We’ve teamed up with Hostplus (an awesome super fund who are just as passionate about the Hospo industry as we are) to bring you the best of the city, straight from one of our fave chefs in Melbourne. When you head on into these chef hotspots, why not tip your future self too— don’t forget a little extra super now will make a big difference later on.
When it comes to finding the best restaurants in Melbourne, the best people to ask are often those in the kitchen. We caught up with one of Australia’s leading young chefs, Damien Neylon, who just so happens to be the sous chef at award-winning progressive restaurant Brae, to talk espressos, lobster rolls and tinnies of Moritz. Yup, they all made his list of his favourite ways to relax and reward himself after a long week when visiting Melbourne.
So, where does one of Australia’s top sous chefs go when he wants to indulge? Read on for Damien’s favourite hot-spots for relaxing, drinking and dining in Melbourne.
The Failsafe: Supernormal, Melbourne CBD
Everyone’s favourite Asian-fusion eatery, Supernormal, made Damien’s list for a top dining experience.
“Whether by myself for a snack or with some friends for lunch, Supernormal always serves solid, delicious food that’s tasty and fun. We usually sit at the bar and always order too much: The peanut butter parfait and lobster roll are always on my order.”
The #FatFeed: Belle’s Hot Chicken, Fitzroy
Who can resist the lure of Belle’s Hot Chicken?! The Gertrude Street eatery wins on all fronts; baize, food and vibe:
“For those who have not been, go! Belle’s serves the best fried chicken in Australia that I have ever had, with a topping of cool vinyl and excellent natural wines.”
Our stomachs concur, Damien.
The Coffee Spot: Brother Baba Budan, Melbourne CBD
In spite of being situated in Birregurra, out in the Otways, Damien drinks his coffee in the locals-only haunt, Brother Baba Budan. You won’t find a better cup of coffee in Melbourne CBD, folks, and this caffeine addict likes his in a double dose:
“Brother Baba serves excellent coffee in such a central spot. My order’s a double macchiato, then a latte while reading the newspaper.”
The Market: Queen Victoria Market
“This place has it all: Epic seafood, deliciously fresh meat and excellent vegetables,” says Damien. “It’s also a great place to show international or interstate friends to give them a small insight into Melbourne’s food culture.”
As for his guilty pleasure, we KNEW Damien was a doughnut fan at heart!
“You can get cheap hot donuts here—my fave—and wash them down with a coffee from Market Lane.”
Spoken like a QVM market pro, Damien. Bravo!
The Burger Bar: Huxtaburger’s Theo
If you haven’t wolfed down a double patty in one of Huxtaburger’s venues, you haven’t lived a meaty, cheesy life. The Theo causes even the most seasoned burger pro into fits of hunger and burgeromance…
“The Theo—double patty, double cheese and bacon—is a real beast of a burger. It’s Huxtaburger’s best, without a doubt. Have it with a can of Moritz!”
Whatever you say, Damien…
The Date Spots: Ombra & Flower Drum, Melbourne CBD
The way to a lover’s heart is, surely, salumi, no?! If you don’t fall for the incredible charcuterie at Ombra, one of the best restaurants in Melbourne for meat lovers, you’ll definitely fall for the cocktails:
“Get a Negroni—they use house-made bitters in them—have some salumi, then choose a nice bottle of wine, try the Calabrian kimchi and have an excellent pizza. The PERFECT way to kill an afternoon with a special someone.”
And it you’re looking to woo the one you love with dumplings, hit Melbourne CBD institution Flower Drum.
“For a special occasion, Flower Drum is a great option, even if you’re just with friends. The traditional Cantonese menu is among the best in the city, with some of the highest quality service in a restaurant in Melbourne. If you have a long night dining here, make sure the drunken squab and pearl meat are included on the menu.”
The Fine Dining Establishment: Attica & IDES, Ripponlea & Clayton
Our beautiful city does fine dining like no other city in the world, and some of the best restaurants in Melbourne are to be found in the suburbs surrounding the inner city. Attica and IDES are Damien’s top picks, and for good reason too.
“In my opinion, Attica is the best restaurant in Melbourne. I have been around five times since turning 18 and, in that time, it’s always changing and improving. Unfortunately their classic potato dish has disappeared from the current menu, which was one of my favourite dishes ever.
As for IDES Melbourne, my friend Peter Gunn’s monthly pop up at Persillade, it’s just moving from strength to strength. I’m so happy for this incredible food pop-up, especially for his short rib dish, which I had on my first visit. If you book into IDES, you’ve got to try it!”
The Late-Night Bar: The Everleigh & Bar Lourinha, Fitzroy & Melbourne CBD
We LOVE anyone who’s prone to a stiff drink, and Damien’s choice of The Everleigh won him top cocktail bar points in our books.
“After finishing up at Belle’s, have a night cap here. They can make anything, but stick to something traditional like an Old Fashioned or a Martini, and it will be one of the best you’ve ever sipped on.”
But when it comes to late-night vino and nibbles, there’s another bar you should be checking out. Bar Lourinha—whether it be for some snacks and a drink or a few plates and a good bottle (or two)—you can find it all at this CBD bar and eatery.
“Sit at the bar or on one of the comfortable couches and make sure you sample the lardo on toast and the cured kingfish. Delicious.”
The Wishlist: Lee Ho Fook, Lume & The Town Mouse
Of course, even the best chefs suffer from a little FOMO, which is why there are plenty of things on Damien’s radar. While we’re creating food wishlists it’s also not a bad idea to chip in to our future-self funds (aka our super funds) to make our life wishlists come true. Even a few coffees’ worth of coin now will make a big difference down the track (even though we’re totes aiming to retire at 35). So what’s making Damien save up his pennies?
Unsurprisingly, three of The Urban List’s favourite restaurants in Melbourne make Damien’s list of must-try venues that he’s yet to dine in. Chinese restaurant Lee Ho Fook makes the budget grade, while South Melbourne degustation hot-spot Lume and Carlton eatery The Town Mouse rank high on the wish list.
“I am desperate to go to all three eateries, but I just haven’t had the time! I’ve been hearing so many good things about each place, and I can’t wait to check them out. Next time, hey?”
Book your tables now, Damien, and get ready to treat yourself the next time you’re in Melbourne. Trust us, all three are worth it!
As you add these spots to your own bucket lists, pop a tenner in for each and let it grow in your super fund for excellent eats when you too have knocked off work (this time for good).
Want to win an amazing Melbourne food experience of your own?
Hostplus is helping you save up so you can keep on stuffing your face, well into your older days. All you have to do is treat yo’ self by paying your future self. Sounds pretty win-win, right?
Simply top up your own Hostplus Super account today and you could win your way to a jaw-dropping foodie long weekend worth $6,000.
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Image credit: Flower Drum by Jenna Fahey White, Supernormal by Sabine Legrand, The Everleigh by Nick West, Belle's Hot Chicken by Jenna Fahey White, Attica