Melbourne is renowned for its world-class food — the strong influences from various cultures shine through in its restaurant offerings. From European and Cantonese flavors to a 19th-century mansion serving contemporary Australian fare, there’s no doubt taste buds will be pleased with this city’s eats. Narrowing down the best of the best in Melbourne was tough, but here are our top five:
Located at the Crown Complex, Southbank, Rosetta is a throwback to European glamour and grandeur. One step inside Neil Perry’s third Crown restaurant and you notice its opulence, from plush velvet seating to glittering chandeliers and black-and-white photos of famous faces such as Sylvester Stallone and Raquel Welch. While Rosetta’s menu is certainly Italian-centric, this is not your usual pizza and pasta selection. Perry’s insistence on fresh, seasonal produce ensures a menu that’s ever changing and never boring, and you’ll find dishes such as pan-fried crumbed White Rocks veal leg with lemon, or spaghetti with prawns and pistachio.
Rosetta pays homage to the various regions of Italy by offering a menu with influences from both North to South. From entrée to dessert, the menu is sure to please. Think of Rosetta as more than just a restaurant; it’s an experience.
Part of Melbourne’s cuisine scene for more than 37 years, Market Lane’s Flower Drum offers a Cantonese feast that no other restaurant in Melbourne can top. While the eatery has served as a popular hot spot in the city for decades, it still exudes a sense of modernity, and its age is a testament to its quality service. Flower Drum’s interior is bright with orange walls and large flower arrangements, and the menu incorporates fresh ingredients purchased daily from the local market.
When in doubt, the Peking duck is a truly excellent choice — wrapped in a pancake with spring onion and cucumber. Other notable mentions? You can’t go wrong with seafood, especially the mud crab and wild barramundi, and the Chinese pork sausage is traditional and mouth watering. The restaurant’s extensive menu is ideal for a long lunch or a delicious dinner, so bring friends, and if not, you’ll make them there.
Sydney chef Mark Best has brought something new and exciting to Melbourne’s brilliant and buzzing food scene — and that’s no easy feat. Situated in Collins Place, Pei Modern takes gastronomy very seriously while maintaining a more relaxed, bistro vibe. Neutral colors and minimalist designs permeate the eatery’s space, so the focus stays on the food. Here you’ll find a modern Australian menu that changes daily, offering dishes such as ricotta dumplings with hazelnut and peas or free-range pork with radicchio and quince from the wood fired grill. Its influences vary and that’s why we love it. It’s Melbourne — on a plate — and it doesn’t get much better than that.
In addition to the waiters clad in crisp white butcher coats, you’ll certainly notice the impressive mosaic tiled walls and ceiling at GAS, also at Crown Complex. The Italian restaurant is a truly gorgeous place to dine in, and the minor theatrics simply add to the experience. The menu is vast (including an entire column devoted to salumi and mozzarella), but the waiters are there to help, even when you simply explain what you’re craving. Choose from a selection of fresh pastas such as orecchiette “Puglia Style” (made with broccoli, anchovy, garlic and chilli) or meat options such as Roman Style oxtail on the bone that’s been braised for eight hours. Save room for dessert, with delectable plates such as a baked chocolate pot or lemon curd pie baked on brown butter short bread.
We’d be remiss not to highlight the sheer genius that is Jacques Reymond. Located in a 19th-century mansion in Prahran, the space feels contemporary and chic with pops of color and bare walls. The food is refined and of the highest quality, and the waiters are incredibly well informed and friendly with an obvious passion for food and wine.
Choose from a variety of degustation menus (starting around $138, sans wine), an à la carte menu with plates such as Highland venison and Western Plains pork, savory courses, vegetarian meals and a dessert menu that delights, with lemon flan and housemade ice creams and sorbets. And don’t forget the wine — the restaurant boasts more than 800 types, with a special focus on bottles from chef Jacques Reymond’s home region of Burgundy, France.
Photos Courtesy of The Age and Crown Melbourne