Six Must-Do Food Experiences in Australia’s Gourmet Capital

Lake House dining room and wine cellar

Dining room and wine cellar | Photo credit: Lake House

Melbourne is brimming with culinary experiences and has plenty on offer to satiate an appetite of any size. Whether dining like a local down the city’s laneways and hidden alleys, seeking out the latest spot for brunch or the best cup of coffee in town, or indulging in a many-course fine-dining degustation, the city is home to more must-visit restaurants and cafes than one could ever see in just one visit – even locals struggle to fit them all in! Victoria’s love of food extends beyond the state’s capital and sampling the local produce in the Yarra Valley, Mornington Peninsula or further afield is a popular pastime for locals and visitors alike. And it is no surprise with so many regional restaurants serving instagrammable meals overlooking equally photogenic views. To make the most of a visit to Melbourne food aficionados should aim to tick off the following six must-do food experiences:

Fine dining Melbourne style
Australasia’s number one restaurant and ranked 33 on the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list, Attica is a must-visit for anyone serious about fine-dining. Here, chef Ben Shewry creates beautifully balanced, modern cuisine integrating native Australian ingredients wherever possible. The focus is on sustainably developed produce, and dishes include rarely-used plants and herbs foraged from the adjacent garden as well as from broader Victoria. From the Lilly Pilly and Illawarra plum pine used in signature dessert The Native Fruits of Australia, to saltbush leaves, marron, native peppers and nuts, the flavours of Attica sing Australia. Shannon Bennett’s Vue de monde on the 55th floor of the Rialto Tower takes diners on a journey with its innovative cuisine and spectacular setting. The menu has French influences but is steeped in Melbourne’s history and uses primarily Victorian produce and indigenous ingredients. Kangaroo, marron, wallaby and native herbs are all regular fixtures on the menu which also offers diners a high-end take on the classic Australian Lamington. The restaurant’s dramatic decor sees traditional white table cloths replaced with kangaroo leather, curtains made of 100% Victorian wool and chairs crafted from old telegraph poles, making for a uniquely Australian setting. The experience is topped off with spectacular views over the Melbourne city skyline and Port Phillip Bay.

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Fine dining experience | Photo credit: Lake House

Laneway eating
Some of Melbourne’s best eating and drinking can be found in and around the city’s labyrinth of interconnecting laneways. Unmarked doors, sets of stairs, or what looks like a no through road, are all likely to lead to a favorite local dining haunt. The city’s original laneway tapas bar MoVida, perennially popular Chin Chin, Tonka, Cumulus Inc. Brooks of Melbourne, Coda, Izakaya Den and Supernormal are just some of the names to look out for. The laneways are also central to Melbourne’s cafe and bar culture with rooftops and basements offering more hidden secrets and surprises – from Japanese tea houses to Chinese dim sum diners, coffee grinders and speakeasy style cocktail bars and everything in between. Those unsure of where to start can take a tour with the likes of Hidden Secrets Tours, Melbourne Food Experiences or Melbourne Walks to discover the city’s cafe culture, specialist coffee, cocktail and bar scene and plenty more besides.

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Laneway eating |Photo credit: Melbourne Tourism

Coffee and breakfast like a local
Melbourne has long been regarded as the coffee capital of Australia and is one of the leading cities for coffee in the world. Since the first espresso machines landed on Victorian soil in the 1950s, the city’s reverence for the bean has continued to prosper. The emergence of specialist roasters has contributed to an obsession with new ways of brewing and the origin of coffee beans. Whether it is a hole in the wall coffee joint in the laneways, or a quick coffee on the go – Melbourne has a cup to suit every taste with some favorites including Traveller, Cup of Truth, Seven Seeds, Dukes, The Sensory Lab, Auction Rooms and Dead Man Espresso. Tours and interactive experiences offer the opportunity to understand the history and culture that has fueled this city-wide obsession – try coffee cupping sessions with Seven Seeds, or a full-day coffee roasting session at Market Lane Coffee. Hand-in-hand with Melbourne’s coffee obsession, eating out for breakfast or brunch is a huge part of Melbourne life, on par with dinner as a social occasion and opportunity to sample artisan produce from around Victoria. Favourite breakfast haunts include St Ali, Industry Beans, Pope Joan, Proud Mary, Top Paddock, and Cumulus Inc. At these locations and more, Melbourne’s multi-cultural heritage, innovation and produce are presented on every plate – from fancy pressed lamb belly to Baba ghanoush, fresh fig and caper currants; from potato cheddar waffle to smoked brisket, zuni pickles and sour cream.

Coffee cups at a South Terrace cafe,Fremantle

Coffee for two | Photo credit: South Terrace Cafe

Ultimate Yarra Valley indulgence
A hot air balloon flight at sunrise is the best possible introduction to Victoria’s premier wine growing region. Global Ballooning enables early-risers to float serenely over the Yarra Valley’s stunning scenery of rolling vineyards, lush green pastures and story-book forests and land in one of the Valley’s flagship wineries, such as Domain Chandon or Rochford Estate to enjoy a champagne breakfast with local sparkling and artisan produce. The birthplace of Victorian viticulture, the Yarra Valley is Victoria’s premier wine region home to more than 80 world class wineries producing award-winning cool climate wines and 60 boutique cellar doors, making it the perfect destination for an intimate wine tasting or behind-the-scenes experiences. Big producers such as De Bortoli and Yering Station sit alongside specialist boutique wine makers who are quietly making a name for some of the most interesting and brave blends and varietals in the country. In addition to wine, the region now produces a growing selection of craft beers and cider showcased through the Yarra Valley Cider and Ale Trail.The region is dotted with farm gates and artisan producers including dairies, chocolataries and organic produce. This sophisticated, romantic and decadent food and wine region is within an hour’s drive of Melbourne can be enjoyed on a private tour or a self-drive itinerary.

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Hot air balloon over the Yarra Valley | Photo credit: Victoria Tourism

Mornington Peninsula – an adventure for the senses
The Mornington Peninsula has it all: abundant produce, boutique wineries, food trails, farm gates, golf courses, galleries, picturesque villages, diverse landscapes, beautiful beaches and coastal views all in one compact area, just one hour from Melbourne. It is one of few wine regions in the world that overlooks stunning coastline, with cool ocean breezes influencing the boutique cool-climate Chardonnays and Pinots for which the area is renowned. The Mornington Peninsula has more award-winning restaurants than any other part of Victoria with Port Philip Estate, The Long Table, Montalto, Terminus and Ten Minutes by Tractor all offering menus that feature local produce for a completely immersive dining experience. Visitors can get even more hands-on with fruit picking, mushroom foraging or classes in handmade sausages, wood fired pizzas or chocolate making. The ‘Wine, Food and Farmgate’ trail and map makes it easy to discover dozens of wine, food and farm-gates throughout the region and Horseback Winery Tours offers a unique way to explore the vineyards.

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Enjoying the view and a glass of wine | Photo credit: Mornington Peninsula Tourism Board

Dine and stay at Brae
Australia’s only regional restaurant to be included in The World’s 50 Best Restaurants, recently announced at number 65, Brae in the Otways serves up contemporary cuisine with a commitment to seasonal produce. Award winning chef Dan Hunter creates a daily menu that reflects the best of the hillside property’s extensive organic gardens. Each day, the highest quality ingredients are carefully selected from Brae’s on-site organic fruit and vegetable garden, local farms and ethical, sustainable producers from Victoria and beyond. Native ingredients on the menu include coastal bone fruit, ruby salt bush, muntries, quandongs, fingerlime and pepperberry, plus local and sustainably caught black lip abalone, southern rock lobster and sea urchin. The Birregurra property, one and a half hours from Melbourne, has recently added six new luxury accommodation suites so visitors now need not worry about transport to and from their indulgent degustation. The spacious suites have been constructed with sustainability in mind, using recycled materials, solar energy, harvested rainwater and a worm farm waste water system. Each suite accommodates two adults and features a star-gazing skylight, sitting area with turntable and record collection, and private outdoor seating with views to the rolling hills of the Otway Ranges. Guests can take a morning stroll in the garden, catching chefs and gardeners at work, and enjoy an in-room, house-made breakfast of organic, wood-fired sourdough bread, pastries, preserves and seasonal produce harvested from the property and nearby. It is easy to extend a visit to Brae, with many nearby activities such as platypus spotting by canoe in Lake Elizabeth, the Otways Fly Treetop Walk, and exploring the Great Ocean Road and Bellarine Peninsula.

Article courtesy of Visit Melbourne– Official site for Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.

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