If it’s been a while since you last tapped your myki card or paid for early-bird parking, you might be out of your depth planning after-work drinks, team dinners or even your morning coffee. These are the new-ish venues city workers need to know about as you end your long break from office life.
But first: coffee
Maker‘s very minimalist corner spot on Hardware Lane and Little Bourke is prime people-watching territory. Take 10 and sit in with your morning coffee (387 Little Bourke Street, Melbourne).
Feel good about every coffee you buy at Puzzle, which only uses compostable cups and lids, and plants trees tied to how much coffee it sells (133 Swanston Street, Melbourne).
Hikari is a celebration of Japanese craftsmanship in everything from gorgeous ceramics (available to buy) to beans roasted by Tokyo names like Onibus (317 Swanston Street, Melbourne).
Good for a group
It’s your turn to organise the first team outing and you need somewhere not too loud, not too boring and with options for pescatarians, vegans, FODMAPs and fussy eaters. Easy.
Grilled things on sticks are a group dinner’s best friend and Yakimono (80 Collins Street, Melbourne) offers plenty of ’em, plus handrolls, sashimi, rice dishes and big dishes like charcoal chicken. Add Robata (2 Exhibition Street, Melbourne) to your list for a more tightly focused menu of yakitori and other grilled things in a buzzing room.
Big Esso (Federation Square) means big thank you in the Torres Strait Islands, and it sums up how your colleagues will feel after a night at this unique restaurant championing the ingredients in our own backyard across vibrant cocktails and easy-to-share dishes.
Sharing is the focus of everything at Kata Kita (266 La Trobe Street, Melbourne), a new Indonesian restaurant all about that country’s banquet tradition. Try Balinese babi guling, sweet-and-sour mud crab and finish with fried nutella bao.
You can order negroni fountains for the table at Tippy Tay in the Garden State Hotel. Photo: Pete Dillon
While you were gone, Garden State Hotel converted its dining room into a postcard-worthy Italian casa, Tippy Tay (101 Flinders Lane, Melbourne), offering lobster risotto, simple pizzas and pork cotoletta. The fun starts with the Negroni buzzer and ends with the dessert trolley and dancefloor.
At Mejico, tacos showcase local produce, such as Gippsland lamb in barbacoa, and the two-storey venue boasts more than 260 varieties of tequila and mezcal. With good vegetarian options, everyone’s a winner.
Only in the city
Some things just aren’t the same in the burbs. A rooftop bar’s best friend is a stunning skyline and for that, take your pick between two newbies: former events venue The Stolen Gem (8/388 Bourke Street, Melbourne) serving cocktails led by Australian spirits or pretty Fable (168 Lonsdale Street, Melbourne) made for grazing on Greek food and gazing at the views.
Only a big-city skyscraper could contain the glamour of Dame (35 Collins Street, Melbourne) a pastel pink and marble beauty in Collins Place that functions as a go-to for business breakfasts, snappy lunches and knock-off negronis.
Valhalla (477 Collins Street, Melbourne) taps into Melbourne’s love of a hidden bar. Enter the Gothic Olderfleet building, take a lift down to the basement and enjoy old-world glamour as you sip drinks like the peachy, fizzy Loki cocktail.
Get ready to win that bid, woo a date or wow your boss at one of the glam new dining rooms that have blossomed in the city.
Nomad‘s long-awaited Melbourne debut is the complete package of great cooking backed by polished service and understated style (187 Flinders Lane, Melbourne). It’s both interesting enough for repeat visits and ideal for business lunches where the menu shouldn’t be doing the talking.
Upstairs at Next Hotel, La Madonna (103 Collins Street, Melbourne) is a moody den of marble and leather, while the food is a powerful combination of Sicilian and Hong Kong influences from two talented chefs.
In the same building you’ll find Chris Lucas’s double whammy of Lillian Terrace and Society (80 Collins Street, Melbourne). Choose Lillian for smart business lunches underscored by classic dishes; save Society for Saturday night.
If you’re looking to seriously impress, nabbing one of the 29 seats at Warabi is a smart play. The kappo restaurant at The W hotel combines sushi, charcoal grilling and other Japanese cooking craft in highly seasonal nine-course menus delivered in a zen room.
Where drinks can become dinner and snacks
You’ve got to love a venue that offers bang for buck. Her (270 Lonsdale Street, Melbourne) is a buy-one-get-three-free deal with a rooftop bar, bistro, Thai restaurant and Tokyo-style record listening room all in the same building. You might start with mezcal sours on Her Rooftop and a few hours later find yourself downstairs in the rose-gold BKK for larb of barbecue pork jowl and wok-fired dishes. What’s next is anyone’s guess.
Smaller in scale but not in ambition, the classically styled Pearl Diver (56 Little Bourke Street, Melbourne) is all about the best Australian oysters and the best of cocktail culture. But, lucky for you, there’s plenty of other snacks to keep you respectable if one glass turns into a bottle
At Yum Sing House (22 Sutherland Street, Melbourne), it’s all too easy to turn a team dinner into a team chorus, with a Cantonese restaurant downstairs and five karaoke rooms upstairs. Celebrating Hong Kong’s 1960s heyday, expect plenty of Bruce Lee posters plus prawn toast, masterstock pork hock and fun cocktails.
Billed as a wine bar that puts wine first, Patsy’s (213 Franklin Street, Melbourne) has ensured that every single glass goes perfectly with something on its meat-free menu. If that’s not a reason to stay for dinner, we don’t know what is.
When the craving strikes
For the 3pm slump or an out-of-the-blue craving, seek out spots like hole-in-the-wall artisan bakers Flywheel (shops 11 & 12, 276 Flinders Street, Melbourne), offering ethereally flaky croissants, hefty croque monsieurs on shokupan and more, all baked on site. It’s conveniently – or far too temptingly – located opposite Flinders Street Station; take the Elizabeth Street exit .
Even tinier is Mork‘s first CBD location (20 Equitable Place, Melbourne) in a former lift shaft, where its beloved hot chocolate is joined by a solid cast of bundt cakes, cinnamon buns and savoury twists, plus coffee by Patricia .
ICYMI, loaded toast from Korea is officially a thing. Known as gilgeori toast or simply K toast, it involves thick slabs of brioche or white bread and, at Seoul Toast Bong (Shop 6, 551 Lt Lonsdale Street, Melbourne), fillings such as square omelette with cheese and bacon, beef bulgogi or even japchae (sweet potato noodles).
Cantonese stalwart Red Emperor has taken over the old Shark Fin House site (131 Little Bourke Street, Melbourne), which means that its daily yum cha service no longer involves a trip to Southbank. Cheers to that.