I asked my good friend Rod, who grew up in Melbourne, for some useful like-a-local tips. He pulled a fantastic list of great pieces of advice I go by when I travel again south.
Stalactites Greek Restaurant – 177-183 Lonsdale Street (Corner of Lonsdale and Russell Streets), Melbourne CBD.Phone: +61 3 963 3316 Web: http://www.stalactites.com.au/ This place is a Melbourne institution. The food is great and cheap. This restaurant is open 24 hours, 7 days a week. Make sure that you order a mixed souvlaki with extra garlic sauce and lemon juice for your main and an entree of saganaki cheese. You will LOVE it!!
Mamasita’s Mexican Restaurant – Level 1, 11 Collins Street (at the top near Spring street), Melbourne CBD. Phone: +61 3 9650 3821 Web: www.mamasita.com.au One of the hot spots in Melbourne at the moment. Their Mexican food is to die for, as are their margaritas. Restaurant opens at 5pm and the queue is down the road by 5:30pm. Unfortunately, they don’t take bookings unless the party is 8 or more people. Things to try are de Congrejo Tostaditas (Crab meat, avocado, cucumber, tamarind mayo and habanero), Tamal can salsa guajilo (pulled pork tamale, heirloom tomato salad and guajilo salsa, Papas (roasted potatoes, Serrano chilli and rosemary), Elates callejeros (“Street style” chargrilled corn, quesa, chipotle mayo and lime).
West Lake restaurant, Little Bourke Street, Chinatown, Melbourne city: Chinatown has a number of nice restaurants. My favourite is west Lake. Go in there and order the Peking Duck. They do Peking Duck differently to every other Chinese restaurant. Here, you don’t get the duck as two separate courses with just the skin and pancake for a 1st course and a sang choi bao as a second. Instead, the waiter will stand there and make each pancake for you and instead of just the skin, you get a big chunk of the duck meat as well.
Hardware Lane, (running parallel to Elizabeth street, in between Lonsdale and Bourke Streets), Melbourne CBD. This narrow lane features a number of bars and restaurants with a cool ambience. Notable mentions are Golden Monkey (a bar with a cool Asian vibe to it. You would expect Bruce Lee to wander in for a drink), Campari House (another bar). The Lane is packed on Friday and Saturday nights.
Benito’s Café and Wine Bar – 445 Little Collins Street, Melbourne CBD. Phone: +61 3 9670 5347 Web:http://www.benitoscafewinebar.com.au/ It’s a bit of a walk but this little café/wine bar/cheese room is ranked number 3 out of Melbourne’s top ten restaurants. The Baked Eggs with Rich Tomato, Cannellini Beans & Sausage Spezzatino will cure any hangover that you may have from the night before.
Queen Victoria Building/Melbourne Central. Located in the heart of Melbourne, there a heap of shops, a Big W (Queen Vic Village), bowling alley, etc. If you have time to kill, you can wander around here.
Opposite Flinders Street station on the Federation Square side, there is a bar called Transport Bar. It is pretty cool if you want to have a few drinks.
Chapel Street – South Yarra: This is like the hip suburb of Melbourne. There are a number of cool restaurants, cafes, bars, shops along this strip. Stop in at Frostbites where their specialty is alcoholic slushies.
Bridge Road, Richmond: If you want to sample some of Melbourne’s finest Vietnamese cuisine, there are a number of excellent and cheap restaurants along this road. There are also a number of factory outlets for brands such as Country Road.
Docklands – This place is rubbish. Don’t waste your time. There is nothing there.
Crown Casino, Southbank: This would have to easily be the best casino in the whole of Australia. It is basically a mini city. There are movie theatres, nightclubs, cafes, restaurants, a shopping arcade, amusements and of course the casino which makes Sydney’s Star City look like the pokies at a local pub. The Sports Bar is an excellent place to just relax and watch sport while eating snacks. There restaurants are also excellent, although some of them may be a bit on the pricey side.Spice Temple is a notable mention here. Southbank also has a number of shopping arcades and restaurants/bars which you can check out. It is a nice walk along the Yarra river.
Brunswick street, Fitzroy: Brunswick street is where the arty side of Melbourne can be found. This street is filled with cafes, restaurants and cool shops.
Smith Street, Collingwood: A few factory outlets are located along here eg. Adidas, Nike.
Lygon Street, Carlton: This is basically little Italy and is the equivalent to Norton Street, Leichhardt in Sydney. There are excellent restaurants along here which have awesome wood fired pizza.
Chadstone Shopping Centre: About 15 minutes from the city by car, this shopping centre is huge. It makes Parramatta Westfield look like Carlingford Village. If you go there, make sure you stop off at the Information Desk and ask for a Chadstone Passport. Basically, if you are from Interstate or overseas, you just have to show your driver’s license or passport and you get a Chadstone passport which entitles you to a whole bunch of discounts and special offers at the stores in the shopping centre.
Basically, the places I have listed for you are within walking distance or easily accessible by public transport, apart from Chadstone.
Also, do not forget that if you do Great Ocean Road, stop in Anglesea (just past Bells Beach) at the shops. There should be a place called Jum’s Chicken shop. Eat the chips and gravy. Press on towards Lorne. Eat seafood at the restaurant at the end of the Lorne Pier. Also, if you have time, stop in at Point Addis. It is a beautiful secluded beach with wonderful scenery. But bear in mind that there is also a nudist colony there so you may be unfortunate enough to see old men frolicking in the water, like I did about 10 years ago.
Thanks Rod! 🙂