Food / Wellbeing

Here’s our (non-exhaustive) list of actually cool restaurants in Melbourne

Here’s our (non-exhaustive) list of actually cool restaurants in Melbourne

Melbourne like to label themselves as the food and culture capital of Australia – and there's certainly merit to this claim. They have a robust food and bar scene across the southern city, and with plenty of new places popping up regularly, there's always plenty to try.

With so many options though, it can be hard to pick a place to start. And for many of us, the un-pin-down-able thing we are looking for is a restaurant, bar or cafe that is cool. 

As always, cool is such a subjective term, but we're basing this on VIBE. Of course, the place has to have great food, a killer cocktail lineup and delectable interiors, but mostly these culminate in a certain je ne sais quoi. If you know, you know – you know?

With all this in mind, we have rounded up a non-exhaustive and definitely-not-definitive list of some of the coolest restaurants, cafes and bars we like to frequent in Melbourne (as a team of editor's who either hail from or spend a fair amount of time visiting the city). Sure, some of these aren't well-kept secrets – but that's not part of our criteria, now is it? Check out our curated pickings below.


1. Neighbourhood Wine (Fitzroy)

Best for: Lamp lovers, cosy corners, lo-fi wines.

Open: Every day.

A local favourite of the inner-North, Neighbourhood Wine's seasonal menu and minimal-intervention wine list is a cosy spot for your next meal. If the weather suits, we'd sit street-side among the greenery, but the bar's lamp-lit insides are equally as special. Enjoy something special (like their skirt steaks or charcoal-roasted fish) or simply order a bowl of hot chips to pair with your drink of choice.


2. Pipi's Kiosk (Albert Park)


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Pipis Kiosk (@pipiskiosk)

Best for: Wave watching, ocean breezes, bivalves.

Open: Wednesday – Sunday

A former beach shack reimagined by co-owners Jordan Clay and Tom Hunter into an awarded, refined dining room located on the foreshore of Albert Park beach, Pipi's still somehow exceeds your expectations. Of course, their menu is best enjoyed during pipi season, but we'll be heading there year-round for their excellent desserts, seafood and vegetarian offerings too.


3. Old Palm Liquor (Brunswick East)


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Old Palm Liquor (@oldpalmliquor)

Best for: Low-lit after work drinks, steaks, the perfect wine to match.

Open: Every day

This wood-panelled wonderland of Old Palm Liquor stands out for its distinctive seasonal dishes and its equally well-curated vinyl soundtrack. The atmosphere is dark and moody, with a garden-covered terrace that pairs perfectly with their daily rotation of shared plate offerings.


4. Hope St Radio (Collingwood)


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Hope St Radio (@hopestradio)

Best for: Creative-types, focaccia fans, pasta parties.

Open: Thursday – Sunday

Ever wished your pasta dinner was serenaded by a live DJ radio broadcast? Hope St. Radio might just be your vibe. Perhaps one of Melbourne's coolest dining hot spots, the venue reflects the radio station's ethos of supporting local talent and fostering community, featuring live music events and highlighting local artists through pop-ups. It also has one of the city's most delicious menus (which, up until very recently, was curated and cooked by the inimitable Ellie Boudhana).


5. WAYGOOD (Richmond)


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by WAYGOOD (@waygood.richmond)

Best for: Grabbing a bottle for the road, Mezze lunches, BYOD (bring your own dog).

Open: Tuesday – Saturday

A self-proclaimed hybrid space, WAYGOOD takes "the best parts of a bottle shop and a neighbourhood eatery and mixed them together" to create a hub for Richmond locals. Drop past for a drink, stay for a bite to eat of their seasonal menu, or just grab a bottle to take home – they also have BYO Wednesdays – an opportunity for you to finally crack that special bottle in the right setting.


6. Butchers Diner (CBD)


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Butchers Diner (@butchersdiner)

Best for: Midnight feasts, bugers-for-breakfast, Americana (with a Greek twist).

Open: Tuesday – Saturday

Tucked into an unassuming spot in Melbourne's CBD, Butchers Diner is the perfect late-night burger spot that riffs on the tropes of the classic American diner – think milk-bun burgers and Coney Island chilli dogs. Initially a butcher's boning room, the space is still partly used for meat storage and leans into the rustic feel of its interiors. It's open 24 hours too, so they also do a great breakfast of pastries, blood sausage and devilled egg rolls and filter coffee.


7. Runner-Up Rooftop (Collingwood)

Best for: Speaker snobs, golden hour apricating, aperitivos.

Open: Tuesday – Sunday

This Collingwood Yards’ rooftop bar is where you'll want to be for those golden, happy hours between 4-6pm. The open-air cumquat and fig-tree-filled space offers unobstructed views out over Melbourne, and inside, vintage Japanese speakers blast sets from a rotation of local DJs. Natural wines are the star of the drinks list here, each of which pair happily with snacks like tinned fish, duck terrine and mushroom pate.


8. Marion Wine Bar (Fitzroy)


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Marion Wine Bar (@marionwinebar)

Best for: Wine, wine and more wine.

Open: Every day.

On Gertrude Street in the heart of Fitzroy is Marion, one of the area's most beloved wine bars. A place for the oenophile in your life, this place has one of the most impressive and comprehensive wine lists you'll find in the postcode. Gorgeous interiors, knowledgeable wait staff and a kitchen that serves up perfectly paired dishes of salumi, flatbread and mussels and more – it's our pick for a more enlightening weekend wine sesh.


9. Bar Romantica (Brunswick)


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Bar Romantica (@bar_romantica)

Best for: Moody pizzerias, hand-rolled pasta, cosying up in horseshoe booths.

Open: Wednesday – Sunday

Red vinyl booths, a curved American Oak bar and warm, soupy lighting set the tone for the delights of Bar Romantica. Italian fare – pasta, tiramisu, charred, woodfired pizzas (including their signature Pizza Romantica) – take centre stage on the menu here, of course tempered by a delightful selection of wines, beers and a selection of Italian-leaning cocktails. It's the perfect place for a date – romantic, platonic, or otherwise.


10. Wax Flower Bar (Brunswick)


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Waxflower (@waxflowerbar)

Best for: Disc Jockeys, walk ins, night caps.

Open: Wednesday – Sunday

Referencing Japanese-style listening bars, the vinyl-lined walls of Waxflower in Brunswick is sonically guided by DJs play six nights a week. Natural wines and beers from local breweries flow freely, escorted by a menu of South American-inspired small plates like Sudado de Pescado and Arroz con Pato.


11. Minamishima (Richmond)


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by minamishima (@minamishimamelbourne)

Best for: Omakase, unadulterated Japanese fare, outstanding sake.

Open: Tuesday – Saturday

Intimate and luxurious, the dark-walled ambiance of this 40-seat Japanese fine dining spot tucked away on Lord Street in Richmond is nothing short of a culinary experience. The menu is traditional and minimal – with two dining options of 10-15 shared plates. The menu changes nightly, depending largely on the seafood available, with a focus on nigiri and sake.


Over the border? Explore our list of cool restaurants in Sydney or Brisbane.


Stay inspired, follow us.

Cover images: one, two.