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.
You can now get a double dose of Greek culture at the Hellenic Museum, where they’ve opened a sun-lit new restaurant situated in the building’s courtyard pavilion. After a morning scoping out the museum’s priceless ancient antiquities, you can dig into hearty regional specialties from leafy surrounds, with dishes like whole baked snapper with sautéed fregola, caoers and sundried tomatoes, and kritharaki, a risoni with seafood, parsley, garlic and chilli. Of course, you can expect lots of ouzo, raki and Greek beers and spirits to match, as well as crowd-pleasing desserts like house-made galaktoboureko and baklava.
Hellenic Museum, 280 William Street, Melbourne
Scott Pickett, one of Melbourne’s most recognised chefs, has opened a new Italian restaurant and if pasta’s up your alley (read: everyone) then shoot it to the top of your list. As to be expected, he’s taking a creative approach to the well-trodden form, doing things like cooking gold potato tagliatelle in Japanese dashi and garum, a fermented fish sauce, or sandwiching spanner crab and sunrise lime inside a lasagne. If you’re feeling luxe, you can add black truffles to any dish, and gluten-free folks will be made happy with a switcheroo to chickpea flour available for most pastas. The newly renovated space is warm and inviting, awash in whites, soft greens and glowing lights, making it perfect for dinners with lovers, family and friends.
300 Smith Street, Collingwood
Although technically only a pop-up lasting until mid-next year, Omnia has all the trappings of a restaurant that’s set in stone. It’s gorgeously kitted out with velvet armchairs, soft leather booths and an arresting display of art. Meanwhile, acclaimed bartender Orlando Marzo is mixing cocktails and the kitchen is headed by Stephen Nairn, who’s worked everywhere from Matilda to Eleven Madison Park. The space is intended to be a testing ground for dishes that’ll be served at a permanent venture opening in 2020, but in the meantime you’ll have first crack at refined bistro-style fare like jerusalem artichoke velouté, steak tartare with smoked egg yolk and pomme gaufrettes and stuffed quail with pine mushrooms and sauerkraut.
23-25 Toorak Road, South Yarra
The folks behind Brunswick’s wholesome Vietnamese eatery Good Days are back with a rambunctious new diner in Windsor called Good Nights, and the difference is as stark as well, day and night. Instead of pared-back décor and soft lighting, you’ll find a purple glow washing over a restaurant filled with kitschy-chic touches from floral tablecloths to a disco ball. There’s still plenty of vegan and gluten-free options on the menu, which encompasses street food-inspired snacks like banh khot – crispy coconut turmeric pancakes with scallop and prawns – osso bucco congee and grilled barramundi in banana leaf.
12 Chapel Street, Windsor
Tortillas are the star of the show at this pint-sized new taqueria in Carlton where they’re hand-pressed from ground corn before being topped with everything from smoky pumpkin and avocado crema to slow-braised beef and zingy salsa verde. Making tortillas and corn chips onsite allows the kitchen to optimise flavour, softness and structure, so these staples shine beyond being simply a base. The Taquito team is also picking habaneros for salsa from plants out the back and mixing up killer jalapeño-spiked margaritas – we have a feeling this one will be a instant neighbourhood fave.
350 Drummond Street, Carlton
Photo credit- Pretty Little
Located in the heart of Balaclava’s main strip, this stylishly moody restaurant that’s centred around a communal table, deals in boutique wines – predominately Aussie drops – and a daily changing menu of contemporary Australian food. Dishes on the board might include chorizo in turmeric mayonnaise, pickled Port Arlington mussels with candied tomato, and pumpkin and chestnut tortellini. But every day is different, so at Pretty Little you’re always in for a delightful surprise. Whether you’re popping in for an after-work aperitivo or keen to settle in for a leisurely dinner, the dishes are designed to share, so make sure to bring a group of friends, along with your appetite.
296 Carlisle Street, Balaclava
Aromi thrives in efficiency: their sleek, compact dining room seats just 40, and their tight 25-bottle list showcases mostly Italian wines. This laser focus allows them to really hone their craft – they make everything in house, from the focaccias and pasta to the liqueurs in their aromatic cocktails. The menu’s a contemporary Italian affair, spanning bites like goats’ cheese-stuffed piquillo peppers and tomato spaghetti with spanner crab and macadamia.
312 New Street, Brighton
From the folks behind spicy food institution Dainty Sichuan comes Rising Embers, a futuristic grill restaurant putting a dash of interactivity into your meal. Using a tablet, diners order a spread of proteins and veg that arrive ready to be fired up at your table, with options including spicy pork ribs, 9+ score marbled wagyu, chilli dusted squid skewers and garlicky clams. That condensed grill-to-mouth time allows for maximum heat and juiciness, before the meal is wrapped up on a refreshing note with tea, yoghurt and fruit for dessert.
139 Little Bourke St, Melbourne
Photo Credit - Akai Ito
Recently opening in Flinders Lane is bold new Japanese restaurant Akai Ito. The dining room is awash in dark hues, sporting black marble tabletops and grey banquettes, but a glance above reveals a dramatic blood red sculpture – a curling figure meant to represent the thread of fate connecting destined lovers. The upmarket modern menu features plenty of premium produce, including luxe ingredients like ootoro tartare, grilled glacier 51 toothfish and Japanese wagyu.
349-351 Flinders Ln, Melbourne
After eight years of jam-packed nights, Hanoi Hannah has finally expanded, taking over a new site down the road with double the capacity and even punchier food. Vol. II sports al fresco seating, a shiny new bar and an open kitchen with space for the chefs to cook a bigger menu of Vietnamese street food-inspired bites. New highlights include claypot mussels in lemongrass and coconut kaffir lime with banh mi for dipping, plus grilled chicken ribs with pickled chilli and lime salt. Don’t worry though – all the old favourites, from their peking duck rice paper rolls to the turmeric fish vermicelli salad, haven’t gone anywhere.
306 Glen Huntly Rd, Elsternwick
Part izakaya, part sake bar and part record store, this new Fitzroy restaurant exudes personality in spades. Owners Fumi and Takako Tamura’s love of jazz and funk is expressed over the venue’s speakers, and their menu is just as fun. Spy drink-friendly snacks like yakitori, fried chicken and crispy salmon skin, as well as regular mains including sashimi, ramen and curry. You’ll also want to have a good gander at their selection of sake, yuzu wine and craft beer, which includes two collaborations with Brunswick’s Temple Brewing Co.
43 Gertrude St, Fitzroy
Photo Credit - Spitfire
Grungy rock’n’roll venue Stay Gold has scored itself a new front bar that’s serving stellar woodfired dishes cooked by a former Bluebonnet chef. But unlike at that particular haven of barbecue, vegetables get a starring role here, with blistered padron peppers, truffled cauliflower and juicy king brown mushrooms all licked by the kitchen’s flames. After 10pm, when gigs are in full swing and the place inhabits a dive bar feel, a late-night menu kicks in for souvas and snacks with a twist, like lamb nuggets and eggplant tenders.
133 Sydney Rd, Brunswick
Photo Credit - Chotto Motto
New good-times dumpling and beer house Chotto Motto was built to grab attention, from the bold black-and-white mural lining its exterior to the full sized Okinawan slot machine tucked inside. In fact, the entire place is a retro Japanese haven, filled with knick knacks and curios as far as the eye can see. A fun-loving menu is centred on Hamamatsu-style gyoza, which are served in a crisp, lacy-edged circle (and showered with cheese if you so desire). To drink, there’s matcha sours and ume highballs, or grab yourself a craft beer from their Japanese vending machine.
287 Wellington St, Collingwood
Craft beer and Asian food aren’t often billed together but at Kekou they make a point of pairing the two- rotating 18 ales from breweries like Boatrocker, Balter and Blackmans to sink with punchy pan-Asian dishes. You’ll find Chinese pork belly baos, Malaysian chicken curries and spicy salmon tartare sitting pretty next to each other on the menu, confidently executed by a kitchen that knows its nuoc cham from its sambal. Whatever you do, save space for the killer calamansi parfait with palm sugar caramel and lemon myrtle meringue.
396 Bridge Rd, Richmond
With the lines at Hakata Gensuke’s city-based locations holding strong as ever, fans of their rich, hearty tonkatsu ramen will be pleased to know they’ve branched out to Carlton. Taking the name ‘Yatai’, their new shop is inspired by the open air noodle stalls of Fukuoka, where the origins of their winter-ready speciality lie. Warm up with their classic soup or trick it up with nutty black garlic, while the brave can try their hand at the super spicy ‘God Fire’ edition.
126 Lygon St, Carlton
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