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Is a meal-and-drink plan really necessary when visiting Melbourne? Simply exploring the city's streets in southeast Australia will reveal an abundance of excellent cafes, wine bars, noodle shops, and restaurants. This is my first recommendation when someone asks me how to approach the culinary scene in my hometown: Start in Fitzroy or Collingwood and take a leisurely stroll through one of the numerous well-kept parks and gardens to find a nice curbside table where you can have a flat white. Then, make your way into the city center. After getting your caffeine fix, follow a cobblestone alleyway to a traditional pasta restaurant or tucked-away cocktail bar. Allow the city to guide you.

Aside from spontaneity, there are a few must-do activities, particularly for visitors who are unfamiliar with the area. For example, many tourists get swept up in the buzz of the new, trendy restaurants in the city center and, regrettably, never sample the kibbeh, pide, and the myriad of souvlaki and kabob varieties Melbourne is famed for—local specialties inspired by Greece and Lebanon. Or they become overly obsessed with wine bars and fail to discover the amazing Thai, Laotian, and Filipino eateries in the area.

Melbourne is widely known for its European influence; one might easily mistake some areas of the city for a quaint Spanish or Italian village. However, because of more recent immigration, we are also becoming a more Asian, Middle Eastern, and African metropolis.

Set out a day (or a week!) to investigate, and then schedule your visits to as many of these hidden treasures as you can.

+61 3 9600 0016 7 Racing Club Lan

Jana Langhorst

Serai, housed in a sunny old shop in a quaint laneway in the city center, is reminiscent of a classic Melbourne restaurant in many respects. Other groundbreaking aspects of it are: Using ingredients from Australia, Chef Ross Magnaye is reinventing Filipino cuisine, primarily cooking over a live flame. The outcomes are amazing: wild barramundi with smoked calamansi, king prawns with buro buro sauce and pandesal, and kinilaw, a classic raw fish dish reinvented with raw kangaroo and wood-roasted bone marrow. Magnaye also has a sharp sense of nostalgia and humor. He creates his own take on iconic Australian ice cream bars, the Golden Gaytime, using durian, scallops, and crab fat sauce. The selection is completed with natural wines and Filipino-themed cocktails.

Richmond, 193 Swan St., +61 3 9421 2645

Melbourne's primary specialty is wine bars, which may comprise this entire list. Excellent newcomer Clover argues that excellent wine bars may also be excellent meals. Situated on a prominent drag in Richmond, the room is so minimalistic that it verges on austerity, but the modern wooden furnishings and leadlight windows give it a gentle touch. Chef Charley Snaddon-Wilson has a deep love for cooking over an open flame. During summer, it entails cooking an entire juicy beefsteak tomato until it turns into a quavering mass of gooey tomato sauce and serving it with vinegary white anchovies and pickled white asparagus on top. Clover's turbot is roasted and served dripping with smoked mussel sauce after being dry-aged for a few days, which significantly intensifies the flavor. The wine list spans the globe, with a focus on eccentric Australian producers and the Loire Valley region of France.

Bourke Street, 171; +61 3 9650 7987

With thanks, Thai Tide

With the emergence of numerous hot pot, street food, and barbecue establishments, the upper portion of Bourke Street in the city center has transformed into our very own Thaitown in the last five years. While Soi 38 gets the most attention, Thai Tide is equally noteworthy in my opinion. Although natural Australian wines and regional Thai specialties make up Thai Tide's elevator pitch, the idea is more dynamic than that. Thai stir-fries, tart and hot soups, and red curry made by hand with rice from central Thailand are all available, accompanied by fresh veggies and banana blossoms. Try the insect-protein-focused Northern Thai dishes here as well, such as a dill-infused soup full of ant larvae.

Fitzroy, 303 Brunswick St., +61 03 9417 3343

One of the hippest areas in the world, Fitzroy, became Fitzroy thanks to Mario's cafe and restaurant. Mario's contributed to the establishment of the Melbourne café and our particular brand of Italian cuisine when it opened in the middle of the 1980s, when Brunswick Street was a wasteland of shuttered businesses and hippie thrift stores. Regulars arrive around 8 a.m. to have a complete breakfast or just a piece of toast with housemade jam in this room with a checkerboard floor and chrome accents. Pastas and homemade Italian meals are the menu staples starting at noon. Don't miss the enormous lasagna or the perfectly cooked chicken livers with madeira and onion sauce. Waiters behave like your best sarcastic friend and dress in vests and shirts. While Mario's is a well-known landmark, it's also a genuine local hangout.

Sydney Road, Brunswick, 643–645
+61 03 9386 0440

The hub of Melbourne's Lebanese community is Sydney Road in Brunswick, with A1 Bakery at its heart. Established in 1992, the area resembling a hangar is always busy with families dining together, silver-haired men conversing in Lebanese over potent coffee or tea, and high school students devouring the incredibly cheap Lebanese pizzas and cheese-filled pies. A full Lebanese breakfast, including two eggs, sujuk, labne, cucumber, tomato, olives, mint, and a pile of pita bread, is available for purchase in the morning. In the afternoon, you could indulge in a dish of kibbe or a smooth bowl of foul moudammas, which is a blend of chickpeas and fava beans, drizzled with lemon juice, olive oil, and tahini. The televisions mounted on the wall will broadcast major football matches; yet, even on Grand Final Day, Australia's largest sporting event of the year, the atmosphere at A1 remains focused on interpersonal relationships, family, and community.

+61 3 9662 3655, 17 Market Lane

I've long maintained that Flower Drum, a Chinatown mainstay since 1975, is something Melbourne doesn't quite realize it has. Do we actually realize that this is arguably one of the greatest Cantonese fine dining establishments in the world, as beloved as the expansive upstairs restaurant is? Flower Drum, which is owned and operated by executive chef Anthony Lui and his son Jason, is a success because of its constantly changing menu and commitment to providing the best traditional, city-wide service. Regulars enjoy anything from dim sum to noodle meals, meats to live seafood taken from on-site tanks, in an exquisite dining room decorated with crimson carpets, white tablecloths, and enormous floral arrangements. A standout meal is the enormous soup dumpling, which is packed with mud crab, scallop, and prawn and has an incredibly delicate wrapper. Another dish is the traditional Peking duck, which is cut at the table and served with a cucumber and plum sauce wrapped in a feather-light pancake. While Lau excels at the classics, he also embraces the contemporary. For example, he uses barramundi (yep, fish) to make noodles and tops them with crumbled pig sausage, sun-dried tangerine zest, and umami-rich shiitake mushrooms. Although it's not an inexpensive night out, you won't quickly forget it.

Queen Victoria Market Pty Ltd. is credited.

I prefer to get a bratwurst from the Bratwurst Shop in the Queen Victoria Markets as soon as I get to Melbourne. Something about being in the market's exquisite vintage deli department anchors me and gives me a sense of familiarity. Although the outdoor sheds are entertaining, they are also filled with tourist trappings. QVM is Victoria's most popular tourist destination. The real enchantment is found in the meat and deli halls, where, in addition to Bratwurst, you'll discover a wide variety of cheeses, cured meats, and picnic staples at the numerous deli counters, as well as tasty Turkish-stuffed pastries at the Borek Shop. Queue up outside on Queen Street for the freshly fried hot jam doughnuts (a Melbourne specialty) from the American Donut Kitchen truck.

Brunswick, 30 Ovens St., +61 478 697 257

Massive African immigration to Melbourne has occurred over the past 20 years, and like previous waves of arrivals, these Melburnians are enhancing our food culture. Located on a quiet street in Brunswick, Vola Foods is a Cameroonian restaurant that operates out of shipping containers in an otherwise vacant lot. Ashley Vola, the restaurant's owner and chef, sends back spice combinations from Cameroon that she uses to rub whole grilled fish, infuse soothing black beans, and coat tart chicken wings. Melbourne isn't exactly known for its street food, partly because it's too chilly to eat outside for extended periods of the year. However, Vola is prepared with space heaters, so during the warmer months, the lot transforms into an intense outdoor block party with loud Afro-beat music.

Richmond's 338 Bridge Road
Not on the phone

With thanks, Jeow

Anchovy, a minimally constructed venue in Richmond, is where Chef Thi Le and partner Jia-Yen Lee made their names with a sophisticated approach to Vietnamese cooking. They shut down Anchovy and reopened as Jeow a few years ago. According to their description, the restaurant was "inspired by the suburban Laotian eateries of Australia's two largest cities." Le is an extremely meticulous chef who creates her own fish sauce and other delectable dishes from scratch. Smothered in a fizzy sauce made from betel leaves, you could discover grilled gigantic prawns that have been split open and barely cooked over fire, or tapioca dumplings loaded with cashews, salted turnips, and Jerusalem artichokes. Even though the cuisine at Jeow is top-notch, the restaurant maintains a laid-back, neighborhood vibe with its educated service and mildly tropical cocktails that don't cross the line into tiki territory.

Yarraville, 83b Gamon Street, +61 3 9939 9774

Ed Sloane

Melbourne's gourmet dining scene is something to be proud of, and the city never lacks amazing meals to enjoy. However, the tasting menu at the cozy Navi, which costs $120 per person, might be the best deal of the lot. Owner and chef Julian Hills is involved in all aspects of the eating experience; he created the actual dish and most likely foraged the mushrooms for your rabbit entrée. Hills employs locally sourced Australian ingredients such as emu carpaccio, Davidson plum, and macadamia with confidence and an emphasis on enjoyment. Although reservations for Navi are hard to come by, walk-ins can enjoy great cocktails and nibbles from the lounge in front.

Collingwood, 32 Johnston St.; +61 3 9419 3827

One of such eateries that, in my opinion, embodies Melbourne's heritage is Jim's. Here, you may gather with your friends and eat hearty portions of simply prepared Greek cuisine while yelling over the cacophony of the lively party. There are no menus here; instead, the servers, who are all older Greek males, will haggle briskly to get your order. "You desire dips?" Do you want fish? How about some lamb? Alright. You are required to bring your own beverages, such as champagne or beers, and can store them in the shared refrigerator located at the front of the room. Entering Jim's is like walking into a massive family celebration, and that's where Greek Melbourne really is.

Call +61 3 3 5289 1462 at 35 Mountjoy Parade, Lorne.

It's likely that you'll make a detour to the Great Ocean Road, which winds along Victoria's breathtaking southern coast. If so, don't forget to make a stop in Lorne. About two hours from Melbourne, in this little, vibrant town nestled along the arc of a broad ocean coastline, sits Little Picket, a restaurant housed inside a vintage, fully functional lawn bowls club. Every vegetable used by Chef Jo Barrett is grown locally in a garden. With her take on dim sim, an Australiana favorite seen in chip shops that is essentially an overloaded pork dumpling drenched in chile oil, she taps into the setting's nostalgia and Australiana vibe. Tender venison meatballs are served with sharp radicchio; lamb merguez sausage is served with a baby fennel salad and wrapped over fromage blanc. The emphasis on community and sustainability is a great illustration of how an Australian chef embraces the local culture instead of

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