Melbourne itinerary, looking for feedback
I’ve read a lot of the recommendations threads on here (and on the web) and I’d like some feedback on the itinerary I’ve come up with for my upcoming trip to Melbourne.
First night we’re (my wife and I) planning to head to Federation Square. I was thinking we can go to *Tjanabi* to get the early bird special (25% off before 7:00). I couldn’t find any reviews for this place on CH, but the menu sounds like fun. I suspect it’s a tourist trap, but maybe the emu or wallaby will be memorable. I’d definitely entertain an alternative.
For lunch the next day I have a reservation at *Flower Drum*. They have a set lunch menu that looks great, two entrées and two mains from the lunch menu for 60 AUD. Any recommendations on what to try?
For dinner that night we’ll be in Richmond so I was looking at Victoria St. I’m having trouble differentiating between the restaurants but I’ve read favorable reviews of *Tho Tho, Minh Minh, and Thy Thy*. We’ll probably just check the menus when we get there, but any help would be appreciated.
For lunch the next day we’ll be near Carlton Gardens. At first I was looking at Lygon St, but nearly everybody advises to avoid it. I read some great reviews of *Anada* and the menu looks great. Anything else work looking at?
For dinner we need to grab something somewhat quick on our way from the hotel to Etihad Stadium for an AFL match. One idea I had was *Camy Shanghai Dumpling*. Is there a traditional pre-game food that’s worth trying near the stadium?
I have to say I’m pretty excited to visit Melbourne. We’ll also be visiting Sydney on our trip, but I haven’t really researched it yet, so I’ll come back when I know more there. The only thing I feel we’re missing is Malaysian or Indonesian food. We can’t really get it here (Chicago) and we’d love to try some, but only if it’s done right.
Don't know much about Malaysian in Sydney but the Thai is meant to be generally of a good quality with Spice I Am being the stand out (there are two one in the 'CBD' and one in Darlinghurst (I think?).
If you want some great Malaysian in Melbourne then you cannot go past Laksa King (Shop 3, 320 Racecourse Rd Newmarket get the 57 tram from Elizabeth st, or the Craigieburn train from the city and get off at Newmarket station). Anyway the point is their Curry Laksa is a knockout - by far the best I've ever had outside Malaysia (although I've never been to Singapore) - and crucially approved of by my malaysian mother-in-law. The Nasi Lemak is also good, and the roti chennai is up to scratch (although much thicker than I ever recall it being in Malaysia's hawker markets). The satay is nicely spiced/marinated but let down by being apparently deep fried rather than that deliciously smoky-grilling that is traditional.
Satay Anika on 140 Lygon St Brunswick (the northern end - take the #1 or #8 tram from swanston st - get off at 'The Quarry Hotel') is another tasty Malay restaurant - the Beef Rendang is the standout dish, and is as it should be, dry, rich and tender, served with coconut rice. Although I've never encountered this dish in Malaysia the Green Peppercorn Chicken Curry is delicious (don't be deceived by its miserable and slightly sickly looks!). An excellent addition to this place is that you're a stones throw from some very good bars in 'The Alderman' (with resident dog!) 'Atticus Finch' and 'Mr Wilkinson'
If you don't feel like straying from the CBD then there is Little Malaysia (26 Liverpool St (off Lt bourke b/w Exhibition and Spring St's)) The Nasi Lemak is servicable, but beware the Laksa it comes with BBQ Pork, Broccoli and on occasion carrot floating around in it - the broth is tasty enough if you can get past the unorthodox contents - but I beg you try the Curry Laksa at Laksa King!!!!
If your Malay hankering occurs in the wee hours of the morning then Chillipadi (located Melbourne Central around the Elizabeth St/ Lt Lonsdale St corner) will meet your needs, operating I think until 4am-ish Friday and Sat nights and 3am-ish most other nights (although truth be told I've never tried to go that late).
First thanks to everyone for all the recommendations. We had a wonderful time in Melbourne and ate some great (and some not-so-great) food. Here's a writeup of the experience we had.
Our first night we went to Gigibaba in Collingwood. The menu was great with many authentic Turkish meze options I rarely see at Turkish restaurants. We initially ordered five meze and our server suggested that we were probably under-ordering. We figured we could always order more. We quickly realized why the waiter was surprised because the meze were tiny. I have been to many small plates restaurants and these were hands down the smallest “small plates” I’ve ever seen. The stewed beans was enough for maybe four bites (total, not each), and the blue-eyed cod was smaller than a deck of cards. I suppose these portion sizes wouldn’t have been so bad except that the prices were pretty steep, most dishes being 8$ and the meat ranging from 12-18$. That said the food was really good. The kofte was beautifully tender and grilled and the eggplant was perfectly smoked. Unfortunately the great tastes were over after two bites. Overall I’d say the food was some of the best Turkish restaurant food I’ve had outside of Turkey, but when you’re paying 50$ a person for food you expect to get up full, sit at a nice table not a cramped bar, and not have to waive down the waiter to get more bread (they only give you two tiny pieces each time).
The next day we at the Queen Victoria Market for lunch. The market was totally awesome! Our favorites were the Tasmanian oysters, the smoke provolone from one of the Italian cheese vendors, and the Thai chili roasted macadamia nuts. If we had a place like this in Chicago I’d visit all the time!
For dinner that night we needed a quick bite before catching a movie at the Melbourne International Film Festival so we stopped by Victoria St in Richmond to get some Vietnamese food. We walked up and down the block a couple times, but all the restaurants seemed to have the same menu. We were hoping to try some uniquely Vietnamese dishes but many of the restaurants appeared to offer typical Chinese fare with a couple Vietnamese options like pho or summer rolls. We decided on Mihn Mihn because their menu featured Laotian dishes that we’d never seen before. We ordered a couple dishes from the Laotian menu and a rice-stick stir-fry dish from the regular menu (over half the menu was stir-fries of different sorts). The Laotian items we had were quite good, similar to Thai but more tomato-y and less sweet. The stir-fry dish was terrible. The vegetables were soggy and obviously frozen and the dish was swimming in grease. We looked around the restaurant and saw that nearly everyone had ordered stir-fries that looked as unappetizing as the one in front of us. There are probably some great Vietnamese restaurants on Victoria St, but we looked for 30 minutes and all we could come up with was a restaurant that did good Laotian food and bad stir-fries.
The next day we had a lunch reservation at Movida for tapas. This was hands-down the best meal we ate in Melbourne and probably the best tapas I’ve ever had. Every dish was better than the last, though the highlight was definitely the Cecina. It’s described as “Air cured wagyu beef thinly sliced with a truffle foam and poached egg” and believe it or not it’s even better than it sounds. We spent as much at Movida as we did at Gigibaba but we ate easily twice as much. The service was pretty hit or miss especially when they brought out our last dish 30 minutes after we had finished eating everything else, but when the food is that good I can put up with just about anything (other than miniscule portions).
Unfortunately we finished our trip to Melbourne on a low note. We were in a hurry to get to Etihad Stadium to watch the AFL game so we stopped by Chinatown to eat at the immensely popular Camy’s Shanghai Dumplings. The line was down the street and the restaurant was filled with all sorts of people ranging from businessmen in suits to Asian families. We thought for sure we had found the dumpling restaurant of our dreams. We ordered the scallion pancakes, ten beef dumplings, and a Shanghai-style fish with noodles and a tea-egg. The pancakes were like cardboard, the dumplings tasted like the frozen ones we buy in the supermarket (though I’ve had better frozen dumplings), and the noodles were drowning in their cooking water (I don’t even want to describe how bad the fish was). We literally dipped the plain noodles (after shaking off the water) into soy sauce just so we didn’t get up from the meal starving. We were hungry when we got to the game so we bought a Chiko Roll and a 4&20 mince meat pie and they tasted incredible in contrast to the slop we were served at Camy’s. A lot of people seem to like Camy’s so maybe we just had a bad experience, but the noodles swimming in cooking water was memorably bad.
Know the thread is about Melbourne (where you will do some of the most phenomenal eating in Australia) - but if you are looking for some Sydney eating haunts, I've summarised my local favourites here:
From high end restaurants to dumpling joints this really summarises where Sydney locals eat. Imagine the Melbourne guides should also be pretty good.
I'd also recommend The Malaya down at the King Street Wharf if you are looking for good asian. Right near The Loft which is a terrific pit stop for an after dinner cocktail.
I just read about the Queen Victoria Market foodie tour. Any opinions?
Foodies Dream Tour
The Foodies' Tour is a gourmet tour of the three main produce sections of the Market: the Meat and Fish Hall, the Fruit and Vegetable aisles, and the Dairy Hall.
Discover the newest foods and trends in the company of a fully qualified Market Guide. Meet some of the specialist traders and pick up valuable hints in selecting produce while sampling the goods.
See the greatest variety of fresh, seasonal produce offered at the lowest prices. Enjoy two fun-filled hours of food in the exciting hustle and bustle of Melbourne's historic Queen Victoria Market.
When: Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays (excludes public holidays
)Time: 10.00 am - 12:00pm
Cost: $30 includes generous samplings, a coffee and an environmentally friendly shopping bag.
Meeting Point: 69 Victoria Street (nearest Corner Elizabeth Street)
It's good if you're happy to spend the money. I was going to say I thought it was expensive, but realised I spent the same money in Barcelona on a food tour and thought it was great value - so I won't. The guides are very good, very professional, they have a little headset thing and you walk round different shops in the market. You do get good samples at each of the places they stop - delis etc - and a coffee's worth three bucks
The Vic market is probably Australia's best food market and is worth a look. It is rather robust on Saturdays. You definitely need to book the tour though, even for weekdays.
Great. I've got a reservation for the foodie tour and for lunch at MoVida. I think we're gonna risk it at Gigibaba. The Press Room is very appealing, but I had to go with Turkish food (for obvious reasons, plus Chicago has great Greek food but not much in the way of Turkish food).
There's great pubs on Smith Street for a pre or post meal drink, I'm a bit out of date on the bottom end where gigibaba is but am a big fan of Lambsgo a bit further up. I also think it's the coolest name ever for a pub.
Still on the booze angle, just around the corner on Gertrude Street is Gertrude Street Enoteca - a great place for a great wine if you fancy sitting down and watching the world go by.
I'd advise against Tjanabi. Admittedly I've never dined there, but very few locals do, and it does seem to be entirely geared at the tourist market. For a better fine dining experience at Fed Square, you'd be better off going to Taxi - or further along the road to Movida or Press Club. Even the restaurants along the river like Rockpool, Bistro Guillaume or Giuseppe Arnaldo & Sons would be a much safer bet.
Anada is Gertrude St is great fun and very tasty. And in the same street you should also see if you can get a booking at Cutler & Co which is the hottest new restaurant in Melb right now. Ladro is also well worth a look. I'd definitely recommend Gertrude St over anything in Lygon St. The best new restaurant in Carlton is probably Embrasse in Drummond St.
In the city/Chinatown area, you might want to check out Gingerboy, Longrain, Becco and Seamstress.
Victoria St in Richmond is quite fun and buzzy, but fairly basic. If you were looking for more interesting and/or upmarket places in Richmond, then you should try Pearl (one of Melb's best).
Hope you have a great trip!
Thanks for all the tips!
You've convinced me to forego Flower Drum and Tjanabi. By skipping Tjanabi, we can get a nice dinner the first night we're in town (it will be a Wednesday night). I'm looking for something in the CBD or near Federation Square as mentioned above. I looked at all the recs and they all look pretty good (though I wish Movida had a website). Saying we had a budget of 60 AUD for food (alcohol excluded), what would you recommend? We're coming from Chicago where there are many upmarket restaurants, and we visit NY frequently, so we're looking for an experience we can't easily get at home. Does anything set any of those restaurants listed above apart? Are any of those restaurants famous or well known for anything? From what I read I'm leaning towards Pure South (localvore restaurant specializing in Tasmanian food) or Maha (sofra style middle eastern restaurant, sounds great!).
What's the best restaurant for dim sum (or is it called yum cha)? Or would we be better off getting dim sum in Sydney?
I couldn't find a menu for Cutler and Co. What kind of food is it? Would it be good for lunch? Or is there a place in the CBD that's great for lunch? Maha I saw offers lunch sofras, so that's an option.
I've got to say that if I were to go anywhere, it would be Gigibaba in Collingwood. It's a Turkish restaurant that charges 55 AUD a head for the banquet, and you could probably forego lunch that day, too. The only issue is that it doesn't take bookings, so I would head there early-ish (6.30 or so) and you'll get sent across the road for a beer or two (the name of the bar escapes me, but they have craft beer on tap). Other than MoVida, it's the best meal I've had in the past year. Also look at MoVida, Press Club or Vue de Monde - amazing Spanish, mod Greek and molecular places respectively.
I live in Canberra now, and it's a relative culinary wasteland. I think you're doing a great job with all this research, because you should really be able to eat a high class meal every night. A couple more observations - shame you're going to a match at Etihad Stadium, it lacks soul compared to the MCG. And I would say check out www.melbournegastronome.com - Claire is a lovely writer and passionate foodie, and has been to pretty much every Melbourne restaurant that matters. Good eating!
A great lunch option in Melb is Cumulus Inc, run by the same people as Cutler & Co, but it's in the city's funkiest street Finders Lane and is open all day. Another great lunch option would be Journal Canteen, also in Flinders Lane, or Bistro Vue which is in Little Collins St. Or for a uniquely Melbourne lunch/dinner, check out Von Haus in Crossley Lane.
I'd advise against Pure South, since the Southbank precinct isn't really the nicest part of Melbourne. It's a little bit touristy. For a unique restaurant in the city/Fed Square area, I think you'd be far better off going to any of:
* The Press Club
Maha is very good too, but the new MoMo offers that same style of Moroccan/African food with much more flair and finesse. It just received a very good review in The Age newspaper. The Movida website is here:
As a general rule, I reckon dim sum/yum cha is better in Sydney - check out Golden Century, Marigold Citymark or Zilver for the best ones in Sydney's Chinatown.
I suggested Pure South as OP was after something with Australian produce. Maha is more Maltese rather than Middle Eastern (I've had the lecture from Maltese friends), and it is less than half the price of the stunningly expensive MoMo (and don't even get me on their wine list pricing). But again, we're splitting hairs - all are good choices.
Personal call - I'd go for Press Club.
Good start to your planning. Welcome to Melbourne (in advance).
Anada is a tapas bar in the newish food hotspot of Gertrude Street, good pedigree, good prices but at the end of the day it is a tapas bar. 14.5/20 in the Age. But there is nothing else in the area other than food/drink - don't expect to go for an interesting stroll after dinner. If you want tapas, Movida is very, very good and is in the CBD. I think you wanted something near Carlton Gardens - I'd do either something on Gertrude Street or do DOC off Lygon Street. (Gertrude is closer though - depends how much time you're killing)
Victoria Street - changes almost daily. Walk along and decide. Pacific Seafood is a notch up in quality and price if you want fish.
Docklands Stadium is in a desert - eat in the city and take the tram. The traditional pre/in game food is a nasty pie that is so hot you spill it down your front
Never done tjanabi, though I think I may have visited its predecessor. As you say, might be fun - note the prices are at the upper end of Melbourne prices though as you say 25% is a good deal. An alternative thought would be Pure South in Southbank - showcases Tasmanian products.
I have to say that I think you're list is missing the essence of Melbourne food. Are you up for (time and budget) a big hit Melbourne mod Oz restaurant?
On a more negative note, I would strongly avoid Flower Drum. It is well past its prime and the lunch is not particularly good. I would spend the money (which isn't cheap) elsewhere.
Camy is excellent and extremely fast, and astonishingly cheap. Lots of clones as well in the area.
Save your Malaysia desires for Sydney.
I should add I don't know (a) what price you're after and (b) whether wine is an important part of your dining desires. Maybe post back?
Thanks for the response. I appreciate any feedback we can get.
Price isn't really a concern (we are traveling quite a ways after all), but we do have plans two out of three nights that preclude us from a long dinner. We have reservations to Quay and Tetsuya's in Sydney, so I think we'll get our fine dining fix there. Still if you think Melbourne's fine dining is distinctive enough, we could do something our first night.
Pure South sounds like a great rec! I'll run it by the wife. It is more expensive than Tjanabi, but it seems higher quality.
Also, thanks for the tip on doing Malaysian in Sydney, I'll look into it.
Wine is not a consideration. I'm a craft beer guy (I'll definitely be sampling the best Australia has to offer) and my wife doesn't drink.
We can definitely pass on Flower Drum for lunch. Perhaps we can replace that with a good dim sum spot? Really anything in the CBD would work for us if there's a really great place.
We don't have to eat near Carlton Gardens, I just thought it would be convenient. Is there a good place for lunch in Prahran perhaps?
What about the essence of Melbourne do you think I'm missing?
Tetsuya and Quay are two of Australias iconic experiences. Good choice. Melbourne probably has the edge in Mediterranean - I'd recommend something in that crossover like Press Club, Mahi, MoMo or Movida. (I haven't put Italian etc in - assume you are across all that in your home)
Loads of chinese in chinatown, plus Red Emperor at Southbank has good dim sum and nice view. Price usually correlates with quality around there! If you fancy something different, there is a cracking sichuan, Dainty Sichuan on Corrs Lane.
Prahran: interesting russian place (vodka, borscht and tears) worth a look
I'd probably highlight PhilD's comment on Paris in the context of places like Lygon Street: part of the Melbourne experience is these ethnic areas regardless of the food. It's a nice place to walk around and take in the vibe and have an OK meal with great atmosphere. Borsari and DOC are the two standouts in Carlton.
To get the real Lygon Street vibe find a copy of the first series of "Underbelly" a great Australian gangster series in the same vein as the Sopranos. The one difference is that Underbelly documents a true story....!
Lots of really great recommendations from Gimlet and Sid for food, one tip, book ahead. Melbourne is a real foodie city, if it is good it will book out early. If you can walk off the street be wary.