Food News

Where Melbourne’s finest will take the World’s Best Chefs

Leading chefs descend on Melbourne in April for The World’s 50 Best Restaurants. We asked local hospitality folk who they’d abduct for the day and where they’d take them to show off their city. There may be coffee, there may be culture, but in the end it’s cocktails.

Illustrations by Lara Porter

Chris Lucas, Chin Chin

“Chef Seiji Yamamoto, of RyuGin, is an obsessive naturalist who can seriously drink and party. We’d start in Yarra Valley with a hot-air-balloon ride before having coffee at Healesville Hotel. We’d visit Yarra Valley Caviar farm (maybe, if timing is right, we’ll be able to see salmon caviar getting milked), take a tour of TarraWarra Museum of Art, and have an early lunch at Oakridge with Matt Stone doing his seasonal magic. After returning to the city, we’ll take a laneway street art tour, have a pre-dinner drink at Shannon Bennett’s Lui Bar (which has the best view of the city), then soak up the energy and spice of the unique food at Chin Chin for dinner. Midnight will be spent with Negronis, cigars and a view of Melbourne’s famed Princess Theatre at Siglo, then post 3am we’ll eat legendary suckling pig and drink cold beer at Supper Inn in Chinatown, do some karaoke on Little Bourke Street and have a 6am breakfast at Pellegrini’s with the cab drivers, because I think we’ll need it.”

Tony Tan, Gourmet Traveller

“I reckon Andoni Luis Aduriz, of Mugaritz, gets Melbourne. I’ll show him some of our ethnic eats out in Dandenong because that type of cuisine is as rare as hen’s teeth in San Sebastián. He’ll be as pleased as punch to try the likes of Afghani kabuli pulao and bolani, the flatbread stuffed with leeks and served with yoghurt. On the way there, we could stop at Clayton, a suburb that’s practically the last bastion for genuine Greek sweets. I could also drag him out to Box Hill for rou jia mo, the Chinese burger that’s making waves the world over. I think it’ll be fun to see how a star chef reacts to ground zero-type grunge tucker.”

Shaun Quade, Lûmé

“I’d kidnap Grant Achatz, of Alinea, and Paul Pairet, of Ultraviolet, straight off the plane. On the journey from the airport into the CBD, there’s a slight detour across the Bolte Bridge. Melbourne has many great public art pieces but driving across the Bolte always reminds me of the simple but elegant entry way into a great city. We’d ditch the car at my apartment in Flinders Lane and grab a coffee from Tom Thumb. We’d walk from St Paul’s Cathedral across Federation Square and the bridge over the mighty Yarra, then down St Kilda Road and along the Royal Botanic Gardens to The Arts Centre and the NGV. The gallery building is what I imagine the Ministry of Love from 1984 would look like (minus the waterfall). Lunch would be a burger and onion rings from 8bit in Footscray. From there, we’d drive out to Ballarat to visit the workshop of our friends Jesse Stevens and Dean Petersen from Cake Industries – they have an amazing property for foraging. Then back to the CBD for dinner at Embla. Dave Verheul showcases amazing Australian produce and cooks it simply, which is really satisfying – plus Christian McCabe’s wine list is cracking. We’d finish the night with a walk up the road to Whisky & Alement.”

Above: Seiji Yamamoto, of RyuGin, Tokyo. From left: Paul Pairet of Shanghai’s Ultraviolet; Grant Achatz, of Alinea in Chicago; and Bertrand Grebaut of Septime, Paris.

Andrew McConnell, Cutler & Co

“I’m enamoured with Bertrand Grébaut restaurant, Septime. His understated modern approach to flavour, balance and composition is unique in Paris. I’d kidnap him for the day, hire two bikes and head to the Yarra Valley. I’d love to go foraging and explore the wild native ingredients available only an hour from our city centre. We’d start in Healesville, a town I lived in as a boy. We’d wander around the TarraWarra Museum of Art before visiting a few farms and wineries. We’d drop by Thousand Candles vineyard, have a quick lunch at Oakridge and make a final stop at Four Pillars Gin distillery. After a day in the Valley we’d head back into town with some produce and wine, and I’d invite him to hang out and cook with me at home with friends.”

Victor Liong, Lee Ho Fook

“I would start with a coffee at Self Preservation with Ignacio Mattos, of Estela, when the morning is still warming up; there’s something special about strolling up Bourke Street towards Parliament with the sun behind you. After coffee we’d wander across to Cumulus Inc for a really neat hot breakfast, cruise across to the NGV to stare at some art, then have a quick drink and snack on the way back at Arbory Bar while watching the comings and goings of the Yarra. We’d be at the bar of Tipo 00 for lunch, then potter over to Clever Polly’s for a cheeky pét-nat on the street. It would be great if he came into Lee Ho Fook so we could host him, but if not, we’d enjoy the remaining sunshine at Ombra with a prosecco and a few small plates to share, then make our way to the bar at Embla. As for the nightcap? Bar Ampère is great for the late-night laneway ambience.”

Gerald Diffey, Gerald’s Bar

“I’ve had Massimo Bottura of Osteria Francescana in at Gerald’s, so I know he enjoys a good time. I’d start with a viewing of Wake in Fright at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image, then a visit to the car park under Melbourne University where the Mad Max police station was shot, and from there the natural move would be to calamari at Café Di Stasio with Ronnie Di Stasio and Mallory Wall. Then a pint at The Lincoln, cannoli in Footscray at T Cavallaro & Sons, fish with Michael Bacash and Fiona Perkins at Bacash Restaurant, steak and a glass of Burgundy at France-Soir with JP [Jean-Paul Prunetti] and cocktails with Miss Pearls at Madame Brussels or the venue of her choosing. There would be supper at Hihou, cigars at the Melbourne Savage Club, pizza at Kaprica, chilli crab at Supper Inn, and an encounter with Gin Palace impresario Vernon Chalker. It’d be sort of like a speed-dating snapshot of the city’s food, literature and art. The hood comes off, a light clicks on in his face, and just when he gets his bearings, the hood goes back on and it’s off to the next place. Eventually he’ll find himself alone late at night at Gerald’s Bar with a Gooseberry Martini from Gabriel de Melo Freire. Sarah Vaughan sings her lament through the flickering valves. The door to freedom stands open, but can he leave?”

From left: Massimo Bottura from Osteria Francescana, Modena; Daniel Humm of Eleven Madison Park, New York; and Alex Atala of DOM in São Paulo.

Shane Delia, Maha

“I’d take Will Guidara and Daniel Humm, of Eleven Madison Park, for a wander around Collingwood and Fitzroy, where we’d check out local designers Flux and pick up some Biggie Smalls before heading to a Melbourne City FC or Western Bulldogs game. For more snacks around town we’d head to Leonard’s House of Love or Pho Nom for a banh mi. For those wanting a more permanent experience, we’d meet up with tattoo artist Mayonaize for a custom-drawn tattoo.”

Andrew Joy, Marion

“Besides the fact our beards are the same, Alex Atala, of DOM, and I also share a passion for spearfishing and free-diving, so a quick trip down to Port Phillip Bay to dive for scallops, abalone and urchin would be on the cards. A day of adventure calls for a night of wine, and wine is most definitely one of Melbourne’s strengths right now. I’d start out at the back of Bar Liberty for off-the-tap goodness, cracking snacks and a laneway full of inspired street art (and a few loitering hipsters). From there, we’d head to Marion for roast chicken and a bottle of something serious (I know it’s where I work, but the food is delicious and I get a discount). Any day in Melbourne needs to be capped off with a Negroni, so we’d head down to The Everleigh to get some respite from the bustle of Gertrude Street – and maybe there we could finally compare notes on our beards.”

Scott Pickett, Estelle Bistro

“I’d head to the MCG to see a game of footy with Will Guidara and Daniel Humm, from Eleven Madison Park, hopefully to a packed crowd. We’d take a long drive down the coast to the Mornington Peninsula, visiting the beaches and wineries along the way. Then we’d spend a relaxing night at our beach house, and cook a glamorous barbecue showcasing the finest local produce: Sher wagyu, Flinders Island lamb, local berries and cherries. Back in the city, our dinner-crawl would start with snacks at MoVida, moving along to Embla, then finishing at Saint Crispin for dessert. The next morning I’d take them (with sore heads) to try some of Melbourne’s best coffee at Dukes Coffee Roasters in the CBD, then to the Queen Victoria Marketto do some shopping and sightseeing.”

Banjo Harris Plane, Bar Liberty

Will Guidara and Daniel Humm at Eleven Madison Park go to lengths other restaurants don’t even dream of to make guests have the experience of a lifetime. I’d love to give back some of the love I felt when visiting New York a few years ago. In Melbourne, that looks like coffee at Aunty Peg’s and a tour of the Proud Mary roastery, a walk down Smith Street and breakfast at Oneyada café. It’s owned by the team behind Jinda Thai and is proof that breakfast can indeed be avocado-free and still utterly delicious. Before lunch we’d visit the National Gallery of Victoria for a tour of the Indigenous Art collection. For lunch Tipo 00 is tough to top in the city (try the red mullet spaghettini – unmissable), although sweetbreads at France-Soir with a bottle of Burgundy comes pretty close. In the late afternoon we’d catch a game at the MCG, hopefully watching Port Adelaide defeat Hawthorn. As the sun starts to set, perhaps a Campari at Siglo before jetting across town for dinner at my old place of work, Attica – a unique, stimulating and utterly Australian restaurant. We’d finish the night with superior cocktails and questionable banter at either The Attic at Black Pearl or Above Board.”

David Moyle, Longsong

“I want to kidnap Alex Atala of DOM. I’ve met him a few times and he seems like a dude. At 9.30am, we’d have a breakfast bratwurst at the Queen Victoria Market and an excellent coffee from one of the two Market Lane Coffee stores. After wandering around fondling foods, we’d browse the Sydney Road record stores and Mediterranean Wholesalers, and stop for baklava, then falafel from Very Good Falafel. Later, we’d have a couple of wines in the park down by the Merri Creek, followed by a hardcore, bitter Italianstyle espresso and a plate of pasta at Pellegrini’s. At 3pm, we’d do mackerel dumplings at ShanDong MaMa, then drink beer in a very little glass at The Exford Hotel, and (of course) it’s a perfect day for a little swim in the Yarra. By 10.30pm, you’ll find us at Heartbreaker for whisky, then over the road for a 3am ramen.”

Kate Reid, Lune Croissanterie

“I’d take Massimo Bottura, of Osteria Francescana, out for the day, starting in the morning with an espresso at Patricia Coffee Brewers. It was one of the first places in Melbourne to stock Lune croissants and represents the best Melbourne has to offer. Next stop: Lune. It sounds a little self-serving but Lune is my life and it would be pretty great to treat him to a ham and Gruyère fresh from the oven. The next part of the day would involve visiting some of my favourite producers – Meatsmith to grab amazing charcuterie, Spring Street Cheese Cellar for cheese, Tivoli Road Bakery for some of Melbourne’s best bread. This would all be enjoyed on a picnic at Fitzroy Gardens complete with wines from Giorgio De Maria. I’d invite all the above producers to come along, too, and afterwards we’d all head to Embla for more wine, or Pidapipò for gelato.”

Frank Camorra, MoVida

“Both Joan Roca, of El Celler de Can Roca, and Andoni Luis Aduriz, of Mugaritz, are total gentlemen, and like most chefs, are inquisitive and food obsessed, so I’m sure they’d want to see what was different about this city. We’d visit the Vietnamese markets in Sunshine and Footscray; they just don’t exist in Spain so I’m sure they’d be fascinated with the produce (and we’d definitely pop in to one of the shops for pho). A great Aussie pie would be a must, too. Tivoli Road Bakery makes the best.

Thi Le, Anchovy

“We’d pick Ignacio Mattos, of Estela, up from the airport and head straight to Song Huong in St Albans for bun bo Hue. Then we’d drive through West Footscray to look at Chinese-Indian cooking mash-ups and snack on dosas. If it’s a week day, we’ll go for coffee at Patricia Coffee Brewers in the city, swing by Spring Street Grocer and City Wine Shop to buy some cheese and a bottle or two of something tasty, then drive to Alexandra Gardens where you can eat, drink and snooze. Once refreshed, we’ll head to Springvale to check out the chaos of the early-evening markets. Dinner will be at Noi Lucky, the best car-park food in Melbourne, for fiery papaya salad and raw beef salad littered with tripe (and let’s not forget the barbecued ox-tongue). We’d then head to Albert Park Driving Range for a beer and bash to digest, then a nightcap at The Black Pearl to finish.”

Magnus Nilsson of Fäviken, Sweden; René Redzepi of Copenhangen’s Noma; and Brett Graham of The Ledbury, London.

Rosa Mitchell, Rosa’s Canteen

“If I were showing Magnus Nilsson, of Fäviken, around, we’d start with a visit to the Slow Food Melbourne Farmers’ Market to meet local producers and see what great produce we have in Victoria. The next stop would be to the Queen Victoria Market where we’d buy a bag of doughnuts and wander around Books for Cooks, chatting with the owner, Tim White, about cook books by local chefs. We’d head to Victoria Street for a look at the wonderful Asian food and produce available, and stop for a good pho, before heading to the football at the MCG to see North Melbourne beat Collingwood. Now we really need a drink. City Wine Shop is where we’d go for local wine and people watching, and for me and Magnus the best place for dinner is Lee Ho Fook.”

Dave Verheul, The Town Mouse

“I’d totally hijack Enrique Olvera and the guys from Pujol – they look like they’d be loads of fun. We’d grab a couple of bottles from Blackhearts & Sparrows, fish and chips from Tommy Ruff Fish Bar in Mordialloc and hit Half Moon Bay for a pre-dinner swim. After that we’d head back into the city for cocktails at Romeo Lane. Everyone needs to go to Dainty Sichuan in South Yarra when they visit Melbourne, too. If things are getting loose we’d go to Heartbreaker, because it’s Heartbreaker, then have XO pipis at Supper Inn. Boom.”

Morgan McGlone, Belle’s Hot Chicken

“Since I live in Birregurra, I would pre-game at my house with Ignacio Mattos, of Estela, and then get my wife to drop us off at Brae. I would definitely take him to Lune Croissanterie, too – a visit there always builds anticipation and their product definitely deserves it. The breakfast menu at Archie’s All Day is so much better than other hyped cafés in Melbourne (The Godmother sandwich is my go-to and the coffee is off the chain). No one does late-night drinks like Heartbreaker. Michael Madrusan has created a quintessential dive bar that’s actually a dive bar. It’s not known as black-out central for nothing.”

Jess Ho, Smalls

“I’d force René Redzepi or any of the Nordic crew to purchase a Myki travel ticket and to top it up at a machine and not have interaction with a human. Then we’d navigate the tricky public transport system that is a bus to Doncaster shopping town. I’d take them for yum cha at Secret Kitchen to frustrate their systematic, wellorganised minds, but reward them with some positive-reinforcement dim sum at the end of the infuriating journey.”

Guy Grossi, Grossi Florentino

Brett Graham of The Ledbury and I would start off with a glass of vino or two at Cumulus Up. The atmosphere up is laid-back but sophisticated – a good way to start things off. We’d head to dinner at Tonka to feast on well-executed, full-flavoured Indian food paired with excellent wines and warm hospitality. A trip to the countryside (because Victoria has some beautiful countryside) must make the cut, too. And where better to dine than Brae? The food and accommodation are too beautiful to skip. Back in a town where coffee culture is as rich as anywhere else in the world, we’d source a cup from Green Park Dining. By April the footy season is in full swing – 80,000 screaming fans at the MCG is something everyone should witness. We’d head up to Gertrude Street for a wander, perhaps some chicken wings or a stop-in at any of Andy McConnell’s venues, or a perfectly balanced cocktail from The Everleigh. But why stop the night there? We’d head to Romeo Lane on Crossley Street to continue the cocktails and end up at Siglo after that.”

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