12 iconic restaurants for your bucket list

There seem to be as many places to eat as there are people in Melbourne, but some restaurants have risen to the top and stayed there for reason. Discover why these restaurants have achieved iconic status, one beautiful bite at a time.

Grossi Florentino

A two-hat restaurant and a Melbourne institution for nearly a century, Grossi Florentino is known for its classic presentation, impeccable service and an indulgent Italian menu. Feast on veal, venison, duck breast or quail among the vintage Florentine murals. Order a fine wine and be sure to finish off with the famous chocolate soufflé.

Three tall buildings on a city street at night

Grossi Florentino

Flower Drum Restaurant

The retro-glam decor recalls Flower Drum Restaurant’s pinnacle when expense-account lunches were OTT and posh restaurants were few in Melbourne. Yet this Cantonese restaurant is still among the city’s finest, scoring two hats in the 2020 Good Food Guide. From Peking duck to roast suckling pig, delicate flavours and seasonal produce combine to create a decadent menu that will not disappoint.

Il Bacaro Cucina e Bar

Since 1995, Il Bacaro Cucina e Bar has tantalised passersby with the good times glimpsed between its half-open, half-closed Venetian blinds. If you haven’t succumbed yet, or not stepped inside for a while, stop resisting! Beside a curvaceous marble bar and row upon row of Italian wine bottles, dishes that sound, look, smell and taste bellissima await. From salumi misti del giorno to torta di formaggio, it’s an Italian dream come true.

Jimmy Watson’s

Established in Fitzroy in the 1920s, JC Watson Wine Merchants moved to its current Carlton location in 1935. Back then, few Melburnians cared much for wine, but Mr Watson slowly turned things around at his wine bar. Arthur Boyd’s 1960s renovation paired with a wine-friendly bistro menu and a rooftop bar have made Jimmy Watson’s a favourite for generations.

A white brick building that leads into a restaurant

Jimmy Watson’s

Abla’s Restaurant

Abla’s Restaurant, which opened in 1979, was one of the first Lebanese restaurants on the scene. Over the years, this famed eatery has been serving the same classic homestyle dishes like cabbage rolls, chicken and rice and baklava. Why mess with authentic perfection?

Cumulus Inc

A byword for casual dining in Melbourne since opening in 2008, Andrew McConnell’s Cumulus Inc can take you from breakfast right through dinner in style. This Flinders Lane is both a cafe and restaurant featuring an upstairs wine bar, the food is as smart as the minimalist, light-filled space. Start the day right with house-made crumpets and coffee. Treat yourself to a next-level lunch, like braised greens and ricotta pie with mushroom ketchup, then indulge in the good-value chef’s selection menu from $75.

Cecconi’s Flinders Lane

A name synonymous with Italian food and hospitality since it opened in 1998, Cecconi’s Flinders Lane is a third-generation family-run restaurant. This cosy-chic basement space is perfect both day and night. How about some Cotechina sausage, eggs and espresso for breakfast? A quick but satisfying plate of pasta for lunch? Maybe some chianti and antipasti at the bar, or a long, indulgent dinner? Every time, it’s a taste of la dolce vita.

The European

This snug but sophisticated Melbourne institution seems to have been around forever. Its timeless, Old World-inspired interior hasn’t changed either. Think wood panelling, black-and-white chequered floors, bentwood chairs and countless wine bottles. The classic breakfast-to-supper menu, which looks to France, Italy and Spain, has evolved almost imperceptibly over the years and the wine list is exactly what you would expect from an establishment called The European.

A person cutting into some food on a white plate

The European

EZARD

After more than 20 years, chef Teage Ezard’s eponymous dining room is still among the city’s most acclaimed. His artful fusion of French and Asian cuisines is best experienced with an eight-course degustation (including vegetarian and vegan versions). Only got time or funds for EZARD’s well-priced express lunch or pre-theatre tasting menu? It’s still a special experience at this sleek, semi-subterranean restaurant in the Adelphi Hotel.

Maha Restaurant

You may have seen chef Shane Delia creating smart Middle Eastern dishes on his SBS cooking show, Spice Journey. No need to lick the screen, instead head to Maha Restaurant, which has scored a Good Food Guide hat every year since 2009. Whether it’s a few mezze plates, a two- or four-course grazing option, or a five- or six-course degustation (including vegetarian and vegan), this basement establishment is an excellent option.

Movida

As they say in Spain, donde está la movida (where’s the action)? At Movida of course. This iconic tapas restaurant has been buzzing with good food, drinks and great vibes since 2002. Raise a glass to chef Frank Camorra, who made Melbourne fall for share plates in a big way. Then tuck into his superlative little Spanish dishes – like the tostada, a pressed pork sandwich with egg and onion jam.

Vue De Monde

Shannon Bennett’s luxe restaurant began in an out-of-the-way Carlton terrace house way back at the dawn of the millennium, before relocating to a CBD laneway. In 2011, Vue De Monde settled into the Rialto tower’s 55th floor and recently scored two hats in the 2020 Good Food Guide. Take in the city views through walls of glass, then ponder the similarly breathtaking menu. Take your time over oysters and French Champagne, or go large with a glorious multi-course meal.