Maison Du Bon www.maisondubon.com I first visited Paris when I was 10 years old. It was the middle of winter, and the air cut through the skin like ice. The sort of coldness that one would ordinarily need to bat away, with a warm, fluffy blanket or a steaming cup of cocoa. Yet, surprisingly, it was the one place where the coldness did not bother me – all one had to do was look up, and any hint of it would immediately vanish. The beauty of the place, in all its history and intimate splendour, was enough to take one’s breath away. In an instant, I had fallen in love with the city. And oh, let me tell you about the food.
Middletown Location: 229 High Street, Prahran, Melbourne, VIC Contact: 03 9530 2288 Middletown, the name of Prahran’s latest cosy hideout, is based of the persona of the Dutchess of Cambridge; royal, but close to the people. It’s all part of the vision of co-owners Randy Dhamanhuri and Valerie Fong, the same duo behind Operator 25, which has quickly become one of Melbourne CBD’s most frequented cafes. The duo have created another luxurious nest in this feel-good space with sophisticated, delicious and healthy meals.
Spare Me Kitchen Location: Level 1, 393 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy, Melbourne Contact: 03 9419 6380 Walking into Glamorama’s Spare Me Kitchen, on Brunswick Street in Fitzroy, I didn’t know what to expect. Operated by the same crew behind the popular Less than Zero in South Yarra, Glamorama offers itself as a restaurant; a bar; and later in the night as a nightclub. I had high expectations about the atmosphere, but didn’t know what to expect from its kitchen. I found that all my expectations were surpassed by Spare Me Kitchen, which offered a fun and inviting atmosphere matched by a creative and delicious menu.
Mister Bianco Location: 285 High Street, Kew, Melbourne, VIC Contact: 03 9853 6929 Mister Bianco has an offering too good to refuse – gorgeous, authentic Sicilian flavours and hearty southern Italian dishes finished with the sense of refinery that one would expect from someone of owner and chef, Joseph Vargetto’s experience. Blending modern European techniques with traditional Italian influences, Vargetto (of Langton’s, Number 8 and Mezzo fame) brings a wealth of experience and finesse to this local favourite. The restaurant falls within the fine dining category yet disposes of the pretentiousness that one might experience at fine establishments elsewhere. Service is friendly yet relaxed, the decor is intimate with white-clothed tables and low lighting, but the atmosphere oozes a pared back feel.
Academy Kitchen and Bar Location: 318 Bridge Road, Richmond, Melbourne Contact: 03 9427 8231 Academy Kitchen and Bar’s Chef and owner, Will Manning, has tapped into a number of classic European dishes and adapted them for the modern, Melbourne palate. With experience in hatted restaurants, as well as a previous stint of part ownership of the beloved Prospect Espresso Cafe, Manning has put together a well-balanced menu that combines indulgent share plates of wholesome pastas, risottos and meats with techniques developed in Australia. Stepping in, it’s hard not to fall in love with the elegantly minimalist dining space. There’s a huge communal bar that lines the right side of the restaurant, with the other flanked by a long bench, wooden tables and an earthy brick wall. It has that genuine neighbourhood restaurant charm about it – warm, welcoming and accessible, accompanied by the promise of stellar food and drinks.
Street Talk Espresso Location: 710 High Street, Armadale, Melbourne, VIC Contact: 03 9509 9687 Dean Fourtzis has created a warm and inviting cafe with a simple ethos of quality coffee, excellent food and personable service. Hiding away from the main High Street drag in Armadale, the intimate venue focuses on delicious meals and snacks, often with Greek and Middle Eastern influences. Coffee is a focus here, with Dean roasting his own coffee for service in house. The 5th avenue house blend is available exclusively at Street Talk, while other batches are available for wholesale.
Trunk Location: 275 Exhibition Street, Melbourne 3000 VIC Contact: 03 9663 7994 There are a lot of things to love about Trunk. There’s that adorable side diner, housed in a shell of its own, which serves up some hella hearty American-style loaded fries, diner dogs and moreish brioche-bunned burgers. Then there’s that gorgeous garden to the front, peppered with large wooden communal tables and gorg-ified by the loveliest strings of fairy lights. Oh, and, if you’re in a mind to take that date of yours to the next level, you can easily transition to the indoor restaurant and bar which dishes up equally satisfying meals, albeit in a snazzier environment.
Fitzrovia Location: 155 Fitzroy Street, St Kilda, Melbourne, VIC Contact: 03 9537 0001 It doesn’t feel quite right to call Fitzrovia a cafe. Yes, the St Kilda eatery serves stellar brunches and a well thought out dinner service, however the combination of unique, homely touches and luxe comfort food make the whole experience of dining at Fitzrovia more akin to being invited for dinner at a lavish house party, rather than within the walls of a restaurant itself. It’s a distinguishing feature, and a wonderful reminder that friendly service and atmosphere play as much a part in contributing to repeat business as does getting the menu right.
Collins Quarter Location: 86A Collins Street, Melbourne, VIC Contact: 03 9650 8500 http://collinsquarter.com/ Hidden in the back behind the meticulously well stocked bar is Collins Quarter’s dining area. After settling down into a large chesterfield booth, we thought there would be no better way to start than with a drink.
Syracuse Location: 23 Bank Place, CBD, Melbourne, VIC Contact: 03 9670 1777 There aren’t so many fine restaurants left in Melbourne where they’ll warmly welcome you at the door, hang your jacket, pull out your chair and fold your napkin across your lap. But this chivalry carries a lot of weight at Syracuse. Set in a gorgeous space harking back to old-world glamour, this classic dining institution takes pride of place on the law end of the city. High ceilings, stately pillars and white-table-clothed wooden tables add to the sophistication of the grand dining room, and beautiful chandeliers dangle from above. Then there’s that long list of Australian and International wines to graze over from the wine bar. It’s a lovely, intimate place, and the perfect setting for a romantic dinner or celebratory night out.
Waffee Location: Shop1 77 Swanston St Melbourne, VIC 3000 Contact: 03 9041 4594 There’s a lovely simplicity to Waffee. The little shop, situated in the heart of Melbourne’s CBD, has a concise offering of one thing we can’t live without (coffee) and another thing that we indulge in way too often (waffles). The limited menu has allowed Waffee to refine its offering, with the shop serving a basic waffle recipe that was brought back by its founders from Belgium (also known as waffleland) with a few enticing variations. Waffles are served warm and come in milk and white glazed, chocolate stick and fruity forms.
I am constantly astounded by the quality and diversity of food that is offered in Melbourne. Having recently returned from travelling and working overseas (where I had the pleasure of dining at quite a few Michelin-starred restaurants), I can comfortably say that Melbourne offers some of the best restaurants and cafes in the world, which, believe it or not, I much preferred over their Michelin-starred counterparts. This past month I have been very ‘busy’ re-acquainting my palette with Melbourne food. Here are a few favourites that I’d happily eat at (over and over) again: Hinoki Japanese Pantry Location: 279 Smith Street, Fitzroy, VIC 0065 Contact: 03 9417 4531 Fonda Mexican Location: 248 Swan Street, Richmond, VIC 3121 Contact: 03 9429 0085 Jinda Thai Location: 7 Ferguson St, Abbotsford, VIC 3067 Contact: 03 9419 5899
Lazerpig Pizza Parlour Location: 9-11 Peel St, Collingwood, VIC 3066 Contact: (03) 9417-1177 We rarely find pizza that’s on par with 400 Gradi + DOC, but Lazerpig is firmly up in the same ranks. The dough is light and fluffy; the toppings not too heavy or sparse. The margherita is dangerously delicious and addictive, and (dare we say it), better than Gradi’s version. Watch out kids!
Pantry Brighton Location: 1 Church Street, Brighton Contact: 03 9591 0393 Adjacent to one of the original and most iconic brunch joints in Melbourne, The Pantry Delicatessen has undergone a revamp with a classy new fit out and a stunning range of take-home food. Exploring new territory with a plethora of seasonal take-away deli nibbles, meals and treats, ingredients are sourced from local producers, and ready-to-go meals are prepared by restaurant-trained chefs. The options are gobsmacking; from gluten-free, vegetarian, dairy-free in preparation, to the myriad of cheeses, fresh salads, hearty meals, breads and of course, tantalising cakes and sweets. There is something for everyone, for every occasion, whether it be a simple take-away lunch or a take-home meal for a lazy Sunday afternoon gathering with family and friends. Quality is king at The Pantry Deli; this is evident before you even enter the store. Setup in the window display are some delicious looking cuts of dry aged meat, including dry aged rib eye beef and a slow roasted half side of lamb – ready to be cooked by The Pantry chefs for collection the next day. Moving on in, you feel like you’ve entered a modern restaurant complete with soft down-lighting and timber frames, until you notice the rows of display cabinets and quirky art installation behind the counter. This is fun and friendliness meets serious cooking and produce.
Bistro Bakini Location: 568 St Kilda Road, Melbourne VIC 3004 Contact: 03 9521 7774 Avoiding the increasing hustle-and-bustle of the CBD, Bistro Bakini is situated along the breezy calm banks of St Kilda Road. The intended locale allows the restaurant to marry its hearty comforting Italian fare and relaxing alcoholic/caffeinated beverages to a setting perfect for those seeking to unwind. Entering the restaurant, the layout and ambiance of the place speaks casual chill-out. Complete with a long bar, the comfiest plush leather seats in the front room, an open-plan kitchen in the back room, a quiet private room to divide the front and back, a large alfresco area outside perfect for summer, and soft delicate lighting with a background track of neo-jazz, there is something for everyone here for any time of the day. Staff are dressed in casual attire and always friendly. Even the manager gets in on the fun – waiting tables, joking with customers and having a shot with us, just because!
Meatballs and Sons Location: 266 Brunswick St Fitzroy, VIC 3065 Contact: 03 9416 3006 Nestled in the crux of Fitzroy’s hip Brunswick Street dining scene, Meatballs and Sons has already garnered a solid following and reputation for serving up delicious meatballs, desserts and drinks to boot. Kano, who also designed the MissChu space, is the brains behind the warm, laid back interior of the double-storey restaurant, with stock-full shelves and paper wrapping adornments clearly drawing inspiration from the homeliness of old general stores. The place oozes warmth and cosiness, with a huge bar spanning the front area, an open kitchen to the back and a quaint fresh herb garden to the side.
DuNord Location: 367 Little Bourke St, Melbourne, VIC 3000 Contact: 03 9642 0052 Traverse Little Bourke Street and you’ll find DuNord’s unassuming brick exterior wedged in between a quirky lineup of shops. And when you’re surrounded by stores toting outdoor adventure equipment and the like, it’s quite refreshing to find a trendy bar right in the thick of it.
Radii Restaurant and Bar Location: 1 Parliament Sq, East Melbourne, VIC 3002 Contact: 03 9224 1211 Tradition and modernity collide in a breathtaking fashion at Radii, with the Park Hyatt restaurant flaunting contemporary European cuisine while retaining the opulence of the fine dining experience. That means that Radii is one of the increasingly few restaurants in Melbourne where the staff will open the door for you, whisk your coat away, pull out your chair and fold your napkin over your lap. And it’s just that sort of impeccable service that adds to the splendor of dining here.
Taste of Melbourne 14-17 November 2013 Running over four days, Taste of Melbourne is perfect for those of you who always seem to have a never ending list of restaurants that you’ve been dying to try but just can’t seem to find the time to. The 2013 festival featured yet another incredible lineup, with a number of culinary giants setting up under the tent – Taxi Dining Room, Mamasita, Chin Chin and Saint Crispin to name a few. The festival works on a crown system, with entrants placing money ($1 = one crown) on an electronic card upon entry, which is then used to purchase any dish or item at the Taste of Melbourne.
Sartago Restaurant Bar and Grill Location: 460 Church Street, Richmond, VIC 3121 Contact: 03 9427 9063 Tucked away off the business of the Church Street strip, Sartago Restaurant Bar and Grill is a unique tapas and wine bar that serves up a range of authentic Mediterranean flavours with a twist. Headed by Tuscan Chef Riccardo Messora (of Enoteca, Cafe e Cucina, Tutto Bene and Escargot Restaurant fame), the culture-rich Sartargo boasts impeccable and friendly service, and has crafted a contemporary take on traditional cooking techniques,
Spring St Grocer Location: 157 Spring St, Melbourne, VIC 3000 Contact: 03 9639 0335 Having heard of Spring St Grocer’s array of interesting flavours and delicious cheeses, a dinner at Mamasita was the perfect precursor to a quick detour to the CBD’s hippest grocer.