Published on June 12 2019.
I know I’m in Melbourne when I can’t walk down the street without seeing someone I know.
My first defining food moment in Melbourne was a “special treat” meal at Flower Drum with my parents when I was in high school. It felt so fancy and exclusive. I distinctly remember being amazed that the tables were really far apart and that the wait staff could be so attentive. Of course, we ordered the Peking duck. I can never pass up roast duck in a Chinese restaurant.
The best new thing I’ve found is bread by Baker Bleu. Whoa. Who knew bread could taste this good? I love the simple white country loaf. It’s the perfect balance of crunchy and chewy.
When I want to push the boat out on a meal, I start with oysters.
There’s no better value in Melbourne than the $10 sandwiches at Burnside cafe in Fitzroy. This is my go-to for weekday lunches. Their chicken sandwiches are legendary on the north side, though I’m quite partial to the Epic Salad Sandwich.
And when I want to dazzle friends from out of town, I like to book dinner at Cutler & Co. It feels like dining in New York or London. The interiors were updated last year by IF Architecture, adding the beautiful marble bar area and open kitchen, and the luxe touches in the dining room: leather chairs, green granite and beautiful lighting from famed New York design studio Apparatus.
The dining rooms that exemplify the Melbourne hospitality aesthetic to me are Pellegrini's, Tiamo in Carlton, and The European. These beautiful old restaurants brought a different casual dining scene to Melbourne so many years ago. I would say there is no shortage of new, fancy restaurant fit-outs, but these places have stood the test of time, and really feel like Melbourne to me.
In the mornings you’ll find me riding my bike to work through the back streets of Fitzroy.
My local is The Builders Arms in Fitzroy because it’s relaxed, close to home, kid-friendly and the menu is familiar and comforting. I like to order the chicken and tarragon pie, which is often on the specials menu.
If I could change one thing about eating and drinking here it would be takeaway food culture and excess food and drink packaging. We can do better.
But the one thing I hope never changes in Melbourne is Tiamo restaurant in Lygon Street, Carlton. I love the character of the place and the village feel in this part of Carlton, with Readings bookstore just a few doors down and people queueing for gelato. At Tiamo, I always order the maccheroni della zia (meatballs and eggplant). You can’t beat it.