Where we ate and drank in Melbourne

In September, we had an amazing time eating and drinking our way around Melbourne. Although I had a huge list, we only had a small amount of time but still managed to get through a good deal of them. Here’s some of the places that we ended up visiting.

Eating Places

  • Fancy Hanks (Level 1, 79 Bourke St) – If you’re craving some good American style BBQ with a wide variety of sauces and craft beer, then Fancy’s Hanks is for you.
  • Dehli Streets (22 Katherine Pl) – A cheap and cheerful restaurant tucked away in an alley but was full even on a Monday evening. A good mix of Indian food served in a Thali which gives you a good option to try several things at once.
  • Sezar (6 Melbourne Pl) – A more upmarket restaurnat serving Armenian food which is an interesting mix of dishes that remind me of a mix between Turkish and middle Eastern dishes. Try the feast, although make sure you leave some room for dessert! Bookings essential.
  • Bibim Fresh (9/108 Bourke St) – A cheap and cheerful Korean restaurant serving focused on serving Korean stone bowls with fresh ingredients and a slightly healthier twist on the dishes such as brown instead of white rice.
  • Maha (21 Bond St) – An underground Turkish restaurant that offers both ala carte and an amazing 4-6 course tasting adventure. This is definitely a bit more fine-dining and we noted a number of people coming here for birthdays because it was nice.
  • +39 Pizza (362 Little Bourke St) – A popular but tiny pizza place that offers huge pizzas. The pizza was good but I was disappointed that the foccacia was basically a pizza dough, not a proper foccacia one. Cheap and cheerful.
  • Frances’ Food and Coffee (1/245 Franklin St) – We stumbled across this place looking for breakfast when we were near the QVM. I’m glad we did with good coffee, great variety of cooked breakfasts, seats in the sun and friendly service – what more does one need?
  • Dex2rose Nitrogen Gelateria & Cafe (377-379 Little Bourke St) – Instagram-friendly creative dessert cafe based on ice cream made with liquid nitrogen.

Drinking Places

  • Fall from Grace (Hidden bar in State of Grace at 477 Collins St) – One of those speakeasy bars that is hidden behind a retracting bookcase that will make you fall in love with the atmosphere. Cocktails take a while to whip up, and ordering them at the counter is worth watching the amount of preparation. Rather darkly lit on the inside but lots of comfy lounge areas if you come early enough.
  • Berlin Bar (Upper floor – 16 Corrs Ln) – I wasn’t quite sure what to make of this place. The reviews made me think it could be really cheesy… but it was really well done! Sit in the East or the West side and enjoy the creative and German-inspired drinks, the fitting atomsphere and some of the great entertainment (black and white film and an in-house magician!) Cocktails weren’t cheap AUD20 but were worth it for something unique. Even better is that everyone must sit at a table, so it’s never too crowded (but there was a line so come early or book)
  • Madame Brussels (59 Bourke St) – Brightly decorated tennis lawns, pink chairs and camp decorations make this jovial bar a delight to drink at. Why order a single cocktail when you can order the cocktails by the pitcher to share! They have a nice terrace that even in winter was used because of the outdoor heating. Light finger food made available (the sausage rolls were amazing!)

Coffee Places

  • Brother Baba Budan (359 Little Bourke St) – This tiny place was just down from hotel we stayed at and was a place I remember from the last trip I had in Melbourne. It’s not really a huge place with lots of tables but works for a couple.
  • Duke’s Coffee (247 Flinders Ln) – Some of the folk from my office showed me this coffee place. Proper hipster style, with a long stream of regulars and often a line out of the door. They also offer some amazing looking cakes and pastries to snack on as well.
  • Manchester Press (8 Rankins Ln) – We actually dropped in here for breakfast. It’s a larger airy place that apparently is really crowded on weekends (we went on a weekday). I wasn’t particularly impressed by the breakfast offerings – various bagels with different toppings but the coffee was good with lots of seating area in a large warehouse-like environment.

Commercial Bakery

Located just in front of Gil’s Diner (or maybe even a part of it) is Melbourne’s Commercial Bakery. Wonderful European pastries line the small window front, enticing you to enter. Other breads and loaves surround the walls and you’re confronted by the baristas operating the impressive two, three-lever espresso machines. You don’t see commercial places operating these machines very often although I can attest to the wonderful brew they extract out of the coffee machines.

This was also one of the few places that seemed to sell almond croissants and this one was definitely decadent, not only filled with the typical almond filling, but also with its interiors seemingly glazed with an almond syrup of sorts. There’s a small counter bar overlooking the window where you might enjoy your coffee, or a smaller set of tables out back where you can enjoy a much richer breakfast.

An awesome place to have breakfast on the run, or a more leisurely paced one inside in the warmth of the baking ovens.

Name: Commercial Bakery
Found at: 360 Little Collins Street, Melbourne, 3000, Australia
Website: None found

Drinking at the Gin Palace

I ended up here twice during my week in Melbourne, once for a pre-dinner drink and the other time to catch up with a good friend. You wouldn’t really know about this place unless you were looking for it, or unless a person introduced you to it. After all, it’s down a little side street and its doorway is still hidden from the street view. You might happen to catch its bright doorway if you look at the right time as you walk by.

Inside, the interior is made up of many different seating areas, all affording plenty of privacy from each other. Most of them were comfy old leather chairs, well worn or most likely bought like that. Either way, I liked the way that it fit well with the old fashioned, parlour style atmosphere. Drinks and food are table service, although it was pretty slow on both nights to the point where we went up to the bar to ask for our next round.

They had a cocktail menu although the bartenders were rightfully pretty aware of lots of different drinks and we ended up asking for something that had sloe gin and were recommended a Charlie Chaplin drink that went down a treat. Drinks start at around AU$16 from what I remember though worth every drop.

Name: Gin Palace
Found at: 10 Russell Place, Melbourne Victoria 3000, Australia
Website: http://ginpalace.com.au/

South Melbourne’s St Ali

St Ali is an exciting place located in a side street popular with many people. Even at 10 in the morning, it was heaving with both of their buildings (on opposite side of the streets) full of people. They recently had a street art festival in the street they’re located in, and the spectacular results decorate both sides of the street. Finding St Ali is really easy, since you’ll notice all the people hanging around the only thing that seems to be busy on that street during the weekend. Otherwise, look for the little picture hanging over their doorway (below)

Their breakfast menu on the weekend is nice and varied with lots of healthy options and even the “Big Hangover Cure” (what I had) didn’t feel as bad for you as it could have.

Coffees were perfect and they really should be since they roast their own coffee. It seemed like plenty of people stopped in for takeaway coffees and if I wasn’t so stuffed from the breakfast, the pastry selection looked mighty tempting as well.

Service was brisk but not rushed. I had my order taken and I got to read my newspaper at a communal table of many other diners. It seemed like a great place even if you dine by yourself as many people seemed to be doing that – in addition to a number of couples. The larger groups needed to wait for bigger tables.

Everything about this place is definitely wonderful. The atmosphere is buzzing but not too busy. The coffee is great and I could have kept ordering more and more. The food was pretty good although I have to deduct points because the chorizo wasn’t as good as it could have been.

Name: St Ali
Location: 12-18 Yarra Place, South Melbourne 3205, Australia
Website: http://www.stali.com.au/

Gil’s Diner

I love Melbourne for all the little alleyways hiding amazing locations. All it takes to find them is a little exploring or knowing someone who knows where to go. A friend took me to Gil’s Diner, a little place located just off a side street off Collins Street. I’d walked past there during the day, discounting it as a little cafe without much going on at night. Boy was I wrong. Instead, it was quite the opposite with tables filling up quickly until the whole restaurant was full.

Their menu changes daily I assume because its written up on a chalk board. Unfortunately we were sitting on a side wall where it was very difficult to see the menu. Our waiter recited a very impressive specials list including almost all ingredients that went into each of the dishes. After doing some reading, it looks like these guys are champions of local produce and good on them for that. This not only means in season ingredients with low travel but the food is going to taste all the better for it.

picture of RobustProter

They have a decent selection of wine and beer including many beers from local breweries. This one was a Robust Porter, a dark, chocolatey beer. Delicious!

We started with a little bit of bruschetta – not that it was any particular type. This was no ordinary one including some mushrooms, parmesan and roasted zucchini served on a sour dough bread.

The main course, I went the cassoulet, a white bean stew including three types of meat – a home made Toulouse sausage, a pork belly dish, and some other meat that I don’t remember. The pork belly was a little bit tougher than it really should have been although the soft texture of the sausage really made up for that.

Almost full, I still decided to go for their dessert – figuring I won’t be back here for a while. I’m really glad that I did as well. I went for the steamed orange pudding with yogurt ice cream. The perfect tart coldness provided that stark contrast to the sweet, steaming cake moist with orange flavours. It was just the right size as well.

Service was great throughout the evening. Some of the tables were communal but they don’t try to pack you right next to each other. We had a huge lamp providing us with plenty of privacy for our conversations. Their semi-open kitchen was also great to look at. This place also seemed to have no problems seating solo diners as I noticed when we first go there and when we left.

Name: Gil’s Diner
Found at: Gills Al (Off Little Collins St) (rear of 360 Little Collins St), Melbourne 3000 VIC, Australia
Website: (none that I could find)

Brother Baba Budan

This tiny cafe on Little Bourke Street turned out to be one of my regular places to go for my afternoon macchiato. My work colleague, Charlotte put me onto them and I can’t thank her enough. Plenty of trendily dressed Melbournians frequent this join and even the baristas up the game – one of the females definitely dressed to impress.

When I mean this place is tiny, I really meant it with a small square table, shared by the communal coffee drinks and a small bar at the back for the lucky few to get a seat. On the ceiling they’ve got an impressive number of chairs hanging from the ceiling and while it doesn’t really help make the place look any bigger, they’re an eye-catching attraction.

This is a coffee shop that focuses pretty much solely on the coffee. The only sorts of foods you can pick up here are the pastry, cake and muffin varieties. The coffee here isn’t the cheapest in the city at AU$3.50 for any coffee (including a macchiato). Then again, you’re placing yourselves in the welcoming hands of some great baristas. I believe their last sentence on their website information page, “We love coffee.” They do and you will too after having one here.

Name: Brother Baba Budan
Found at:
Website: http://brotherbababudan.com.au/

Degraves Espresso

Degraves Espresso, just like its namesake can be found on Degraves Street, a bustling side alley way that seems to be a main thoroughfare for those going through Flinders Street Station. The mornings I walked through this street, it always seemed one of the busier ones.

Degraves Espresso

Order at the counter for a takeaway coffee, or if you’re lucky to nab one of the tables inside the store, where someone comes along to take your order from their daily chalkboard menu. For those inclined to dine or drink coffee al fresco, they’ve also got plenty of outdoor seating to enjoy at your leisure. Both areas seemed to be constantly busy all the time.

Bench View

I’m often made conscious, sitting at tables with larger capacity than needed when dining on my own but they surprised me by not even blinking when I took a four seater rather than the rather cramped-looking solo bench (pictured above). I ordered the fruit toast that came along with Marscapone Cream and some honey (although I’m not quite sure it really needed the honey with the fruit adding plenty of sweetness). Perhaps the idea was to cut through the tartness of the cream but then I though the toast was fine.

I have to admit I think this fruit toast was most disappointing. It seemed to be very good quality – the denseness of the toast and the plumpness of the fruit. It reminded me of the fruit loaf I’ve bought from St Johns before. Unfortunately type of toast takes a long time to toast properly, not really suited for their fast burning grill where the outside sugars caramelise too quickly without the heat getting inside. The result? Toast charred on the edges and barely warmed throughout without any of the crispness one would expect from toast.

Flat White at Degraves Espresso

Fortunately the coffee helped save the breakfast from going wrong. Look at this latte art for instance. Nice crema and the perfectly formed milk leaf in the top. Care and pride. All up though I think it was a pretty expensive combination for a coffee and fruit toast (AU$10). Given all the other places in Melbourne, I wasn’t tempted to try it again.

Name: Degraves Coffee
Found at: 23 Degraves Street, Melbourne, Australia
Website: (none that I could find)