Melbourne dining is all about the hidden and the hip. If you want to reach food nirvana, you must head to this city. There’s a plethora of restaurants. Some are institutions, some are hidden unless you’re in the foodie know. Having just spent five days eating my way around the city, the best piece of advice I can give is book weeks, if not months, in advance. Otherwise you might be disappointed. And Melbourne service is exceptional all the way.
Modern Australian: No bookings taken, super for lunch
Cumulus is set up for your every whim, with hearty breakfasts, fresh tasty lunch and delicate dinners. This clever and quirky menu is thought-provoking and beautifully presented. With tapas-style dishes with sharing in mind, it allows you to order a cross-section of the menu if dining with a group. Beautiful fresh local ingredients are used but in unusual ways. Let the staff’s exceptional knowledge of their ever-changing menu walk you through their favourite oyster, charcuterie, salad, fish and meat or dessert dishes. A must-visit.
Best Dish: Butter beans, nduja, black garlic and salted ricotta
Pan Asian: No bookings taken, great lunch spot
If Andrew McConnell is involved you know it’s going to be good. Supernormal, his seventh restaurant in Melbourne, impresses with authentic flavours from Japan, Korea, China and Hong Kong. You are not going to want to leave this foodie heaven. Its creative and clever menu is divided into six parts (my favourites being the raw bar, dumplings and bao). From kingfish with dashi and horseradish, to their famous New England lobster roll, there is something here for every palate.
Best dish: Raw tuna with smoked tomato, pickled cucumber and spring onion oil.
Modern Indian: Book 2-3 months in advance, great dinner spot
Melbourne’s first real stab at upmarket Indian. If you have a preconceived notion of rich heaviness associated with Indian food, the dishes will blow you away with their finesse and balance. In order to broaden its appeal the menu does offer several dishes of more Southeast Asian influence. But they excel at Indian. You’ll experience approaches to Indian food you would not have conceived in your wildest dreams.
Best Dish: Pan Puri, little fried pastry pockets filled with spices, potatoes, mung beans, a dab of date and tamarind chutney and finished at the table with a little splash of “aromatic water”
Modern Spanish: Book 2-3 months in advance, great for lunch or dinner
Little sister to the mothership Movidaalso, serving modern Spanish tapas, no trip to Melbourne would be complete without a meal here. It has similarities to Movidaalso, including its infamous and much-loved anchovy and smoked tomato sorbet tapa. But the restaurant has its own pace, flavours and style.
Best Dish: Smoked eel cigars
Thai influenced: Book a few weeks out, lively dinner spot
Cookie is a manically busy, flavour-fuelled dining experience that should be on your list. With its punchy Thai flavours and a crowd-embracing drinks list, you will leave here with all your senses heightened and thoroughly satisfied. Cookie combines a beer hall, a cocktail bar and Thai restaurant effortlessly – without being confusing or overwhelming. With a dynamic, authentic menu and curated kitsch surrounds, this is a fun and unique dining experience.
Best Dish: Tapioca dumplings, pickled turnip, pork peanuts and salad leaves