I hate to even think about the amount of money that I spend on food. It’s a miracle I managed to buy a home with all the smashed avocado I’ve consumed at cafes along the way. But eating out doesn’t have to be expensive and some of my favourite places to eat at in Melbourne are absolute bargains. So here’s my list of my top five eats when you are looking for something cheap but still delicious.
You can eat everywhere in this list for less than $15 and you certainly won’t be sacrificing anything in terms of taste. It’s all about knowing where to go.
1. Shakshuka at Tahina, Northcote
Shakshuka is a specialty here and you can order this baked egg dish in the traditional “red” with a tomato based sauce, “green” broccoli sauce or “white” mushroom and fennel sauce. I kept things simple and went with the classic – still wobbly eggs with a thick, rich sauce. The shakshukas come with a serve of crunchy salad, pickled cabbage and pillowy pita bread with hommus.
Read my full review of Tahina here.
Details: Tahina, 223 High street, Northcote (Ph 03 9972 1749)
2. Rotisserie Roll of the Day at Pickett’s Deli & Rotisserie, North Melbourne
The Estelle is one of Melbourne’s best restaurants and Scott Pickett one of Melbourne’s best chefs but now you can get Scott’s cooking at a bargain price thanks to the opening of Pickett’s Deli at the Queen Victoria market. It’s all about the gleaming rotisserie here and there’s always roast chicken along with a daily special. On my visit it was roasted porchetta teamed with spicy chimichurri in a crunchy bread roll for $10.
Details: Pickett’s Deli & Rotisserie, Queen Victoria Market, Corner of Therry and Elizabeth Streets, North Melbourne.
3. Thali at Dehli Streets, City
I developed a thali addiction travelling in India and one of the cheapest and best places to get my fix is at Dehli Streets. What’s on offer changes on a daily basis but you can be sure the curries are spicy, the rice fluffy and the naan bread pillowy soft. I also love Delhi Streets take on that moreish Indian snack food the Paan Puri – bite into the crunchy exterior and they explode in your mouth. So good.
Details: Delhi Streets, 22 Katherine Place, Melbourne (Ph 9629 2620)
Damage: Veg thali is $11.
4. Dumplings at Shan Dong Ma Ma
Who doesn’t love a dumpling? My favourite cheap dumpling place is the excellent Shan Dong Ma Ma. I love everything about it from its location in a dodgy little China town indoor shopping strip to its Melbourne dumplings which are inspired by the multicultural nature of Melbourne. What this actually means is the dumplings include a mix of Eastern and western flavours with prawn, calamari and chicken mince, lemon rind, olive oil and garlic all making up the dumpling mix. It might sound like flavour overload but it works and the dumpling wrapper is a great consistency.
Read more: Where to find the best dumplings in Melbourne.
Details: ShanDong MaMa, Shop 7, Mid City Arcade, 200 Bourke street, Melbourne (Ph 03 9650 3818) Open: Mon – Sat 12:00 pm – 9:00 pm
Damage: $14.80 for 12 dumplings.
5. Tsuke Don Salmon at Purple Peanuts
To round out my list of cheap eats is an oldie but a goodie. Purple Peanuts is my regular go-to lunch spot and I am seriously missing it while on maternity leave. Japanese is generally an expensive cuisine but the team at Purple Peanuts deliver excellent Japanese food on a budget. My favourite dish is the Tsuke Don Salmon ($11.90) – it’s got a palette to rival Maybelline with a riot of colours on the plate thanks to the salmon sashimi that’s dressed with sake vinegar with cubes of cucumber and yellow Japanese prickles adding crunch. It’s super fresh and vibrant.