Victoria, along with its capital Melbourne, is the beating heart of Australia’s culinary scene. In Melbourne you’re just as likely to find adventurous restaurants tucked away in laneways as sky-high restaurants with commanding skyline views. In the greater Victoria region, you’ll discover restaurants built in harmony with nature, some offering produce from their own organic farms.
Wherever you go, the food promises to be varied, with inflections from across the globe alongside local Aboriginal flavours that are unlike any other. Here are eight restaurants that define high quality dining in Melbourne and Victoria.
A showcase of the finest sustainable ingredients
For stunning views and a meal to match, book a table at Atria. Perched on the 80th floor of the Ritz-Carlton Melbourne, this restaurant is the creative outlet of executive chef Michael Greenlaw. Savour exceptional dishes like a dry-aged Macedon Ranges duck and a Victorian crudo made with local fish while enjoying a panoramic view of Melbourne’s Central Business District. Each of these farm-fresh dishes on the seasonal menu honours the region’s sustainable growers, graziers and fishermen.
2. Big Esso by Mabu Mabu
A celebration of Australia’s Indigenous culinary heritage
Indigenous culture is an essential part of Australia’s culinary heritage and Big Esso celebrates just that. This all-day bar and kitchen in Federation Square is run by Torres Strait Islander chef Nornie Bero. The chef champions a menu that celebrates contemporary Indigenous culture by incorporating native flavours into large-format sharing dishes such as the grilled whole garfish with lemon myrtle beurre blanc. A collection of artworks by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists enhances the dining experience.
An eclectic menu of flame-kissed flavours
Led by executive chef Khanh Nguyen and the team behind the award-winning Sunda, Aru is one of Melbourne’s most celebrated dining establishments. The restaurant’s menu takes inspiration from destinations along the ancient seafaring routes between China, Indonesia and northern Australia. Like its sister restaurant, the menu features Asian flavours paired with fresh Australian ingredients – most of which are cooked or finished over the flame for a touch of smoke and char. Expect dishes like the barramundi with buttermilk dashi, yuzu kosho, leek and blood lime, and a cosy interior of brick, warm wood and marble.
4. Apollo Inn
An intimate drinking den inspired by Europe
Set in the heart of Melbourne’s CBD, Apollo Inn is an elegant cocktail bar that’s helmed by the same team as Gimlet, which sits just next door. The bar’s décor is inspired by European cocktail bars of old and its name references the original pub that once stood at the site of its sister establishment. The bar’s curated cocktail list consists of Old World classics with a contemporary spin. Drinkers will also enjoy access to Gimlet’s extensive wine cellar.
5. Olivine Wine Bar
A stylish wine bar set within a former prison
Step into Olivine Wine Bar and you’ll struggle to believe the stylish space was once Pentridge Prison. The bar has transformed hand-carved bluestone walls by gussying them up with a sleek modern bar counter and Mid Century-inspired furniture. The wine list here is a veritable tome of over 500 labels from local and international producers that have been selected by Liinaa Berry, one of Australia’s most esteemed sommeliers. Pair your tipples by selecting from a grazing menu that highlights local and seasonal produce.
6. Laura, Merricks
A contemporary restaurant where food and art collide
Located near Point Leo Beach in Merricks, Laura is a restaurant that extols the virtues of unhurried dining. Choose from a seasonal menu which focuses on local produce or the signature menu with perennial favourites like the Aquna Murray cod with Joselito jamón pil-pil. The restaurant draws its name from the seven-metre-tall cast iron sculpture “Laura” by Jaume Plensa, which looks into the dining space. The sculpture also sits within an arts park – perfect for that after-dinner stroll.
How to get there: One-hour drive from Melbourne
7. Wickens at Royal Mail Hotel, Dunkeld
A farm-to-table dining experience amidst stunning surroundings
Sequestered away in the lush surrounds of Grampians (Gariwerd) National Park, Wickens presents a dining experience that can be enjoyed by way of a five-course, eight-course or a Chef’s Table menu. Executive chef Robin Wickens frequently refreshes the menu to take advantage of the daily harvest from the hotel’s expansive organic garden. You’ll have the option to pair your meal with wines from their impressive collection of over 30,000 labels. While savouring your meal, take in the lush views of the park from the full-length windows.
How to get there: 3.5-hour drive from Melbourne
8. Brae, Birregurra
A contemporary hilltop retreat with an organic farm
With six luxury guest suites, an organic farm and lush natural surroundings, diners at Brae will enjoy the bounties of the land while immersed in nature. The restaurant’s menu is ever evolving, dictated by the day’s harvest along with seasonal produce from ethical sources. Crops from the winter harvest include bulls blood beetroot, broccoli raab and globe artichokes that feature in hearty seasonal dishes. Furthering the restaurant’s efforts at sustainability, the on-site farm employs organic principles in their farming of seasonal vegetables, fruits, nuts and wheat grain, while eggs are sourced from their free-range chickens.
How to get there: 1.5-hour drive from Melbourne
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