A simple list of my absolute favourite Melbourne restaurants by category…. There may be a couple in each category and I may have a little story or two:
Lau’s Family Kitchen - Not much point in hyperlinking this one as the website doesn’t give you more than the only two things you need; a phone number to book and an address to pop into your GPS. In complete opposition to most Chinese restaurants in this price range, the menu is super short and super snappy! And everything is amazing. I feel qualified to make this claim given I would have been there around 15 times and am pretty sure I have tried everything on the menu and a lot of things not on it. Owned by the famous Gilbert Lau of Flower Drum fame and run two of his sons Michael & Jason, the fit-out, like the menu, is simple and encourages a relaxed dining experience. The omission of a Lazy Susan is a welcome respite from that feeling that you just have to keep eating, rather the food is brought out on a serving plate, displayed to the diners and then served onto individual plates in perfect portion sizes. The stand-out dishes, the must-orders include; the lamb spring rolls (something I have never eaten before Lau’s, and one of the key reasons to return), and the Barramundi, if in season, in the best fish dish in Melbourne. Hands down! But seriously, I have never had a bad dish… Another suggestion… Let team order for you based on a couple of your fav ingredients… Dammit, I am probably setting your standards too high… Any questions? Ask away
Carlisle Wine Bar - Unobtrusive and in an arguably pretty grotty part of Balaclava/St Kilda East is my favourite Italian restaurant. This is a tough category for me as I LOVE LOVE LOVE Italian and Melbourne has so much good Italian. This is so local for me, and so intimate, with such a warm atmosphere, it’s my winner! My favourite dish is the hand made agnolotti filled with prawns, scallops ad blue eye and bechamel, and covered with cherry tomatoes, white wine, chilli….. oooohhh melty, YUM!! The gorgonzola gnocchi is also sensational. AND all the starters of nibbles to accompany a glass of wine… You will understand why this place is always full, inside and outside where you are likely to share the footpath with some rather interesting characters spilling out of the pub next door….
Jim’s Greek Tavern – This little gem is located on an unassuming part of Johnson St in Collingwood. No menu so take a recommendation from the experienced waiters who have an innate knowledge of exactly how much food is perfect… if you want to be really full! ha! It is simple and fresh greek food. Hot and tangy saganaki, bread and dips, crispy clamari and piles of salty, juicy meat. Inside the restaurant is low-key, fun and noisy. Great for a bunch or friends or a big family dinner. Need to go again NOW!
Quan 88 – We are blessed to have so much good Vietnamese in this city. I couldn’t have even come close to sampling all of Victoria St, let alone the pho meccas of Footscray or Box Hill but when you find something great, you gotta stick to it. This is my go-to restaurant for quick, fresh, cheap and most importantly – SUPER TASTY Vietnamese in Melbourne. We have been going for years and never had a bad experience! Stand-out dish for me is the spicy quail. It may be on the specials menu but it’s always available and it is pretty special! The prawn spring rolls are light and springy, served with heaps of lettuce and fresh herbs… and I can’t seem to go there without ordering the spicy, salty squid! Though all online references to this restaurant say it is open 7 days a week, I am almost certain that Sunday nights are a no-go… only because that’s when I often get a strong Vietnamese craving and am slightly disappointed to have to visit a Victoria St neighbour… I will do a quick check on an upcoming Sunday and revise this accordingly..
Attica - Such an overall amazing experience. The best meal of my life. A special occasion restaurant that you might need to prepare for with at least a good 5 hours of starvation! I have only been to this restaurant once but plan to go to one of the mid-week experimental nights in the very near future. We sat near the internal courtyard with a view of most of the back room and the bar. An excellent matched wine list, with ‘interesting’ wine (‘interesting’ being ben’s biggest compliment) from around the world, not the standard: amazing brand and then $20 label. Ainsley Lubbock, the sommelier made our evening (but she has left since our meal) as she chatted through the food and wine matches easily. There was nothing stuffy about the experience, a completely relaxed and completely perfect evening. Even Ben enjoyed the whole 4.5 hours of it… and normally that is his nightmare.