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When you live in Melbourne it can be damn hard to choose which restaurant to head to on a night out, there are just so many good venues scattered around the city.
Whether you're looking for a quiet dinner, a boozy dinner, or a spot to impress a date, you're going to need a restaurant that has all the bells and whistles. And possibly even one you've never been to, or heard of before.
We do our best to bring you the best spots around Melbourne, but where do chefs go when they want to grab a feed? They certainly can't be heading into their own restaurant on a night off, you'd never escape.
So, we're finding out the restaurants, bars, and cafes that Melbourne chefs haunt on the regular. First up, is James Cornwall from Iki-jime, a venue that could well be the best seafood restaurant in Melbourne.
James hails from the small New Zealand town of Ashburton on the South Island. Growing up in the region gave James an appreciation for locally-sourced ingredients, and sustainability—and approach he brought with him to UK restaurant J Sheekey, Hong Kong fine-diner Seafood Room, the Victoria Hotel in Footscray, and finally to Iki-jime following his appointment as head chef in 2018.
Here's where James spends his time around Melbourne.
Outside of Iki-jime, what's the first restaurant you'd recommend in Melbourne?
I’m a big fan of The French Saloon. They are so consistent. The team are great at sourcing good ingredients treating them with respect without all the fuss.
I can never go past their steak tartare, if I see it on the menu I’m ordering it. French Saloon does a great one. They also have a great selection of seafood dishes that always changes and are always delicious.
Any other restaurants you frequent?
Bistro Gitan, Belles Hot Chicken and Harley & Rose. These are all casual, well priced with great food. There's good stuff coming from these kitchens. I prefer to go out to relax—not to be entertained, and these places all make me feel at home.
What's your favourite Melbourne bar?
Above Board, if I’m out with my girlfriend. In my opinion, it’s the best bar I’ve been to in the world. It's stripped back to all that’s required, but the attention to detail means your expectations are blown away.
If I’m with friends, Mr West. I live in the west so I try to stay local and it’s a great spot to have nearby.
What's your drink of choice?
I’m fickle when it comes to cocktails. I usually just trust the bartender to match my tastes. This tactic very rarely lets me down.
Where's your favourite brunch spot?
There are so many good locals for me but Cornershop in Yarraville is my most frequented spot.
What's your tip for the best thing to order (outside of smashed avo) for brunch?
Cobb Lane croissants with homemade jam and a latte to start. They are the best croissants in Melbourne in my opinion. That’s controversial to say, I know. They do great vegetarian fritters that change seasonally so I usually finish with them, fruit juice and another latte. That’s how I do Sunday right.
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Image credit: supplied