Melbourne

The 15 Essential Food Experiences to Have in Melbourne

There are so many “essential” taste experiences in Melbourne, it’s difficult to choose only 15, but these are the ones that keep coming up in our minds and on our taste buds. Treat this list as a starting-point on the never ending journey that is Melbourne. 

Courtesy of South Melbourne Market Dim Sims

South Melbourne Market Dim Sims

South Melbourne
You can’t really visit Melbourne without trying a South Melbourne Market Dim Sim. They’ve existed for almost 60 years, starting with the late Ken Cheng and now run by his two sons. Basically, you’ve never tried a dim sim like it. It’s bursting with salty juiciness and more flavour than you almost know what to do with—rest assured, it’s nothing like the dimmie you’re used to. 
How to order: Swing by while you’re at the South Melbourne Markets and get your fix.

Courtesy of Code Black

Coffee

Melbourne’s love affair with coffee is all thanks to the Italian and Greek immigrants that brought their European espresso machines over with them after World War II. Since then, many a barista has come through and put their own spin on how coffee is made, where it comes from, and how to drink it, developing our coffee culture to what it is today. Some *chefs kiss* coffee places right now to check out are Dukes Coffee Roasters, Code Black, Two Conversations and Brother Baba Budan

Belles Baller Bucket

Belle’s Hot Chicken is known for there -shocker- hot chicken! And also their fantastic natural wine list. The Baller Bucket, with 16 wings, 4 sides, and 4 sauces is designed for any true fried chicken aficionados. If you can get through this bad boy, you can do anything. 
How to order: Book here, order takeaway here

Shunjinko Late Night Ramen

Shujinko is one of many ramen restaurants around Russell St, but it is the only one that is open for 24-hours. You’ve not had a good night until you’ve ended up at Shujinko. The ramen is positively moorish, the staff are beautiful and non-judgemental (they would’ve seen it all), inviting early birds and nightcrawlers alike. It’s loud, it smells delicious and you can have a bottle of sake or a pint of Asahi at any time of the day! It’s an absolute institution, a must-go on your next night out—or morning after. 
How to order: See the menu here, no bookings just walk-ins

Banh Mi From N.Lee

We don’t know why this Banh Mi is better than the rest, but it just is. Maybe it’s the fresh crusty bread? Or perhaps the extra generous spread of pate? Or maybe even just the juice-level of the pork belly. Whether it’s one simple factor or many small factors, we’re not the only ones that flock to N.Lee on our lunch breaks. You gotta get in quick; all you need is a rumbling tum and a $10 note. 

Gozleme

Melbourne has a heap of Turkish influence and with that, we’re incredibly lucky to have fantastic gozleme in just about every suburb. Your best bets for fresh, warm bread and generous fillings are Gozleme Turkish Cafe in the Queen Vic Markets, Kebabish & Grill in Clifton Hill, and Borek & Gozleme on Elizabeth Street. But seriously, just type in “gozleme near me” and I bet there’ll be one no more than a few km away. 

Courtesy of Bad Frankie

Bad Frankie’s Lamington Jaffle

We know that a lamington toastie is hard to imagine, especially at a cocktail bar, but just trust us. It’s light but rich, it’s chocolate-y but not too rich, with just enough coconut and crisp. It’s to die for. 
How to order: Book a spot at Bad Frankie’s by calling 03 9078 3866

Hot Jam Doughnuts

You will smell the hot jam doughnuts before you see them. Follow your nose to the American Doughnut Kitchen, a doughnut van parked right out the front of the Queen Vic Markets. And get this—they taste even better than they smell. 

A Lune Croissant

A lune croissant tastes like Paris and you better believe that people line up down the street for them. Owner Kate Reid took her aerodynamic skills to french pastries 11 years ago and created a one-off formula for the perfect buttery, flakey and melt-in-your-mouth goodness very rarely executed in western croissants.  
How to order: Pre-order here

Jo McGann

Supernormal’s Lobster Roll

The lobster roll at Supernormal has reached cult status, and rightly so. Inspired by a trip to New York, chef and owner McConnell puts its success down to accessibility; it’s the perfect amount of luxury, without having to commit your lifestyle or your wallet. 
How to order: Book here

French Saloon’s Fairy Bread

What do you think of when you think of fairy bread? I bet it isn’t three types of caviar. French Saloon swaps out the hundreds and thousands with caviar—yep, that’s what living tastes like. The only way to get your hands onto this enviable dish, is to a) have a healthy bank account and b) ask for the “secret caviar tasting plate”. 

Dan Soderstrom

Avocado Smash

It’s the breakfast of hipsters we know, and we accept that. But with so many hipsters to cater for, Melbourne truly delivers on the avo smash. It’s on pretty much every breakfast menu, which honestly makes it a difficult dish to choose with confidence because the difference between a good avo smash and a bad one… is something you don’t want to experience. Lately, I’d recommend The Dirty Apron in Clifton Hill. They serve their avo smash with goat’s curd—a classic but a must—and a very generous serving of actual avo, salted to perfection and spread thickly on homemade sourdough. 

Pellegrini’s

Pellegrini’s is a Melbourne institution, opening its doors in 1954. Operating as one of Melbourne’s first pasta and espresso bars, it essentially created the European vibes that continues to expand down the Spencer Street end of Melbourne CBD. The white-shirted waiters go between excessively charming and wonderfully dismissive, giving you the full European experience. People have travelled far and wide for their crispy lasagne and cannelloni, in front of you at a piping hot temperature, within 5 mins of ordering. The best spot to sit is in the kitchen. Yes, you read that right. You can chat to the nonnas as they bustle about and curse under their breath, all while sitting at a huge kitchen table. It doesn’t get any more bellissimo than that.

Lygon Street

Lygon Street is the birthplace of Italian culture in Melbourne, with many Italian immigrants settling in Carlton in the 40’s and 50’s. With them, they brought their espresso machines, their gold pinky rings, and their pimped-up cars—that all still have a place on Lygon Street today. Now, a combination of traditional and new businesses exist on the strip, still with an overarching theme of Italian cuisine and culture. You’ll see the wives dressed up for dinner, groups of men wearing cravats and smoking cigars with the same blokes they always have – probably a cousin – and the nonnas sipping on an espresso after 10pm at Brunetti’s. 

Cannoli from T.Cavallaro & Sons

My first Melbourne boyfriend took me to eat cannoli here for breakfast one day and I almost cried. Their cannoli put me straight back in my nonna’s kitchen, circa 1998. Cavallaro & Sons have been a family business for over 60 years, and their secret to longevity is simple; their recipes haven’t changed since Tommaso and Sarina Cavallaro opened shop in 1956 and they always use fresh ingredients, not premixes. They make everything from biscotti, to wedding cakes to pascal lambs. But if you want the cannoli, you’d better get there first thing at 8:30am because they sell out fast!
How to order: To pre-order, call (03) 9687 4638

Melbourne

Alejandro Saravia’s New Restaurant Will Put Victoria’s Produce Right On The Plate In Front Of You

farmer's daughters

What really kicked off this adventure for me, was fatherhood. Lucas, my first son, was born three years ago and I realised that I wanted to give him the same sense of place that I’ve always had. I’m Peruvian. I consider Australia home and I love living here, but I am still Peruvian. I’ve traveled and worked all around the world, but the one thing that always gives me a sense of purpose is that I know where I come from and what I’m representing. Where I’m from gives me an identity that keeps me together, always. My wife is from Spain and she has that same sense of identity with her country. Now, we have two sons; Lucas and Gonzalo and they’re not Peruvian, they’re not Spanish, they were born in Australia. They’re Australian, they’re Victorians. 

Before they were born, I felt this inherent responsibility to give them an identity, and provide them with a connection to where they’re from. I wanted them to feel that same sense of place and identity that my wife and I do from our respective countries. I think it’s really important for a person’s growth and individuality for their “place”, the place they live and they feel they belong in, to be part of their identity development. 

To do this, I knew that I needed to deeply explore my own connection with Victoria. I needed to understand where I was living and where my sons were going to be born so that they could grow up with that assurance. This moment for me was a huge push to discover more about Victorian produce, local produce, the produce I’d always worked with but didn’t know enough about.

Obviously, as a chef, there is already a huge amount of respect for the ingredients you use. They’re our tools; they help us to create. We’d be nothing without our ingredients. But when you’re first starting out, when you’re young and hungry and in a hurry to work harder, produce more, and constantly create—you don’t think about where everything comes from so much. I didn’t have as much knowledge about waste, or the breathing space to learn about the full-circle from farm, to kitchen, to table.

My journey to discover Gippsland started around 4 years ago. 

Paul Crock, a Gippsland beef farmer introduced me to Gippsland by inviting me to stay for a weekend at his farm. He had been insisting for a while. “You have to come to the farm!” he’d say, every time we spoke. At the time I was very busy with Pastuso and life but I had a hunger to explore and get out of the city, so I accepted his invitation. 

I still remember the day he came to pick me up. I’d been filming since 5:30am, I’d done a massive shift the day before and so by midday when he came to pick me up from the restaurant, I was exhausted. As soon as we were on the road I fell asleep. When I woke up, we were in Gippsland, on a road lined with Eucalyptus gum trees. It immediately reminded me of trips I went on as a boy with my family in Peru. From the coast to the Andes and Sierras we have roads like that that are surrounded by Eucalyptus, and that triggered memories in me. I felt immediately connected with Gippsland. I knew this would be a place that I could learn a lot from.

I was blown away by the diversity of geography, micro-climates and the variety of ingredients Gippsland produces. Gippsland has got coast, mountains, and lakes, and its sheer vastness is pretty breathtaking. 

I met the most incredible people. 

Phillip Jones, the owner of Bass Phillip wines, invited me into his shed, bottle of wine in hand, and told me about his 10-year plan. I was so impressed—who has a 10-year plan!? He told me he wanted to sell his first bottle of Burgundy in his 10th year. He sold it on his 11th. That moment, although I didn’t know it at the time, represented the passion, dedication, specialisation, and breadth of research that all the farmers in Gippsland have. The same story links into every farmer I met, and continue to meet.

David Jones was another farmer I met in Gippsland and is now one of my partners at Farmer’s Daughters. He’s believed in the concept from the start, and we’ve been developing it for 4 years. David runs The Garlic Festival in Meeniyan. He put Meeniyan on the map, now bringing 10,000 to the town of 600 every year. I’ve been to every garlic festival with a pop-up campfire kitchen, roasting whole pigs and lambs. Each time I was there, I fell more and more in love with the place and wanted to share it with as many people as possible. I also wanted to share the beautiful produce with city people, business people, and tourists. 

In saying that, Farmer’s Daughters was never supposed to be a restaurant. First and foremost, it was to promote the region of Gippsland. Originally, I thought it would be an ongoing concept that would create and organise events in Gippsland. Then, once we’d done a few events, we wanted something more permanent and thought, let’s find a farm and create an actual farm to table space. But as I was meeting more and more people I realised, I’m not a farmer; I don’t know anything about farming. Business-wise, it would have to be destination and seasonal. As much as it’s still a dream of mine, I didn’t have the resources and I’d met a whole lot of farmer’s that I could count on. So, I left the farming to the farmers and took what I know; hospitality. And so the concept grew. We wanted to create a space that brings Gippsland to Melbourne, in every way, triggering a sense of place through food, stories, colours, wine, take away produce and fresh knowledge. 

Courtesy of Farmer’s Daughters

Creating a true farm to table concept is difficult, because the produce has to come from so far away. We worked on finding produce and farmers for the past two years, chatting to them about how to create a supply chain from Gippsland into the city. Luckily, farmer’s are very community driven people. They fix each other’s fences, they come over when there’s a water leak, they swap produce… they’re a family. So, we applied that community to our system, working out a way that farmers can carpool each other’s produce to us, taking turns on different weeks and working geographically. 

We also don’t demand stuff. We don’t have a list of ingredients that we need without question each week. We’re in constant communication with the farmers so we can prepare our menu; they tell us what they’re bringing and we adjust our menu accordingly.  

Today, we got a delivery of hand-dived Konbu. We asked Andrew from Snowy River Station if his urchin divers could get some for us, and sure enough; we have enough for the whole week, picked a couple of days ago and beautifully dried out ready to be used. You have to be imaginative, you have to be willing to take risks and be spontaneous and that isn’t easy. Instead of the farmers being flexible for us, we’re being flexible for them. They have a farm, an entire operation that works 24/7; there are no days off and they know their produce best. The best way to buy their produce, is to be guided by them. Once you earn their trust and they see the justice we’re giving to the products, that’s when we can inspire each other and start to work together.

It’s also about finding space for the whole ingredient, which sometimes means parts of the product that people aren’t familiar with seeing on a menu. It’s exciting, but it encourages open-mindedness. It’s also about charging what the product is worth. Mostly, it’s cheaper to buy imported food than to buy local, because of the volume and economy of scale. Thankfully, people are starting to understand the cost of things and how important it is to value the product by paying for what it’s worth. I think the reset that was 2020 has helped in some way. During lockdown, so many people were consuming more locally. They were learning to eat different things, and get comfortable with the unfamiliar; but it’s a slow process, you just have to be willing to learn. 

I would love to see more farm to table restaurants in cities. It’s difficult, because to be doing it on the scale we are, you really need to start from scratch. It has to be a part of the concept, the kitchen, the communication, the staff… everything. You have to be passionate about it, because it’s a lot of work and only if you’re willing to invest, will it start to pay off. 

We have some amazing people on board. Matt Jensen our Sommelier, who spent two months in Gippsland going to every winery and making relationships with winemakers. Scott Pointon, our VM, shares my passion and vision. David Boyle our Head Chef, continues to develop the concept more and more and put a bit of himself on the menu. Nele, our Bar Manager, foraged for all of her cocktail ingredients in Gippsland. Giulia, who is managing our deli with her amazing charisma and passion. I could go on. We’re a family, this is our little house (in the middle of two monstrous towers) and we want to invite everyone that walks in to be a part of it and take a little bit of Gippsland with them forever. 

Courtesy of Farmer’s Daughters

Related