Melbourne Restaurants

Establishment neighborhood
Chin Chin
125 Flinders Ln., CBD
The old adage “eat where the locals eat” rings especially true in Melbourne, and Melburnians have a penchant for the sweet, sour, and often spicy food of Southeast Asia. Chin Chin on Flinders Lane is easy to spot; just join the always-there snaking line (there are no reservations here). The menu is modeled on that of a classic Southeast Asian dining hall. The interior oozes cool Aussie industrialism with weathered red brick, high ceilings that amplify diners’ lively chatter, and rotating exhibits from emerging artists. Dishes like sticky, soy-glazed duck and steamed fish wrapped in betel leaves pair exceptionally well with a tangy beer. Roll up with a crowd, overorder, and dig in.
60 Lygon St., Brunswick East
Brunswick East needed Etta. Sure, pizza mecca 400 Gradi is around the corner, but for pasta and insanely good bread, number sixty Lygon Street is it. Chef Charley Snadden-Wilson doesn’t stop at Italy—the menu pairs plum cake with sake and ginger oil in one delicious instance and zucchini with Tilsit (a rarely seen cheese dating from the Prussian era) in another. Etta’s sourdough comes warm, smeared in sweet, slow-roasted garlic with oil for dipping; sometimes there’s a cacio e pepe whipped butter on the side. The menu changes almost daily— depending on what’s fresh at the markets—so make a reservation, and manifest that cacio e pepe butter. Images courtesy of Annika Kafcaloudis.
Small Axe Deli
1/625 Sydney Rd., Brunswick
Small Axe Deli is easily our favorite spot in all of Melbourne for a coffee and a bite. You cannot help but feel a thrill walking through the doors into the tiny, monochrome-tiled space packed floor-to-ceiling with Italian pantry items, Sicilian olive oil, and, at Christmas, towering panettone boxes. The whole place buzzes with energy, and the food—porchetta panini, saucy meatballs, salumi, and cheeses—is comfort on a plate. Stop in for a midafternoon espresso or a thimble of limoncello and leave with a bag overflowing with syrupy balsamic vinegar, preserved artichokes, and bottles of Sicilian olive oil you couldn’t bear to leave behind. Images courtesy of Tim Grey.
Tall Timber
60 Commercial Rd., Prahran
We stand for long, communal tables at cafés, mainly because they accommodate our two great loves—group breakfasts and morning-after-the-night-before debriefs. To arrive at an airy, soothingly all-white café and cram more friends than can reasonably fit around a table for scrambled eggs and conversation is one of life’s great pleasures. Tall Timber standouts include their cinnamony French toast dolloped with maple mascarpone, and toast with smashed, spiced pumpkin, and poached eggs. Their turmeric-spiced golden milk is good, but their matcha is better. Follow the hot drinks with cold, watermelon and mint-juice chasers for extra zing.
Bar Margaux
111 Lonsdale St., CBD
Bar Margaux is sexy, undeniably so. Sexy in that very French, monochrome tile, oxblood leather booth, oysters, and too much champagne way. Prepare to fight for a seat, because on the weekends, half of Melbourne is perched on stools, packed into booths, and crushing the bar. Buttery, herby escargots; extra-crispy matchstick fries; and mounds of steak tartare have mass appeal, but it’s the lobster croque monsieur that grabbed—and held—our hungry attention. An order that with a glass of icy rosé somehow tastes better when you pleaded for your seat. And Margaux is open late, seven nights a week. Images courtesy of Gareth Sobey photography.