Steeped in heritage yet still a hive of new shops, restaurants and bars in Melbourne, Carlton holds a dear place in the heart of this particular Urban Lister. Its Italian heritage means you’re never far from an espresso or some of Melbourne’s best pizza (one of our key life goals), and its proximity to both the CBD and neighbouring hipster-fest, Fitzroy, ensures Carlton’s got enough nightlife offerings to keep you occupied into the small hours. So, where should you be eating, drinking, shopping and culture-vulturing if you’re planning a trip to the inner north?
Vincent the Dog
Start the day off with a caffeine hit at Vincent The Dog, who pride themselves on serving some of the best coffee in Carlton. Inside their small coffee bar, you will also find breakfast, coffee cups and brewing apparatus, and sweet bites, which include salted caramel macaroon-style biscuits that make the perfect accompaniment to something long, bitter and black.
As proven by this Melbourne Italian restaurant’s continuously full tables, Tiamo nails the no-frills yet homely vibe. Its meals are extremely reasonably priced and its specials always offer something seasonal and sumptuous. A great venue if you’re heading out to eat with a crowd, just make sure you book ahead!
We wouldn’t blame you for walking past Epocha and mistaking it for a residential property. Situated within one of Rathdowne Street’s terraces, overlooking Carlton Gardens, the fine dining restaurant specialises in modern European cuisine that’s complemented by a cracking wine list. Look out for their exceptional tasting menus and foodie events for an evening of epicurean indulgence.
The Town Mouse
If creative modern cuisine is your thing, The Town Mouse—spearheaded by one of Australia’s greatest emerging chefs, Dave Verheul—should be in your diary. One of Melbourne’s best restaurants, The Town Mouse is a must! While the savoury dishes are wonderful, the desserts always surprise us, so be sure to save some room!
D.O.C. Pizza & Mozzarella Bar
Hidden a block behind Lygon Street, Drummond Street pizzeria D.O.C. serves up arguably Melbourne’s best pizzas, plus salads, specialty mozzarella dishes and more. It’s a great venue for small groups and al fresco dining, and if a sit-down meal isn’t your thing, they also run a fantastic espresso bar and deli on the main strip.
Heartattack and Vine
Carlton newcomer to the Melbourne bar scene, Heartattack and Vine, boasts delicious cocktails, beers, wine, bar snacks, and a sociable crowd to boot. Perfect for sharing savoury plates and an afternoon vino with friends.
The Carlton Wine Room
Scouring the globe for the best wines possible, The Carlton Wine Room is one of Melbourne’s best bars for wannabe sommeliers. The staff are friendly and knowledgeable, and their tasting events are second to none. Be sure to phone ahead as occasionally the small corner venue is booked out for private functions.
The Wolf's Lair
Tucked above Jimmy Watson’s restaurant on the corner of Lygon and Elgin Streets, the Wolf’s Lair is a hidden gem set a stone’s throw from Carlton’s main precinct. The lower level snug is perfect for enjoying a cosy drink, while the upper rooftop garden is great for summer cocktails and chilled beers.
The John Curtin Hotel
If you’re more of a pints and live music person, the John Curtin Hotel has you covered. Popular with students and locals, the hotel’s main bar serves tap beers, basic spirits and wines, as well as food courtesy of Fitzroy burger institution, Huxtaburger. Let your hair down in the upstairs band room, frequented by local and international acts who pretty much always guarantee a messy but enjoyable night.
SEE & DO
Melbourne’s largest art-house cinema, Cinema Nova, boasts 15 screens that show stellar film picks ranging from the latest releases to revisited classics. Look out for exclusive screenings including director and cast Q&As and themed events.
La Mama Theatre
Founded in 1967, Carlton theatre, La Mama, shows emerging and fringe works live on stage. Known for pioneering new approaches to fresh topics, tickets for some performances are as little as $10 a pop, making it a bargain night out.
Whether it’s a Penguin Classic you’re after or the latest fan-fic paperback, Readings is a treasure trove of books, music and magazines just waiting to be explored. It’s open until 11pm Monday through to Saturday, and 9pm on Sunday—great for an after-dinner rummage for some evening reading material.
Tucked in a small premises on Elgin Street, women’s fashion boutique, Milly Sleeping, keeps limited runs of pieces by local designers including Romance Was Born, ffiXXed and Kuwaii. The perfect pit-stop for picking up something quintessentially Melbourne.
Make Designed Objects
Make Designed Objects is a design boutique that blends the work of local artisans with international big-hitters. It’s a one-stop-shop for gifts and homewares investments—we can’t get enough of the Mud porcelain ceramics, and we’d buy every single thing (paper napkins, egg cups and socks included) in the Marimekko room if we could afford it!