How did a remote city, situated at the southern end of an island continent in the middle of the ocean, become an undisputed heavyweight in global gastronomy? Over the next five minutes, you’re about to find out (just do yourself a favour — don’t read this on an empty stomach!)
Being the travelling tastemaker that you are, Melbourne is perhaps already on your radar. Boasting some of the top restaurants in the Southern Hemisphere, an unparalleled café scene, stylish shopping and the hippest bars, Melbourne is not just on the pulse of what’s happening, it’s Australia’s cultural heart.
Flight Centre was founded in Oz back in the ’80s and as the country’s largest travel company, we are kind of a big deal Down Under. We say this to tell you we speak from experience (and maybe the tiniest touch of bias!) In Canada, we employ heaps of ex-pat Aussies, many from Melbourne, the second-largest city in Australia. So, who better to ask about what to do in Melbourne, right? Well, not so much. Many hadn’t been back home in a few years, making what was supposed to be a cutting-edge guide to Melbourne, slightly dull.
No worries, mates! To the rescue came our very own Director of Leisure Marketing, a young, hip Aussie himself, reigning from Brisbane, Queensland, now living in Toronto, Ontario. Aaron Stubbings (aka Stubbo) was on a trip back to his motherland, so we appointed him to do a reconnaissance mission to scope out the latest and greatest spots to wine, dine, caffeinate and hydrate in Melbourne, Australia’s culinary sweet spot. (We know, it’s tough to work for Flight Centre sometimes.)
Hot off the (coffee) press, here are Stubbo’s carefully-curated, tried-tested picks:
Where to Eat in Melbourne Right Now
As Australia’s gastronomic capital, the foodie scene in Melbourne is second to none. As an arts-centric city that draws creative minds from all over the country, as well as its multicultural representation from across the world, Melbourne sets the table for culinary magic.
Journeyman, Chapel Street
Those hungry for brunch must stop at Journeyman. Perched on Melbourne’s celebrated Chapel Street, a precinct known for its upscale shopping and dining, Journeyman not only fits right in, it stands out. Exploding with five-star ratings for its coffee and cuisine, Stubbo tells us the brunch at Journeyman is downright amazing. The house specialty is Eggs Benedict, but in true Melbourne fusion fashion, is topped with crisped pork belly, complemented by sliced apple and maple Hollandaise. The Aussie staple avocado toast even has different personalities here, ranging from smashed with poached eggs to drenched in snow pea tendrils and honeyed candied bacon. In a city known for its coffee houses, Journeyman tops the lists of critics, both professionally and Trip Advisor-y.
Top Paddock, Richmond
When it comes to tasty treats, the Melbourne ‘burbs are superb, too. When in Richmond (less than a 15-minute drive from the city centre, and less than 30 mins by transit) it’s Top Paddock that comes out on top for brunch. What’s on the menu? Beautiful dishes good enough to eat. Each photogenic offering is infused with creativity and flavour. Its all-day menu features heartiness and comfort of traditional breakfast, spliced with a taste of the local tropics and healthy, trend-conscious flavours.
Hawker Hall, South Yarra
Given the relative close proximity to Southeast Asia, Melbourne restaurants are no stranger to the wonderful, distinct and robust variety of dishes the area is known for. Even Canadian city-dwellers from cosmopolitan places like Toronto and Vancouver are amazed by Melbourne’s appetizing abundance of mouthwatering Malay and Singaporean street food. On that note, enter Hawker Hall. Modelled after the vibrant hawker centres in Malaysia and Singapore, Hawker Hall is housed in a cavernous historic building, once a former horse stable. Here you will be treated to the frenetic, fast-paced energy of these food halls, in a slowed down atmosphere with meticulously-made street food. Sambal snapper, anyone?
Chin Chin, city central
Even those of us who aren’t quite as hip as Stubbo, or who haven’t visited Melbourne for a number of years, know Chin Chin. We love the transformative play on words; an Italian toast (as in cheers, not bruschetta) but playfully representing the Chinese fusion for which this Melbourne go-to is famous. Delectable, decadent and downright delicious are words we use to describe it — but in reality, Chin Chin Melbourne deserves all As. We recommend you book ahead, because the line-ups (queues as the Aussies would say) start early and end late. This advice is especially pertinent if you’re in a larger group (be warned they may have a set seating time as well due to high demand.) Ask about their feasting menus, but if it’s a romantic table for two, Asian-inspired tapas and a bountiful wine list set the scene nicely.
Melbourne’s Hottest Bars – Now, We Drink!
When you travel you look to get out of the guidebooks and inside the local frame of mind. (Amazing how we know you so well, right?) In a city like Melbourne, you definitely want to keep pace with the locals, as there are a proliferation of places to get your drink on.
Stubbo gives high accolades to these two purveyors of adult pops (he may have more to share, but for some reason we couldn’t make out his last messages very well after frequenting the last few bars.) We noticed his picks are botanical in nature — at least you can be assured you’re not barking up the wrong tree when in Melbourne!
Garden State Hotel
First things first: in Australia, a “hotel” is what they call a pub. So if some strapping Aussie or sassy Sheila asks you to join them at a hotel, before you slap them, know they are merely asking for a drink. So the Garden State Hotel is, you guessed it, a bar, and in terms of Melbourne watering holes, sets the bar high. This sprawling, 4-storey public house is sleekly designed and attracts a fun and stylish crowd. From local craft beers, to award-winning cocktails, seasoned mixologists quench your thirst, please your palate and attract your artistic sensibilities at the Garden State.
The Arbory Bar
The social buzz about The Arbory is strong– just like the one you get from its multi-ingredient cocktails. After a day of sightseeing, head to Flinders Street, take in the incredible murals, rub shoulders with Melbourne’s movers and shakers and order a shaken martini while you’re at it. Stubbo recommends the Pimms No 1 Cup for two, or the hefty double serving of Peach Bourbon Iced Tea– we assumed he meant to share! Oenophiles, the grape stops here for you: The Arbory Bar wine list was curated by one of Australia’s top sommeliers, a perfect accompaniment to its hearty menu, or to sip solo.
Does this list have your hungering for more Melbourne? Air Canada makes it easy with non-stop flights from Vancouver to Melbourne. Wherever you are in Canada, we’ll book you seamless flights for unforgettable Melbourne nights! Call us at 1 877 967 5302 or visit us in-store!