I spent the Christmas period in Ireland not Australia (more on that coming up), but I am a little bit homesick at this time of year for Christmas Australian style with sunshine, beaches and seafood. So I thought I would let you know my top ten restaurants in my hometown of Melbourne just in case anyone has plans to visit this winter (for Australian summer). These are my favourite restaurants, they are not necessarily the flashest or most popular restaurants in Melbourne but they were the ones I returned to time and time again, or they are the ones where I can still remember my meal, bite for bite, because it was so delicious. I have tried to include a mix of restaurants from high end to burger joints.
1. Syracuse. A beautiful old building in the heart of Melbourne’s CBD houses this restaurant. To me, Syracuse epitomises Melbourne restaurants with its understated elegance and European style. Eat off the tapas menu and try some of amazing wines from their voluminous wine list. Details: 23 Bank Place, CBD (Ph 03 9670 1777), Reasonable.
2. Cicciolina. You can’t book at this bustling Italian restaurant. Just find your way to the bar at the back of the restaurant just off Acland street and have a few glasses of red wine while you wait for a table. It is worth the wait as the pasta is delicious and the desserts appropriately decadent. Details: 130 Acland Street, St Kilda (Ph 03 9525 3333), Reasonable.
3. Vue de Monde. Every detail at Vue de Monde is perfectly executed from the gleaming specialty silverware to the exquisitely presented food. The whole experience of eating at Vue de Monde is great theatre from the attentive service to the open kitchen. Order the degustation menu and put yourself in the hands of a true master as chef Shannon Bennett plays homage to classical French cuisine. This is by far the most expensive restaurant in Melbourne but also the best. Details: Normandy Chambers, 430 Little Collins Street, CBD (Ph 03 9691 3888), Budget breaking.
4. Minh Minh. Victoria street in Melbourne is famous for its cheap but excellent Vietnamese restaurants and Minh Minh is the pick of the bunch. Order a feast of spring rolls, beef salad and Mongolian duck and take advantage of Minh Minh’s BYO policy for a fun but budget night out. Details: 94 Victoria street, Richmond (Ph 03 9427 7891), Such a bargain even my mother would approve.
5. Hellenic Republic. The more casual sister restaurant to George Calombrais’ The Press Club, Hellenic Republic is a modern take on the traditional Greek banquet style dining restaurant. Fantastic for big groups you will eat until you can eat no more in the casual but funky restaurant. The saganaki is seriously to die for.
Details: 434 Lygon street, Brunswick (Ph 03 9381 1222), Pricey
6. Pelican. This is my favourite breakfast place in Melbourne, however it is equally good for a tapas style menu at nighttime. Located just off the St Kilda esplanade The Pelican is great for people watching with it’s outdoor tables and architectural seating. Ask for some of the excellent coffee, freshly squeezed juice and the BLT sandwich. Details: 16 Fitzroy Street, St Kilda (ph 03 9525 5847), Reasonable.
7. Jungle Juice. Tucked away off Hardware lane in Melbourne’s CBD Jungle Juice has to be one of the tiniest cafes I have ever been in. Nevertheless, the fresh juices, bagels and club sandwiches are delectable. Try and save room for one of the freshly baked muffins topped with wagon wheels. Only open for breakfast and lunch on weekdays. Details: 20 Centre Place, CBD (Ph 03 9639 8779), Reasonable.
8. Danny’s Takeaway. There is ongoing debate in Melbourne as to whether Andrew’s Burgers or the burgers at Danny’s Takeaway are the best burgers in town. These are the weighty issues that are discussed in a city obsessed with food and sport. My money is on Danny’s in Fitzroy. Balls of freshly ground beef are squashed down on a sizzling grill to create truly amazing burgers. Best of all Danny’s is open until late at night so you can swing past in a taxi when you are on your way home from a night out and the late night munchies hit. Details: 358-360 St George’s Road, North Fitzroy (Ph 03 9481 5847), Such a bargain even my mother would approve.
9. Movida Aqui . My favourite of the Movida outposts is Movida Aqui thanks to its brilliant terrace, vamped up tapas menu and relative ease of getting a table compared to the original Movida. Details: Level 1, 500 Bourke Street, Melbourne CBD (Ph 03 9663 3038), Pricey.
10. Yu.u. A hidden gem of the Melbourne restaurant scene Yu.u serves brilliantly executed Japanese food. Located in a basement restaurant through an unmarked doorway once you find Yu.u you are in for a treat. The set lunch menu is brilliant value, for $15 you get cold soba buckwheat noodles, pickled vegetables, miso, fruit, tea and the dish of the day which could be grilled yakitori chicken or tender beef curry on rice. Bookings for lunch are essential. Details: 137 Flinders Lane, CBD (Ph 03 9639 7073), Reasonable.