What's not to love about mussels? Aside from the fact that they're blooming delicious, they also happen to be pretty guilt free, are sustainably farmed locally, and they're pretty darn cheap compared to some seafood. As such, they're regular guest stars in some of Melbourne's best restaurants, and in quite varied disguises, too.
We've done some digging to find the best mussels in Melbourne. Slurp away, Listers.
BROTHL | MELBOURNE CBD
Joost Bakker is one of Melbourne's most prolific eco warriors and his raw food broth joint, the saucily titled Brothl on Hardware Street, is a great spot to tuck into some of Melbourne's best mussels. They're sourced from family outfit Sea Bounty, who have been fishing locally and sustainably from the waters of Port Phillip Bay for 30 years. Bakker's known for his dab hand at unusual floral arrangements too, with this dark wood and polished stone venue overhung by cool organic installations.
BOMBA | MELBOURNE CBD
One of the best places to grab tapas and wash it down with a fantastic wine selection, Lonsdale Street's Bomba buzzes with atmosphere, and they also offer two slightly unusual takes on the traditional bowl of mussels. The raciones list features a super-tasty Catalan stew that throws the mussels into a heady concoction of clams, prawns, baby calamari and bacalo (dried and salted cod), or plump for the fried mussel and walnut tarator lashed lovingly on toast.
MOVIDA | MELBOURNE CBD
While we're on a tapas kick, each of Frank Camorra's empire has its own take on mussels, from Escabeche at Movida Aqui to Galician at Movida Next Door, but our fave is the mothership Movida's Tigre – crumbed mussels and chorizo served in a half shell. At $4 each, it's not entirely unfeasible that we could drop $40 on these delicious little buggers. We'll deny it in the morning.
PILGRIM | MELBOURNE CBD
Tucked in next to Riverland Bar on the Yarra's edge by Fed Square, Pilgrim enjoys top-notch views of Birrarung Marr and Alexandra Gardens. As Melbourne as that is, the mussels here, tag-teaming with river prawns, offer up a taste of Morocco, done in a tagine with paprika, cumin and cayenne juicy cherry tomatoes. We love that the grub's described as Salt & Fat here, while the booze is listed under Hops And Grapes.
UNION DINING ROOM | RICHMOND
Swan Street's Union Dining Room is one of our fave Melbourne restaurants to enjoy a crisp glass of white up on their expansive roof terrace, and the good news is they do a mean bowl of mussels, too. Sourced from Port Arlington, they're dished up with confit fennel, sugo and a hearty dash of Amontillado sherry. Served in two sizes, don't even pretend that the smaller helping will suffice.
CLAYPOTS | ST KILDA
A stalwart of the St Kilda scene parked on Barkly Street near the corner with Acland, Claypots is a pirate's treasure trove with a gorgeous courtyard garden set out beneath a fleet of tree-hung sail ships, abuzz with the chitter chatter of many a local character. They do some of the best mussels in Melbourne, with a fabulously Thai-infused take with lemongrass, coriander and house-made sambal. Saying no to bookings before that was even a thing, expect to queue on balmy nights.
CLAYPOTS EVENING STAR | SOUTH MELBOURNE
Is it cheating to mention Claypots St Kilda's little sister in the same list? If so, ya boo sucks. Claypots Evening Star, on the corner of Cecil and York Streets at the South Melbourne Market, has a totally different vibe, with the theatrical kitchen housed behind the galley-style bar. Grab a stool and let the wafts of steaming goodness wash over you while you sink a cold Budvar, the perfect companion for market-fresh mussels, pan-fried to order with chilli, garlic and coriander, swimming in broth and served with crusty sourdough.
LITTLE CREATURES DINING ROOM | FITZROY
This warehouse-like space on Brunswick Street is always heaving with the hubbub of punters getting a good feed with which to wash down Little Creatures' many fine ales. The yummy mussels on offer here are cooked in the house Pipsqueak cider with great wodges of bacon to offset the healthiness of the also-present wonder food, kale. With cider already in the mix, it just so happens that we highly rate beer as a companion for mussels, especially Little Creatures' Belgian-style White Rabbit Pale Ale.
HELL OF THE NORTH | FITZROY
Oh, the little yellow door of Hell Of The North, on Greeves Street just off of Smith, is a sight for sore eyes, especially post 10pm when most kitchens are shutting up shop for the night. Not so at this joyous foodie haven, where the lovely folks keep on serving supper until 1am. The good news is you can order yourself a creamy bowl of recovery mussels with jamon and mouclade sauce, and of course order a side portion of pomme frites. Because what are mussels without frites, really? Something has to soak up the leftovers…
LITTLE TOMMY TUCKER | BENTLEIGH
A shining beacon of the suburbs, the relaxed cool of Little Tommy Tucker ensures a constant procession of those in the know. They make a mean bowl of mussels too, swimming in the zesty, herby goodness of house-made gremolata fired through a snappy chilli broth and a presented with a big wedge of sourdough bread for the obligatory mopping session.
Who else does great mussels in Melbourne, Listers?
Main image credit: Live to Eat