Cafes and Restaurants » Melbourne Restaurants


The Best Melbourne Lunch Spots

Turns out a lot of people are finding this page, looking for the best lunch spots in Melbourne. Thus I’m creating a list of reviews of the best places I like going. See below for a map of cheap and quick places around the city.

South Melbourne and Bayside

West

North

City

When my friend Bruce isn’t writing about The Black Keys he is usually experimenting with some other piece of crazy social media or pottering around in his garden, beer in hand. But today he has enabled some cool team collaboration. Finding the best lunch spots in Melbourne. It’s a simple thing to do and one which any team could do, create a Google Map, share it with your coworkers, add some guidelines and presto. Better lunch for all.

Check it out, we’d love to hear how you and your coworkers find the best places to eat, drink and recover.

Hidden Pizza Restaurant, Fitzroy

They want you to check out the Yellow Pages to find out where the Hidden Pizza Restaurant is, but personally I’d just go over and get the scoop from Brian at Fitzroyalty. A quick picture and a Mellie putting 2 and 2 together and we have the answer. This is a lesson to us all, if there is something interesting happening over in Fitzroy, Brian will know.

Update: You need to call 1300 615 786 and you’ll get an order number. They won’t serve you without it. A few photos are emerging, check them out here and here.

Another update: Berry travels has a blogpost about the whole experience. I can’t help but think we are going to hear more about this place.

Final update: This restaurant was only open for 2 weeks and is now closed.

Wall Two 80, Balaclava

Outside Wall CafeIf  we were all rabbits, the Wall Cafe would be the kind of cafe we would all love. There is no order, there are random little tables and chair jammed in every nook and cranny, seemingly spilling out onto the street. The cafe seems to have been jammed into an old butchers shop that it doesn’t really fit into. Much like the rabbit warrens of my dreams.

Apparently people like this claustrophobic feeling. The place is packed and nobody seems to care that you have to push past someone to get to your table, or that there is newspaper strewn all over the biggest table in the place. Or perhaps it is that the food is great, the service is surprisingly quick and the prices are rock bottom.

The menu is written on the wall and comprises mainly of gourmet pides with a few other bits and pieces. The coffee was good, a really dark blend which made my strong latte a little too strong flavoured. My second was a regular latte.

Baked Beans and Ham Hock at Wall CafeBaked beans and ham hock ($10) with basil and fetta.  This is such a great combination, the gritty texture of the ham hock contrasts really well with baked beans. The basil and fetta ($1.50 extra) adds an extra layer of flavour.

Avocado on Rye at Wall Cafe

Not the best photo, this avocado on rye was really good. Very fresh avo, great rye bread with cottage cheese and a slice of lemon. Very filling for a small serve and only $8.

It was a quick breakfast, 4 coffees and 2 meals for $32. Can’t really complain when the food is this good.

St Judes Cellar, Brunswick St

Finally, I’ve eaten at St Jude’s Cellar. It has been in my mind since stumbling upon it on a lonely St Patricks day and spending my last $20 on fine wine, not Guinness. I’ve since been back, for wine and cocktails, to sit at the bar, to taste their wine, and even to just gaze at the interior design but never for food – how I’ve been missing out.

The wine list is great. They have a great range of wines by the glass, varying not only in style but also price and a massive by the bottle, walk in wine list with a $15 dine-in premium over their retail price. This makes for a reasonably cheap bottle with dinner. The problem is, their lack of good wine advice. This seems to happen a lot recently, we asked for wine advice and our waitress told us what she had been drinking lately. That was the bottle we ended up drinking, but I really wanted someone to suggest a bottle that would complement our dinner.

Wine service aside, the rest of the table service was very attentive, not quite annoyingly so for the first few minutes, but as the bottle of wine emptied and our conversation continued, the staff interrupted less. The perfect amount of service.

Following up the great service was amazing food. I’ve been thinking about it for weeks and trying to replicate the textures and contrast at home. The bread was the sourest of dough – with butter, pink salt and pepper it was truly divine. I easily could have just eaten the bread and left content. The hand cut potato wedges with garlic were crunchy, tasty and a giant serving. The peas and broccoli were crisp and super fresh and the chilli butter was subtle and there was too much rabbit food for 2 people.

Greens @ St Jodes Cellar

The paddock plains lamb was cooked perfectly, the rare lamb had that perfect tough to the knife-melt in your mouth consistency and the potato accompanement had a nice firm texture. I wish I could remember what else was served with this dish.

Lamb at St Jude's Cellar

The standout however was the Tibooboora scotch with oxtails. The contrast of the clean texture of the perfectly cooked steak against the grittiness of the cooked down oxtails was astounding. The onion tart was crunchy and gooey against the crisp asparagus it was served on. This dish alone made my night, so good I was tempted to order a second helping.

Scotch Fillet & Oxtails

In fact, I think I might drop in tomorrow.

The Mill, Hardware Lane

Close to fine-dining but also with a touch of pub feel is where The Mill sits in the restaurant spectrum of Melbourne. It is located in a nice spot close to the centre of town in Hardware Lane. The menu is comprised of hearty food perfectly executed and all priced around $30 for a main and served in good sized portions. It can’t be called cheap, but it is definitely affordable.

Hardware Lane is becoming more like Lygon St every day, spruikers and menus on the street, good deals involving glasses of wine or cheap 2 course meals, good food all served up with a good price and a great atmosphere until well into the night. The atmosphere is spurned on by something that the Carlton strip doesn’t offer, live music while you dine and a friendly, lively atmosphere.

The Mill presents itself as an upmarket alternative in the laneway with a great cocktail list, a massive wine list and prices $5-10 higher than other restaurants and a distinct lack of promotions. The wine list is worthy of mention with 18 wines by the glass and a massive selection of Australian and international wines. It lacks an accompanying somelier which leave a diner confused and intimidated. Even if the staff were happy to offer some advice you would be more inclined to try different wines.

The mill provides a really great dining experience, the maitre d wasn’t pushy at all, and the waitresses kept our water topped up and offered drinks at just the right times. The portions were generous and the timing of the meals was good.

Scallops

The scallops were very nice. Perfectly cooked and in a light tomato sauce.

Rolled Pork Belly

The salted duck was only mildly ducky and perfectly salty. It worked well with the rich muscatel jus. The spring roll added an interesting dimension to the meal.

Rolled Pork Belly

The rolled pork  belly again was perfectly cooked, cooked so well it literally melted in your mouth. It was served with garlicy mash and a sweet onion and proscuito jam. This meal was really well balanced, the flavours came together really well.

Smoked Lamb Rump

The smoked lamb rump was great. The smokey flavour was present throughout but not overpowering. The texture of the chickpea sauce added an interesting element to the dish. The flatleaf parsley garnish was over the top and everywhere.

The broccoli side was over garnished as well, someone in the kitchen was going crazy with the flatleaf parsley.

Tomoshibi Japanese Restaurant, Middle Park

As our neighbour described it, Tomoshibi doesn’t look like much, but it is most definitely worth a look. The first thing you notice after negotiating your way to the front door, down the alleyway is that you seem to be in the entrance to someone’s house. The cash register is tucked under the stairs, the reservations book is behind the door and hanging from the walls in place of family photos are alcohol licenses, newspaper clippings and sashimi calendars. The sounds emanating from the stairs are either those of a party or a family’s everyday life, the kids running around give it away. This certainly isn’t the feel of a normal Melbourne restaurant, but this complete lack of pretentiousness coupled with polite japanese service is a breath of fresh air.

The dining room decor is dated, solid chairs and tables, almost too dark lighting, punctuated with elegant flowers and chopstick holders but the loud drunk girl was wrong when she crassly suggested that they “just get some new fucking chairs.” This setting is the background of a restaurant that is about much more than worrying about designer furniture and achieving what they want perfectly. Perhaps this fitout won’t endear itself to the materialistic yuppies among us, but what is served will leave an impression on the food lover.

The menu consists of a number of sections, starters, sashimi starters, sashimi mains and regular mains. The gyoza from the starters menu was  a brilliant start, steamed to perfection the lightly fried classic japanese dumplings were full of flavour, with a great texture. These are the sort of dumplings you could eat all day. The mixed sashimi starter, salmon, tuna, ocean trout and mackerel, was sashimi at its best. Fresh fish, good sized portions presented beautifully on an upturned oystershell and garnished with a pink orchid flower.

For mains, the chicken and fish soup was the only let down. The dish is served still boiling away with an impressive sizzling sound, the chunks of fish were tender and flavoursome, the chicken was nondescript and the broth lacked flavour. The grilled eel on the other hand, was the standout. The eel had been grilled perfectly giving the skin has a slightly crunchy texture, the soy based sauce’s (I’d love to know what this sauce was) richness was not overwhelming at all even when eaten just with the leftover rice.

Accompanying this great example of japanese cuisine was a very well priced, but minimal, wine and beer list. Topping off a great example of japanese cuisine, service and hospitality.

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Church St, Cremorne

7 Grams Cafe Past the last shops in the Swan St shopping precinct and before the hustle and bustle of Prahran, between the italian tile warehouses and one-off designer furniture shops, in the shadow of the Bryant & May match factory and in the heart of the textile companies that make Richmond famous. Church Street is the unlikely host of an inoordinate number of cafe’s and coffee shops. It is a section of road that you would pass through on the rickety old 78 tram and not even think of getting off for your much needed hangover cure.

To the casual passerby these cafes seem to be near nothing and have no reason for existance but it is the ultra-hip fashion executives, designers and furniture salesmen that they service. Lunch time during the week is hectic as they rush in, grab a double shot, decaf, soy latte or perhaps a salmon baguette and then rush on their way. Or perhaps they might sit down at one of the crammed tables on the street and talk about the latest fads in swedish bathrooms

Pearl Cafe This assortment of coffee shops seems to do a great job of catering to these businesses but they don’t seem to be too sure of whether they are cafes or not. 7 grams, is a contradiction, home of the world barista champion it has copies of “The Gourmet Barista” (or some equally pretentious coffee magazine) for sale at one end of the counter and a bain-maree of death full of dim sims and potato scallops at the other. The fine-dining Enoteca and Pearl Restaurant lower their colours for lunch, offering cheap specials supposedly to get the more wealthy lunch crowd in the door. JE Cafe seems more intent on advertising itself as a catering service than servicing its own customers. Amsterdam Cafe seems less confused about its identity but has a limited menu on weekends, which noone knows what it contains. Perhaps the only cafe that truly knows what it wants to be is the fusion inspired Black Pearl but their breakfast finishes at 10 and it is usually packed and the service suffers.

At night the cafes shut, and the quality of Enoteca and Pearl create an interesting juxtaposition with the daytime chaos. Enoteca’s menu turns from a cheap lunch menu to a classic italian restaurant, amazing oysters, quail risottos and pastas with prices to match. Further down the street Pearl restaurant (sister of the aforementioned cafe) serves up a genuinely interesting menu with a combination of indian, thai, vietnamese and chinese flavours as if serving as a halfway house between Prahran and Richmond.

Don’t let the confusion bother you, this corner of Melbourne is wonderful in a strange way, great coffee, good food and great personalities are capped off perfectly with the fine-dining class that Enoteca and Pearl bring. All of this is tucked away from the crowds and surrounded by interesting shops to entertain between coffees. Next time you are in the area, drop in, you might not quite understand, but you will enjoy.

7 Grams Cafe Church Street Enoteca Hot Pepper Cafe JE Cafe Degani Cafe Amsterdam Street View from Amsterdam St Cafe Amsterdam St Lunch Menu Pearl Cafe