I was introduced to the culinary mecca that is Melbourne, Australia by a close friend who also acted as my tour guide and respected resource throughout my two-week stay Down Under. She informed me that Melbourne is the food capital of Australia, and even Sydney cannot come close in comparison to the diverse and authentic range of cuisine and chefs that find their roots in Melbourne.
In fact, many notable restauranteurs and chefs acquaint Melbourne to be the best of the best when it comes to its quality and range of food and wine. An abundance of cafés, restaurants, bars, and food halls are around every street corner in Melbourne’s Central Business District.
In the short amount of time I was visiting, I had the opportunity to visit at least a dozen different restaurants and taste a wide variety of cuisines not often found close to home, including Vietnamese, Filipino, Malaysian, Indian, Thai, and of course traditional Australian dishes such as Coorong Pippies that are similar to mussels and clams here in the United States.
Restaurants visited included Long Chim at the Crown for Thai, Grand Lafayette for a Japanese-Australian inspired brunch, Brunetti for coffee and desserts (Melbournians are very serious about their coffee, hence why Starbucks is few and far between), Torissong for delicious Japanese fare, Om Nom Kitchen for dishes that are works of art, and the famous Hopetoun Tea Room that can take six months or more for a reservation (check out @eastendtaste for select Australian dining coverage with more to come), among many more dining destinations.
I had the opportunity to catch the last few days of the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival, which takes place annually during the months of February and March concentrating near the Crown Riverwalk, Southbank. It is no wonder that dozens of events were sold out months prior to my arrival.
The surrounding regions of Melbourne are also unique in terms of their vast, notable wine regions and farming communities, including the Yarra Valley and Mornington Peninsula. During a culinary and winery tour in the Yarra Valley, I tasted local wines at Dominique Portet wines, and paid a visit to the famous Great Ocean Road Chocolaterie. Even when visiting Sydney, many of the restaurants also had flagship restaurants in Melbourne and most of the ingredients and food products came directly from Victoria.