De Stasio Citta, Photo Credit - Rebecca Michael
A bubbling hotpot of gastronomic indulgence, Melbourne’s buzzing food scene is one that never disappoints. From casual cult classics to luxurious fine dining, every week the city sees a glut of slick new eateries swinging open the doors to queues of hungry diners. Lucky for us, that means there’s always somewhere novel to try for date night or catch ups with the girls. Whatever you're in the mood for – be it modern Vietnamese or traditional home-cooked Italian – Melbourne’s restaurant newcomers have got you covered.
Armed with a quirky origin story (owner Xavier O'Shanassy funded the place with winnings from an appearance on Million Dollar Minute) and a custom-built smoker, This Borderland is winning fans with faithful renditions of American diner classics, from fried chicken and waffles to moreish pecan pie. Vegans are also well catered for – they offer plant-based versions of every menu item, using seitan to create burger patties and nuggets every bit as juicy as their omnivorous counterparts.
208 Tyler St, Preston
Inspired by a trip to Israel, Italian restaurateur Luca Lorusso of Pizza e Vino and Café Latte fame has turned his sights eastward. At Balagan Kitchen you won’t find pizza or pasta but instead silky dips, charred whole-roasted cauliflowers and desserts like halva semifreddo laden with dates, pistachio and bright pink Persian fairy floss. Light woods and neon wall art give the dining room a bright, modern feel, while playful house cocktails like a melon frosé make it a place you’ll want to hang around.
184 High St, Windsor
Situated within The Chen’s boutique hotel, Katori is a new Japanese restaurant specialising in yakiniku – a.k.a. Japanese barbecue. Sleek surrounds warmed by gold pendant lights create a fine dining atmosphere as premium marbled wagyu gets seared over binchotan grills for melt-in-the-mouth luxury. With sushi, sashimi and à la carte dishes prepared by chefs who’ve sharpened their knives at Nobu and Saké, this is one opening fans of Japanese food won’t want to miss.
850 Whitehorse Rd, Box Hill
Indomie Warung at HWKR
Indomie instant mi goreng, a failsafe university staple (and more than a few hangovers since), is having a bit of a revival at pop-up HWK. The humble dish has been jazzed up with quirky additions including fried chicken ribs with chilli egg and anchovies; and Balinese beef with tofu, shrimp crackers and sambal. Make haste as they’re only here until June – after that you’ll have to replicate their inspired combos in your own midnight kitchen.
137 A'Beckett St, Melbourne
Prepare to fall in love with traditional Macedonian cuisine at Lé Léé, a neighbourhood restaurant expressing spades of warmth and generosity in its cooking. Light vegetarian meze like pindjur – roast peppers and eggplant relish with feta – prepares the tastebuds for the hearty meat-driven mains that follow. Toast shots of rakia – a beloved Macedonian fruit brandy – between bites of claypot meatballs and slow roasted pork belly, before delving into moreish squares of rich cherry and walnut baklava.
236 High St, Northcote
After three successful decades in St Kilda, legendary Café Di Stasio has finally expanded north with a new CBD branch on Spring St. Loyalists will find plenty of familiarity in comforting yet elegant pasta dishes such as slippery linguine with prawns and pillowy semolina gnocchi with pan-fried veal, while an ample wine list and beautiful brutalist surrounds ensure you stay for hours.
45 Spring St, Melbourne
Back in August, Scott Pickett sadly announced the closure of his acclaimed fine diner ESP, to much despair. Since then however, he’s knocked down the wall between ESP and his bistro next door to create The Estelle – a new, more relaxed diner that’s still cooking the inventive modern Australian he’s known for. Best of all, you can just as easily drop by the bar for a quick wagyu bolognese or kimchi toastie, as you can sit down for an indulgent five-course tasting menu.
243 High St, Northcote
Flinders Lane scores itself a new spot for punchy Vietnamese in Co Hanh. Dig into flavour-packed dishes like crispy prawn fritters and spicy bun bo hue or roll up with a crowd and order a barbecue banquet served with traditional accompaniments. They’ve also given cocktails a regional twist with a dragonfruit gin number, and their take on the espresso martini, which pairs rum with vanilla liqueur, Vietnamese drip coffee, a dash of Baileys and condensed milk.
348 Flinders Ln, Melbourne
This fun westside eatery is bringing sliders back into fashion, and we’re here for it. Mix and match varieties such as classic cheeseburger, buttermilk fried chicken with kimchi slaw or crumbed calamari. Dine inside the quirky room of contrasting royal blues and pastel pinks while enjoying boozy milkshakes and pie of the day for dessert.
82 Charles St, Seddon
Named after a century-old cycling race, Giro D’Italia will transport your senses on a journey through Italy, all from the comfort of a Carlton North terrace. Twirl your fork through classic tagliatelle bolognese or spoon up Sardinian fregola and lamb ragu – perfect for pairing with a smooth glass of Chianti. For dessert, we can’t go past owner Dom’s luscious tiramisu, featuring savoiardi and mascarpone made from scratch.
651 Rathdowne St, Carlton North
At Richmond’s new all day diner a calming yet unadorned interior focusses the spotlight on food, which in comparison pops with vibrancy. On the plate are Japanese-inflected dishes like crab croquettes with yuzu miso, sweet tamagoyaki omelettes with grilled pork and cheesecake drizzled in matcha syrup for dessert.
362-364 Burnley Street, Richmond
Modish Vietnamese comes to Malvern via Pho Xua, where you can get an espresso martini with your bun bo hue. Start by sharing a few plates of fresh summer rolls and grilled beef in piper lolot leaves before ploughing into old favourites like banh xeo and sugar cane prawn vermicelli.
267 Glenferrie Road, Malvern
Here’s one mamma’s boy you don’t need to avoid – this Brunswick restaurant specialises in homestyle Italian cooking, with a few novel inclusions like a bruschetta bar offering a wide choice of toppings from porcini pesto, salami and grilled eggplant to black truffle, sausage and scarmoza. Mangia, mangia!
6/10 Tripovich St, Brunswick
This new upmarket casual diner criss-crosses the globe to create a menu that confidently places goat rogan josh on the same page as shredded lamb tacos and trevally ceviche. If that’s not enough to intrigue, they’ve also got an extensive champagne list with big hitters like Moet & Chandon, Perrier-Jouet and Dom Perignon.
292 Lygon St, Carlton
Pub food gets a modern sheen at Melba Social, where you can get panko crumbed mushrooms in queso sauce, crispy pork belly with apple cranberry compote and three cheese gnocchi with gorgonzola, grana padano and vintage cheddar. Pair your meal with a selection from their wide-ranging wine list of go for $10 cocktails on Mondays and Tuesdays.
524 Macaulay Rd, Kensington
Take a holiday to the Caribbean via this buzzy new casual eatery serving fun dishes with a Jamaican influence - there’s a smoked jerk chicken jaffle, jalapeno mac and cheese and a rich oxtail stew dotted with runner beans and carrots. Many of the dishes can be veganised, and a robust cocktail menu makes it the perfect place to start a night out – a jug of Vee’s punch, which features light and dark rum, brown sugar, mint, lime and cucumber, is sure to get the party going.
180 High St, Prahran
From the team that brought you Chapel St funhouse Leonard’s House of Love and casual fine diner Ramblr comes a new pizza joint doing old-school comfort food – think massive, eight slice pepperoni pies dipped in ranch dressing, thick cuts of herb stuffed porchetta and spag bol under a shower of parmesan.
29 Gratton St, Carlton
Within the revamped Espy is a flash new Cantonese diner serving favourites like sesame prawn toast, ginger chicken dumplings and XO pippies in plush surrounds – velvet booths, ornate lights and views over the water hark to an opulent era, while lychee martini slushies and fusion desserts à la mango coconut pudding and red bean mille feuille keep things fun.
11 The Esplanade, St Kilda
The Prince of Wales Hotel has finally reopened their restaurant, and it’s a beauty – the kitchen’s drawing inspiration from the flavours and spices of the Mediterranean, with a focus on cooking over flames. Dine on casual yet refined dishes such as grilled baby snapper with zhoug and Flinders Island lamb with fermented chilli from a beautifully designed room full of soft curves and natural light.
2 Acland St, St Kilda
West Coast living comes to St Kilda at this new restaurant with a nutritionist-designed menu packed with local produce, whole foods and gluten-free options. Both foodies and the fitness-fanatics will be satisfied with dishes including kingfish ceviche with orange, chilli and coriander and seared beef with watercress and grilled lemon.
1 Fitzroy St, St Kilda