Melbourne is a lot of things. It’s the sporting capital of Australia, playing host to some of the nation’s premier sporting events; it’s one of the worlds most coffee-centric cities, with latté art that rivals Picasso’s greatest works; and it’s a thriving creative hub, with intriguing museums boasting some of the nation’s most spectacular displays. Above all of that, however, is its moniker as one of the globe’s most diverse foodie cities.
From hand-maned ravioli in Little Italy to genuine Szechuan dishes throughout Chinatown, and infinite hipster cafes dotted around every corner, the Victorian capital is full to the brim with tantalizing nibblies.
So, grab your sporks and your swan-folded napkin, and let’s dig in!
10 Try a 'parma'
As far as quintessentially Aussie pub fare goes, it’s hard to go past a good ol’ fashioned parma. It might not be the prettiest of dishes out there, and it might not rake in thousands of 1000s of IG followers, but what it will do is leave you gasping for air as you rush bite after bite at rapid speed into your gob.
It’s short for chicken parmigiana, but the way that it’s made Down Under is quite unlike anything that the rest of the world can dish up. More often than not, it’s a schnitzel the size of your head, topped with Napoli sauce, ham, and a thick layer of mozzarella, all melted together into one gooey, cheesy, protein-packed, semi artery-clogging plate of deliciousness.
9 Wander through Queen Victoria Market
As long as you’re not overly superstitious, a trip to the Queen Victoria Market (usually shortened to Vic Market) is one of the essential activities to tick off during any trip down to Melbourne. Why might that be an issue, you ask? Well, it was actually built over an old burial ground, so there’s that…
Anyway, the market is renowned for its exceptionally fresh produce, with a range of just-picked fruit, flavor-rich veggies, high-quality meat (including kangaroo!), and tantalizing baked goods lining the multiple aisles. During the warmer months, the city puts on a handful of night market events, enhanced by live music and multiple food vendors.
8 Sample everything at South Melbourne Market
While the South Melbourne market - located in, you guessed it, South Melbourne - might not measure up to the Queen Vic in terms of size or stature, it well and truly challenges with its produce, service, and variety.
Grab a freshly-squeezed juice from one of the streetside vendors on Coventry Street before heading into the main tent in search of freshly-baked borek or just-caught seafood. There are two undisputed highlights, however, that simply can’t be missed: the South Melbourne Market dim sums, renowned as the city’s best; and the Paella from Simply Spanish, served up in mammoth-sized frying pans. It’s impossible to walk away empty-handed.
7 Eat too much cake on Acland St
Regardless if you’re a born-and-bred local, or a backpacker galavanting through the land of Aus, St Kilda is one of the most popular inner-city hangouts. Aside from the iconic Luna Park and the (small) waves and penguins at St Kilda beach, Acland St is widely known as a cake and coffee paradise.
Before diving head-first into the first cake shop you see, take a stroll up and down the pedestrian-friendly street and have a peek at the tasty delicacies on offer through the enormous, glass windows. Better yet, buy something at one of them to munch on in-store, and then grab a few desserts to take home from one of the others.
6 Wander through Melbourne’s CBD alleyways
Nothing is quite as synonymous with Melbourne’s definition of culture as its cafe-lined, graffiti-decorated, pedestrian-oriented alleyways. Scattered through cobblestoned walkways such as Hardware Lane and Degraves St, just to name a couple, there are countless hidden coffee nooks and eateries beckoning passersbys with a concoction of mesmerizing food and coffee smells.
Foodies can grab a traditional French crepe on Degraves before heading for a few selfies for the ‘gram, coffee in hand, on Hosier lane. While the street art might not be beautiful in the traditional sense of the word, it adds a unique atmosphere to accompany any meal.
5 Grab a fresh pizza/pasta in Lygon Street
Just north of the CBD (central business district), the Italianised suburb of Carlton plays host to some of the most authentic, fresh, and delicious Italian dishes outside of Italy itself. Lygon Street is where it’s all happening, and not only are there Italian restaurants littered in every direction, but if you know where to look, there’s also all the Italian-style cheeses, meats, and breads that you could ever want.
After dinner at one of the restaurants (try Scopri, D.O.C Gastronomia Italiana, or Tiamo Coffee) finish off the evening the right way with a scrumptious cake at Brunetti or a scoop or two at Casa del Gelato.
4 Visit the quintessential Pellegrini’s
If Lygon Street hasn’t quite satisfied your pasta cravings, then fear not, because the city’s iconic pasta joint, Pellegrini’s (officially Pellegrini's Espresso Bar), located on Bourke St has got you well and truly covered. Some say that no trip to Melbourne is complete without a stop at Pellegrini’s, and we tend to agree.
The menu changes every day at this family-run Italian coffeehouse (and so do the prices). Guests can choose to take a seat at the bar, or watch the cooks in action with a front-row seat in the kitchen. If hospitality is your game, there’s none better than Pellegrini’s.
3 Check out the Food Truck Park
Over the past handful of years, food trucks have become somewhat of a sensation - and not only in the great foodie city of Melbourne, but across the entire food-loving world. The beauty of food trucks is that they’re all unique, and since they’re small businesses, each dish is served up with genuine care and often great conversation.
The best place to sample a wide variety of portable treats is at The Food Truck Park, which hosts plenty of events throughout the year. They’re even throwing a 5-day food truck festival, so make sure to loosen your belt a notch or two before checking it out.
2 Dine at Melbourne's best restaurant, Attica
Among any list of best Melbourne restaurants, nay, best Australian restaurants, you’ll constantly find Ben Shewry’s Attica firmly towards the top. It’s been in and out of the top 50 best restaurants around the world, and justifiably so. The food is utterly exceptional, mixing unique technologies and cooking practices with worldly flavors and only the freshest, most revered ingredients.
If you’d assumed that a restaurant with such a glorious reputation would have a glorious price tag to match, you’d be firmly correct. The menu will set diners back a whopping $295 per person, and that doesn’t even include the wine.
1 Grab some pics for the 'gram at Grand Lafayette
Hopefully you’ve still got room in the belly because we’ve got one more foodie locale that can’t be missed. This stop is tailored specifically to the new generation of foodies, those who can’t in good conscious eat a meal without snapping 15 photos and filtering through them until one fits the ‘gram perfectly.
Everything served up at Prahran’s Grand Lafayette is photo-worthy. From the bao to the stacked milkshakes, the rainbow lattes and the raindrop desserts, it almost feels wrong to take a bite and ruin such a dazzling piece of art. When you do though, you won’t regret it.