Eat, Drink, Be Merry: 15 Must-Visits In & Around Melbourne

Eat, Drink, Be Merry: 15 Must-Visits In & Around Melbourne

One of the highlights of our Editor’s recent trip to Melbourne was being able to eat and drink her way through the state of Victoria. Here’s how you can too. (Images by Tengku Zai.)

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It’s easy to see why Melbourne is such a popular destination in Australia. It’s got one of the most exciting coffee scenes the world has seen, it’s a cultural mosaic that allows for individuality to thrive, the amalgamation of the old with the new gives it a special charm and personality, and most importantly, the local produce sets the tone for an ever-changing and inclusive gourmet scene. It’s paradise for anyone who enjoys food. And when you think about it, that’s every Malaysian.

On a recent trip to Melbourne with Visit Victoria, I was lucky enough to eat and drink my way through most of the state of Victoria. More than antipodean breakfasts — as wonderful and delectable as they are — here’s a guide to eating, drinking, and being merry.

Melbourne city highlights

Longrain Melbourne

This culinary institution is restaurateur Scott Pickett’s take on vibrant and modern Thai food. Housed in a converted stable built in the 1900s, Longrain has been a firm local favourite since it opened in 2005. From the deep-fried fish to wagyu curries, expect classic dishes with the occasional local twist — think Moreton Bay bug cakes instead of a regular fishcake.

Cocktails here are exceptionally good too, and it’s little surprise why, as sister bar, Longsong resides right above.

Address: 44 Little Bourke St, Melbourne VIC 3000, Australia

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Gimlet at Cavendish House

Easily the best meal I had on this trip. Get a taste of classic European charm at the world’s 84th best restaurant (according to the World’s Best 50) when you fine dine at Gimlet — a place where food and drink are both a science and an art. While the menu changes with the seasons, try your best to cop the gnocco fritto topped with wagyu bresaola and stuffed with parmesan. For mains, you won’t go wrong ordering something from the grill that’s prepared to sheer perfection — we had the club steak cooked over coals.

Of course, all things must end on a sweet note, and dessert certainly didn’t disappoint. The Baked Valrhona Chocolate was decadent and to-die-for, while I can appreciate how the cheese platter was served with fresh honeycomb. It’s really about the little things, and quality ingredients certainly shine here.

When it comes to drinks, you can’t sup at Gimlet without having a… gimlet. A heady concoction of Tanqueray gin, Moscato, triple citrus cordial, and Geraldton wax, this cocktail is a dangerous one. So sweet and unassuming; she’s still strong, so don’t underestimate her. When it comes to meat pairings, you can also count on Gimlet’s sommelier to make just the right recommendation for your palate.

Address: 33 Russell St, Melbourne VIC 3000, Australia

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South Melbourne Market

The only rule here is: come hungry. I recommend Pac-Man-ing your way through this lively indoor market on at least one of your mornings in Melbourne. Another institution, the South Melbourne Market, has been around for 154 years, and you can actually do a foodie tour while here.

On our own foodie tour, we visited Oyster Bar by Aptus Seafood, famous for its oysters, lobsters, and scallops. Naturally, there are several options to choose from, so it depends on what you want. The St Helens oysters are sweeter, though more brackish, while Coffin Bay oysters lean towards being saltier.

For snacks to bring home, head to Nutshoppe, where they locally source and roast their nuts. Our fave? The macadamias! They were amazing, addictive, and roasted with nothing but salt and water.

Another must-stop is Agathé French Patisserie. Famous for their croissants, their pastries also command (really) long queues and sell out fast. While I personally wouldn’t swoon over the croissants, the pandan flan was bomb! So definitely give that a try.

Finally, for a little education on Victorian produce, we went to Georgie’s Harvest. A family business that originally focused on selling potatoes (they’ve got over 23 kinds), they’ve since evolved to specialise in all things Australian — even the condiments.

Address: 322-326 Coventry St, South Melbourne VIC 3205, Australia

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Claypots Evening Star

A restaurant located in the South Melbourne Market, this seafood bar and grill is like the culmination of all things good to come out of South Melbourne Market. Everything is, after all, procured from the market. And boy, is it good and fresh.

Besides serving up a mean Greek salad (that Georgie, who’s Greek, can attest to), other things to order include the lobster tails in sumac butter, the shellfish stir-fry with mussels and crabs (for sharing), Moreton Bay Bugs with garlic butter, and the clam spaghetti.

The only thing to note about this restaurant is that it’s small but popular. So be prepared to wait for a table if you’re dining during peak jours.

Address: Shop 101, 116 Cecil Street, Market, South Melbourne VIC 3205, Australia

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Kōri Ice Cream

Japanese-inspired, Melbourne-bred, Malaysian-owned. Founded just three months ago by two Malaysians, Kōri Ice Cream uses gelato techniques in creating their unique and borderline wacky Japanese-inspired flavours. There are 24 in total, many of which are plant-based for those who prefer to go vegan.

Luckily for me, I got to sample them all, and as odd as some of them may seem, they were all pretty good. Everything is made in-house from scratch, with Fuji Apple and Matcha Pistachio being the bestsellers. Nori, which is essentially seaweed, was tasty, while the Tofu Vanilla was oddly my favourite. Caramel Purin is custard-inspired, while Strawberry Shortcake is a favourite among the kids. Miso is another interesting savoury flavour that’s complex in the best way possible. Then, there are two kinds of sesame — Black Sesame and White Sesame — the former is perfect for cold weather, while the latter has a nice nutty flavour.

For those who enjoy a drink, you’re not forgotten. Opt for the Dassai Sake or Chestnut Rum flavours.

Address: 659 Glenferrie Rd, Hawthorn VIC 3122, Australia

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Secret Kitchen Chinatown

We know, and we get it. Rice is life. Once you’ve had enough of all the (utterly delicious) kinds of pasta and pieces of bread, make your way to Chinatown for a taste of home. Serving up authentic Chinese fare, we can’t recommend the crispy roast duck pancakes enough. Fatty, crisp, and a flavour bomb in every bite, it’s a Peking duck you won’t soon forget.

Other menu highlights include the Lamb Cutlets with Black Garlic and Honey Pepper, and for those who consume pork, I’m told the siew yoke is delish. You’ll also find other classics and must-tries such as the roasted goose, salt and pepper beancurd, and a slew of wagyu options.

Address: 222 Exhibition St, Melbourne VIC 3000, Australia

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Krimper Cafe

Didn’t think we’d make a whole Melbourne foodie list without telling you where to go for a bangin’ antipodean breakfast, now did you? Head over to Krimper for a hearty kick-start to your day — it was certainly the best breakfast I’d had the entire week I was there! And it’s proudly Malaysian-owned too.

While their menu isn’t vast, whatever they do, they do well. For those who like fruity breakfasts, indulge your sweet tooth in the Almond French Toast, accompanied by red wine poached pears, pistachios, seasonal fruits, honey mascarpone, and meringue. If you prefer something a little simpler, you can always opt for a good ol’ chia pudding or Eggs Benny. Another popular breakfast option is the Bacon & Waffles. And what’s an Aussie breakfast without some avo? The Avo Affair is a big breakfast of avocado, crispy kale, poached egg, radish and cherry tomatoes, feta, and dukkah with multigrain toast.

Address: 20 Guildford Ln, Melbourne VIC 3000, Australia

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Mabu Mabu (Big Esso)

Over at Federation Square is where you’ll be able to have one of the most interesting meals ever. Deeply rooted in tradition and a celebration of indigenous food and culture, drop by this all-day kitchen and bar for food you won’t find anywhere else in the world except for maybe a local’s kitchen.

In the Torres Strait, Mabu Mabu means to help yourself, while Big Esso is a means of saying thank you. In recognition of the land’s original owners and keeping to the restaurant’s ethos, meals here are meant to be shared — just as tradition dictates.

So choose from a series of big and small sharing plates that showcase local meats, including crocodile, emu, kangaroo, and bush-grown herbs. Suffice it to say, we tried everything we normally wouldn’t have, and we’ve got to say, croc tastes pretty darn good.

Address: Cnr Swanston Street and Flinders St, Melbourne VIC 3000, Australia

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Yarra Valley highlights

Four Pillars Gin Distillery

You’ve heard of wine tasting, but what about gin tasting? Heaps more fun and totally educational, discover the history of one of Australia’s most famous gin companies and the gourmand notes of their award-winning distillations. We were even lucky enough to get a tour of the back!

You’ll notice that nothing here goes to waste too. What’s unique about Four Pillars is that all their gins feature or include orange notes. After sweating the oranges, whatever’s leftover gets turned into marmalade.

Address: 2A Lilydale Rd, Healesville VIC 3777, Australia

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Quarters at Hubert Estate

First established in 1862, St Hubert’s is one of the Yarra Valley’s oldest wineries. This was even before the area established itself as a prominent wine region. But besides fine wines, do explore the whole of Hubert Estate or pop by Quarters for a meal if you don’t have enough time for a full-on wine tasting.

Quarters is a modern and family-friendly eatery that prides itself on making some darn good pizzas! Another worthy mention here is the blood orange cheesecake with cardamom. Sounds like a strong mix and not particularly appealing, but it was a pleasant surprise — so, so delicious and light.

Address: 1-3 St Huberts Rd, Coldstream VIC 3770, Australia

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Geelong & The Bellarine

Flying Brick Cider Co

Did you know that the Yarra Valley is also one of Victoria’s oldest cider regions dating back to the 19th century? Now you do! Standing proud along the Bellarine Highway is this fun brewery. A family-friendly place that serves food and even has a wine-tasting menu, Flying Brick was undoubtedly a highlight.

If you’re unsure what to have, go for the tasting board that’ll give you a sampler of their core ciders (all made with locally-grown pear and apples from Victoria) and whatever limited edition cider they currently have on offer. During our visit, we got to try Pango — a mix of pear and mango – and it was refreshing! Perfect for a hot, sunny day. Pango is part of their charity line, something that changes every three months, with proceeds from orders going to their charity of choice.

Address: 1251/1269 Bellarine Hwy, Wallington VIC 3222, Australia

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Lighthouse Olive Oil

Olive oil tasting this time, anyone? This was a new experience in itself too. To me, olive oil’s always been just that — oil. A means to cook my food and dress my salads. Not something I’d find particularly complex in terms of flavour. Well, I was wrong.

Olive oil tasting is very much a thing at Lighthouse. A plantation with over a whopping 11,000 olive trees of 10 varieties, the output here depends on the harvest. Flavour, like wine, also depends on the weather. For instance, if it’s been raining lots, the olives are less strong tasting than when the season is dry.

Address: 648 Andersons Rd, Mannerim VIC 3222, Australia

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Rolling Pin Pies & Cakes

If you’d like a test of Australia’s best pies for two years running, head over to Rolling Pin for a snack! The 2021 winning pie is the Surf n Turf, while this year’s winner is the Mushroom Truffle pie. There are multiple locations to choose from that all sell the same award-winning morsels of goodness, but you’ll only find them throughout Victoria. This is a local speciality, so don’t miss out!

Address: 40 Hesse St, Queenscliff VIC 3225, Australia

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The Little Mussel Cafe

This family-run gem serves up the freshest and sweetest mussels you can get your hands on in the tiny township of Portarlington. The Little Mussel Cafe started as a shack eight years ago attached to a mussel farm that grew so successful, it became a full-fledged restaurant in the township just 3km away.

Until today, the cafe grows the mussels, harvesting between 300 to 500 tonnes a year. While they’re prepared in different sauces for you to choose from, they like to keep it simple to let the main ingredient really shine.

Take a ferry from the Docklands for a quick meal here and make a day out of it.

Address: 40 Newcombe St, Portarlington VIC 3223, Australia

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Fisherman’s Pier

If ever you find yourself in Geelong, then be sure to grab a bite at this award-winning waterfront seafood restaurant that offers lovely views of Corio Bay. The atmosphere is relaxed, the portions are generous, and the staff are great — what more could you ask for? Give the oysters or clam chowder a go; they’re fresh from these parts. And as the perfect accompaniment to your meal, the restaurant also offers an extensive range of wines from the Bellarine Peninsula.

Address: 1a Yarra St, Geelong VIC 3220, Australia

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*All images by Tengku Zai.

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Going by the nickname Kuzai, the Kelantan native has spent 15 years in the wonderful world of publishing, formerly managing the beauty sections of glossies including ELLE and Harper’s BAZAAR. Now, Kuzai is the Editor of Zafigo. The wannabe runner is also mom to a feisty toddler, suffers from constant wanderlust, and really just works to eat, travel, and shop.