Anthony Bourdain affectionately called Melbourne a “café and pub town” on an episode of No Reservations, but I'd go one step further and call it a real food lover's paradise. True, the cafe culture runs in the veins of Melburnians, especially around the city's “laneways” — little zigzag alleys and arcades like Block Place and the lovingly graffiti'd Centre Place, all popping with boutiques and restaurants. What really makes Melbourne Australia's dining epicenter is its residents' passion for food.
Take that and stir in a generous portion of ethnic food eateries plus proximity to both the sea and five different wine regions, and you have a destination for the omnivorous gastronome, a person that enjoys both high and low-brow dining. It helps if that person is a bit of a lush as well. (Photos courtesy of Flickr/AdamSelwood)
The city is winding down from the 20-day feast that was the Melbourne Food & Wine Festival's 20th anniversary, an event which brings in luminaries like Heston Blumenthal, stars like Jamie Oliver, and upstarts like David Chang. Not an isolated event, the whole town gets involved, like helping break a record with the longest dinner table in the world a few years ago. As the star chefs pack up, Melbourne won't feel a dearth of culinary talent — it's got some heavyweights of its own.
One of Australia's most celebrated chefs, Neil Perry's original Rockpool Bar & Grill holds forth in the hull of the Crown Towers Complex. The sleek restaurant emphasizes great big cuts of grilled beef; take your pick from four different kinds — full-blooded Wagyu and 300-day aged grass-fed among them. (Photo courtesy of Rockpool Bar & Grill)
But my favorite Australian meat is its most readily available. Lean, rich kangaroo is served as carpaccio or lightly smoked table-side at Vue de Monde, the city's plush spot for special occasions. Its elegant, Frenchified interior is getting a multi-million-dollar makeover when the restaurant soon relocates to the Rialto Towers.