Visiting Melbourne for the Australian Open? Here’s some local knowledge and GSG tips about the main neighbourhoods for the best places to eat, drink and play.
Melbourne’s Bars, Restaurants and Cafes
Part of what makes Melbourne such a livable city is the abundance and quality of its restaurants, cafes, bars and pubs. Eating out is a major pastime for people who live in Melbourne, who are very particular about going to places that offer high quality service, great flavours and good value. As a visitor to Melbourne this means there are delicious eating and drinking opportunities to savour on every block.
Read on for local information on eating and drinking in Melbourne.
GSG Tip: If you’re from a “tipping country” like the USA you’ll be used to tipping, but in Australia tipping isn’t expected – it is appreciated though. As a local I only tip in cafes and restaurants if the service is particularly good. Often people will round the bill up to the nearest multiple of ten.
It can be tempting to stay close to your hotel when looking for somewhere to eat, but that might not be the best option. To get a wider experience of Melbourne, the following neighbourhoods (which we call suburbs) are all worth a visit.
GSG Tip: In Australia a lot of restaurants allow BYO (Bring Your Own) drinks. There will usually be a sign on the door that states what type of drinks you can BYO, eg wine only. A corkage fee will be added to your bill but BYO’ing can save you money if you like to have a glass of wine with dinner.
Melbourne CBD (central business district)
A lot of the top rated restaurants are located in the CBD, which offers a large choice of different types of food across a range of budgets.
Note that plenty of the bars and restaurants in Melbourne’s CBD are hidden away. If the address looks like it is in an office building or down an alley then it probably is. Be prepared to go through doors that may not look like the entrance to a bar and walk down alleyways, sometimes past rubbish bins. You will be rewarded.
GSG’s Fave’s in the CBD:
- Madame Brussels – Roof Top Bar with stylish decor like you’ve probably never seen before.
- Melbourne Supper Club – Hard to find wine bar with an awesome selection of wines and fantastic service.
- Cookie – Thai food restaurant and beer hall. Try a Bellini!
Federation Square aka Fed Square
Since opening in 2002 this area has become the main public space in Melbourne. If there is an event, demonstration or festival taking place it is likely to be at Fed Square. Opposite Flinders St station and situated on the north side of the Yarra river, Fed Square is a convenient meeting place full of bars and restaurants, as well as NGV (National Gallery of Victoria) and the Melbourne Visitor Centre.
GSG’s fave in Fed Square is Transit Cocktail Lounge’s rooftop bar. This is a great place to sit back and enjoy views of the Yarra River. To get to Transit, go into Transport and take the lift to the top floor.
Riverland bar is also a good place to stop on the way to or from the tennis.
Located right in the city centre, running along Little Bourke Street and its side streets, Chinatown is the place for authentic Chinese food. Many of these Chinese restaurants are good value for money and most offer BYO.
GSG Tip: Bottle Shop is the name given to retailers selling alcohol. They are common in the CBD and on most main streets. Most supermarkets will have an attached bottle shop. Due to licensing laws most bottle shops close relatively early, between 9 to 10pm. Closing hours can vary by day of the week.
Southgate, Southbank and South Wharf
These three areas stretch along the south side of the Yarra River, across from the CBD between Princes Bridge and Wurundjeri Way.
Southgate is a complex of shops, restaurants and bars next to the Arts Centre Melbourne, which houses the Hamer Hall music venue, and close to the NGV. Restaurants located here have views of the river, Flinders St station and the CBD skyline.
The Southbank restaurants are in the middle of these three precincts. The riverside promenade is lined with restaurants and bars. Most of these restaurants have outside seating areas where you can make the most of the weather and the view.
For something different Eureka89 restaurant is situated on the 89th floor of the Eureka tower, Melbourne’s tallest building.
GSG’s Fave’s in Southbank:
- Ponyfish Island – Super cute bar literally in the Yarra River (pictured below).
- World Restaurant and Bar – World has great everything! Food, drinks, cocktails, atmosphere, Happy Hour, bands.
- Left Bank Melbourne – Cocktail bar and restaurant. Happy Hour specials.
Southbank is also home to the Crown Entertainment Complex. This is an integrated resort containing a casino, hotels, a food court, shops, numerous bars and restaurants and a multi-screen cinema.
During the Australian Open (in previous years anyway!0 there is a live tennis site along the riverside in front of Crown where there is a large screen showing live coverage from Melbourne Park along with a pop-up bar and food carts.
GSG Tip: Time a visit to Crown so that you can see the fireballs (officially called gas brigades). This is a display of balls of fire, produced from eight towers each 10m tall and 50m apart along the riverside promenade which occurs each evening on the hour from 9pm to midnight (to 1am on Fridays and Saturdays) during summer. It is more impressive than it sounds!
At the western end, past the Convention and Exhibition Centre is South Wharf. Here you will find a mix of restaurants and bars, most of which are in converted sheds left over from the area’s commercial docking past. Pollywoodside, a nineteenth century ocean going sailing ship is docked near to the restaurants. The Direct Factory Outlets (DFO) shopping centre is also located next door.
South Wharf is GSG’s home turf so I have a lot of fave’s there including:
- Common Man – A fab bar and restaurant in all respects. Food and drink specials. I particularly recommend the gluten free pizza if you’re GF.
- Bohemian – Quite possibly the best tapas I’ve ever tasted.
- Gasolina – Fantastic range of food, great burgers and cocktails. Exceptionally good service.
- Meat Market – Try the Happy Hour from 4 to 7pm for beer and wine. Excellent Steaks.
- Plus 5 – Also try this Happy Hour from 4 to 7pm on weekdays. Exceptionally good service.
- The Wharf Hotel – Excellent steak – try it on Tuesday night when it’s $15.
- Byblos – Lebanese and mediterranean food. Delicious kebabs. Funky bar area.
- Melbourne Public – Great place for sports fans, has lots of TVs showing the tennis.
- Bang Pop – Thai street food with incredible flavour.
South Wharf does a wonderful job of marketing and promoting specials. I can’t recall ever having a bad meal there, or receiving bad service. Give it a go! It’s worth walking the extra block or two. And you get a great view of the city from the river.
Want to know about more neighbourhoods in Melbourne? Read Melbourne’s Neighbourhoods: A Snapshot of Where to Eat, Drink and Play (Part Two)
If you’re a Melbourne local, what other bars, restaurants or cafes would you recommend for visitors?
Until next time
Grand Slam Gal