We’re sure you’re up with the news: Melbourne is a world-class food city. Step outside and you’re sure to have clock a dozen or so hip coffee joints within a block or two, plus cafés and beautiful food stores. Stroll a few minutes further and you’ll see there are more good restaurants than you’re likely to get to across your entire stay.
Want innovative fine dining? Check. Southern Italian restaurants? Got that covered. Chinese? Sure. Vietnamese? Streets of it. Japanese? You bet.
What’s harder to see from where you’re standing is the breadth of global food flavours on offer. Here's our pick of some truly global flavours to try.
Moroccan Soup Bar
Turn up early for dinner any day (except Monday) from 6pm, wait for and secure a table and prepare to be seduced by the subtle spices and fascinating flavour combinations of the North-African cuisine at Moroccan Soup Bar. Take a glass of mint tea, listen to the verbal menu and have a chat with charismatic owner Hana Assafiri. Then take her advice and order the inexpensive banquet. All food is vegetarian and there is no alcohol served.
Can’t make it to Buenos Aires this week? Save yourself the 18-hour flight and land at San Telmo for empanada, entrana, chorizo, morcilla and a dessert featuring that delicious national treasure, dulce de leche. In case your Spanish is a little rusty, ask for entrana in an Argentinian restaurant and you’ll get a juicy hanger or skirt steak, at San Telmo cooked over the parilla, a charcoal grill. This is simple food, done well and best washed down with a Latin-American cocktail or a wine from the all-Argentinian wine list.
How good is your Somali history? You may recall that this country in the Horn of Africa has a turbulent recent history, including a period of Italian occupation in the 20th century. The Italian part explains why you’re as likely to see pasta on your plate as you are to taste spices such as cumin, clove and cardamom, common to many African and Middle Eastern cuisines. At Safari Restaurant you’ll probably begin with a chilli-hot bowl of lamb broth and you may well move onto rice and spaghetti with slow-cooked lamb before a sweet pastry such as baklava and a glass of milky tea. It’s a relaxed, friendly local restaurant and a great choice whether you’re already a Somali-food convert or new to the cuisine. 159 Union Road, Ascot Vale.
There are plenty among us who can’t carry on without regular intakes of Crying Tiger salad and chargrilled sugar banana. Never tried them? Let a Bopha Devi meal be your introduction to Cambodian cuisine. This is a long-standing local favourite, bringing Melbourne authentic Cambodian food made even more special with great produce and a modern approach. While you’re there, make sure you try fish amok, a staple curry in Cambodia made with coconut cream, lemongrass, turmeric, lime leaves and served with sliced cucumber and rice.
Thank goodness for Abla Amed’s friends. They convinced the talented cook to open a restaurant in 1979 and she has fed grateful diners her generous, nourishing, traditional Lebanese food from the same location ever since. Abla and her restaurant are icons of the Melbourne dining scene and a meal at Abla’s is worth putting into your itinerary. You can order from a menu featuring such favourites as baba ghannouj, fattoush, falafel and kibbee or you can, wisely, put yourself in Abla’s hands and sign up for the banquet.
Los Amates is a fun, warm and welcoming Mexican restaurant that has become a hub for the local Mexican community. But whether you hail from Mexico, Melbourne or anywhere else in the world, here’s a great place for an authentic breakfast, lunch or dinner. And yes, you can have chilli with your hot chocolate and rum in your coffee.