Chef Ben Shewry is both high-tech (he judiciously adapts molecular techniques) and primal (he forages ingredients). His complex modern-Australian dishes, like an electric bong-smoked trout, have cemented his reputation as the country’s most promising young talent.
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Chef Andrew McConnell’s all-day diner-cum-bar near the Melbourne Cricket Ground is the talk of Sydneysiders jealous of Melbourne’s relaxed approach to eating out. In this warehouse space in the gallery district, diners sit at counters or pull up Bentwood chairs to eat McConnell’s flurry of small, simple plates.
We loved: House-made charcuterie; salad of cracked wheat, freekeh (roasted green wheat) and barberries (tart, bright red berries).
After a tumultuous time running Perth’s best restaurant, Eminem, Ismail Tosun has returned to Melbourne to open this buzzing spot. The look is modern: One hundred low-voltage lights dangle above the marble-topped bar and the handful of tables. The Turkish-born chef creates inspired, modern takes on his native cuisine to go with a short, well-priced, international wine list.
We loved: Spice-rubbed lamb on creamed eggplant; slices of squab spiced with Turkish Antep chili flakes and cinnamon.
With its gold-tiled facade and shiny black bamboo walls, Gingerboy is the best looking of a raft of cool pan-Asian spots in the city. Both the glossy downstairs restaurant and the more relaxed Gingerboy Upstairs serve chef Chris Donnellan’s polished takes on Southeast Asian street food.
We loved: Prawn wontons; a squirty take on the classic Thai dish “son-in-law eggs” topped with chile jam and crunchy deep fried shallots.
Melbourne’s casino development The Crown has made a Vegas-inspired push into celebrity restaurants with the likes of Nobu and Rockpool’s Neil Perry. But scoring maître d’ colossus Maurice Terzini and chef Robert Marchetti of Sydney’s Iceberg Dining Room and North Bondi Italian Food was perhaps the biggest coup. The clean, hip Italian spot is named after Terzini and Marchetti’s fathers.
We loved: Meatballs served with a bracing celery salad; Marchetti’s house-made salumiof Black Berkshire pork; crudo dishes like raw whitefish with tuna bottarga.
Melbourne has the third-largest Greek population outside Greece, and in the past few years there has been an explosion of young Australian-born Greek chefs. Best-known of these is George Calombaris. Following the success of his ambitious Press Club, he’s branched out with a taverna in the grungy-but-trendy suburb of Brunswick East. There’s turning on a huge spit in the courtyard and delicious char-grilled fish served by the kilo and half-kilo in karafai (copper tins).
We loved: Saganaki (fried sheep’s-milk cheese) with a sweet stew of peppered baby figs; tender octopus tentacles.
This dapper French chef has been running one of Melbourne’s great fine-dining restaurants for more than 20 years. Constantly evolving, his cuisine is backed by classic French training and shaped by his time in Brazil, Japan and, more recently, Fiji. Given his long friendship with Australia’s premier Pinot producer, Phillip Jones, Reymond’s wine list is particularly strong in Bass Phillip Pinots.
We loved: Lobster dumpling in dashi broth; miso-crusted Hiramasa kingfish with spicy tomato gel and minted green-pea puree.
Gilbert Lau built Melbourne’s magnificent Flower Drum into one of the world’s great Cantonese restaurants. Now, he’s content preparing homestyle Cantonese food in this unpretentious dining room with his two sons and brother, onetime Drum chef James Lau. The reasonably priced wine list, focused on Australian and New Zealand bottlings, tops out at $50.
We loved: Braised brisket; pork fillet cooked in vinegar.
MoVida’s younger sibling doesn’t take reservations, which means it’s harder to get into than the original (4 p.m. is a good time to try). Chef-owner Frank Camorra runs both spots, practicing his Slow Food approach to southern Spanish cooking. Decorating the dining room: long-bladed chrome fans and lamp shades made from crusty old Valencian roof tiles.
We loved: Anchovies on milk curd; skewers of quail thigh marinated in Pedro Ximénez sherry; local seafood cooked a la plancha (on a hot griddle).
Siglo, perched on the second-floor rooftop above the Melbourne Supper Club, has quickly turned into a late-night favorite for its Eurocentric wine list, grown-up cocktails like the house signature Jazz—whisky, mint, muscovado (dark-brown sugar) and soda—and menu of globally inspired bar snacks. Another attraction: Views of the classical portico of Parliament.
We loved: Plates of jamón (dry-cured Spanish ham); freshly shucked Bruny Island oysters; truffled duck liver parfait.
Behind its unmarked doorway is a dining room where locals come for simple food prepared in a tiny open kitchen and an intriguing wine list featuring small, hard-to-find Aussie labels. The look: mismatched enamel and floral china plates, high wood benches and raw plaster walls.
We loved: Salad with crumbled Roquefort cheese and roasted quince; chicken stew with house-made sauerkraut.
Anyone wanting to understand what haute cuisine means in Melbourne needs to try Vue de Monde. Chef-owner Shannon Bennett’s thoroughly modern dishes fuse French classicism with the occasional mad-scientist influence, such as his bouillabaisse prepared at the table in an antique coffee percolator. The high-ceilinged room, with white tablecloth-topped tables surrounded by pinstripe-fabric chairs, is beautifully appointed without being stuffy.
We loved: Bouillabaisse; jicama, braised abalone and crab salad with yuzu noodles.