My first post for the year is not about Rome, but my home city, Melbourne. I had some outstanding dining experiences while I was in town – no surprises there, given it’s Australia’s culinary capital – and I wanted to share these 15 places to eat if you’re in town or headed there any time soon.
From casual cafe style lunches to breakfasts (packed with avocado) to award-winning establishments, Melbourne proudly covers the entire dining spectrum and does so very, very well!
Here are 15 delicious experiences I had while I was in town:
Cutler & Co. (Fitzroy)
For: Contemporary Australian dining that’s not too stuffy. Andrew McConnell uses some of the most unique ingredients (some you may never have even heard of!) to create simple, delectable dishes. Choose the tasting menu to get the most of his creations. Visit: Cutler & Co.
Matteo’s (Fitzroy North)
For: A fancy take on some Italian classics. Matteo’s is award-winning and has become a Melbourne institution. Think stuffed and fried zucchini flowers and even an Asian inspired twist with a dumplings and soup dish. Oh and an extensive local and international wine list. Visit: Matteo’s.
For: A fresh, healthy (and often raw) wholefoods concept. This is Melbourne’s George Calombaris’ health conscious arm of his growing restaurant empire. I had spelt pasta with cauliflower, asparagus and myzithra (an unpasteurised Greek cheese) and their guilt free desserts included a vegan snickers bar slice (guilt-free screams taste-free to me but I’ll admit that it was pretty delicious!). Visit: Mastic.
For: Innovative Japanese cuisine and awesome cocktails, Nobu is now and international chain and the brainchild of Nobu Matsuhisa and Robert De Niro. Some of my staple dishes here are the jalapeño yellowtail sashimi, miso cod, tempura rock shrimp and crispy rice with tuna tartare. I’ve dined at Nobu in 8 cities around the world and while at some venues, I feel the service and quality has slightly shifted, they still don’t get old for me! Visit: Nobu.
For: Ridiculously good Italian food – the kind that doesn’t make you think Italy is all that far away. Super talented Marco Lori just nails it with simple dishes like fried cauliflower with white anchovies and aioli, swordfish carpaccio and delicious pasta combinations like veal and amaretto agnolotti. Visit: Lupino.
Mio Locale (Fitzroy North)
For: Breakfast, brunch, coffee or whatever at this small, family-run cafe. Poached eggs on sourdough with avocado, toasted hazelnuts and ricotta salata was my pick here and I want more! Visit: Mio Locale.
For: Woodfire pizzas by the guy (Johnny Di Francesco) who trained in Naples and recently won the best pizza maker in the world award! This suburban outpost has stylish interiors and all the classics on the menu. From cheese and salumi to pasta and of course pizzas – all made with quality ingredients like San Marzano tomato, prosciutto San Daniele and buffalo mozzarella. Their baccala arancini and avocado and ricotta salata salad were great summer choices. Visit: Gradi.
Rice Paper Scissors (Fitzroy)
For: South-east Asian dining where eating with your hands is not only acceptable, but totally encouraged. Try the betel leafs with prawn and don’t leave without a dose of the steamed buns with pork belly. They are to die for! Visit: Rice Paper Scissors.
Volpino (Mount Martha)
For: Italian inspired cafe style food along the Mornington Peninsula. Here I tried the gnocchi that were like soft potato pillows served with buffalo mozzarella, mint and zucchini. Fresh, simple and tasty. Dessert was a very 80s but very delicious apple crumble. The woodfire pizzas are the specialty here. Visit: Volpino.
Wilfred Smith (Essendon)
For: Casual and a feel-at-home style breakfast, brunch or lunch. Or just coffee and a juice for that matter. Melbourne is packed to the brim with these types of cafes and I just love it. I got my fix of avocado and and eggs (which is not all that of an option in Rome) which made me happy! Visit: Wilfred Smith.
For: A crazy-ass take on gelato. Select your combination and right before your eyes, your gelato will be made up with liquid nitrogen – complete with a chocolate sauce filled syringe. I chose the double-o cheesecake with crushed Oreos and white chocolate. I think they’re a tad expensive (at about AUD$9) but you kinda pay for the show here. Visit: N2 Extreme Gelato.
Village People (Fitzroy)
For: Hawker style dining in a cool 3 level bar, complete with a few outdoor terraces that I think used to be an old pub! There is a Japanese and south East Asian restaurant plus different bar areas and it has a super cool fit out. Prawn betel leaves, soft shell crab, raw fish starters and tasty cocktails, make the perfect combination. Visit: Village People Hawker Food Hall.
Saluministi (North Melbourne)
For: Porchetta panini in a garage! The guys at Saluministi stay true to old school Italian traditions serving up porchetta, boards of cheese and salumi and coffee comes out in a caffetiera (Italian coffee percolator). Set up in a North Melbourne warehouse it’s Italy meets hipster Melbourne cool. Visit: Saluministi.
Din Tai Fung (City)
For: A fix of dumplings from the world famous Taiwanese chain that started about 40 years ago and earned a Michelin star for its xiao long bao (a delicate soup filled Pork dumpling). Finally in Melbourne (they hit Australia first with a Sydney opening) over a year out from their opening, they are still super popular. I didn’t love love the signature soup dumpling, but the black truffle ones were to die for! Visit: Din Tai Fung.
Two Buoys (Dromana)
For: What I say is the best food along the Mornington Peninsula. Outside of Melbourne, along the bay, it can be hard to find really good food and Two Buoys in the seaside town of Dromana does tapas-style and share dining really, really well. Their chilli salt squid, saganaki Greek fried cheese and sliders never disappoint. The menu changes regularly and the flatbread pizza are also very popular. Visit: Two Buoys.
Signing off from Trastevere