The only list you need to eat and drink like a local
Anyone that has been to Melbourne will know that Australia's second-most populous city is their coffee capital. Of late, we've been flocking there in droves and sidestepping Sydney, for the perfect cuppa, gorgeous brunch staples, local designers, and road trips down the Great Ocean Road or Mornington Peninsula. Besides going armed with an empty stomach and suitcase, you probably also have the list — golden recommendations by your friends who have gone before you, which you follow religiously as you plan your days around food.
But depending on how long ago your trusted friend has lived in Melbourne, those must-try cafes might no longer be relevant anymore. It's common knowledge amongst locals that café owners sell their business after establishing it, and move on to bigger and better things (i.e. other cafés and restaurants). While there are still the mainstays that do well to constantly reinvent their wheel, there are others that just don't cut it any longer. Are you still going to St. Ali and Hardware Societe? Please, no. Proud Mary? That's so 2000 and late. The Kettle Black? We'll let that one go, because of that mouthwatering hotcake and all that splendid marble and gold.
Our advice? Forget the list — get on with your spirit of adventure and try different things out for yourself. If you need a push in the right direction, here are Melbourne's hot new favourites, frequented by the city's local insiders. Tell all your friends.
Fourth Chapter, Prahran
You'll first notice that stately white door, then the high ceilings and hanging plants in this bright, airy space. This is owner Sarah Jane Whitfield's fourth café, and she brings her expertise with her when it comes to running the show here. On the menu is a wonderful mix of healthy options and hearty indulgences — expect roast pumpkin and cauliflower bowls, smashed avocado with saganaki cheese, pretty acai bowls, and drinks such as smoothies and kombucha.
If you could only try one thing... That acai bowl with glorious dollops of granola, coyo and peanut butter.
Higher Ground, Melbourne CBD
Higher Ground is the city's slice of magic — and its sublime interiors are only one part of it. Housed in a former power station, this café by Nathan Toleman and his team (of Top Paddock, Three Bags Full, and The Kettle Black) is certainly making its rounds on social media with its 15-metre high ceilings, arched windows and cosy nooks. The brunch fare here is a mix of classic favourites and Asian fusion dishes, which progresses to a curated list of fresh produce for the dinner service. The only downside to this place is the line — but if you're able to wait it out, or skip the lunch crowd and weekends, you're in for a real treat.
If you could only try one thing... The minced lamb fry up on sourdough, layered with miso eggplant, fried eggs, pomegranate, smoked yoghurt, and pine nut dukkah.
Having brunch at Bawa in the family-friendly suburb of Hawthorn is like dining in an indoor garden. There's leafy foliage hanging over your head, and a photograph of a majestic waterfall in your line of sight. The food here is light and summery, employing a clever blend of flavours and ingredients. Our favourites? The avocado and creamed corn topped with feta and hazelnut, slow braised pork and potato rosti, and for guilt-free days, the Californian superfood salad. If you could only try one thing... The slow braised pork served with potato rosti, poached eggs and drizzled with herb hollandaise.
The Crux & Co, South Melbourne
South Melbourne's latest hotspot, The Crux & Co, is a picture-perfect haven for long catchups with your girl crew. You'll be swooning over their pastry cabinet, chockfull of buttery croissants, delicate eclairs, and beautiful cakes. Their pièce de résistance? The crogel, which is a delectable croissant-bagel hybrid by head chef Louise MK Lee. Other items on the menu feature a distinct Asian influence, such as fluffy matcha pancakes and ahi poke bowls.
If you could only try one thing... Crogel with dill, cream cheese, avocado, capers, and salmon.