Friday, 13 December 2013

Melbourne Best Cafes and Chinese Restaurants

Melbourne is the most livable city on planet earth in 2012 according to The Economist Intelligence Unit's Livable Survey. 

Well, according to Mercer's Cost of Living rankings, Melbourne is also ranked No.15 for The World's Most Expensive Big City in 2012! But that was because the Australia dollar was stronger than the US dollar in 2012. Since 2013, the Australia dollar has been sliding South and I believe Melbourne's ranking in the World's Most Expensive Cities would drop to where it was in 2011 - No.21.
Back to the subject of Most Livable City - one reason why I agree that Melbourne is the Most Livable City on planet earth is because the food that are served in Melbourne's cafes are freaking good. You don't have to travel far to experience mouth watering delicious food as the very best restaurants are located in or near Melbourne Central Business District (CBD).

Previously, I have published three articles relating to food in Melbourne. Please click the links below to read them before proceeding to read this article any further so that you get an idea of the various types of food served around Melbourne and in restaurants mentioned in this article. 

Melbourne Food is Freaking Good - This article was my first article concerning food in Melbourne where I posted many photos of the meals I had in Melbourne. The restaurants I visited then were Stalactites in CBD which serve Greek food, Hungry Jack where you can get a complete meal for AUD5, St. Ali Cafe at South Melbourne where I really liked the dish Mexican Cousin, Auction Room which won the award for the Best Cafe in Melbourne, Seven Seeds at North Melbourne, breakfast at The Hardware Societe in Melbourne CBD, Snag Stand for a quick but messy meal, fine dining at Taxi in Federation Square, Mercadante Italian restaurant at Lygon Street, Red Spice Road for some delicious fusion Thai food, Curry Vault in CBD where they have very good Indian food and Pappa Rich at QV Square for Malaysian Cuisine like mouth watering Nasi Lemak.

Melbourne Food is Freaking Good - Part II  - In this article I highlighted a place called J Cafe which specializes in Sushi Burgers at Exhibition Street. You must try their soft shell crab sushi burger. Taxi Pub and Cafe for some fish and chips (would recommend the Taxi Fine Dining restaurant located above instead where the food is really good but cost more), The Grand Tofu at Newmarket for Malaysia Chinese food where the curry fish head is the best I had in Melbourne and how to get to Richmond by tram for Vietnamese food.

Melbourne Food is Freaking Good - Part III - in this article I posted photos of the lunch meals I had at Hardware Societe which was really good, dinner at Red Hot Wok at South Yarra where the chilli crab and Teochew style steam fish were good, value for money meals at Hanaichi and Don Don in CBD. But Dim Sum at Dragon Boat on Lonsdale Street is a no no after 1pm as their selection is really pathetic and not worth the AUD18 for all you can eat. Once again I visited Red Spice Road when they opened another branch at QV where I would have the pork belly every single time I go there. I also mentioned that I dislike the char-siew at Pacific BBQ on Lonsdale Street.

I am now going to list my favorite cafes and restaurants where the food is consistently good and everything on the menu taste delicious. Of course being in the No15 World's Most Expensive City, the food is not "cheap" compared to the restaurants in South East Asia; but then again, the quality of  food served in these restaurants are top notch. 

In order for a cafe to be listed as my favorite cafe, besides the food tasting great, it has to have good coffee ( I am a coffee addict besides a chain smoker) and more importantly fast and friendly service.  I would suggest you only visit the cafes mentioned below on weekdays only. They are really busy during weekends and not the place to go if you have kids as you may need to queue and it may take some time (up to 45 minutes) before you are seated.


Here is the list of my favorite cafes near CBD in alphabetical order:

Auction Room Cafe 103-107 Errol Street, North Melbourne, VIC 3051

Auction Room cafe has been voted The Best Cafe in Melbourne and after a visit there you will agree that it does deserve the award. Their menu changes every few months and every time (average once a month) I have brunch at Auction Room, I find my money well spent and have no complaints. I really like their baked eggs and pork belly. The fish and lamb dishes are pretty good too.

Breakfast Thieves 420 Gore Street, Fitzroy, VIC 3065  

If you are Malaysian, then maybe you can relate to the name Botak Chin given to one of their dishes. The location of this cafe is kind of secluded as it is off a main road. However, unlike most famous cafes in Melbourne, the tables in Breakfast Thieves are spaced relatively far apart compared to the cafes in CBD. This place is good to go for a chit chat on weekdays with relatives or friends; but like I said earlier, avoid weekends.

The Leprechaun
Botak Chin

 Brother Baba Budan 359 Little Bourke Street, Melbourne CBD, VIC 3000

If you love coffee, you must try them out. However, Brother Baba Budan does not serve brunch  meals like the other cafes mentioned here. They do have some pastries to go with their excellent coffee. I will drop by Brother Baba Budan whenever I am near them and order a take away cappuccino.

NSHRY 129A Beaconsfield Parade, Albert Park, VIC 3206.

If you are visiting Melbourne and have access to a car, this is a must visit place.The food served at NSHRY is prepared and served in a style of its own. They have even won an award for having the best burger in Melbourne. If you are not sure what to order, I recommend the NSHRY Breakfast and Panko Crumbed Corn Fritters.

I love NSHRY which is located at the beach front and as such I get to enjoy the golden sand beach and water view while having my brunch.

The very first time I went to NSHRY using my GPS without checking out NSHRY website, when it said I had reached my destination, I parked my car nearby (across the road). I was kinda blur. All I saw was something that looks like an abandoned hut which did not look like a restaurant at all nor did I see any signage. After looking up and down, left and right, and centre, only then I saw the words NSHRY, hahaha.



The Hardware Societe 118-120 Hardware Street, Melbourne CBD, VIC 3000.

Hardware Societe now serves their breakfast menu all day long. I love their baked eggs most from their breakfast menu. A single visit to The Hardware Societe to try out their breakfast menu is a big mistake; because, their lunch menu is even better. Their pork belly and duck confit are really good. And they have daily specials consisting of fish. I had tried their trout and salmon and I must say that it was cooked perfectly. 

The Hardware Societe is a really small place and the tables are really close to each other. But I guess they have no choice so that the many people wanting to have their brunch there are not disappointed and turned away. However, if you were to go there on a weekend in a big group, you might be turned away.

The coffee at Hardware Societe is not too bad; but, most of the time I would walk to Brother Baba Budan after my meal at Hardware Societe for a cup of coffee, haha. However, if you like Hot Chocolate, you must try it at The Hardware Societe as it is really good. 


Top Of The Bay 1 The Strand, Williamstown, VIC 
I was searching for good fish and chips in Melbourne and visited many recommended by food websites but was never satisfied. This all changed when I accidentally came across a Fish and Chips restaurant when I visited Williamstown on a weekend. The place is called Top Of The Bay. Well, it is more like an enclosed stall where only four bench tables are available outside. However, there is a spacious park with a fantastic ocean view and you can see the entire Melbourne city across it. 

After I discovered this little restaurant, I took many of my relatives there and everyone of them agree that it is one of the best fish and chips they had tasted, even better than the ones we get in Perth. Not only is their fish and chips really good, the price (fish of the day less the chips) is really reasonable too for the size we get.


View of entire Melbourne CBD from Top Of The Bay


There are numerous Chinese restaurants in Melbourne CBD but only a handful which I would recommend in terms of taste but not necessarily service. Here are a few Chinese restaurants where I find the food to be consistently great tasting (in accordance to my personal preference): 

Shark Fin Inn  52 Little Bourke Street, Melbourne CBD, VIC 3000

This is my favorite Chinese restaurant where the food quality is really good and consistently taste great. However, there is one dish where I would not recommend, it is their shark fins soup, hahaha. Their shark fins soup and the quality of the shark fins is nothing compared to the  double boiled shark fins soup we get in Chinese restaurants in Malaysia. 

If you like lobsters and crabs, try them out and you won't be disappointed. However, I would like to point out that the price of their lobster is higher compared to other Chinese restaurants in Chinatown. Then again, I don't mind paying for lobster which is priced higher at Shark Fin Inn, mainly because their other dishes are really good too. My relatives are also satisfied with Shark Fin Inn and like to have dinner there too and not once have we left there unhappy. The service there is pretty good and the captain (manager) is friendly.


Ants Bistro  7 Corrs Lane, Melbourne VIC 3000

Odd name of a Chinese restaurant but after a visit to Ants Bistro, you will find the experience with this restaurant worthwhile for many more visits as the food is reasonably priced and the service good. 

Ants Bistro is located at Corrs Lane (the lane opposite Shark Fin House, note - not Shark Fin Inn) just off Little Bourke Street in Chinatown.

I recommend that you try their white scrambled egg with scallops. And here is a secret, if you like fish and don't mind the bones, order the Claypot Fish Head which is not available in the menu. This dish goes well with white rice.

Gold Leaf Restaurant  Level 1, Star Circus, Harbour Town, Docklands, VIC 3008

Most of the Chinese restaurants in Melbourne CBD are cramped. So if you want to have a nice Chinese dinner in spacious bright clean ambiance near CBD, I would recommend Gold Leaf Restaurant at Harbour Town (above KFC and Subway). And if you like shark fin soup, their coral shark fins soup is pretty good.

Ling Nam 204 Little Bourke Street, Melbourne CBD, VIC 3000

I have been to Ling Nam many times as it is one of my cousin's favorite restaurants. The food at Ling Nam tastes pretty good and their lobsters are cheaper than Shark Fin Inn. BUT, their service can be horrible at times depending on your luck as to who is waiting on your table. I recommend their salt and spicy chicken and vintage wine pork.

Bamboo House 47 Little Bourke Street, Melbourne VIC 3000

Bamboo House is located right across Shark Fin Inn. If you want to experience Chinese food in fine dining style, then I would recommend this restaurant. And since I mentioned the word fine dining, you could have guessed that this restaurant is kind of pricey; but, you do get good service where the waiter(s) would serve the dishes individually; therefore, you do not need to go "fight" over the food that is to be shared by all placed at the centre of the table. We ordered the AUD70/pax banquet and I can tell you we had ample food including lobster (not live ones) in the menu and it taste pretty good too. On the night I was there for dinner, we were the only Asian patrons. Not surprisingly, because I myself would prefer to walk across the road to Shark Fin Inn and have live lobster and pay less for a delicious dinner without experiencing the fine dining service, hahaha.


The best Dim Sum in Melbourne is at Taipan Doncaster as far as I am concerned. However, it is really jam packed on weekends and the tables are arranged very close to each other plus getting a car park may be a hassle too. So, the best time to go to Taipan for Dim Sum is on a weekday where the tables are re-arrange to be spaced further apart and the atmosphere is more relaxing. However, from my personal experience, some of the waiters there are unhelpful and need to be taught a thing or two about service.

If you are like me where I dislike going to places that are packed on weekends and prefer to have Dim Sum at a spacious restaurant with friendly waiters, check out Highpoint Plume Restaurant and Gold Leaf Harbour Town Docklands.


I have visited many of the Italian restaurants at Lygon Street but none of them can satisfy my taste buds like Mercadante Wood Fired Pizzeria Carlton. Whatever dishes I order at Mercadante always seem to correlate with my liking. Their specialty pasta are really good and my favorite is the Pappardelle A1 Salmone Affumicato - light butter sauce, smoked salmon, mushrooms, spring onion and parsley.


Last but not least, you can get really freaking good ICE CREAM in Melbourne. And recently the best gelato in Australia, i.e. Messina, opened a branch in Fitzroy which is just a few minutes drive from CBD. However, if you don't have a car to get there, you still can try the many gelato outlets at Lygon Street and many of them serve Durian flavor gelato which is really creamy and maybe even taste better than real durians, hahaha. Whenever I have dinner at Mercadante, I would head across the street to Il Dolce Freddo for some ice cream even during the winter.

Photo Taken from Il Dolce Freddo Facebook Page

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  1. Replies
    1. Sorry for the late reply... Yes, Lobster price at Chinese restaurants have sky-rocketed since 2013!!!

      And since 2013, I have tried out many other cafes; however, my favorite cafe is still NSHRY where the food is good and the beach/sea view is fantastic. For Fish and Chips - Top Of The Bay at Williamstown is the only place I go. And for Chinese food, Shark Fins Inn and Ants Bistro are still my favorite as I find their food to be consistent and service good.

      Having said that, everyone must go try out Chin Chin at 125 Flinders Ln, Melbourne. I had the banquet as there were 8 of us in the party and the food was really freaking good.

      Other restaurants/places that I think are worth visiting in Melbourne CBD are:

      CJ Lunch Bar - Korean. Shop 2/ 391 Little Lonsdale Street, CBD, Melbourne. Nearby to Hardware Societe and Nieuw Amsterdam. Best lunch value in CBD!!!

      Nieuw Amsterdam - 106-112 Hardware St, Melbourne

      Fomo Thai 171 Bourke St, Melbourne - my current favorite Thai restaurant in Melbourne.

      Kokoro Ramen - 157 Lonsdale St, Melbourne. My favorite ramen outlet in Melbourne.

      For Ice Cream - N2 Extreme Gelato CBD, 18 Sutherland Street, Melbourne.

      And if you like Pappa Rich (Malaysian Food), try out Old Town White Coffee at Elizabeth Street.

      Outside CBD, if you like ribs and American burgers - Misty's Diner in Prahran, 103 High Street, Prahran, Melbourne. Good for family as the meat platter is good.