Stuck in a foodie rut? Shake things up and check out Melbourne’s new restaurants and cafes. Of course there’s more great Italian, because we can’t get enough, but check out Carlton’s cosy Brazilian cafe too, and the Vietnamese place doing sea snails. Buon appetito!
The Hardware Club
After a major renovation, Hardware Lane’s Ciao Pizza Napoli has been reborn as The Hardware Club. The new name harks back to the building’s earlier incarnation as a social club for workers in the hardware trade. Don’t worry, this restaurant still has its Italian thing going on, with an all-new fit-out of marble, tiles and banquettes inspired by the trattorias of Verona. Food ranges from bites like fried sardines to enjoy with a glass of wine, to pasta, baked trout and, yes, pizzas too.
Hazel is the newest foodie hotspot from the crew behind Higher Ground and Liminal. The menu includes fancy things on charred house-made sourdough toast, like duck liver pâté and caramelised onions, and the long, thoughtful drink list is made for lingering. White and pale nutty hues dominate the smart-casual fit-out, which also features distinctive vintage-inspired light fixtures in keeping with the heritage building.
When you want a cafe but need a break from poached eggs and smashed avo, shimmy along to Bossa Nova in Carlton. The menu at this cosy, colourful Brazilian cafe is full of authentic comfort food. Approach cautiously with a Brazilian-style toastie, or go to Rio with dishes like coxinha (crunchy chicken and cheese fritters) or feijoada (slow-cooked pork cuts with beans and rice). Vegans, don’t look away – they’ve got treats for you too.
Pepe’s Italian & Liquor
That Exhibition Street restaurant with the huge tree out the front had a makeover recently, so it’s goodbye Trunk, hello Pepe’s Italian & Liquor. In a refreshed Italian-American inspired space of mirrors and white tiles, enjoy antipasto, pizza, pasta and perhaps a glass or two of vino. If the weather’s nice, kick on outside in the city centre’s biggest beer garden under that 150-year-old tree. Saluti!
SPQR The District
After rocking little Liverpool Street with handmade wood-fired pizzas, vino and an upbeat soundtrack for a couple of years, SPQR has expanded to Docklands’ creative precinct. At SPQR The District, there’s more great pizza including vegan and gluten-free options. There’s also more wine, more music and street art , for that Melbourne-meets-Naples slice of la dolce vita.
Nang Bar and Grill Restaurant
Move over, rice paper rolls, another favourite Vietnamese bite has come to Melbourne: oc, or sea snails, which are popular drinking snacks up north. These big molluscs are offered 10 ways at Nang Bar and Grill Restaurant, which also serves other curiosities like quail balut – developing bird embryos. There’s more familiar Vietnamese fare, plus the buzzing vibe of international students, cold beer and Vietnamese pop no matter what you’re eating.
Min the Cafe
Both a fashion label and cafe, Min‘s minimalist space of white, pale pink and light grey reflects the label’s elegantly casual womenswear. Don’t rush your shop. Their thoughtful, pared back menu that includes Five Senses coffee, Mörk hot chocolate and sweet things from Cobb Lane bakery.
After 16 years at his family’s Bangkok restaurant, chef James Benjawilaikul worked at Long Chim in Perth then Melbourne. So no surprise the food’s good at his own venture, The Wanderer, but not quite the way you might expect. As the venue’s name suggests, the Thai-based menu takes a little wander around South-East Asia, including Laos and Cambodia. With equally smart, modern drinks and decor, it’s a great place to linger especially on Fridays and Saturdays when its open until 3am.
The space formerly occupied by Carlton’s Lygon Food Store is set to reopen as Lagoon Dining, a new modern Asian eatery. The trio behind the new venue formerly worked together at Ezard and Longsong, while their sommelier has done stints at Vue de Monde and Saint Crispin. Expect smart-casual Chinese fare with plenty of influences from other Asian cuisines.
Pho Nom at ELLA
Jerry Mai’s upmarket Vietnamese street-food empire keeps expanding, with a third Pho Nom set to join the ones on Collins Street and at Emporium. Opening on 19 November at Melbourne Central’s new Ella food precinct, it will have later hours and a bigger dinner menu than its siblings. Alongside fast favourites like banh mi and pho, there are also dishes to take your time over like sizzling hot plate and do-it-yourself rice paper rolls. More beers too, including Bia Hanoi, 333 and Saigon Special on tap.