Melbourne eats you can’t miss
Perhaps one of the first things any Singaporean would notice when trying to get food in Melbourne is just how expensive everything is. Coming from a place where $5 can get you a legendary Bak Chor Mee and a perfect Milo Bing, I was shocked when I found that I had to accept $15 meals as “cheap”.
But as humans, we adapt, and in my two years living in the heart of Melbourne’s CBD, moving from Melbourne Central, to Southern Cross, and then now to Bourke Street, I’ve found quite a number of reliable places to eat out.
What follows is a list of 10 destinations to satisfy any variety of cravings. Each of them offer quality food at reasonable prices, and are above all, consistent. Without further ado and in no particular order, here are 10 eateries in the heart of the city:
1. The Perfect Burger: Huxtaburger
Tucked away in a quiet laneway with nothing more than a neon sign exclaiming “Hot Beef” and “Cold Beer”, the CBD branch of this Melbournian chain is my personal favorite.
I’ve had burgers in the US, I’ve had burgers in Singapore, and I’ve made it a point to try burgers wherever I find myself in the world. Even then, Huxtaburger has presented me with what is, in my experience, the BEST BURGER in the world.
At first glance, the Huxtaburger appears to be a simple and unassuming sandwich, but bite into its light, sweet buns and an ethereal symphony of beef, tomato sauce, mustard and mayonnaise flood into your mouth, guaranteeing a burger you won’t soon forget. All for just a paltry $9.50.
Must Try: The Huxtaburger ($9.50)
Where to Find It: 357 Collins St, Melbourne VIC 3000
When to Find It: 11 AM – 10 PM
2. Pho for the Soul: Pho Bo Ga Mekong
Almost a Melbournian icon on its own, this cramped store in the heart of the city along Swanston Street greets you with a proud sign claiming that former US President Bill Clinton himself finished two bowls of noodles.
Perfect for a cold winter’s day or after a night out and about in one of the many nearby watering holes, Mekong’s Beef Pho is a luxurious affair. Its silky smooth rice noodles slide past your mouth and straight into your soul and its salty broth manages to be both light and hearty at the same time.
Top your bowl with a generous squeeze of lemon and plenty of crushed basil and let the dish warm you from the inside out.
Must Try: Beef and Brisket Pho (approx. $12.00)
Where to Find It: 241 Swanston St, Melbourne VIC 3000
When to Find It: 9 AM – 10 PM
3. Quick-but-Brilliant: Jimmy Grants
If you live in Melbourne and have a TV, it’s only a matter of time before you get swept away by the MasterChef frenzy each year. The judges of MasterChef Australia are local heroes, and the true chef of the trio, George Calombaris, is almost a household name.
Jimmy Grants is one of his ventures, offering affordable Souvlakis – A greek wrap that is synonymous with street food in Melbourne. This open-concept store is at the entrance of Emporium mall’s food court, next to Melbourne Central, and the wraps, while quick, do not disappoint.
Grilled meats bursting with flavor are slathered with creamy sauces, paired with aromatic herbs and vegetables and stuffed into a fluffy-yet-crispy wrap. It’s a wholesome, healthy meal that will not disappoint.
Must Try: Mr. Papadopoulos ($11.00)
Where to Find It: 287 Lonsdale St, Melbourne VIC 3000
When to Find It: 11 AM – 7 PM
4. Aussie-Style Sushi Done Right: Sushi Hub
One of the biggest culture shocks for me when arriving in Melbourne was the immense variety of sushi stalls set up all over the city. Step into one expecting proper nigiris and makis, however, and you’ll be quickly confused.
In Melbourne, sushi is more of a spring roll-like affair. They are served in 3-5inch rolls with a tiny bottle of soy sauce for you to snack as you walk. Once you get over the strangeness of it all, you’ll find that they are the perfect between-meal snack no matter the weather or situation.
As with all popular street foods, there’s the good, and there’s the bad, and then there’s Sushi Hub. Sushi Hub takes Melbourne-style sushi to new heights, serving up tasty combinations of fillings and wraps that always meet a high standard of flavor and balance.
Must Try: Salmon Sashimi Wrap ($2.90)
Where to Find It: Basement of QV, 180 Lonsdale St, Melbourne VIC 3000
When to Find It: 8 AM – 9 PM
5. Hidden Treasure: Dumplings on Russell
It was down to pure chance that I decided to walk into this unremarkable restaurant just off of Chinatown one fateful day. Expecting your standard Western-Chinese fare, I ordered their Yang Chow Fried Rice and was prepared to rush down a bland dinner and head home.
When the dish arrived I was blown away. The breath of the wok was readily apparent in its aroma and I found myself going at it like a starved hyena. I’d since returned countless times and tried their large variety of Szechuan dishes to great satisfaction.
If you ever find yourself there, skip the mediocre dumplings and go for their dishes with rice. It’s a meal worthy of an emperor.
Must Try: Yang Chow Fried Rice ($10.80)
Where to Find It: 163 Russell St, Melbourne VIC 3000
When to Find It: 12 PM – 10 PM
6. A Taste of Home: Shalom Indonesian Restaurant
Offering a large variety of Indonesian food, Shalom is a family-run business that will make you forget that you’re in Australia. As someone who’s grown up with Asian food, Shalom has helped to keep homesickness at bay for many months.
I’ve ordered their Ayam Penyet more times than I can remember and the chicken has always been perfectly cooked – crispy skin, juicy meat. Their chili sauce is unlike anything you’ll find elsewhere in the city; chunky with onions and pickled orange peel.
If you do plan to pay this joint a visit, do be sure to head down there before sundown, as once the clock strikes ten, the place becomes a Korean bar called k:night.
Must Try: Ayam Penyet ($10.00)
Where to Find It: 474 Little Lonsdale St, Melbourne VIC 3000
When to Find It: 9 AM – 10 PM
7. The Decision Maker: Rose Garden BBQ
Located just a stone’s throw from Queen Victoria Market, Rose Garden is easily my most patronized restaurant bar none. Run by a Malaysian family, the restaurant cooks pretty much any Southeast Asian cuisine you can think of, and they do it well.
Never without a long queue waiting for takeout, the restaurant runs like a frictionless machine, and you’d be sure you’d just stepped into a shop house somewhere in Geylang. The sheer variety of their menu will leave you turning your head from wall to wall, spotting specials posted up almost randomly across the store.
Must Try: Crispy Pork Omelet Rice ($10)
Where to Find It: 435 Elizabeth St, Melbourne VIC 3000
When to Find It: 11 AM – 9 PM
8. Modern Vietnamese Fusion: Paperboy
A firm believer in preserving the traditions of Asian food, I’ve never been a fan of fusion cuisine. So believe me when I say that Paperboy bucks that trend and forces me to question everything I’ve ever believed in.
Offering Vietnamese-style bowls of meats and rice noodles, the bowls available at this little restaurant look like glorified salads. But reach in and toss its contents and watch the magic unfold before you.
The charred, smoky taste of the barbequed meats are carried by the light, creamy sauce, coating a generous helping of rice noodles and crisp veggies in a smooth concoction bursting with flavor and freshness.
Served with popcorn tossed in sweet-chili glaze, this is a perfectly balanced meal that is delicious, affordable, and easy on the waist. Be sure to head down early as they are only open for lunch until 3PM!
Must Try: BBQ Chicken Bowl (Approx. $12)
Where to Find It: 320 Little Lonsdale St, Melbourne VIC 3000
When to Find It: 1130 AM – 3 PM
9. KFC: Gami Chicken
It’s the second hallyu and Korean Fried Chicken is taking Melbourne by storm. With so many to choose from, it’s hard to land on a favorite, but Gami Chicken has never failed to satisfy.
Their $34 box is perfect for sharing, and their chicken is always fried to a crisp yet somehow maintaining a juicy flesh within. They offer a variety of different sauces, each with their own merits that change the dining experience in different ways each time.
If ordering take out, Must Try asking for the sauce to be packed separately to prevent the chicken from getting soggy. Unless, of course, you prefer it that way.
Must Try: ½ Chicken with Sweet Chili ($34)
Where to Find It: Shop G, 535 Lt. Lonsdale Street (on Healeys lane) Melbourne VIC 3000
When to Find It: 530 PM – 1 AM
10. Incredible India: Delhi Rocks
To a non-Indian, Indian food is a curious thing. It’s exciting, spicy, and its flavor is always turned up to eleven. Delhi Rocks is no different. What sets Delhi Rocks apart, however, is its free-flow of roti and chai tea.
For just $10, you pick your choice of three curries and a person would be around to constantly furnish your plate with freshly grilled roti. Its bottomless cambro of chai tea is perfectly brewed and is the best thing to have on a cold winter’s evening.
Must Try: Butter Chicken, Palak Paneer ($10, part of set)
Where to Find It: 2/212 King St, Melbourne VIC 3000
When to Find It: 1130 AM – 0300 AM
A Meal in My Shoes
These may not be the best rated eateries on Zomato or UrbanSpoon, but they definitely deserve a spot on this list. The next time you find yourself in the city looking for a place to eat, give one of these a try. Who knows, you might find me sitting across from you having a meal as well!