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.
The Crux and Co Location: 35 Albert Road, South Melbourne, Melbourne, VIC Contact: 03 9820 1081 South Melbourne’s newest addition to the brunch rotation is a massive, 110-seater space with a killer menu and round the clock fresh pastries. It’s one of those places that, despite only opening a month ago, is already a hub of activity and still somewhere that is intimate enough to encourage visitors to sit for a while and enjoy the surroundings. Owner Kevin Li (who also brought us Lights in the Attic) and manager James Julian have designed the space to be somewhere that visitors can lounge and relax, without the pressure of being pushed out. That means light-filled spaces with wooden features and pot plants throughout, and service that focuses on making patrons feel like they’re at home.
East Ivy Location: 6 Burton Crescent, Melbourne, Ivanhoe, Melbourne Contact: 03 9499 8186 One of the East’s best cafes is (in, mind you, true Melbournian style) hiding in a street off a main road in a non-descript building in Ivanhoe. For those in the know, the cafe, East Ivy, brings all the finesse of its sister restaurant Lux Foundry to the fore, and then some. The all day menu is accessible as ever, aiming for broad appeal with a blend of Melbournian brekkie staples as well as a few unique touches. Coffee is by Proud Mary, teas by Larsen & Thompson (yes please), and the food is reliably good. All of the things one would expect from a crew who clearly know the brunch game back to front.
Meatball and Wine Bar Location: 135 Flinders Lane, CBD, Melbourne, VIC Contact: 03 9654 7545 Most of you would be familiar with the Meatball and Wine Bar. Melbourne’s first artisan meatball restaurant, which launched in the CBD and has now expanded to three outlets across Melbourne, has quickly become renowned for its highly customisable meatball offering, which includes balls of the beef, chicken, pork, fish and vegetable varieties. Once you’ve picked your balls, ordering is a simple affair – add a hearty, creamy or light sauce and something for your balls to sit on (who can go past a good ol’ mash?) and voila, you’ve got yourself one lip-smacking meal.
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.
Laneway Greens Location: 242 Flinders Lane, CBD, Melbourne Contact: 03 9639 0619 We’re not usually ones to rave on about salad bars. Don’t get me wrong – E and myself eat pretty healthy 80% of the time (yes, we do have to actively combat the
damage positive effects that food writing has on our bodies), and the nature of our working hours means that we frequent salad bars such as Crisp and Famish’d two to three times a week. However, I can’t say that we’ve ever been head over heels in love with an eatery whose main offering is salad.
Enter Laneway Greens.
Nestled in Flinders Lane and Wedged in between the buzz of Swanston and Elizabeth Streets, this salad, smoothie and juice bar delivers haute greens, with a conscious commitment to feeding diners with thoughtful flavour pairings and seasonal ingredients. Each offering has been mindfully crafted, with items like the wombok chicken slaw a light take on the Thai chicken larb gai. Then there’s Korean-influenced chargrilled beef bowl, which comes with a healthy bed of cauliflower rice and lashings of kimchi.
Hunters’ Roots Location: 26 Katherine Place, Melbourne VIC 3000 Contact: 03 9629 9587 Hunters’ Roots is one of those places that is so easy to fall in love with – co-founders Jeff and Kerry Chew are an absolute delight, and have worked hard to create a unique space that focuses on fresh produce, seasonality and sustainability. Processed, pre-packaged items are an absolute no-no here – the duo takes pride in making most of the menu items in-house, with a range of lip-smacking healthy juices, smoothies and daily, super-food-packed salads doing the rounds. My sister, T is a repeat offender; the ‘Purple Rain’ is darn addictive (a life-changing blend of dragonfruit, local berries, banana, coconut yoghurt, coconut milk and camu camu), as is the green day.
Sardi Location: 111 Church Street, Hawthorn VIC 3122 Contact: 03 9818 6140 Sardi may be located away from the main strip of shops on Church Street, but you can’t miss it – the vibrantly coloured graffiti sign that adorns the brick wall beckons all in. And the food that comes out of this small cafe seems to be keeping patrons coming back for more – the space has well and truly become a staple port of call for many discerning locals.
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
Green Press Location: Shop 7, 525 Little Collins St Melbourne, VIC 3000 Contact: 03 9973 8286 There’s something really special about Green Press. A visit to the little shopfront, tucked away between skyscrapers off Little Collins, can be described as more of a daily ritual and mindset than anything else – whether you’re in desperate need of a detox, a boost to the system, or just want to give your body that little bit more green lovin’, GP has got you covered. And while Green Press is perhaps best known for its range of vibrantly, cheekily-named pressed juices, the Green Press team have worked hard to make the offering much, much more than that – bowls of vegan bolognese fly off the shelves during the lunch hour, and the store also serves a tempting brekkie of acai bowls in the morning. On the day that we visit, there’s a constant stream of customers; from suits to gym junkies, people come back, and for good reason.
Mr Hendricks Location: 469 Whitehorse Rd, Balwyn, VIC 3103 Contact: (03) 9830-7579 Mr Hendricks has always had a soft spot in my books, and remains one of my favourite places to brunch in Melbourne – the fit out is divine (make sure you take a seat outdoors in the lovely decked courtyard out back), crisp and polished, and the brunch menu never fails to surprise. The coconut and tapioca pudding, topped with sticky pineapple, almonds and sultanas, was incredible – warm and comforting, it was rich yet delicate at the same time, and packed with such a smooth mix of flavours. As I was saying – divine!
T by Luxbite Location: 517 Flinders Lane, Melbourne, VIC 3000 Contact: (03) 9629-9662 For tarts that are almost too cute to eat, tuck in to these delightful creations a la T by Luxbite. Our favorite: Gingy (straight off the Christmas menu), which is a drool-inducing layering of cheesecake, burnt sugar, ginger, essence of Christmas mousse, caramel and chocolate. We also couldn’t resist ordering the Rilakkuma-inspired ‘Kuma’ tart, which delivered a strong hit of banana and strawberry. Be warned though: these tarts may look small, yet they’re pretty darn rich. You might (strong emphasis on might) feel the need to share!
Shimbashi Soba & Sake Bar Location: 17 Liverpool St, Melbourne, VIC 3000 Contact: (03) 9654-6727 Authenticity reigns supreme here – these healthy soba noodles are hand-kneaded and served up alongside an extensive range of imported sake. There are so many options to choose form, but do make sure you try the cold soba varieties, which are dipped in a range of sauces and broths. For a wholesome and varied work lunch, the lunch set is superb value – mine came with a teriyaki salmon don, chilled soba noodles and a small salad for a mere $16.8.
Market Lane Coffee Location: 163 Commercial Rd South Yarra, VIC 3141 Contact: 03 9804 7434 The low down: a minimalist institution, Market Lane Coffee is tucked away at the back of the gorgeous Prahan Market. Locals can head down for a quick fix or to the giant’s other shop, located within Victoria Market. Long blacks are divine, lattes spot on. Always delivers. Hinoki Japanese Pantry Location: 279 Smith Street Fitzroy, VIC 03065 Contact: 03 9417 4531 Fantastic value, top notch quality sushi, and a Japanese grocery all bundled into one. We’re absolutely in love with this place – for $45 the nigiri platter is enough to satisfy two or three hungry bellies.
Here’s to a quick wrap-up of our team’s recent favourites. Smith St Alimentari Location: 302 Smith St, Collingwood, VIC 3066 Contact: 03 9416 1666 Housed in the former residence of Gorski & Jones, Smith St Alimentari is a cross between a local deli and bustling cafe. Whip up your own with the quality ingredients on display, take home one of the impressive pre-made meals (the quiches and lasagnes look sublime), or laze around in the beautiful cafe / restaurant space for breakfast or lunch. The egg white omelette is one of the better brunches we’ve had to date – packed with protein, dukkah, feta and pockets of smoked salmon. It’s a must order.
Yong Green Food Location: 421 Brunswick St, Fitzroy, VIC Contact: 03 9417 3338 Yong’s is your one stop shop for all things vegetarian: raw, vegan, gluten free – you name it, they’ve got it. The crowd rolls in and out fast, so stake your claim early or come during the quieter hours to ensure you grab a spot at one of the tables before things get a little too hectic.
Thai green curry ($18)
The Thai green curry was quite enjoyable – my organic tempeh came immersed in a light, not too creamy house-made Thai green curry paste characterised by quite an amped up level of spiciness. I must admit that I am not one to usually order tempeh (it is one of those tastes that takes a little getting used to), but I quite liked the pairing. All of this married well with a bowl of biodynamic brown rice with just enough outer crunchiness to add some texture.
Thai green curry ($18)
Twenty and Six Espresso Location: 594 Queensberry Street, North Melbourne VIC Contact: 03 9329 0298 I had the loveliest breakfast the other day at Twenty and Six Espresso. Far down Queensberry and just around the corner from Auction Rooms on Errol Street, it’s a small cafe with a bit of ‘tude serving up pretty brunches and scrumptious cakes.
Middle Fish Address: 122-128 Berkeley St, Carlton, VIC 3053 Contact: 03 9348 1704 Opening Hours: Monday-Friday 7am-5pm; Saturday-Sunday 10am-4pm I absolutely adore the fit out at Middle Fish and its hip brother, Mr. Nice Guy.
Serving the same classic Italian menu that we experienced at DOC Mornington earlier this year, DOC Carlton delivers addictive pizzas using excellent produce and that roaring pizza oven, all in the confines of its simple, contemporary setting in Drummond Street.
Clean and bright, with large wooden communal tables and yellow lights dangling precariously from its ceiling, the Hardware Societe is a gorgeous little cafe that is more often than not accompanied by wait times from 30 minutes to a solid hour.
Vegie Mum is far from being your typical vegetarian restaurant. The small Asian family restaurant, nestled amongst a short strip of eateries in Doncaster, boasts an extensive menu, but with an added twist – faux meat.