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Food & Dining in Australia


If one thing sets Melbourne apart from almost all other cities in the world, it is the outstanding quality, variety and affordability of its food and drink. Melbourne's thousands of restaurants and cafés feed the city's millions with nearly every cuisine imaginable.

While some of the best places can be tucked away in the nooks and crannies of the city, it is not particularly difficult to find good food anywhere. Just walk down the street and take your pick of cafés, restaurants, bars and takeaway outlets. Ambiance is as important as the food, and style is simply a way of life in Melbourne, so expect to find the most popular places in the city's famous streets and districts, each known for a specific approach to lifestyle, fashion or food.

Melbourne's ethnically diverse population ensures a healthy selection of international cuisines. Chinatown, in the city centre, is a fabulous hunting ground for Chinese, Malaysian, Thai, Indonesian, Japanese, and Vietnamese fare, often at bargain prices. Carlton has plenty of Italian cuisine, but the outdoor restaurants on Lygon Street aim at unsuspecting tourists and can be overpriced and disappointing; avoid them. Richmond is crammed with Greek and Vietnamese restaurants, and Fitzroy has cheap Asian, Turkish, Mediterranean, and vegetarian food. To see and be seen, head to Chapel Street or Toorak Road in South Yarra, or to St Kilda, where you can join the throng of Melbournians dining out along Fitzroy and Acland streets. Most of the cheaper places in Melbourne are strictly BYO (bring your own wine or beer). Smoking is banned by law in cafés and restaurants, so don't even think about lighting up.

Places to Dine

Brunswick Street

In the north of the city, Brunswick Street has become a weekend favourite for long, languid brunches enjoyed in a distinctly inner city, urban environment. The best cafés have been established for years; such as Marios and The Fitz. Newer arrivals such Retro Café and Umago are sneaking up the popularity stakes. These eateries are well patronised and serve up huge, hearty delectable brunches (all day and all night) using the local fresh produce to its best advantage. Brunswick Street is a sanctuary for Melbourne's fringe dwellers and arts community, so be prepared to meet street performers, joke tellers, fire twirlers and many other colourful locals.

The aroma of fresh bread will attract you to Babka Bakery, a Russian-style café-bakery which is nearly always packed. Come for breakfast or a light lunch of eggs on fresh sourdough, or any of the quiches, tarts, and brioches. Or perhaps try the home-made borscht.

Lygon Street

The first wave of Italian immigrants claimed this area as their domain and it remains so today. Any celebration of Italian culture takes place here – festivals, food, fashion and the Italian sense of fun. Many of the eateries are without pretence, simply serving good wholesome Italian food the way mama used to cook it. Places like Tiamo and Brunetti have remained the same since the day they opened and can be relied on for quality at a reasonable price. Santinos Terrace is ideal for that extra special treat.

Victoria Street

If you are travelling to the east of Brunswick Street, chances are you will stumble into Victoria Street and wonder if you are still in Australia. A wonderful example of Melbourne's cultural diversity, Victoria Street is a hectic and exciting strip of Vietnamese restaurants, businesses and street traders. People scurry to and fro and locals flock here to enjoy incredibly quick, cheap eats which are guaranteed to fill the belly. Restaurants such as Tho Tho's, Thy Thy I and The Huong have thrived in this area on quick turnaround and word of mouth.

Central Business District

With abandoned warehouses being turned into slick, modern apartments, the city of Melbourne is no longer a place just for weekday business lunches. Groovy cocktail bars, such as the Gin Palace, Hairy Canary and Melbourne Supper Club are springing up in the back alleyways to accommodate the chic set who call the city centre their home. There are numerous examples of fine dining in the city centre that cater specifically for the Melbourne professional – Grossi Florentino, Marchetti's Latin and Tuscan Grill are all celebrated establishments.

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