Ahh Melbourne, the food capital of Australia (soz Sydney, you know it's true). There's a lot to eat in our city, but there’s nothing worse than getting the whole gang together and setting your sights on the latest #instaworthy spot, only to find that it’s not taking bookings...and the wait time is a zillion hours.
We’ve put together a list of Melbourne’s top restaurants you can actually book in advance to make sure you don’t end up sitting on Bourke Street with a KFC bucket ever again. (Unless you want to—those buckets are pretty great.)
George Calombaris’s greek heaven GAZI is a bit more casual than its sister, The Press Club, and a bit more fancy than Jimmy Grants. Drop in for lunch and grab a Bend Over Box—a mix of savoury and sweet treats, or stay for dinner and order one of everything. Think butter chicken Moussaka, soft shell crab souvlaki, and wood fire lamb shoulder. Opa! Although you can book, it normally fills up pretty fast, so make sure you book in advance.
If you're in the mood for a little South American in your life, look no further than Peruvian restaurant Pastuso. The house-made ceviche and cocktails are megastars, and their charcoal-grilled steaks tick all the boxes. Pastuso has a unique way of cooking their steaks, and they’re damn good. (Seriously, get a steak). Open for lunch and dinner. You can book online, but weekends are normally hard to grab and groups of 8 or more need to order from a set menu, so make sure you check this out.
Head here when you’re in the mood for a bloody yum rogan josh or lamb curry. Tonka serves up modern Indian food—but with a contemporary twist. The chefs swap their traditional Indian recipes and recreate old classics while still keeping it fresh, modern and full of punchy flavours. Their huge drinks menu features a bunch of Indian spices. It's like a Bollywood movie in your mouth. Tonka only take bookings for groups of less than 8, so keep this one in mind for intimate dinners, or a catch up with Mum and Dad.
Gingerboy uses the freshest Aussie seasonal produce to create a hawker-style menu full of share dishes that whisk you away to a street market in South East Asia in one bite. We recommend the ‘feed me’ option, letting the chefs put together a banquet for you. If you’re not feeling spontaneous, there’s no going past the spiced eggplant dumplings. It's best to book online, as you can see any special events in the calendar as you go along.
This is a good one for date night, or if you’re feeling a little bit fancy. Rosetta is high-class Italian and has menu superstars like taglioline with spanner crab, garlic, chilli and parsley, and house-made ricotta with Wagyu bresaola and pickled mushrooms. The decor is luxe AF too, making it the perfect date night digs. It's good to remember that at Rosetta if you're booking for more than 7 it's best to give them a call so they can chat about what best suits you.
We can’t get enough of Asian-fusion food in Melbourne, and Hochi Mama has some of the tastiest modern Vietnamese ever. (Big calls, but we’re going there). The menu is designed to share, but with dishes like fried chicken kimchi, Saigon caramelised pork belly, and roti & curry dip—we doubt there'll be much sharing going on. We suggest you get your paws on some #Pho’lings, which is basically dumplings in broth. The days of choosing between Pho and dumplings are O.V.E.R. You can book super easily online, too.
If you were in the market for pizza that makes you feel like you’re sitting on a cobblestone street in Rome, then 400 Gradi is where you go Their menu is huge, so it’s probably best to allow four extra hours to study it before the rest of your party arrives. Any of the pizzas are a hit—they’re all wood-fired and as authentic as you can get without a 24-hour plane ride. The team at 400 Gradi think it’s basically a crime to order a pizza without a glass of wine, so top up your glass and get stuck into a big cheesy slice. As there are a few locations, make sure you're on the right location's page before you book.
Le Bon Ton
Le Bon Ton is the brainchild of two American brothers who wanted to bring the very best of the American South to Melbourne. Menu favourites show off cooking techniques from all over the place—their brisket is done Texas-style, their fish comes from the Louisiana gulf coast, and inspiration for their menu comes from as far west as Mexico and Alabama. There's a late-night menu for all you night owls, too. If you prefer outdoor seating, this area doesn't take bookings. so make sure you get down early.
Think tapas, sangria, and a very cool atmosphere. The Spanish vibes are well and truly in the air when you walk into Bomba, with the culture of owners and all the staff smacking you between the eyes. Settle in for mouth-watering tapas like grilled octopus with confit potato and paprika, marinated lamb ribs with sumac yogurt and chargrilled quail. If you’re feeling really hungry, the paella is also a hit, or get the chefs to create a nine-course treat for you. Everyone in Melbourne wants a slice of Bomba, so bookings are limited to 1 hour 45 minutes.
One word— karaoke. If there was anything better than feasting on Bahn mi, san choy bau, and Korean fried chicken ribs, it’s doing it while belting out some Britney Spears. Rice Queen has just given you the combination you didn’t know you needed. When your voice gets a little croaky from all those high notes, settle in for some sake’ or a Vietnamese espresso martini. For use of the karaoke rooms, bookings are necessary.
Meat lovers, this one’s for you. (Sorry veggos). These guys are no rookies when it comes to meat. At Meatmaiden, the dry-ageing cabinet is full of premium meat, which can hang there for up to 40 days. The meat is then chucked in their custom-built smoker, which is kept lit day in and day out with ironbark from the Blue Mountains, giving a sensational smoky flavour. Mouth watering yet? Booking is encouraged, but if you have a last minute itching for ribs, they always keep room for walk-ins.
Head here if you’re feeling like putting on your best shoes and drinking fancy wine. #treatyoself. Saint Crispin is always changing up their menu depending on what’s in season. We recommend the tasting menu—there are five or seven-course options to choose from and you can pair wines, too. If you’re feeling like something extra spesh, choose one of the executive seats that look into the open plan kitchen. Make sure you leave plenty of time for a booking here. Call them up to make a booking Yes, you'll have to talk to an actual person.
We can’t think of many places that we will willingly queue for. But Chin Chin is definitely one of them. Good news though—since their renovations, they now offer bookings for groups of 9 or more. Score! Gather 9 mates and get your hands around some of the best Thai food Melbourne has on offer. Think kingfish sashimi, spanner crab and butter chicken curry. We’re hungry just thinking about it. Book online, but make sure you select the right option depending on the size of your group.
This uber fancy French restaurant has all the makings of a perfect night out with someone special. We can't pronounce half the things on the menu at Ôter, but through extensive testing, we've discovered it's best to just trust chef Jordan Clay. Sit up at the bar and he'll bring you plate after plate of vongole clams and surprisingly hefty poutine. Bookings aren't essential, and the team promise they will try their best to accommodate spontaneous diners.
You know what else doesn't need a booking? Chicken wings. All of the chicken wings.
Image credit: Annika Kafcaloudis | Pastuso