The can't talk, eating bit
This is the bit where we humble brag about how Melbourne is home to the best (and most unique) dining experiences. We’re an utterly food-obsessed city, with a dynamic and exhilarating restaurant scene that’s so fast-paced it’s almost impossible to keep up with.
If you’re bored of the norm and want to dine a little different, you’ve come to the right place. Melbourne’s melting pot of vibrant eateries will make your head spin with delight, from bustling dumpling joints lining the streets of Chinatown to hidden laneway dining spots down Flinders Lane.
Melbourne chefs are at the forefront of doing things differently, pioneering all the weird and wonderful ways to create mind-boggling taste explosions for curious diners to savour. So, loosen your belt and strap yourself in as we delve into nine of the quirkiest Melbourne dining experiences that will shake up your senses and reinvigorate the palate.
1. Panda Hot Pot
Ascend the grand sweeping staircase at Panda Hot Pot in Carlton and be transported back to ancient China for an evening of spicy Sichuan feasting beneath a slightly terrifying 1.5-tonne steel dragon. Sip, dip and slurp flavourful 12-hour broth accompanied by a dizzying choice of 80+ ingredients, ranging from spicy beef and ox tongue to bamboo slices and fresh lotus root.
Panda Hot Pot, Carlton, Melbourne
2. Fluffy Torpedo
On Smith Street in Fitzroy, you’ll find Fluffy Torpedo – an outlandish, lab-like ice cream shop adorned with over 200kg of lollies. Though you might be tempted to lick the sour strap resin floor upon entering, the ever-changing ice cream menu will quickly divert your attention (and taste buds). Wonderfully wacky flavour combinations that just work include Vegemite and white chocolate, blue Powerade, pork butter and chilli oil, and Mountain Dew Oreo.
From the team behind Melbourne’s beloved Sunda comes Aru, where a wood-fired fusion of native Australian ingredients and Asian flavours combine to create seriously mouthwatering dishes. If you’re partial to a Bunnings snag, you’ll be salivating over Aru’s signature duck sausage sanga. Their deliciously modern, Vietnamese-inspired take on the Aussie classic features a charcoal-grilled duck sausage topped with caramelised onion, Kewpie mayo and peanut hoisin sauce (we’re not drooling, you are).
Aru Restaurant, Melbourne
4. Soi 38
For tasty and authentic Thai street food in a quirky, no-frills setting, Soi 38 is a must. And by no frills, we mean in an above-ground car park down a hidden laneway off Bourke Street. This unassuming eatery embodies everything we love about Melbourne dining – authentic, flavourful noodle dishes devoured on colourful tables and chairs in buzzing surroundings. Trust us; this one is worth queuing for.
Situated in a couple of heavily graffitied train carriages five stories above the streets of Collingwood, Easey’s serves signature all-day burgers in a nostalgic, vibey setting. Park yourself on orange plaid seats from commuter days of yesteryear with a Melbourne Bitter and a juicy smash burger and you'll likely feel, well, very Melbourne.
Easey's, Collingwood, Melbourne
Step through the imposing black and gold carved front door and get ready to feast like Thor at this moody Viking-inspired fine dining restaurant on Hardware Street in Melbourne. Live out your Chris Hemsworth fantasies while sipping strong tipples from a horn like the Vikings did but fear not, Mjolner is no tacky theme-restaurant. This is a place for indulgent protein-forward feasting, where every meal begins with a complimentary shot of stone-boiled vermouth and fine cuts of meat are sliced with hand-carved knives.
7. Big Esso by Mabu Mabu
Bright, bold and flavourful are a few words we’d use to describe Big Esso, a fabulous all-day bar and kitchen from Torres Strait Islander chef Nornie Bero. Head to Fed Square and tuck into contemporary Indigenous cuisine made with love, celebrating native ingredients like pepperberry, kangaroo, lemon myrtle and wild crocodile. While you’re there, sip Quandong Spritz and Green Ant-tini cocktails at Australia’s first Indigenous bar.
Big Esso by Mabu Mabu, Fed Square, Melbourne
8. Johnny, Vince & Sam’s
This newly opened Lygon Street restaurant will transport you straight to Nonna’s house with its cosy, eclectic interior and hearty Italian comfort food. Named after their characters, Johnny, Vince & Sam’s is the latest venture from beloved comedy trio Sooshi Mango (known for their tongue-in-cheek ‘ethnic dad’ sketch videos). With garish floral carpets and an unpretentious old-school Italian menu from an award-winning chef, it’s the perfect mix of daggy and delicious.
Melbourne is home to an abundance of effortlessly cool underground bars and eateries, and Ototo is one to add to your list. Cosy up in a dimly lit booth to share delicious Japanese-inspired snacks or grab a stool at the bar and watch talented bartenders shake up some seriously sexy cocktails. This sleek underground spot is perfect for date night. Or a solo treat yourself night. Or any night, really.