2 Acland Street
Tel: 61 3 9536 1122
The place that made Three, One, Two chef Andrew McConnell a household name in 1998 is still going strong. Though McConnell is no longer in the kitchen of Circa's modern, white-on-white dining room, he oversees the efforts of a trio of chefs, whose recipes continue to dazzle. The modern Australian menus change frequently but might include sautéed oyster with dashi custard and garlic chives, or roasted duck breast with duck sausage, red-lentil puree, and pickled watermelon. The wine list here is one of the best in the city, with bottles from boutique wineries not available elsewhere in the country. So if you spring for the five-course degustation menu (about $105), pay the extra $88 for the wine pairings.
No dinner on Sundays. Closed Mondays.
141 Flinders Lane
Australia VIC 3000
Tel: 61 3 9650 3155
The name might suggest an ending, but Adam D'Sylva—a young chef who has long been one of Melbourne's culinary it-boys—is really just getting started. At Coda, recently opened off the hipster highway of Flinders Lane in the city's heart, his menu explodes with Asian flavor and modern Australian wit. Vietnamese and Thai (and to a lesser extent Japanese and Cantonese) elements rule here: Consider the yellow curry of roast duck with lotus root, or the "crisp parcel" (let's call it a spring roll) stuffed with bone marrow, ginger, shiitakes, and rice-paddy herb. But D'Sylva's enthusiasm crosses cultural bounds, as shown by his the inclusion of San Daniele prosciutto and a steak tartare with quail egg, mustard cress, and caper Melba toasts. Quality drinks flow thick and fast: It's all good, clean, vibrant fun, carried off with the kind of aplomb that's hard to resist.—Pat Nourse, first published on Gourmet.com
211 Brunswick Street
Tel: 61 3 9415 7300
One of the most coveted tables in Melbourne, Interlude is the showcase of wunderkind British chef Robin Wickens. The pared-back, minimalist aesthetic puts the focus on Wickens's challenging and often whimsical menu. Foodies thrill to dishes such as the too-clever-by-half fish-and-chips: "chips" made of caramelized slices of blue-eye cod and "fish" crafted from potato dauphinoise. More adventurous offerings might include the pig's-head assiette, which uses every part of the head; crisped tongue, braised sausage, crumbed and fried ears, and truffled cheek are all served on mustardy potato salad with onion puree, quail egg, and a Madeira jus. Picky eaters be forewarned; comfort food takes a backseat to unusual ingredients and unexpected pairings.
Lunch Wednesdays through Fridays only. Closed Sundays and Mondays.
224 Gertrude Street
Tel: 61 3 9415 7575
Most of the marble-topped tables in this convivial eatery are communal—the better for ogling other diners' wood-fired pizzas before you order. Chef Rita Macali's pies are truly sensational: asymmetrical, crispy-crusted, and slightly charred, with first-rate toppings. Try the meat-and-tomato-heavy Badabing, or the pungent puttanesca with capers and olives. Ladro's loyal following among inner-city hipsters and trendy food lovers makes it hard to get a table, so book a week or more in advance. But if you're craving pizza on the go, opt for takeout. It's usually ready in ten minutes: just enough time to down a microbrewed beer at the bar or in the courtyard.
Dinner only. Closed Mondays and Tuesdays.
44 Little Bourke Street
Tel: 61 3 9671 3151
An offshoot of the hip Sydney restaurant of the same name, this über-trendy Thai/southern Chinese eatery occupies a converted horse stable in Chinatown. Though the open kitchen is helmed by Ben Cooper, executive chef Martin Boetz's finger is firmly in the pie, and many of his signature Sydney dishes are on the menu here: betel leaf with smoked trout; salmon roe and galangal; and the delectable dry red-curried duck. Another standout dish pairs fried whole soft-shell mud crabs with a green mango salad. Reservations are accepted at lunch but not dinner. Go early and chill in the cocktail bar with a Bloody Longrain—a spicy Thai take on a Bloody Mary—while you wait for a table. And be prepared to cozy up to your neighbors; most of the seating is communal.
No lunch Saturdays and Sundays.
Tel: 61 3 9682 5566
Few meals in Melbourne come with backdrops as picturesque as those of the Point, a glass-front restaurant that arcs around Albert Park Lake, with the city skyline rising behind it. But this smart waterfront establishment has an equally strong selling point: steak. The management's relationship with a major meat exporter ensures it first pick of some of the country's best beef. So there's no need to dress up tender 300 day–aged Wagyu: It's served with a simple soy glaze and Japanese coleslaw. Prime grain- or grass-fed beef comes cooked to order, with wilted spinach, roasted bone marrow, and béarnaise or red-wine sauce. European-trained chef Scott Pickett's eclectic menu also has some delicious French-inspired dishes: milk-fed saddle of veal, assiette of lamb, and classic bouillabaisse.
132 Lygon Street
Tel: 61 3 9388 8255
The simple decor at Rumi—plain wood tables and chairs with slight ethnic flourishes such as brass coffeepots and Arabic-script murals—belies the complex cuisine being turned out by chef Joseph Abboud (not the menswear designer). The restaurant trades standard Middle Eastern fare for more unusual specialties, such as delicate pastries stuffed with Haloumi cheese; tasty meatballs in saffron-tomato sauce; tender quail kebabs; traditional spicy-hot yogurt soup; and thinly sliced, perfectly spiced bastourma (halal beef porterhouse). The restaurant also specializes in wine pairings, which come in Riedel "O" series glasses on brass trays.
Brunch on Saturdays only. Lunch and dinner Tuesdays through Fridays. Closed Sundays and Mondays.
30 Jacka Boulevard
Tel: 61 3 9525 5555
With a prime location on St. Kilda's beachfront promenade, the Stokehouse has a sunny patio overlooking the crowds of in-line skaters and sunbathers. And in winter, you can cozy up inside by the fire. Downstairs, the menu is casual and fairly inexpensive: pastas, seafood pizza (topped with prawns, calamari, salmon, and fresh herbs) and great fish-and-chips all cost less than $18. Upstairs, chef Anthony Musarra turns out more formal Oz-Med dishes. Try a starter of seared scallops with roasted chorizo and crème fraïche, then follow with a grilled snapper fillet or the Angus beef tenderloin with porcini ravioli, Swiss chard, and truffle cream. But don't let the sophisticated menu fool you: The Stokehouse has a relaxed, beachy feel.
312 Drummond Street
Tel: 61 3 9347 3312
Three, One, Two is the latest endeavor of Circa exec chef Andrew McConnell (he oversees Circa's menu, but works the stove here). McConnell's inventive modern-European-meets-Australian menu changes frequently: On a given day, there might be an appetizer of seared scallops with ginger vinegar, shaved abalone, and wasabi, and entrées such as seared venison with pumpkin and coffee. The modern dining room is warmly elegant, with chocolate banquettes and cowhide rugs on terrazzo tiles. You can also eat upstairs, beside open fires in winter, or, by arrangement, in a red-leather back-room booth next to the open kitchen.
Dinner Tuesdays through Saturdays; breakfast and lunch Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays only. Closed Mondays.
1 Flinders Lane
Tel: 61 3 9639 9500
This high-concept bunker of glass, aluminum, and concrete overlooking Parliament House is a gathering place for power brokers and foodies alike. Chef Dallas Cuddy is fresh from a stint at London's Nobu, and his French-inspired dishes have a distinctly Japanese edge. Cuddy likes to let his ingredients—super-fresh seafood, truffles, seasonal fruits—speak for themselves on the plate. And speak they do, most eloquently, in the signature dish of Wagyu beef tartare with sake jelly, truffled eggs, and quail gyoza (dumpling), or the barramundi fillet with spinach-wakame puree and smoked octopus.
430 Little Collins Street
Tel: 61 3 9691 3888
The focal point of executive chef Shannon Bennett's modern French dining room is a gleaming open kitchen, and her team's culinary wizardry is reflected in the polished-metal panels above. Grilled Strasbourg foie gras sets the stage for a magnificent duck-leg confit and roasted breast with peaches, pistachios, and thyme; a divine assiette of crème brûlée with mint, carrot, and chestnut makes for a big finish. At dinner, there's no à la carte option: You choose between five- and 14-course degustation menus. Each dish arrives meticulously arranged on a customized plate, interspersed with exquisite palate cleansers such as a smoking shot glass of chilled gazpacho or a kiwi-peppermint "lollipop." If you have the time (and the scratch—$88 for lunch, $132 for dinner), go for the gourmand's menu, paired with vintages from Vue's extensive wine cellar. This is one of the hottest shows in town, so be sure to reserve a table at least two weeks in advance, especially for weekends.
Closed Sundays and Mondays; no lunch on Saturdays.