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Apr 9, 2012 02:33 PM

Moderately priced restaurant recommendations in Melbourne CBD

Hi. I'm from the U.S. and will be visiting Melbourne for five nights in late July with my girlfriend, who is in graduate school in Sydney. We'll be staying in the CBD and would love some not-too-expensive restaurant recommendations, preferably within walking distance. I really appreciate restaurant programs that include "farm to table", in-house charcuterie, offal, and just good, straight-forward food--that kind of restaurant, if that makes sense (not interested in Vue de Monde and the like, not that we could afford it). We already plan on going to Cumulus Inc. for dinner on one night. How is La Luna Bistro? The menu looks good and I like the in-house aging and charcuterie. I'm a little off-put by the chef's status as television star, though. Same with Josie Bones. I'm a bit of a Europhile too, so things along that line would be nice. How is City Wine Shop?

Would also love some breakfast/lunch recommendations along the same lines. The Hardware Societe looks good, for instance.

Places for craft beers?

Lastly, I'm a barista by trade, so great coffee is a must. Recommendations there?

Sorry for the meandering post, but I'm very excited to experience all the great things that Melbourne has to offer. (Which seems like a lot!)

Thanks in advance!

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  1. Your shortlist is good, and they would all fit what you're looking for. La Luna is great, don't worry about the TV connection. It's also BYO if you want to splash out at nearby Rathdowne Cellars.

    A note on coffee in Melbourne in response to some previous criticism on this board of regular recommendations. Coffee places in Melbourne, especially in the CBD, sell coffee. They are not designed as places to have a leisurely breakfast, long conversations with staff or sit around for an hour chatting over a skinny decaf chai latte. Food, and most aspects of service, is incidental to their business. You need to accept this as a basis for your enjoyment of Melbourne coffee.

    So that said, your Melbourne shortlist of coffee should probably start with League of Honest Coffee (part of Padre) and Brother Baba Budan (part of Seven Seeds) for roaster-owned establishments. Then add on countless others depending on your preference in style. Many locals will recommend Pellegrini, avoid their coffee like the plague as they haven't changed since 1960. You might enjoy some pasta, cake and granita there though, just not the coffee.

    If you can travel a bit further out of the CBD on a coffee pilgrimage, Auction Rooms in North Melbourne, Three Bags Full in Abbotsford and Proud Mary just off Smith Street come into play. You also have the Seven Seeds original on the edge of the CBD near the Uni, and Padre in both South Melbourne and East Brunswick. These places will have a bit more time to chat with you outside rush hours if you want to learn more about the Melbourne coffee scene, whilst the CBD ones are busy most of the time.

    With Europhile leanings, you might also enjoy Boire on Smith Street (French) and Anada on Gertrude Street (Andalucian). Both are quite well priced.

    I think there was a recent thread on craft beer, the place in Fed Square was recommended to me, and Mrs Parmas has a formidable selection. It's getting more common in many pubs though, and small breweries like Three Ravens regularly appear around town.

    2 Replies
    1. re: mr_gimlet

      This is precisely the type of advice I was seeking. Thank you very much.

      1. re: je6789

        For breakfast I'd head to Twenty & Six in North Melbourne. It has only been open a few months and for me it's the number one breakfast in Melbourne and I think some of the best coffee.

        I really love the City Wine Shop. It's more about drinking wine than the food. It is lovely to grab a bottle of something interesting and have a few simple snacks. I like to take out of towners there.

        I also second Mr. G's recommendations of Boire and Anada.

    2. Here's a review of Josie Bones that I recently posted. It ticks off your charcuterie, offal, and craft beer items. Not sure if it qualifies as moderately priced, but you can have a look at the menu online to decide. I think our total bill for 2 people with 6 dishes and 7 beers was about $150.

      Also, I wanted to add that I was really impressed with the Prahan Markets (easy tram ride from the CBD). It beats the pants off of any of Sydney's markets, for both farm fresh/heritage produce and gourmet deli items. It would make a great place to visit for lunch, or pick up a range of charcuterie, cheese, pies, and wine for a picnic in the Botanic Gardens.

      2 Replies
      1. re: gemuse

        @gemuse, more impressed by Prahran than the Queen Vic Market? I live north of the river, so Preston is my local market and I don't know the southern ones much.

        1. re: mr_gimlet

          mr_gimlet, we did not make it over to Queen Vic Market, so I'm in no position to compare the two. All I can say is that I wish Prahran Market was in Sydney.

      2. Beer de Luxe (Fed Sq) & Cookie both top places in CBD for craft beer. If you go St Kilda way, the Local Taphouse should not be missed. It is in East St Kilda on a street with many great little foodie options

        1 Reply
        1. re: Brewers_Wife

          @brewers_wife knows her stuff! I've also heard good things about the food at Temple Brewery and also love The Royston Hotel which is a pub specialising in craft ale and micro brews. Tuesday nights is meet the brewer night. You can try @brewers_wife's beer there too.

          My passion is the farmgate-to-plate dining, and here's my pick of venues, in no particular order:
          The Wayside
          Rose Diner Bar
          The Vine
          Pei Modern
          Pope Joan
          Next Door Diner
          Gorski & Jones
          The Albert Park Hotel