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Melbourne Restaurant Reviews

by Walter Glaser

Prices in US Dollars; "pp" stands for "per person"

Please note that Melbourne has an interesting ‘bring your own’ liquor law. In many restaurants patrons can, for a corkage charge usually around $4 per bottle, bring their own bottle of wine to consume with their meal.

These restaurants are certainly worth a visit if you find yourself in the Melbourne area. There are plenty of options when it comes to flights to Melbourne. In just a few minutes, you’ll be able to set up a trip to the area and start experiencing some of this excellent cuisine before you know it.

Cnr. Courtney & Blackwood Sts., North Melbourne. Tel. 9326 5766
Cost: around $55 pp
Melbourne’s premier Japanese restaurant is housed in an old hotel with many rooms in which to enjoy leisurely meals. Do not be in a hurry. There is a large choice of dishes of both traditional and inventive Japanese: Sushi
and sashimi; tsutsumi age - minced, deep-fried and pastry-wrapped John Dory with a sweet sauce; Iden gago - eggplant with soy beanpaste.

Blue Train Café
Mid-level, Southgate. Tel. 9696 0111
Cost: from around $15 pp
This has to be one of the friendliest, busiest, and least expensive eateries right on the Yarra in the heart of Southgate. The pizzas are straight from a wood-fired oven, and there are vegetarian delights such as yellow lentil dhal with warm bread and salsa on the side, Hokkien noodles,
and other eastern dishes. It’s great for breakfast, and crowded with young twenty-somethings at night, but the atmosphere is energetic and it's a good spot to bring children.

2 Acland St., St. Kilda. Tel. 9534 5033
Cost: around $100 for two
Circa is part of a transformation of the dilapidated Prince of Wales hotel. Enter from trendy Acland Street through the stunning cocktail bar into a spacious, simple and stylish dining room with filmy black organza curtains and white leatherette banquettes. Delicate seafoods vie with game and hearty meat dishes. Poached barramundi, Burgundian garnishes, rabbit, pigeon, calves liver and more tempt in inventive preparations. Over 600 vintages call from the cellar, or you can choose by the glass.

40 Jacka Boulevard, St. Kilda. Tel. 9534 8221
Cost: around $40 for lunch, $60 for dinner pp.

Lounge on big bright cushions and enjoy a view of the bay and the beach. The menu is home style with lots of seafood such as fish stew for two. There’s wood-grilled vegetable salad with pancetta and basil wrapped
chicken, lemon-vodka risotto, Bermagui swordfish with warm onion relish, even a lamb hotpot and fish and chips as you’ve never tasted them before. Freshly shucked oysters, smoked salmon and duck leg salad are all great.
Great. Don’t miss it.

209 Camberwell Rd., East Hawthorn. Tel: 9882 0222
Cost around $ 40 pp
Opposite the popular Rivoli cinema complex near the Camberwell Junction 4 miles from the city, Fiorelli is always busy. The narrow frontage is deceiving but inside there are well-spaced tables and expensive padded seats. The menu has the right combination of the favorites of this
decade. Try the prawn risotto with sundried tomatoes, and tortellini with spinach and ricotta presented with chopped tomato, basil and a swirl of butter.

Flower Drum
17 Market Lane, City. Tel: 9662 3655
Cost: around $60 pp
One of the most outstanding Chinese restaurants in Melbourne, the restaurant capital of Australia. Widely spaced tables on red plush carpet and service that is faultless make this a dining occasion. The finest, and
most exotic produce is taken and reborn into exquisite dishes. Sautéed fresh king prawns, baby Queensland mud crab, creamy seafood stuffed into a conch shell and baked. And, of course the Peking Duck is as you would
expect - sublime.

Il Bacaro
168 Little Collins St., City. Tel: 9654 6778
Cost: around $35 lunch/dinner $50 pp
The affluent clientele know how to find the discreet front of this gem. You will definitely need to book as it is always popular. No wonder, it is reminiscent of a Venetian bar, but keeps restaurant hours. Some of the favorites are pickled lamb shanks, paillard of veal, and char-grilled rib eye of beef. The vegetarian meals are also interesting with combinations like the salad of green beans with semi-dried tomatoes in an anchovy pesto.

One Eleven Spring Street at the Windsor
111 Spring St., City Tel: 9633 6004
Cost: around Lunch $30/Dinner $60 pp
A modern European restaurant has evolved from the Victorian lounge of the stately Windsor hotel. Lunch features a Mediterranean feast along with English dishes such as homey shepherd’s pie and pheasant torte with
cabbage. There is a traditional breakfast service, and dinner is an elegant affair with crispy roast suckling pig, and a whole roast chicken with chorizos and mushrooms carved at table.

Isthmus of Kra
50 Park St., South Melbourne. Tel: 9690 3688
Cost: around $35 pp
This Nonya-Thai restaurant is one of the more established in Melbourne. The dark woods and deep reds of the decor and artifacts take you to the Orient of old. The dishes too are inventions on old themes and are outstanding. A fish dish is called the "curry of passion". Chicken is tenderly cooked in parcels of pandan leaves. Oysters are poached in chilli and lemongrass. And these are just some of the delights awaiting you. No wonder this is one of Melbourne’s favorite Asian food haunts.

Jacques Reymond
78 Williams Rd., South Yarra. Tel: 9525 2178
Cost: around $100 pp.
This large elegant Victorian mansion is popular for special occasions such as weddings, birthday, anniversaries. The fixed price lunch is popular. There is a five-course vegetarian menu. Asian flavors mingle with finest
Australian ingredients in classical and newer style dishes. Terrine of quail, duck foie gras, tart of scallops and baby octopus, roasted fillet of wild barramundi coated with mild spices, are just a few from the extensive menu.

Jim’s Greek Taverna
32 Johnston St., Collingwood. Tel: 9419 3827
Cost: around $25 pp.
Jim’s reeks of authenticity in its casual demeanor, blaring bouzouki music and gingham table cloths. Lots of good basic Greek seafood and no set menu. There’s an outdoor garden for warm weather, and bookings are essential, because Jim’s is always busy.

Lazar Charcoal Grill & Seafood
87 Johnston St., Fitzroy. Tel: 9419 2073
Cost: Around $100 for two.
* We think this is Melbourne’s top steakhouse
The name says it all. The best charcoal grill in Melbourne, where the charcoal grilled choice cuts of Hereford beef, premium pork, home made cevapcici and sausages will meet the highest standards. Fish and seafood are also available, all carefully chosen and created into dishes such as spicy stuffed crab, seafood sausage and King George whiting with prawn mousseline and hollandaise sauce.

Le Gourmet
366 Albert St., East Melbourne. Tel: 9416 3744
Cost: Around $ 170 for two.
* We think this is Melbourne’s top continental/Austrian cuisine.
Elegant old dining room feel with antique furniture and artworks. Classic European dishes and Austrian specialties, plus smokehouse delicacies and game dishes. Newly decorated in traditional elegance, dining here is
invariably a delightful experience. Classical music, good service and an extensive menu. Very knowledgeable waiters.

Li Li’s
71 Stanley St., West Melbourne. Tel: 9326 5790
Cost: Banquets from $40-100 per person.
* We think this is Melbourne’s top Chinese cuisine. Sister restaurant in Beijing.
The Imperial Chinese cuisine is only served as a banquet for two or more and is best with a group. Li Li is the great grand-daughter of the last Emperor’s chef and cooks from his recipes which have a strong Manchurian touch. Banquets begin with 10 entrees, some dating from the reign of the Dowager Empress. Glazed walnuts, lotus root, shark fin and abalone are just some of the exquisitely presented dishes. Li Li only opens for bookings and has a minimum charge.

The London Cafe Bar & Restaurant
92 - 94 Beach St., Port Melbourne. Tel: 9646 4644
Cost: Around: $70 for two.
Great views of the bay and something to suit every palate from Smoked Salmon to Calves Liver and mashed potatoes. Lots of seafoods, classic main courses such as Rack of Lamb, Duckling, risotto and a vegetarian
polenta stack with char-grilled marinated vegetables with chevre and salsa verde. A produce and bottle store is within the complex.

133 Domain Rd., South Yarra. Tel: 9866 5627
Cost: around $35 for lunch, 75-80 for dinner pp .
* We think this is Melbourne’s top spot for elegant, intimate dining.
One of the few remaining traditionally romantic places to dine. Plush banquettes in ‘romantic ambiance" decor suit old style dishes that are elegant, often traditional French with a light Australian touch, and consistently excellent. Seafood, beef, and an outstanding Caesar Salad are
recommended. Noise level is low and there are 3 private rooms. This is a favorite restaurant of Melbourne’s ‘Movers & Shakers’, and the diners are very frequently made up of people listed in Australia’s ‘Who’s Who’. That such a clientelle chooses Lynch’s as their favorite restaurant says it all.

Madame Fang
27 Crossley St., City. Tel: 9663 3199
Cost: around $50 pp
Dinkum duck and yam and macadamia croquettes are local produce re-invented in Asian style. Mirror-topped tables, low lighting and different dishes with an Asian slant are the trademarks. The noise level is high, and dinner
is the busiest time.

533 Brunswick St., Fitzroy North. Tel: 9481 1177
Cost: Around $150 for two
Italian style with rich timber paneling, gleaming silver and flowers. Seasonal menu offers pastas, veal dishes, offal such as sweetbread sausage on caramelized witlof, chargrilled ox tongue, pigs trotter, beautifully tender veal, a vegetarian degustation menu and wines from Italy, France as well as local wines by the glass.

156 Pakington St., Kew.
Cost: around $75 for two.
* We think this is Melbourne’s top Japanese restaurant.
Exquisite food in a tiny shop-front venue that is always busy. Staff and customers are often mostly Japanese, which says something about the food. Ocha antipasto, avocado sushi roll, pan-fried swordfish steak, and
crabmeat tempura, tuna roll and ocean trout each wrapped in shiso leaf is a unique touch. Booking is essential. Book well ahead or you won’t get in, but it’s well worth the effort.

66 Bourke St., City. Tel: 9662 1885
Cost: around $15 pp

Melbourne’s first and classic Italian espresso bar. Sit up on the stools and choose from the daily specials board. There’s always gnocchi on Fridays, and through the week all the Italian favorites will appear. The Apple Strudel is homemade, and the coffee is brilliant.

Crown Towers, Level 1, South Bank. Tel: 9292 6888
Cost: around $200 for two
Glamour and opulence is the key here with the sharkfin and abalone dishes the most expensive in town - but this is the Chinese restaurant that the high rolling gamblers like to relax in. There are also won ton soups, fried chicken dishes, Szechuan beef, deep-fried prawns with garlic and other Cantonese specialties.

Walter Glaser is a freelance writer based in Australia.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the businesses in question before making your plans.

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