I love nothing more than heading back to my hometown of Melbourne in the Australian summer time. Not only do I get to escape the northern hemisphere winter, but I get to experience the best of Melbourne when its beautiful locals are chilled, suntanned and glowing.
Better than that, I get to experience Melbourne’s food and drink scene, preferably al fresco. Melbourne is famous for its world-class dining scene, award-winning chefs and leading edge cuisine. On my last trip my time was limited to only a week, during which I tried to fit in meeting with family and friends, shopping at my favourite Aussie designer boutiques, stocking up on Bonds undies, getting up to Sydney for a flying visit mid-week and getting in my morning walk around Melbourne’s Tan track each day. So my Melbourne dining was limited but outstanding.
Here’s a shortlist from my Melbourne dining extravaganza, where I went and what I highly recommend:
Supernormal on Flinders Lane in the Melbourne CBD is Andrew McConnell’s pan-Asian restaurant that’s most definitely super, but far from normal. He has created a bustling canteen-like space that’s warm and inviting. The staff have that genuine, confident friendliness that all the best restaurants in Australia have, making you feel like a long-lost friend. But best of all is the food. Dishes like bao buns, dumplings and slow cooked Xinjiang lamb take you from Japan to Korea to China and back.
And definitely try the signature lobster roll – definitely lives up to its reputation.
Siglo isn’t a restaurant. It’s a bar that I loved so much it deserves a mention as the perfect spot to head to for an aperitif or digestif pre or post dinner at Supernormal (which is just a short walk away). Siglo is a roof terrace bar situated above Melbourne Institution, the Supper Club.
What is so magic about Siglo is its views. Can you imagine sitting out on a balmy Melbourne evening, sipping your martini with vistas across to Victoria’s heritage listed Parliament House and beyond that the spires of St Patrick’s Cathedral, and looking next door to the elaborate Second Empire style Princess Theatre? It doesn’t get more Melbourne that this.
My favourite place to dine in Melbourne is hands down L’Hotel Gitan in Prahran. It is Jacques Reymond’s pub of the people. It brings fine french dining to a relaxed Art Moderne style Australian pub. The food is sophisticated french, and the wine list impeccable. And Ray, the maitre d’ knows his stuff. If you’re up for an experience, request a seat at the bar which winds it’s way around the kitchen, to watch the chefs in action.
mya tiger at The Espy
The Esplanade Hotel is a Melbourne Institution. Ask any Melburnian, and they’ll tell you a tale of that one crazy night that either started or ended (or both) at the Espy.
It closed its doors in 2015 to undergo a massive revamp, and re-opened in 2018 to unanimous acclaim (no mean feat, as Melburnians are incredibly possessive of their beloved Espy).
I had the perfect lunch at Cantonese restaurant, Mya Tiger, located on the first floor, with views directly out at Port Philip Bay. The tasting menu was a hit for the omnivores and vegetarians alike of our group, with everyone more than catered for. My fave was the pork belly, but that took nothing away from the juiciest of prawns, the tenderest of roast duck and crispiest skinned chicken.
The Espy is worth a visit regardless of your appetite. With 12 bars, two kitchens, 60 chefs, 200 beer taps, three music stages and a podcast studio across its five levels, there’s something for everyone. And the interior is just beyond. No words (see photos).
I love an Italian restaurant where I’m greeted by a handsome Italian waiter, speaking Italian to me. I know, I’m basic, but what can I say?
Bar Carolina, however, is anything but basic. Elevated, sophisticated Italian, in a very stylish South Yarra location. Dress to impress, the locals here put London and Los Angeles to shame (fashion-wise).
The interior is a seductive mix of charcoal, midnight blue and bronze. Steel, terrazzo and stained glass all create a moody, very Melbourne vibe.
I always go for pasta at Bar Carolina, and am never disappointed, especially where Moreton Bay bugs or crayfish are also involved.
If you’ve any recommendations for Melbourne dining, I’m all ears – leave your tip in the comments below!