Royal Mail Hotel
Piadina fever took hold in Melbourne a few years back and still simmers away at this small, stealthily sited café. They make their own version of the Romagnan flat bread in house and fold them up with all manner of cleverly concocted combinations.
The views from Beach House are amazing, ensconced in the Surf Life Saving Club’s former function room – sip your cab sav whilst watching the surfers and yachts below. It’s a bit daggy, with plastic chairs and tables and grubby carpet, and the food’s more good than outstanding, yet there’s something really nice going on here.
This bright, fresh cafe-restaurant opens for weekend breakfasts, laid-back lunches and serious evening à la carte dining that’s strong on local produce, seafood and select Tasmanian wines. Try the outstanding signature dish: mussels in dill and coconut curry broth with Asian greens and rice noodles (entrée or main).
Run by third-generation Italians, D.O.C is bringing authenticity, and breathing new life, back into Lygon St.
One of Brisbane’s best new restaurants, Ortiga opened in 2010 to much fanfare. You can dine in the stylish upstairs tapas bar with rustic wood tables and exposed brick walls or head to the elegant subterranean dining room where chefs work their magic in an open kitchen.
Melbourne’s Mod-Greek scene is thriving, and George Calombaris’ grand city space gives it the glamour it deserves. There’s no fusion fussing, but rather a respect for the basics and a creative, playful sensibility.
One of Melbourne’s best for any meal; it gives you that wonderful Andrew McConnell–style along with reasonable prices. The focus is on beautiful produce and simple but artful cooking: from breakfasts of sardines and smoked tomato on toast at the marble bar to suppers of freshly shucked clair de lune oysters tucked away on the leather banquettes.
Established in 1874 as Peppermint Bay, Woodbridge was eventually renamed by a nostalgic English landowner. It’s a quiet village sitting squarely on the tourist trail, thanks to the sexy Peppermint Bay development that consumed the old Woodbridge pub.
The outside dining curls around into the mall at this trendy New Farm eatery, where large open windows give it an airy feel. Its best feature is the reasonably priced food, which is even more reasonable from 4pm to 6pm Wednesday to Friday and 4pm to 9.30pm Tuesday and Saturday, when all pizza and pasta dishes are $12.
Taken over by famed Melbourne chef Guy Grossi, Florentino's has long attracted rich faces taking lunchtime breaks with its authentic regional Italian menu with metropolitan flair and great produce. Next door is the more affordable Cellar Bar , a great place to have a quick bowl of pasta and a glass of Pinot Grigio, as well as breakfast.
Station Pier holds many memories for generations of Victorian immigrants and it’s still a working passenger port today. There’s a clutch of swish mega-restaurants on the pier itself – including Waterfront , Campari and 3 Station Pier – serving up bay vistas and variable food to large numbers of visitors.
Richmond is the centre of Tasmania’s fastest-growing wine region, the Coal River Valley, with wineries popping up in all directions.
With a breathtaking position overlooking Binalong Bay, Angasi is brilliant – casual cafe by day and smart-casual à la carte dining room by night. Three young locals got a bright idea and have been winning awards and loyal customers ever since. Changing local art is featured in the groovy red-and-black dining room, but most people can’t take their eyes off the view.
Start off with a cocktail under a canopy of tiny qipao on the top floor, then make your way downstairs to the dining room for some contemporary Chinese cooking. The food – coconut and roe rice balls, curly-fried snapper or Onkaparinga venison with Szechuan pepper and a Chinese wine reduction – is as delicious as it sounds.
Tucked up the back of the Commercial Bakery, Gill’s postindustrial pastiche is an immediate charmer. Add old vinyl and freshly baked bread to the mix and it makes for an archetypal Melbourne moment. Lunch can be as simple as smoked salmon and prosecco ; dinners are hearty, simple European fare – squid ink pasta, cotechino duck – done with effervescent flair.