Whether you’re a lifelong local or a weekend visitor to the Victorian capital, exploring the city’s fabulous international food scene is a break from the everyday…
Melbourne certainly knows how to dish up world-class dining, and one of the finest features of the city’s food scene is its multicultural nature.
In this city you can literally eat your way around the world without packing a suitcase. Not only is this a cost-effective way to travel, it’s also a wonderful way to celebrate the flavours of the many cultural groups that call Melbourne home. From fabulous French fare to upscale Indian pub-grub and tangy Thai street food, here are some great places to eat in Melbourne that will take you on a foodie ‘staycation’.
For tantalising tastes of Turkey — Tulum Turkish Restaurant (Balaclava)
Turkish chef Coskun Uysal is the maestro behind Tulum Turkish Restaurant — an extraordinary dining experience. Choose from a seven-part contemporary Turkish tasting menu with matching wines or an à la carte menu. Come early, come hungry and come with time on your side to appreciate the delicate flavour combinations. Seafood, meats, vegetable-based dishes are served in an intimate and very romantic atmosphere. It’s quite possibly Turkish food as you’ve never imagined it. Best of all, the passionate Coskun comes to the table to present each dish, describe its origins, and reveal his inspiration. It makes you feel very much like a family friend.
For French and North African fare and flair — Kent Hotel (Carlton North)
The Kent Hotel may look like a run-of-the-mill Australian pub from the outside, but once you enter you’ll find yourself in a refined but relaxed dining space, set for an upscale meal that will take you from Melbourne to Marseille and Algiers, and back again. Algerian and French chef Pierre Khodja brings to fruition a magnificent Modern Australian menu with Mediterranean accents. Feast on tasty grilled sardines, traditional North African chakchouka and a mind-blowing Turkish delight soufflé. The friendly staff will help you match wines with your menu choices. You’ll float back out into Fitzroy already planning your next visit.
For a charming Chinese escape — David’s (Prahran)
Shanghai-born David Zhou is not just a restauranteur — he’s a Melbourne personality, and what was once a shop selling tea out of barrels in Prahran, became David’s restaurant in 1998. Two decades on, it’s widely regarded as one of the top Chinese eateries in Melbourne. Not only is the food sublime (get your dumpling dose, dive into a Peking Duck, or chow down on scrumptious traditional Shanghainese dishes), but the 1930s Shanghai vibe is elegant and interesting. Check out the old family photos on the crisp white walls, including those of David’s opera singing mother. Be sure to try the ‘Hello Kathy’ cocktail (named after David’s wife), which combines cucumber, aloe vera, lime, gin and raw sugar. Incredible!
For a Parisian sojourn — Garçon Paris Steakhouse (CBD)
Wouldn’t it be nice to just to pop by Paris for the evening? That’s the idea behind the Garçon Paris Steakhouse. Step off Alfred Place in central Melbourne and into this Parisian-style bistro where it’s all about slowing down and enjoying good food, a chic ambiance and (hopefully) great company. Start with champagne and oysters and graduate to a steak frites (featuring grilled local pasture-fed beef), accompanied by a cheeky red. Finish off with a suitably creamy vanilla crème brûlée. With chef Matt Franklin (ex Le Parisien in Geelong) running matters in the kitchen and a fine front-of-house team led by Steve Fisher, you’re not going to be disappointed. Bon appétit!
For top notch Thai — Long Chim (Southbank)
While there are hundreds of Thai restaurants across Melbourne, there is only one Long Chim. David Thompson’s take on Bangkok street food is not to be missed. From the tuk-tuk parked out front, to the industrial-chic-meets-traditional-Thai decor, the delightful staff, and the exquisitely zesty menu, you’re in for something special here. It’s worth noting that this is a great option for vegetarians and vegans, and dishes include succulent chive cakes and a sensational vegetable curry.
PS. If you are usually one to skip straight over the cocktail list, don’t! There are some really inventive, refreshing and surprising options, especially if you come across a hot chili pepper!
For a southern Indian sensation — Rochester Hotel (Fitzroy)
Like the Kent Hotel, the Rochester Hotel, better known to locals as ‘the Rochey’, has given a whole new meaning to pub food — in this case, in partnership with Indian chef Mischa Tropp. Dishes from Kerala in southern India are served up to delighted diners and a rapidly expanding regular clientele. You’re welcome to eat in the casual front bar or head out back to the restaurant proper, where the very cool/very ‘Fitzroy’ staff will run you through the menu and even choose for you if you want to keep the evening’s proceedings a delicious surprise (highly recommended). Signature dishes include kadala — a nutty, brown chickpea curry in a roasted coconut masala, and fish nadan — a spicy seafood curry.
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About the writer
Ruby Boukabou is a lifestyle, culture and travel writer, and author of 48 Paris (National Geographic) and The Art Lover’s Guide to Paris (White Owl Books — due for publication in 2019). Ruby is usually based between Australia, Europe and North Africa, depending on projects and the weather.
Cover image courtesy of Tulum Turkish Restaurant
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