8 Melbourne restaurants you should have tried by now

Melbourne restaurants

Alice Piper

Posted November 10, 2021

Melbourne’s old faithfuls are as popular today as they were 60 years ago, proving they’re still the culinary kings of our city.

Melbourne is a city not short of places to eat. It's a large part of why we're the cultural capital of Australia; from Italian and Indian to Turkish and Thai, we have it all. And from breakfast to dinner, our beloved city has you covered.

But while it feels like a new restaurant opens daily, don’t forget the stalwarts of Melbourne's culinary scene – some of which have been kicking since the 1920s.

We’ve put together a list (in no particular order) of the best ol’ faithfuls, the restaurants that have stood the test of time and are just quintessentially ‘Melbourne’. Here are the institutions. 

Pellegrini's, CBD

Let’s start with a classic – Pellegrini’s. It can be safely said this institution is responsible for Melbourne’s world-class coffee scene.

Opening in 1954, for the past 67 years Pellegrini's has been serving up some of the best espresso, pasta and desserts in the city - and little wonder, since the first-ever espresso machine to arrive in Melbourne was delivered straight to Pellegrini's front door!

Grossi Florentino, CBD

This list wouldn’t be complete without Grossi Florentino. Operating since 1928 and run by legendary Melbourne chef Guy Grossi, this restaurant combines family feels, fine dining and old school charm. The result? Some of the best Italian food in the city.

Only serving top-of-the-line produce, it's the type of place that still takes pride in storing your coat in the cloakroom and pulling out your chair to sit down. Order the 'Gran Tour' - a five-course set menu matched with local and international wines if you want to treat yourself. 

Jimmy Watson's Wine Bar, Carlton

A cornerstone of Lygon Street, Jimmy Waston’s is the ultimate stalwart – operating since the 1920s.

This wine bar understands what it does well, and then elevates it to perfection. Expect wholesome dishes with plenty of European flavours, accompanied by delicious wines to warm the soul. But don't be put off by the décor (not the flashiest in Carlton) because the service and charm are world-class.

And when weather permits, head to the rooftop bar or waste the night away sipping a Pinot in the courtyard. 

D.O.C, Carlton

Another northside charmer is D.O.C, right in the heart of bustling Lygon street, where hawkers urge you to come and eat and where the smell of freshly ground coffee lingers in the air.

Established in 2004 by the sons of two Italian migrants, D.O.C offers locals the chance to indulge in authentic pizza, piadine, pasta, and all sorts of sweets. So successful was the original that there are now multiple venues, including a delicatessen and an espresso bar.

Go for the mouth-watering Sangiovese, poured right out of the barrel and a bowl of handmade pasta with simple ingredients. Or stand at the espresso bar and feel like you’re in the heart of Rome with a biscotti to go with it – after all, Lygon street isn’t called ‘Little Italy’ for nothing. 


Jimmy Watson's Wine Bar

Jimmy Watson's Wine Bar has been in the heart of Carlton for 100 years. 


France Soir, South Yarra

A drive across the bridge brings us to France Soir, a Toorak institution since 1986 when it was established by two Frenchmen, Jean-Paul Prunetti and Yvon Vogel.

Serving up French classics like steak tartare, snails and everyone’s favourite, crème brulee – it’s almost impossible to get a table here.

With the menu scribbled on mirrors and a wine cellar with more than 2,000 wines, it’s little wonder this French classic has been such a favourite among locals for so long. And when Jean-Paul started his culinary at just 14 years old, you know the menu is going to be good. 

A1 Bakery, Brunswick

Have you ever been to a Lebanese bakery? Do yourself a favour and head down to Sydney Road, Brunswick where the original (and best) resides.

Opening in 1992 as a small family business, this bakery and Middle Eastern grocer experienced such success, they’re now open in Fairfield and Dandenong too.

Think bread, pita, pies, and Lebanese pizza, the family feel of this place has not been lost in the 30 years of operation. It honestly feels like a visit to your Grandmother’s house. 

Marios, Fitzroy

The brainchild of Mario Maccarone and Mario De Pasquale, two Italian-Australian waiters who bonded over Melbourne's food scene in the 1980s, they opened Marios, which has become an institution for northsider’s over the last 30 years.

Whether it’s an Artisan coffee or a hearty glass of red to go with your rigatoni, Marios is reliable, tasty, and a good old-fashioned feed.  

Donovans, St Kilda

This St Kilda gem is known as the ‘House on the Beach’, as it was one of three original bathing houses built in 1920 on the St Kilda foreshore.

When the bathing houses became so run down in the 1980s, the local council decided to put the building up for tender as a restaurant, and in 1986, Jean Jacques by the Sea was born. Decades later and an extensive renovation on the books, the space now operates as Donovans.

Serving up Mediterranean style food, the whole idea of Donovans is that you feel at home. With wicker chairs, comfy lounges and beachy accessories, it feels lux and casual at the same time.

Whether you choose to sit outside on the terrace, veranda, dining room, library, lounge or bar – Donovans is one you must put on the list.

Go on, reignite your love affair with Melbourne by experiencing the best of the best when it comes to our food scene and remember, the old faithfuls have stood the test of time for a reason. 


Mario's Fitzroy

One of the best old fashioned Italian meals can be found at Mario's in Fitzroy, serving locals for 30 years.


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