14 iconic Melbourne restaurants to visit right now

Melbourne’s skyline view across the tree-lined Yarra River to Melbourne CBD with Princes Bridge in the foreground, Flinders Street station, St. Paul’s cathedral, and tall office buildings in the background. Superimposed on top is a purple square that says The Greats Melbourne.

Melbourne has held culinary destination status for years, thanks to multicultural influences and a penchant for locally sourced produce. Its standout restaurants include award-winning gems with postcard-perfect views, neighbourhood darlings spotlighting underrepresented cuisines, and bonafide institutions that have wowed diners for decades. 

These are the spots that make this coastal city shine. Read on for a guide to 14 of Melbourne’s greatest restaurants to book right now.

Serai Kitchen (Melbourne CBD)

Grab a bar seat and start your meal with a ‘Kinilaw’ cured kingfish, with Pinakurat vinegar and Philippine lime. Credit: Serai Kitchen

The accolades started flowing soon after Serai Kitchen opened in June 2022. Head chef Ross Magnaye packs punchy Filipino flavours and techniques with Australian produce, earning him distinctions including Best New Restaurant and One Hat from the Australian Good Food Guide. Snag a bar seat in the warehouse-like digs and watch chefs cook over a wood fire while devouring dishes such as the McScallop, an Abrolhos scallop tempura with crab fat sauce sandwiched in soft Filipino bread or pork belly with smokey pineapple palapa (a spicy-sweet condiment). For the decadent finale, get the leche flan (creme caramel) with passionfruit.

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French Saloon (Melbourne CBD)

Comté gougères pair well with French wine at French Saloon. Credit: Tess Kelly, French Saloon

Climb a narrow flight of stairs on Hardware Lane to find this bustling yet relaxed dining room. The adored European restaurant and bar is owned by industry vet Con Christopoulos and steered by celebrated chef Ian Curley. Market fish du jour, dry-aged duck breast with quince and chicory, and flavour-packed sides such as blackened Brussels sprouts with lardons are popular choices from the classic French menu. The wine list focuses on French aperitifs and wines by the glass alongside some standout local drops. The result is a laid-back but luxurious meal, well-suited for any occasion.

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Yugen Dining (South Yarra)

Soft lighting, a striking chandelier, and soaring stone walls add opulence to the interiors at Yugen Dining. Credit: Yugen Dining

Yugen’s soaring stone walls and porcelain light installation are fitting previews for the splashy meal that awaits here. The striking Capitol Grand building space— also home to the Yugen Tea Bar—is split into various dining spaces, including an eight-seat golden orb booth that juts out over the main dining room. Its award-winning modern menu takes cues from Japan, Korea, China, and Thailand. Seafood-forward highlights include fried barramundi with  Sichuan oil and prawn toast made on Chinese doughnuts. The prolific sake menu—there are more than 20 kinds to choose from—is made for toasting, as is the varied wine selection. Live DJs play here every night and up the ante on any occasion.

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Freyja (Melbourne CBD)

A dinner at Freyja, a Nordic-inspired restaurant in the heritage-listed Olderfeleet building, is a feast for all the senses. Credit: Parker Blain, Freyja

Executive chef Jae Bang, formerly of MICHELIN-starred Re-Naa in Norway, brings the heat to the menu at this cinematic Nordic-inspired spot. Signature dishes such as the Freyja waffle with smoked sour cream, trout roe or osetra caviar; and duck with radicchio, pancetta, coriander, and lavender round out the Danish-accented menu. The dining experience is enhanced by Freyja’s photogenic interiors—it’s housed in a heritage-listed Olderfleet building—which include cathedral windows, timber, metal, and raw brick accents, rounded out with Collins Street views.

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The Carlton Wine Room (Carlton)

Snacky starters such as anchovy, fried bread, ricotta, and pickled cucumber are menu mainstays at this neighbourhood gem. Credit: Carlton Wine Room

The Carlton Wine Room became a go-to neighbourhood destination soon after it opened in 2011. Diners can’t get enough of the restaurant’s superb seasonal fare, crafted with produce from local farms. Menu favourites include fried bread topped with ricotta, anchovy, and pickled cucumber and larger dishes such as rigatoni with pumpkin and sage— thought to sample the best of what the restaurant has to offer, get the tasting menu. Don’t miss a selection from the wine list, which features about 100 bottles, including a daily staff pick. Ask the sommelier for a recommendation—this Carlton standby is known for its extremely attentive staff.

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City Wine Shop and The European (Melbourne CBD)

Whipped cod roe with caviar and blinis are a popular treat to enjoy on the sunny sidewalk at The City Wine Shop and the European. Credit: City Wine Shop and The European

With its sunny sidewalk seating and Parliament House views, The City Wine Shop is known for serious outdoor swagger. The Italian wine bar and bistro doubles as a bottle shop with European and local wines offered by the glass or bottle (there’s a corkage fee if you want to drink at the restaurant). Pair your wine with dishes such as a whipped cod roe, caviar, potato, and horseradish blini; steak tartare; or chicken schnitzel with Italian coleslaw. Whether you go for a quick pick-me-up lunch or a relaxed post-theatre dinner, The City Wine Shop is the kind of place you’ll want to stop by at all times of the day.
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Lagoon Dining (Carlton)

A la carte dish at Lagoon Dining restaurant, Melbourne
Chinese culinary traditions are on full display at Lagoon Dining. Credit: Lagoon Dining.

Head to Carlton’s Lagoon Dining for Chinese food that celebrates local ingredients. Owners (and Ezard alums) Chris Lerch, Ned Trumble, and Keat Lee serve a playful menu featuring hits such as crispy whitebait with salted duck egg yolk mayonnaise and beef short rib with Chinese celery and black pepper sauce. Though Lagoon Dining is a casual spot, it’s full of chic fixtures including Tasmanian oak tables and chairs, a black granite bar top, and brass light fittings. The easygoing but elegant retreat is a welcome addition to the largely Italian restaurant-centric Carlton.

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Hero at ACMI (Melbourne CBD)

The exteriors of Hero at ACMI. a restaurant located in The Australian Centre for the Moving Image in Melbourne
A multi-sensory experience awaits at Hero at ACMI, located in the Australian Centre for the Moving Image. Credit: Hero at ACMI

Acclaimed Melbourne chef Karen Martini leads this multi-sensory star, which fully embraces its Australian Centre for the Moving Image setting by showcasing bright and bold murals throughout the minimalist space. The Australian Mediterranean dishes are also showstoppers, like the potato focaccia; ravioli with porcini, burnt butter, and fresh truffle; and steak frites. Famed pastry chef Philippa Sibley designed the dessert selection, which includes artistic creations such as a vanilla panna cotta with lemon strega sauce and pine nut biscotti. In-the-know Melburnians stop by for the express lunch (starter, pasta, and a main) before visiting a museum exhibit.

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Omnia Bistro & Bar (South Yarra)

Omnia’s signature dry-aged honey-roasted duck for two. Credit: Omnia Bistro & Bar

For a swanky meal in a lush dining room, look no further than award-winning chef Stephen Nairn’s Omnia Bistro & Bar. Get up close with the chef as he works in the open kitchen preparing European-accented dishes such as smoked trout cigars, dry-aged honey-roasted duck for two, and broccoli and gruyère tart. Or post up in the spacious atrium, ideal for celebrating special occasions. The wine list is extensive with bottles from around the globe, and the Champagne selection is just as stellar. Or consider a cocktail such as the saffron negroni by award-winning bartender Orlando Marzo. On Wednesday nights, the well-loved restaurant becomes a venue for live jazz and other performances.

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Cecconi’s Flinders Lane (Melbourne CBD)

Classic Italian food and pitch-perfect cocktails make Cecconi’s Flinders Lane a Melbourne institution. Credit: Diego Ramirez, Cecconi’s Flinders Lane

Cecconi’s is a Melbourne staple and the kind of place you can count on for a killer business lunch or special occasion meal. If you opt for an indoor table, expect extra attentive service from the charming staff who guide you through the Venetian menu, filled with favourites such as seared scallops with lemon curd and veal cotoletta. For a more casual meal, grab a perch on the terrace, equally suited for an espresso and pastry. Bonus points for Cecconi’s private wine cellar, which is bookable for tastings.

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Donovans (St. Kilda)

Enjoy the stunning bay side views over St. Kilda at Donovans. Credit: Donovans

It doesn’t get much better than the view at Donovans, which overlooks Port Phillip Bay and the beach in St. Kilda. Fittingly, there’s plenty of Mediterranean seafood on this menu, including spanner crab ravioli with lemon butter sauce, and English mains such as beer-battered fish and chips and chicken pie with a crisp pastry lid. The wine list is all about Victorian vineyards, with a few overseas options. Start the evening with a cocktail on the dazzling outdoor terrace before moving indoors for dinner at this longstanding comfort food stalwart.  

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Vue de monde (Melbourne CBD)

The chocolate soufflé has been on the menu since Vue du Monde opened in 2000. Credit: Vue du Monde

Getting seated at Vue de monde on the 55th floor of Melbourne’s iconic Rialto skyscraper is an experience in itself. Diners walk through a 5,000-bottle wine cellar before entering the dining room, which has panoramic views of the Melbourne skyline. Executive chef Hugh Allen’s tasting menu prioritises native Australian ingredients in dishes such as wattleseed damper (Australian bush bread) charred tableside over a fire, and dried Yarra Valley tomatoes served with a smoked tea broth and nasturtium. The highlight of the meal is standing at the kitchen bench watching the chef finish off a kangaroo tartare snack in front of your eyes—then popping it in your mouth.

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Di Stasio Città (Melbourne CBD)

A spread of Italian dishes featuring pasta, duck breats and fritto misto, at Di Stasio Città, a restaurant in Melbourne
Di Stasio’s menu features classics such as frittura di mare, housemade pasta, and duck breast. Credit: Di Stasio Città

After a 30-year hiatus, celebrated restaurateur Rinaldo Di Stasio returned to the CBD in 2019 with Di Stasio Città. The upscale Italian restaurant is set in a brutalist space,  featuring video installations by Australian artists on the walls, a baby blue chandelier from northeastern Italy, and crisp white linen-covered tables. The menu stars classics such as frittura di mare, housemade pasta, and duck breast with fennel salad. Perch at the bar, order a negroni, and soak up the industrial-chic atmosphere before enjoying your meal.

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Lona Misa (South Yarra)

Lona Misa's interiors with sofa seating, frames on the walls and a big red graffiti
Sophisticated interiors designed by award-winning agency Luchetti Krelle fuel the Latin American-inspired vibes at Lona Misa. Credit: Lona Misa, Ovolo Group.

The highly anticipated Lona Misa, a collab between acclaimed vegan chef Shannon Martinez and hospitality superstar Ian Curley, caused a stir when it opened in 2021. Set in the luxury Ovolo hotel, the all-vegan restaurant (with vegetarian options) is the first of its kind in South Yarra and earned a hat from 2023’s Good Food Guide Awards. Get the seasonal tasting menu to sample inventive Latin American fare such as water chestnut ceviche with fermented chilli leche de tigre and moqueca, Brazilian mock seafood stew. Creative seasonal cocktails including the Picante, a spicy spin on a margarita, make up the drinks menu at this posh and progressive standard-setter.

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Catherine Fallon is a passionate food writer in Melbourne enjoying all the eats and drinks this wonderful city has to offer. Follow her on instagram @forkingoutagain.

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