I’ve been reading a few best of 2011 lists (Sharking for Chips and Drinks has been putting out some pretty awesome lists you all should have a read of) and I think it’s time to create my own. So here it is – my list of some of the best places I ate out in Melbourne in 2011. Of course, it’s very subjective, and heavily CBD biased because that’s where I work. Enjoy!
Best bagels for lunch: Manchester Press (Rankin Lane, CBD). I ordered a pretty safe bagel combo and got two HUGE halves of bagels spread with plenty of cream cheese, lashings of smoked salmon, capers, a salad on the side and bonus: my coffee came like this (I uploaded this picture to facebook back in the day and got 14 likes and 10 comments, most of them cheeky):
Honourable mention: Brown Bagels (Equitable Place, CBD) – also some delicious bagel toppings here but you might consider spending the extra couple of dollars for MP to get a salad, a proper seat and nipples on your coffee.
Best overhyped pan-Asian restaurant: Chin Chin, by far (both best and overhyped!). We rocked up at around 5.45pm and got the last two seats at the kitchen bar. While our drink orders took ages to come (I’d like to say it was a busy night but it’s always busy there) our food did come and was delicious. We ordered the son-in-law eggs, bang bang chicken and pork with chilli vinegar (yum!). The salads were fresh and herbaceous and if the damn place wasn’t so busy all the time I’d head back with a seafood eater to explore more of the menu (Mr Behemoth, due to an unfortunate experience with a fish pie while young, then teenage years spent working at a fishmonger, abhors seafood!).
Honorable mention: Golden Fields, once again overhyped pan Asian. I was underwhelmed by the lobster roll but try the spicy eggplant dish and the twice cooked duck with DIY rolls.
Best CBD Pizzeria: It’s a dead heat between +39 Pizzeria (hot tip: it’s easier to get a table at the newer location near the Rialto than the old one on Little Bourke Street) for awesome hand made, artisan pizzas with great toppings (but a little pricey) and 11 Inch Pizza in Equitable Place for thin crust pizzas with great toppings at a cheaper price. I probably prefer the pizza at +39 a little more, but I can afford a soft drink too at 11 Inch (it’s not licensed)
Honorable mention: Tazio, cnr Flinders Lane and Exhibition Street. They put up with me booking a hen’s party dinner here once (don’t worry, we weren’t too drunk yet…) and still put up amazing pizza and salads for us.
Best brunch: Head to South Melbourne and you won’t go wrong! Taking my mum to St Ali and having her ask the waiter what on earth gave them the right to charge $6 for 3cm of cold pressed coffee was fantastically entertaining (by the way the answer is that it takes 8 hours to cold-press), as were our faces when we tasted said coffee (screwed-up, trying to understand the hype). I also love the humour of their menu, My Mexican Cousin fritters, and the chance to add haloumi to all my dishes, but not so much the need to line-up…!
Therefore, my vote goes to Freestyle Espresso (blog post here) and Chez Dre, where I got the chance to order a breakfast with all my favourite components – smashed avocado with feta, smoked salmon, poached eggs and amazing bread. Although it was a small portion when it arrived and I was a little worried (after all breakfast like a king, etc.), this satisfied my tastebuds and my tummy until dinner time. Bonus, they have amazing-looking cakes in the display case that I haven’t tried but enjoy tormenting myself by looking at them.Honorable mentions: Quick, I’d better look outside South Melbourne! God, I love brunch. What about Hardware Societe (so popular yet their service is still so lovely), Proud Mary (baked beans, pulled pork and eggs – was described much nicer on the menu – was amazing) and in Sydney, Brown Sugar in Bondi, where I think I saw a Home and Away actress but wasn’t sure cos I don’t watch that trash. She copied my dish ordering, anyway. Four of the best Japanese food for vastly different reasons: This is my final ‘best of 2011’ (oh god, I haven’t mentioned fine dining! but I guess I went to Attica in 2010, and nothing has topped it yet!). Very different restaurants, very different reasons. For healthy lunches with a modern fusiony twist, I can’t go past Purple Peanuts Japanese Cafe down the less popular Prague end of Collins Street*. Everything here tastes scrumptiously healthy. The queue is out the door at lunchtimes but moves so smartly that before you know it you’re up at the counter stammering “onigiri and salad please” and you’re given an amazing tuna onigiri and two of the salads of the day (brown rice salad and potato salad in this example). Settle down on a seat if you can find one or trot up to Macpherson’s food court up Collins Street to nab a window spot. Honorable mention: the sushi burgers at J Cafe (Exhibition Street) are novel because they’re sushi, in burger form. Say no more. Spicy salmon is the best. You may need to order a little more food in order to be satisfied, and may I recommend the mochi if you’re in a dessert mood or the udon noodle soup if you’re in a hearty appetite state of mind. Therefore, I think the sushi burgers are just slightly overpriced for what they are. But you’re paying for the novelty, champs! For dinner (or lunch; I’m not prescriptive), Izakaya Den (Russell Street) and Don Don (Bank Street, South Melbourne) offer vastly different takes on Japanese cuisine. The one is modern, almost fine dining with little plates, amazing quality ingredients and a hard-to-find-so-definitely-cool location down some unobtrusive, unsigned stairs (hint: I’m not describing Don Don). The other is a place where the food comes so fast that you’ve barely said chicken teriyaki don before it arrives, the whole meal costs $7, and you can eat half of it again the next day taking the total cost of your meal to $3.50 a serve because portion sizes are so big. Hearty, filling rice bowls and bento boxes – probably the best work lunch or dinner around if you’re in the area. *as a very clever friend of mine said once, if Spring Street is the Paris end of Collins street, and Spencer Street end is the Prague end, what does that make Docklands? Siberia. So tell me: what are your best of 2011?