I have been commuting to Melbourne for work for almost 20 years, and particularly in my early travels, Melbourne was definitely the food capital of Australia. The weather is more conducive to eating indoors, which calls for a more refined cuisine than just "throwing a shrimp on the barbie"...
The large Greek and Italian community also had a great influence on the European feel of the city and its food - and café - scene. The gold rush has also brought a great Chinese community now very established and one can find some of the best Chinese and now pan Asian cuisine in the world here.
So voilà my current list, some of these joints have been on this list since day one, like Punch Lane Wine Bar, some have made the list more recently like Philippe which I had the pleasure on discovering during their first week.
Most of them are in the Paris end of Melbourne on the edge of Chinatown, as I normally stay in Exhibition Street, a central location for my business dealings. So here it is!
PUNCH LANE WINE BAR - Classic European
A pioneer of laneway dining in Melbourne, Punch Lane has been a favourite amongst theatre-goers, wine-lovers and long-lunchers since 1995 and discovered them as early as late 1997!
A cosy restaurant and wine bar, Punch Lane is one of the original Melbourne Laneway gems, situated in the heart of Melbourne’s entertainment district on the fringes of Bourke street’s Paris end and the hustle of Melbourne’s Chinatown.
ttComfortable, with great service - an important factor when you dine alone - and consistent food even though the Chefs have been changing over the years, it is still my choice by default if I can't find a spot elsewhere.
LONGRAIN Modern Thai
Well, my previous boos made me discover their original Sydney establishment, so I had to try the Melbourne one as well! I went only once for lunch, as it is more of a large group venue for dinner. It is always good and consistent and quite authentic modern Thai food, designed by now organic gardener extraordinaire Martin Boetz.
GINGERBOY Pan Asian
The dining experience at Gingerboy is centred on a modern Australian adaptation of the Asian hawker-style street market food. The restaurant’s hustle and bustle, its fast-paced, youthful and dynamic environment is influenced not only by the dining culture of Southeast Asia but also by buzzing Asian marketplaces and an Asian sense of colour and fun.
In my opinion, a much better place than Longrain and more single diner friendly, as you can eat downstairs at the bar overlooking the kitchen - great entertainment guaranteed!
ROSA'S KITCHEN - Sicilian
I have been several times, but my last visit in March was a disappointment...
The beauty of this place was in the tables close to each other, the noise, the ballet of the waitresses and the occasional appearance of Rosa herself with I had a chat once, a real Italian Mama who knows how to feed a crowd.
Over my last visit, there were only a few sparse tables, the service was done by a nice couple and they had one person cooking. The result was that the buzz was gone but not the stress in the kitchen and the order we placed came to wrong for one of the dishes... Don't get me wrong the food was still delicious and the man serving knows his Italian wine and went along with my choice of Primitivo, the Italian Zinfandel, one of my recent wine discoveries.
BAR LOURINHA - Portuguese tapas and wines
I have not been recently, although I tried, but it is always packed... and this is a very good little place where the boys behind the counter know their Portuguese and Spanish wines and the kitchen produces some of the best tapas in Melbourne, besides Movida, bien sûr. The wine list though seems to have recanted to more Australian and a few Spanish wines...
ENTRECOTE South Yarra and City - French
I have tried both and I love them both... Most famous dish is obviously the steak frites with the special sauce made out of 18 ingredients, secret ingredients that is... I found 7, but I won't tell or I would have to kill you...
The South Yarra venue looks very French inside, very classy and most of the waiters and waitresses are French, so you really feel at home. The steak is not the most tender on the Planet, but is very tasty and cooked to perfection
This concludes the first episode of my Melbourne food and wine journey.
Over the next few weeks I will add my top five restaurants and a proper review for each. Stay tuned!
Born in France, well travelled, relocated to Sydney in 1997.
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