Eat Like a Local: Melbourne

Poached eggs on black pudding, claypot fish stews and perfectly grilled steaks are among the specialties served Down Under.

Melbourne Supper Club (Nicky Ryan)

Cicciolina

The tiny dining room and no-reservations policy mean that people arrive early, around 6 p.m., and stand three deep at the back bar waiting for a table. Seasonal items like white asparagus and Moreton Bay bugs (Australian crustaceans similar to rock lobsters) cycle on and off the specials blackboard, but it's the pastas, risottos, and perfectly grilled steaks that the trattoria's loyal customers crave. 130 Acland St., St. Kilda, 011-61/3-9525-3333, entrées from $11

The Botanical

Early-risers flock to "the Bot"--across the street from the Royal Botanic Gardens--for a "brekky" of poached eggs on wood-oven-baked black pudding, or pancakes with lemon curd and passion fruit. Sunlight pours into the loft-like space, reflecting off the foliage-motif drawings that grace the whitewashed walls. 169 Domain Rd., S. Yarra, 011-61/3-9820-7888, entrées from $9

Agapi

The no-frills Greek taverna with tin ceilings and exposed-brick walls has been family run since 1969. Though the second generation of owners--brothers Peter and Arthur Vorilas--were born Down Under, their menu features authentic Hellenic dishes like gyros--the lamb is rubbed with oregano, salt, and paprika and served in a pita alongside onion and crushed tomato. 262 Swan St., Richmond, 011-61/3-9428-8337, entrées from $14

Verge

Dallas Cuddy, an alum of London's Nobu, was voted best young chef by the Melbourne restaurant bible, The Age Good Food Guide 2007. To take advantage of his talents, many customers opt for the five-course tasting menu, which could include Wagyu beef tartare, roasted barramundi (a fish native to Australia), and a selection of artisanal cheeses. 1 Flinders Ln., Central Business District, 011-61/3-9639-9500, tasting menu from $59

Claypots

A riveted-copper octopus sculpture hangs in the dining room, and oysters are served at a bar made with wood recycled from a nearby jetty. The day's catches are simply seasoned and presented whole, and a variety of fish stews are served in the namesake earthenware dishes. 213 Barkly St., St. Kilda, 011-61/3-9534-1282 or 153 Gertrude St., Fitzroy, 011-61/3-9416-4116, entrées from $12

Melbourne Supper Club

Open to the public, the bar counts as its "members" the city's chefs and restaurateurs, who lounge on the leather couches after finishing their shifts, staying until the doors close at 4 A.M. (6 A.M. weekends). Finger foods (salmon rillettes, patés de foie gras) are good, but the main attractions are the 1,400-bottle wine cellar and the selection of Cuban cigars. The entrance is an unmarked door next to a restaurant called The European. 161 Spring St., Central Business District, 011-61/3-9654-6300, drinks from $8

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