Melbourne’s foodie community celebrated somewhat of a coup in April 2017 at the Royal Exhibition Building, hosting the World’s 50 Best Restaurants Awards ceremony.
Fortunately for the mood on the night, a couple of Australian restaurants made the cut – and both were in Victoria. It seems that if you wish to dine at restaurants recently rated as some of the world’s best, make a booking at Attica in the Melbourne suburb of Ripponlea (rated 32nd) and/or Brae in Birregurra, west of Geelong (rated 44th).
Melbourne is a epicurian delight, so the problem isn’t finding recommendations, but rather in finding your own personal favourite.
Are your interests in a particular cuisine, style of cooking, fine dining, cheap eats or more a quest for laneway bars and restaurants or hard-to-find bars? Perhaps it is all about the crusade for the perfect coffee? Melbourne has whatever you want, but you’d need a year and an endless appetite to merely scratch the culinary surface.
Sometimes you simply have to call in an expert. And Matt Preston is certainly that. The affable, cravat-wearing MasterChef Australia judge has boundless enthusiasm for good food and a refreshing willingness to share his knowledge.
Our question was vague – asking him simply where he’d nominate as his top three small Melbourne bars and his three favourite Melbourne restaurants. We were hoping his list would move beyond the well-known award winners. Of course it did, delivering a list I’ll certainly be carrying when next in Melbourne.
Preston’s favourite bars
“Here are three wine bars where I recommend you go to eat and drink – thus answering your two requests with one journalistic stone.” The descriptions are Preston’s.
Marion Wine Bar
This wine bar, next door to its bigger sister Cutler and Co, has a fine list and a well-priced menu of delicious small plates such as venison tartare or asparagus with Comte cheese. Close tables means it can be noisy but also much fun.
Find it at: 53 Gertrude St, Fitzroy (on the corner of Deadmans Lane).
For serious grape lovers, Marion is the place to be
Bar Liberty is another great example of the modern wine bar with supremely tasty snacks such as their crispy chicken sandwich (the famous GLT) and, with sommelier legend Banjo Harris Plane looking after the drinks, expect interesting grape varietals and some surprising beer suggestions.
Find it at: 234 Johnston St, Fitzroy.
There are a great selection of food and drinks at Bar Liberty
Embla is one of the best places to eat and drink in an interesting way. The bar offers casual high tables and dishes from the wood-fired oven such as the famous creamed corn or whiting with burnt butter.
Find it at: 122 Russell St, Melbourne.
Try interesting food at Embla. Pictured above is their pickled zucchini and stracciatella
Preston’s favourite restaurants
“I've recently had great meals at the following restaurants,” says Preston.
Lûmé offers interesting and thoughtful cooking from Mr Quade and his team that stretches the mind without sacrificing pure deliciousness. Real skill with non-alcoholic cocktails too.
Find it at: 226 Coventry St, South Melbourne. Note that it’s closed from July 2, 2017 to reopen on August 4.
Art on a plate: desserts at Lûmé, such as the popular 'Pearl on the Ocean Floor', makes for an exciting dining experience
Brilliant, inspired modern cooking and a calm atmosphere at this Armadale restaurant that’s rapidly jostling for the title of Melbourne's best.
Find it at: 5/1121 High St, Armadale.
Amaru offers a multi-course tasting menu of complex contemporary food
Charlie Carrington is a young chef challenging restaurant norms by totally shifting the geographic focus of his set menu every few months. Israel and Korea have recently been destinations for his inspiration.
Find it at: 133 Commercial Road, Prahran.
The menu at Altas Dining will take you on a culinary journey
Image credits: MasterChef AU / TEN Network, Marion Wine, Bar Liberty, Kristoffer Paulsen, Miyuki Mardon, Amaru, Atlas Dining.