your chance to try Australian native ingredients, masterfully incorporated into high-end restaurant dishes.
Try, for instance, wallaby tartare with pepperberry or paperbark-smoked barramundi with lemon myrtle. Critics commend chef Andy Bedford for avoiding tokenism and using powerful ingredients (lemon myrtle, for instance, has a very distinctive flavour) subtly. The food is just one one of several high points in Charcoal Lane.
The building is an iconic one for indigenous locals, once housing the Victorian Aboriginal Health Service and the restaurant is named for Aboriginal musician Archie Roach’s famous song. The business has strong relationships with the community and employs and trains young, Aboriginal people.
136 Gertrude Street, Fitzroy. 9235.9200.
Breathe the crisp, clean air and wander the mountain ash forests around Healesville. It will help build your appetite for lunch at the Healesville Hotel.
This award-winning pub has an elegant weekend menu featuring plenty of local produce such as Kennedy & Wilson chocolate. On weekdays the menu is more relaxed. The owners also have a café, produce store and butcher's shop in the same street if you’re still hungry after lunch. For the full tourist experience, plan your day around a visit to the Healesville Sanctuary to see Australian animals.
256 Maroondah Highway, Healesville. 5962.4002.
It’s frequently referred to as one of the world’s best restaurants—that alone is reason enough to visit. Another reason is that you’ll also get to try native ingredients such as saltbush, paperbark, lemon myrtle, wallaby, macadamias and King George whiting on your plate at suburban jewel Attica.
Produce is sometimes foraged and some is grown on site. It’s not just Melbourne eaters who think acclaimed chef Ben Shewry is doing something amazing, Attica is regularly featured in critics' best restaurant lists. If you can’t get in for this visit, book now for the next time you’re in Melbourne.
74 Glen Eira Road, Ripponlea. 9530.0111.
This is one of the heritage properties run by The Diggers Club, a gardening organisation that works to save and distribute heirloom fruits, herbs and vegetables.
The Fork to Fork café is a tasty way to reinforce how good it is to grow your own food and buy local. The menu is mostly made of produce grown on site or grown or caught from nearby on the Peninsula. Explore the beaches and wineries of the Mornington Peninsula and wander the gardens at Heronswood to work up an appetite.
105 La Trobe Parade, Dromana. 5984.7321.
Cafe di Stasio
A booking here is your ticket to cosmopolitan, European-influenced, vibrant, fashionable Melbourne. Café Di Stasio has been the place to be seen eating an award-winning plate of food for the past 26 or so years. Charismatic owner Rinaldo (Ronnie) Di Stasio opened a bar next door a year or two ago, which promptly won Gourmet Traveller bar of the year. The bar also made it into The Australian’s Hot 50 and won Good Food Guide best short wine list. Di Stasio was has also been named a Good Food Guide legend for his long-term contribution to hospitality. The Italian restaurant food has always been magnificent; the bar food is too. 31 Fitzroy Street, St Kilda. 9525.3999.
Here’s an idea if you’d like to visit Tasmania but haven’t the time: eat at Pure South. This sophisticated, contemporary restaurant goes from strength to strength. The food is so good, partly because the Tasmanian produce is so good. River level, 3 Southgate Avenue, Southbank. 9699.4600.
Melbourne Coffee Shops
We’d be missing a vital component of the flavour profile of Australia if we didn’t mention coffee. Australians are mad for great coffee. It’s what keeps the cogs turning in homes, workplaces, cafés, restaurants and on the street all day, every day. And no Australian city can beat Melbourne for barristas who live and breath the art and craft of coffee. There are dozens of exceptional cafés in the city and inner suburbs, but if you’re able, try a brew from Proud Mary, St Ali, Seven Seeds, Top Paddock, Two Birds One Stone, Brother Baba Budan or The League of Honest Coffee. All excellent.
Produce & Food Markets
So much of the success of dishes in Australian restaurants comes down to the high quality of the produce we have available here. You can see for yourself at produce markets such as Queen Victoria Market, South Melbourne Market and Prahran Market. They are all close to the city and you can wander the aisles, soak up the atmosphere, talk to the vendors and buy whatever you can eat or carry.