What to Eat in Melbourne

From bright breakfast feasts to fresh Australian seafood, head to the land down under and sample the flavors of this coastal capital city.

By: Rachel Tepper Paley

Photo By: Rachel Tepper Paley

Photo By: Rachel Tepper Paley

Photo By: Rachel Tepper Paley

Photo By: Rachel Tepper Paley

Photo By: Rachel Tepper Paley

Photo By: Rachel Tepper Paley

Photo By: Rachel Tepper Paley

Photo By: Rachel Tepper Paley

Photo By: Rachel Tepper Paley

Photo By: Rachel Tepper Paley

Photo By: Rachel Tepper Paley

Day 1

After two blisteringly hot months in Asia, chilly Australia is a welcome breath of fresh air. It’s winter here, which means that I’m wearing almost everything I own to keep warm, but I’m nonetheless excited to scope out the city’s restaurants and sights. For lunch, I don’t stray far from my Airbnb apartment in Fitzroy, Melbourne’s beautiful, graffiti-scrawled hipster enclave. I settle into a window-side seat at the chic cafe Hammer & Tong and order an elegant plate of local greens, wafer-thin toasts, cherry tomatoes, caramelized figs, honeyed baked ricotta, and a drizzle of thick, sweet balsamic syrup. It’s so vibrant and fresh, and I know immediately that I’m going to like Melbourne.

Day 1

Before heading out, I grab the prettiest latte I’ve seen in months. It pairs perfectly with my scarf, I think!

Day 1

Dinner is at the Greek joint Jimmy Grants, the brainchild of MasterChef Australia judge George Calombaris. When I visit, it’s practically overflowing with hungry souvlaki-seeking souls and I scramble to snag one of its mere 36 seats. I’m mercifully successful and order the slow-roasted lamb shoulder, which is so tender and fatty that it practically melts on the tongue. Just for good measure, I throw a steaming pile of freshly-fried chips — that’s Australian for French fries — into the mix.

Day 2

I spend the day wandering amidst the food and knick-knack stalls at Queen Victoria Market, which has been around in some form since the mid-19th century. At around 17 acres, it’s the largest open-air market in the Southern hemisphere. I grab a bite at The Mussel Pot, which operates out of an adorable trailer kitchen behind the market. The green-lipped mussels are fresh from nearby Portarlington, which sits just across Port Phillip Bay. These juicy bivalves are much larger than any variety I’ve encountered in the States and have a gorgeous, bright orange hue. They’re bursting with briny juice and lemon, a.k.a perfect.

Day 2

No one is more surprised than me to learn that Melbourne is home to some excellent Mexican food. Who knew? Fitzroy’s Los Amates Mexican Kitchen might be the best of the bunch, with its crunchy Baja-style fish tacos zinged up with fresh lime and chipotle-spiked mayo. I wash them down with a couple house-made margaritas, which are a perfect balance of sweet and tart. Salt rim included, of course.

Day 3

Today is all about sightseeing downtown, which means that a hearty breakfast is required to get me going. Down the street from my apartment, Breakfast Thieves offers up an incredible “Gypsy King” plate, which marries bloody slivers of morcilla sausage and tender rosemary-spiked polenta bars with oozy poached eggs, caramelized onion jam, Parmesan-swirled cauliflower puree, yuzu avocado dollops, and pickled radish. There’s certainly a lot going on in this dish, but it all comes together beautifully, like a carefully orchestrated composition.

Day 4

There’s street art everywhere in Melbourne — on the sides of buildings, up and down alleyways, and even the paved surfaces of streets. The most striking example might be Hosier Lane, a narrow cobbled street that’s covered from top to bottom in intricate graffiti. Not even the trash bins are spared by the artists’ spray paint.

Day 5

For lunch, I swing by Pavlov’s Duck. The warm lamb salad is a thing of beauty — cheesy, bright, and hearty. The staff are curious about my American accent, and we chat about my time in Melbourne and all the places I’ve traveled in the last few weeks. I’d already decided that I liked this place, but the warm conversation makes me love it even more. I’m struck by how friendly people are here — if Melbourne wasn’t so far from friends and family, I’d seriously consider moving here.

Day 6

Tonight is my big splurge meal, at Cumulus Inc. in the Central Business District. I opt for the tasting menu, because why not? Among the most beautiful dishes to appear is the Wagyu beef rump doused in buttery Café de Paris sauce and garnished with colorful slivers of watermelon radish. It’s almost too beautiful to eat. Almost.

Day 6

I also try Australian oysters for the first time. Deeply briny with a creamy sweet finish, they make me do a little wiggle of happiness in my chair.

Day 7

It’s nearly time to shove off, but I’m in desperate need of one last caffeine fix. I swing by Vegie Bar, a cavernous vegetable-forward spot in Fitzroy. It only seems natural to order Australia’s favorite coffee, the flat white, which pairs chocolatey espresso with velvety steamed microfoam. And with that, I’m off — I hope to see you again soon, Melbourne!

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