Published on 13 October 2021
Four years on from taking out MasterChef’s top prize, Diana Chan has become a household name. She writes about food for SBS, Delicious and the 100,000 people who follow her on Instagram, has run restaurant pop-ups for Sydney’s Night Noodle Market and released her own line of dumplings that you can find on supermarket shelves. Chan now hosts her own program on SBS Food, Asia Unplated with Diana Chan, which has just completed its second season.
I know I’m in Melbourne whenI get a great cup of coffee. There’s something so special about our cafés here. Between our amazing roasters, producers and baristas, we do it so well.
My defining food moment in Melbourne was freshly shucked oysters at the family-run Aptus Seafoods in the South Melbourne Market when I was 11 years old. Aptus really stood out to me among all the produce, freshly baked goods and wafts of brewing coffee. I remember it vividly: we ordered a dozen oysters for everyone in the family. Back then, they were under a dollar each. It was when I tasted those amazingly fresh oysters that I knew how good Australian produce could be.
The best new thing I’ve found is caviar at cost price from Mise en Place Gourmet Food. It’s an expensive habit but, rumour has it, it makes you look younger.
When I want to go crazy on a meal, I visit my favourite restaurants. Flower Drum for the mudcrab noodles, abalone with mung-bean crystal noodles or the perfectly cooked pearl meat with spring onions, and Amaru where I let Clinton McIver do his best work.
There’s no better value in Melbourne than Pacific Seafood BBQ House in South Yarra. It immediately transports me to Hong Kong. The soup they serve at the start of every meal (which is complimentary, I should add) reminds me so much of the bone broth my mum would serve with dinner. Don’t get me started on the mixed roast meats. Their siew yok and siew ngap, oh boy.
When I’m cooking at home, I stock up atLeaf in Elwood. They have the best organic produce. I still visit Aptus for fresh seafood. Gary’s at Prahran Market is where I go for meat, and Maker & Monger is a non-negotiable when it comes to cheese. Bonus: you can get the world’s best toastie while you’re there.
And when I want to dazzle friends from out of town, I like totake them on a food tour around the markets then bring them back to mine to whip up a storm. Perhaps a pitstop at Gimlet for a few Martinis and anchovy toasts along the way too.
The most underrated thing in town isactually weekends away in the country. Regional Victoria has incredible restaurants, vineyards and independent makers waiting to be discovered. I recently had the best wine experience in Australia, hands down, at the Grampians’ Royal Mail Hotel.
The last awesome Victorian thing I drank was Monceau Pet Nat Kombucha. That stuff is good. When I want something refreshing that’s not a cocktail or a wine, Monceau it is.
If I could change one thing about eating and drinking here it would be having more street food available. That also means better infrastructure for outdoor dining, given the unpredictable weather.
But the one thing I hope never changes in Melbourne is the vibe you get from dining out. It is such a competitive market, but it’s good competition and it’s given us such a variety of menus. I am constantly wowed when I dine out. There aren't many cities in the world that have what we have.
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