We quiz some of the city’s leading food and wine identities on their preferred late-night dining destinations.
Melbourne is a city that prides itself on keeping things hidden. A restaurant or bar at the end of a bin-strewn lane, up a flight of stairs or behind an unmarked door gets an instant credibility boost among locals merely by being tricky to find. This addiction to the hidden is even more apparent when looking for somewhere to have supper late at night, particularly if your ambitions are greater than finding something salty and greasy to counteract several drinks too many.
Melbourne’s CBD and neighbouring Southbank provide the most fertile ground for those needing sustenance outside the regular dinner hours. However, if a hamburger is your idea of late-night dining nirvana, a trip to the brightly lit, formica-clad Embassy Taxi Cafe (547 Spencer Street, West Melbourne, +61 3 9328 1830) will keep you in quality burgers and truck-stop atmospherics the whole night through.
The open-24-hours Crown Casino provides a wide range of eating options including Sho Noodle Bar (+61 3 9292 6885), dishing up, lively, clean, mostly Cantonese food from the casino’s hyperactive main gaming floor. The Waiting Room (+61 3 8679 1800) is Neil Perry’s glam new lobby bar at Crown Towers Hotel combining excellent cocktails with a lengthy list of Spanish-inspired bar snacks and small meals.
Chinatown is a good place for those up late and hungry with Supper Inn (15 Celestial Avenue, +61 3 9663 4759) being one of the best-known and popular spots, though you may have to queue to get your hands on excellent suckling pig and steamed oysters served in fluoro-lit, fake wood-panelled surrounds. There’s also wee hours Thai to be had at Choo Choo’s at the Toff in Town (2nd Floor, Curtin House, 252 Swanston Street, +61 3 9639 8770) where sprightly, vibrant food is dished up alongside an excellent beer and wine list until very late every day.
The best way to find where to eat late in Melbourne is by chatting to someone in the know. So, in the interests of sating those after-hours cravings, we’ve gathered a group of food-savvy locals to provide some inside information on finding the good stuff.
Brigitte Hafner food writer & co-owner/chef at Gertrude Street Enoteca
If you’re looking for some of the best Chinese food in all of Melbourne in beautiful surrounds, then you can’t really go past Spice Temple. It’s a great place to eat late, not just because of the atmosphere, but because the food is so lively – hot and spicy with the sort of big flavours that are perfect for a late meal, especially when you want to keep the fun coming.
Spice Temple, Crown Complex, Southbank. Open daily until 11pm. +61 3 8679 1888. www.spicetemplemelbourne.com
Allan Campion co-author of The Foodie’s Guide To Melbourne
Huxtable in Smith Street has a good look and a great vibe. It’s casual, welcoming and contemporary with lots of shared dishes, including a really good dish of Korean barbecue pork with spicy coleslaw and chilli gherkins that you can wash down with their own beer, a Huxtabrew. It really captures a style of relaxed quality eating that Melbourne does so well.
Huxtable, 131 Smith Street, Fitzroy. +61 3 9419 5101. www.huxtablerestaurant.com.au
Simon Denton co-owner of Verge and Izakaya Den
I’m a big fan of Bar Lourinha because of the consistent quality of the food and service. Matt McConnell’s take on Spanish and Portuguese food is always excellent, no matter what time of day you go, but late at night when the crowd has dispersed a bit, it’s a calm and relaxed place to be. The wine list is good, too, which always helps.
Bar Lourinha, 37 Little Collins Street. Open Mon-Thu until 11pm, Fri-Sat until 1am. +61 3 9663 7890. www.barlourhina.com.au
Jane Faulkner wine writer
Even when I’m eating out late, I like to know there’s going to be a good wine list and so it’s hard for me to go past Siglo. It has a great list of Champagne, which is perfect for late-night drinking, and they do some great snacks, too. To be outside on that rooftop with those beautiful views is a guaranteed way of finishing your night on the right note.
Siglo, Level 2, 161 Spring Street. Open daily until 3am. +61 3 9654 6300.
Phillippa Grogan owner of Phillippa’s Bakery & Provisions Store
I really love the people and the atmosphere at Cumulus Inc, but what really draws me back there time after time are the oysters. Andrew McConnell really knows how to source and treat his oysters. Plus there’s a great wine list – and if you’re up late with oysters and good wine, how could you not be pleased? The cauliflower salad is worth a try, too.
Cumulus Inc, 45 Flinders Lane. Open daily until 11pm. +61 3 9650 1445. cumulusinc.com.au
MoVida Next Door
Andrew McConnell chef & co-owner of Cutler & Co and Cumulus Inc
When I’m eating out late I love to stand at the bar at MoVida Next Door, smash a few beers and eat my way through a few snacks – some jamón, some calamari, some pickled peppers. It’s a great place because it’s not too serious; it’s casual and friendly – the way I like it when I eat out late.
MoVida Next Door, 1 Hosier Lane. Open Tue-Thu until late, Fri-Sat until midnight. +61 3 9663 3038. www.movida.com.au/next_door
Riccardo Momesso chef & co-owner of Sarti
I’m not interested in anything heavy late at night, which is why I like Izakaya Den. The food is simple and light – typical Japanese pub food with some grilling and frying – and is always really tasty. The atmosphere is cool, too. I like sitting at the bar, having a few snacks and teaming that up with a couple of beers or some sake.
Izakaya Den, Basement, 114 Russell Street. Open Mon-Sat until 1am. +61 3 9654 2977. izakayaden.com.au
Matt Wilkinson chef & co-owner of Pope Joan
So many of the late-night places in Melbourne are all about Chinese and Italian food, so I was very happy when Mamasita opened and started serving new-wave Mexican food. There are brilliant strong flavours going on and you can wash it all down with some of the best cocktails around. Their version of a margarita is particularly good.
Mamasita, Level 1, 11 Collins Street. Open Mon-Wed until midnight, Thu until 12.30am, Fri-Sat until 2am. +61 3 9650 3821. www.mamasita.com.au
Paul Wilson chef & restaurant consultant
I like Supper Inn in Chinatown a lot, but I’m also a big fan of Ling Nan, which is one of those classic, bustling “Hongkongese” places that does a really good line in fresh seafood. The fish is always good, as are the pipis in XO sauce and the chilli mud crab. They also do really good pork and they’re open late every night of the week.
Ling Nan, 204 Little Bourke Street. Open daily until 3.30am. +61 3 9663 2347.
Leilani Wolfenden chef & co-owner of Next Door Diner
Whenever I’m looking for a late dinner I always head for the European. It’s busy and bustling and the staff are really, really good. The menu is one of those easy, non-stressful ones where it’s easy to find something you want, whether that’s a mushroom risotto or a crôque monsieur. There’s a brilliant wine list, too.
European, 161 Spring Street. Open Sun-Wed until 1am, Thu-Sat until 3am. +61 3 9654 0811. www.theeuropean.com.au
Source Qantas The Australian Way March 2011