There are a number of Mexican ‘comedors’ across Melbourne, from Lonsdale Street’s Touché Hombre to Fonda’s five restaurants. The standard of ‘taqueria’ is still set by Mamasita though, where pendant lights hang over high wooden tables and beats thump like you’re in a club. You perch on stalls and sit remarkably close to fellow diners, but that’s the fun; food isn’t fancy but served sharing style, with simple flavour combinations. People have queued onto Collins Street since the restaurant opened in 2010 for the chance to tuck into favorites such as juicy street-style corn dusted with cheese, chipotle mayo and lime or braised goat tostadas. Even if they just squeeze you in at the bar, it’s worth it for achiote-marinated pork tacos washed down with one of the 91 tequilas.
Mamasita, 1/11 Collins St, Melbourne, VIC, Australia, +61 3 9650 3821
Eau de Vie
Eau de Vie is a stylish speakeasy, a place where you’ll get the city’s smoothest Tom Collins. The real trick is finding the place to begin with; the aura surrounding Eau de Vie is all the more enhanced because it is almost off the map, set behind an unassuming exterior on Malthouse Lane. Behind the dark wood door (no sign mentioning Eau de Vie, of course) you can recline into plush leather seats or sit on stools at the buzzing bar, the latter a sure-fire way to get talking to deft mixologists, who might tweak the cocktails to your taste. Like any watering hole worth its salt, there’s an extensive bar menu, from cheese to charcuterie.
Eau de Vie, 1 Malthouse Ln, Melbourne, VIC, Australia, +61 412 825 441
Trying to get a table on the weekend at this Richmond hot spot can see you queue for the better part of an hour. Stay patient, as Top Paddock is owned by a team with serious foodie pedigree (variously from dining spots Two Birds One Stone and Three Bags Full). Interiors are simple, hues of timber contrasting with white tiles. Natural light comes in through floor-to-ceiling windows, plus there’s a large outdoor area to eat in. An organic menu features brunch options that burst with flavor, from coconut chia pudding dressed with tropical fruit and rose petals to the hangover favourite of chorizo, pickled onions, bacon, green tomatoes and poached eggs served on toast.
Top Paddock, 658 Church St, Richmond, VIC, Australia, +61 3 9429 4332
This Flinders Lane institution, a high-ceilinged Asian dining hall, is a foot-tapping nightmare for the restless (and hungry). Once you’re in though, Chin Chin is loud, cheeky and in your face. Dishes are notoriously hard to pick from a big menu, and once you’ve found your favourite, you’ll struggle to mix it up next time (the ‘Feed Me’ option is great for an adventure into the unknown, with dishes picked by the chef). Caramelised sticky pork, crispy across the outside but rich and tender inside, is one of the signatures, served with a sour herb salad and chilli vinegar. For something high voltage, try your luck on the jungle curry’s blistering heat.
Chin Chin, 125 Flinders Ln, Melbourne, VIC, Australia, +61 3 8663 2000
Even if you’ve never been, chances are you’ve heard of Lune, a pastry shop-turned patisserie phenomenon and home of the cruffin, seductive, flaky pastry baked with dough in the middle. It’s the Melbourne equivalent of New York’s cronut, and Lune Croissanterie’s Kate Reid was the creator. Now moved to new digs in Fitzroy, there’s a slightly simpler ticketing system but such is the demand that without dedication, you run the risk of Lune simply selling out. And missing out on a lemon meringue cruffin is just going to ruin your day.
Lune Croissanterie, 119 Rose St, Fitzroy, VIC, Australia, +61 3 9419 2320
Naked in the Sky
Pintxos palace Naked for Satan, Brunswick Street’s Basque Country bar, has something special on top. Naked in the Sky is a rooftop bar with one of the best views of Melbourne; the outside snakes around the building, with a vista of Fitzroy street art and rooftops stretching to the CBD’s sleek towers. Enjoy house-infused vodka on the timber terrace, where you can lean on exposed brickwork or sit on brightly coloured metal seats. Crowds are lively and the vibe is welcoming. Once you’ve knocked back a few cold beers or glasses of bubbly you can fill up on delicious Basque bites.
Naked in the Sky, 285 Brunswick St, Fitzroy, VIC, Australia, +61 3 9416 2238
You don’t have to work hard to find a burger joint in Melbourne. So why wait out the door on Footscray’s Droop Street for something ground and round? Because 8bit epitomises the ‘trendy fast food’ movement and is unflinchingly cool in delivery: a stripped room (scuffed paint, peeling walls, exposed bricks) that’s fitted out with the bare minimum, and hand-pressed meat slapped between brioche buns. Skewing the 50’s diner feel, 8bit is an ode to 1980’s video games, with its pixel-like wall tiles and Space Invaders-esque logo. A relatively short menu doesn’t mean limited, as you’re welcome to create a ‘franken-burger’ by adding extras (think double patties, chicken, jalapeños, and more). Top it off with retro thick shakes, including weekly chocolate bar specials.
8bit, 8 Droop St, Footscray, VIC, Australia, +61 3 9687 8838
If there was ever somewhere worth getting out of bed for and heading west, it’s the Cobb Lane café-meets-bakery. Sat on charming Anderson Street in Yarraville, it’s small (seating just over 15); you could easily wait 30 minutes even on sleepy Sunday mornings. A kitchen open to the room and baristas furiously working the coffee machine is only the tip of the iceberg. Behind the scenes, English sweet tooth sommelier Matt Forbes churns out artisanal treats, from rustic multigrain sourdough to Lamington macrons. He knows his stuff, having trained under Michelin chefs Michel Roux and Raymond Blanc in the UK, and his home country runs through the menu: Welsh rarebit, Scotch eggs, and black pudding. Ultimately, it’s the sweeter options that make Cobb Lane a destination. Don’t miss the revered doughnuts. Salted caramel or matcha and black sesame for your filling?
Cobb Lane, 13 Anderson St, Yarraville, VIC, Australia, +61 3 9687 1538
Award-winning gelato is perfect in Victoria’s oft-sweltering weather. No wonder Gelato Messina has pulled in the crowds since opening two years ago, mixing delicious ice cream inside a bright, hip hangout spot. An import from Sydney, there are now three across Melbourne; you’ll know you’re nearby when you see people, cone in hand, getting stuck in to vividly colored iced treats. Flavors hit the deepest sweet spots imaginable, and there’s also a fine range of sharper fruit (pear and rhubarb, yoghurt and berry) and sorbets to counterbalance. Create your own combinations; Italian nougat next to tiramisu is a divine match. Or dig into their inventive specials (at the time of writing, a recipe of shortcrust gelato with marshmallows, raspberry purée and chocolate chips named the ‘Wagon Wheel’).
Gelato Messina, 171 Chapel St, Windsor, VIC, Australia, +61 3 9533 7110
Belle’s Hot Chicken
Country, barbeque and fried chicken scream Nashville, and Belle’s Hot Chicken is a great place for all three. It’s no surprise: Music City is where chef and co-owner Morgan McGlone was working before heading home to open this chic chook shop on Gertrude Street. The concept may be basic but tastes are not: coatings give a satisfying crunch to each mouthful, and you choose your level of spice (bravado aside, hot is certainly hot). Better than any fast-food alternative, Belle’s now has a second outlet in Richmond too. Think of it as a not-so-guilty pleasure, and line up for an iconic red basket of chicken accompanied by a side of crinkle cut fries.
Belle’s Hot Chicken, 150 Gertrude St, Fitzroy, VIC, Australia, +61 3 9077 0788