Saddle up for Race Day at Melbourne’s Best Restaurants and Bars

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Oct 04, 2017

by LARISSA DUBECKI, Writer

WHERE TO EAT

These culinary hotspots will see you through the Melbourne Cup madness.

Grossi Florentino

Cup Eve lunch at the Florentino has been the golden ticket among satellite Spring Racing Carnival events since the late British racing identity Robert Sangster inaugurated the tradition in the late ’70s. These days, it’s Guy Grossi keeping the flame alive; his ritzy repast is reliably attended by a who’s who of Melbourne’s socialites, celebrities and politicians. If you can’t get a ticket to the lunch, housed in the flagship Mural Room, despair not: you can hit the restaurant during the week for sumptuous Italian food with a wine list to match.

80 Bourke Street, Melbourne; (03) 9662 1811

Higher Ground

Off to the Cup? You’ll be wise to carb-load with a hearty brunch. A former power station turned into Melbourne’s beating café heart, Higher Ground will set you up with the essentials for a long day at the track, whether it’s excellent coffee from its own Square One roastery, avocado with citrus salt and lime on toasted sourdough or a mighty minced-lamb fry-up with miso eggplant, eggs, smoked yoghurt, pomegranate and pine-nut dukkah. The cherry on top? It’s right near Southern Cross Station – because the smart money’s on taking the train to the races.

650 Little Bourke Street, Melbourne  (03) 8899 6219  

Rosetta

Many Cup roads lead to chef Neil Perry’s trio of riverfront restaurants – Rockpool, Spice Temple and Rosetta – but it’s the latter, with its grand chandeliers, marble and mahogany, that provides the best backdrop for statement millinery. The produce-driven Italian menu is disarmingly simple; the execution, seamless.

Crown complex, 8 Whiteman Street, Southbank; (03) 8648 1999

Stokehouse

Stokehouse is Melbourne’s party central and during big events it has the gravitational pull of a black hole for its well-heeled crowd. Reborn after a devastating fire, it now boasts a beachfront balcony and raw bar open to walk-ins, where wasabi cream coddles seared tuna and warmed ponzu anoints kingfish crudo. Sink into the dining room proper for the full Stokie treatment, finishing with the signature bombe alaska, bristling with torched meringue.

30 Jacka Boulevard, St Kilda; (03) 9525 5555

The Smith

After a multimillion-dollar renovation, The Smith is back – bigger, bolder and better than ever, much to the delight of its youthful clientele. Chef Michael Lambie’s punchy global menu is matched blow for blow with a cocktail list best enjoyed under the retractable glass roof in the new atrium.

213-219 High Street, Prahran; (03) 9514 2444

WHERE TO DRINK

Race day is only part of the thrill. Après-cup celebrations run (well) into the night.

The George on Collins 

Seemingly created with events like the Spring Racing Carnival in mind, this slick Hecker Guthrie-designed subterranean haunt is catnip for Cup sophisticates. Hang by the long granite bar while sipping a berry-and-ginger-driven Collins St Mule. Pout, repeat.

Basement, 162-168 Collins Street, Melbourne; (03) 9663 7226

Middle Park Hotel

Local businessman Gerry Ryan celebrated his Cup win (with Americain, trivia hounds) here in 2010 – which makes sense, because he owned the joint at the time. He’s since sold the MPH but it remains Melbourne’s most upmarket sports-loving pub, with screens if you can’t make it to the track. 

102 Canterbury Road, Middle Park; (03) 9810 0079

Kirk’s Wine Bar

Keeping it chic? This cosy corner spot channels the 11th arrondissement with insouciant charm. Kick back at an undercover terrace table while flitting through a wine menu of local indie heroes and Old World charmers.

Corner of Hardware Lane and Little Bourke Street, Melbourne; (03) 9600 4550 

Eau-De-Vie

This cocktail lounge is hidden down a CBD laneway behind a signless door – but persist with the GPS and you’ll find a clubbish den of perfectly wicked mixology. Our tip: the half-cocktail, half-dessert Espresso Zabaione, with its frozen cap of saffron-and-vanilla mousse. Or hit the Whisky Room for an encyclopaedic list of Scottish single malts.

1 Malthouse Lane, Melbourne; 0412 825 441

Arbory Bar & Eatery

Stretching 120 metres alongside the Yarra River, the open-air Arbory cleverly upcycles the old Sandridge Line that runs from Flinders Street Station. Order an Espresso Martini (it’s on tap) to sip beneath the plane trees. 

Flinders Walk, Melbourne; (03) 8648 7644

 

Cookie

Cup or no Cup, every night’s a party here. On the first floor of the city’s ageless grande dame, Curtin House, Cookie bills itself as a “beer hall, eating house and disco”. Eclectic cocktails, craft beer and fiery Thai food coexist in cacophonous harmony. 

Level 1, 252 Swanston Street, Melbourne; (03) 9663 7660

Rooftop at QT

The QT hotel’s indoor-outdoor rooftop bar is just begging for fancy shoes and frivolous outfits. Eleven floors up, it offers views of the concrete jungle that are best enjoyed with a Pineapple Cinnamon Caipirinha.

Level 11, 133 Russell Street, Melbourne; (03) 8636 8800

Garden State Hotel

It may have room for 800 punters but expect to queue outside this four-tiered pleasure palace. Well-planned around a central atrium, it has enough nooks and crannies to escape the madding Cup crowd. Our pick of spots? The sweetly themed basement Rose Garden.

101 Flinders Lane, Melbourne; (03) 8396 5777 

Royal Saxon

It’s a pub within a pub – the original exterior is a shell for the ultra-modern building within. If the weather’s warm, the place to be is in the courtyard, with its native fig tree. If it’s not, retreat to the upstairs bar and look smugly down on the heaving masses, lychee Martini in hand. 

545 Church Street, Richmond; (03) 9429 5277

SEE ALSO: Where to Stay During Melbourne Cup