Rave all you like about the magic of Melbourne, but the fact remains that it is one of the most expensive cities on the planet. Still, you have to eat – and preferably food that does more than just prevent you from starving. So how do you get through a week of dining out in Melbourne without having to resort to desperate measures to fund your journey home? For a start, you could try the following restaurants:
Tiba’s Lebanese Restaurant
Price Range: $24 for the Management Special set menu
Little has changed at Tiba’s since it opened in 1983, but that’s what makes it great. The food is simple, straightforward Middle Eastern fare, cooked perfectly and served promptly. For $24, for example, you can enjoy a platter of dips and salads, falafel,lamb and chicken sawarma, and shish kafta. Melbourne’s favourite Halal restaurant, Tiba favours generous helpings, with a wide selection of grilled meat, and abundant complementary dips and salads, all served in a vibrant, multicultural atmosphere.
504 Sydney Road.
Cellar Bar at Grossi Florentino
Price Range: $15 – $25 per meal
For wonderful Italian food, wine, coffee, service, and value, visit Cellar Bar at Grossi Florentino. Try the pumpkin ravioli with sage leaves, as the kitchen is particularly adept at delivering first-class pasta. The calamari is wonderful too, though. This is a great place for a drink with friends, as the setting, though welcoming and cosy, is not too noisy. They offer a good list of wines by the glass, and the knowledgeable staff are quick to help with your wine choices.
80 Bourke Street
The Moor’s Head
Cuisine: Pizza with a Lebanese twist
Price Range: $25 for the “Inauthentic Banquet”
Named after the term for the still used to make Arak (an aniseed Lebanese drink), The Moor’s Head is an inventive restaurant run by two Arabs who like to mix pizza with Middle Eastern flavours. Try the “Inauthentic Banquet” for $25.
774 High Street, Thornbury
Price Range: main courses $8 – $14
What is most notable about Red Pepper (and its fine-dining sister restaurant Green Pepper next door) is the passion and authenticity devoted to each dish. North Indian food dominates the menu here, with a focus on Punjabi dishes, such as the signature sarson da saag. On the vegetarian thali platter (incredible value at $14), you get a green leafy curry, a dhal, a creamy cardamom-laced paneer, and a ginger-and-garlic infused dry curry. Visit from 9am for the breakfast paranthas (tasty stuffed flatbreads served with raita and hot pickle) or have a late bite – the restaurant remains open until 3am.
14 Bourke Street
Price Range: $6.30 to $8.50 for dumplings and wontons
For the best dumplings in town, head to Shanghai Street. A tiny 20-seater dumpling powerhouse run by Min Shi and his wife, Wayna Zhu, this is a typical dumpling house that could have been transplanted directly from its namesake city. The trademark dish is traditional steamed-pork xiao long bao, but the vegetarian xiao long bao are also incredible, and the noodle plates and wonton soup will have you coming back for more. At the prices they charge, you can afford to.
342 Little Bourke Street.