Melbourne’s food and drink offering is one of the world’s best, and that reputation is known far and wide. The ‘obvious’ players in the food game are often loud and proud. What is less obvious, however, is all of the acclaim-worthy restaurants, cafes, and bars hiding all over this city. Take a look at these ten Melbourne hidden haunts.
Not only is Above Board hidden to the naked eye, it borders on exclusive. With only 12 seats and no standing room, this intimate cocktail bar requires a booking. So… is it worth it? Without question. This is the bar hidden for the right reasons - it cuts out the fray so that its patrons can focus on the craft of the cocktail and each other.
Melbourne’s oldest pub, Captain Melville, the daring will head up a rickety staircase and look behind a bookcase to find Loch & Key. Cosy, quaint, dimly-lit, this bar feels like a secret. Its sultry vibe is enhanced by the fact that it’s open until 5am and even 7am on Saturdays.
Sure, Pizza Pizza Pizza is a fine pizza joint… but it’s the bar in the back that has our attention. Behind a black curtain, this unnamed bar with no standing room offers classic cocktails. No frills, nothing fancy, just like the classic New York slices they sling in the front of the house.
A real oasis in this busy, bustling city, Wolf’s Lair & Drinking Haus & Treetops in Carlton is an intimate space among the trees. On the roof of Jimmy Watsons, a restaurant and wine bar, this cosy garden-style bar serves beer, wine, cocktails, and on a good day, a great deal of sunshine.
Cafes & Restaurants
When their door says ‘STRICTLY NO ADMITTANCE,’ you know this hidden cafe will be a gem. Along the modest Guildford Lane, where Melbourne CBD’s industrial heritage still reigns supreme, Krimper finds its home in the brick, wood, concrete, and metal-filled ex-sawmill. Its abundant space welcomes diners to a menu that may sound run-of-the-mill (pun intended), but it’s truly a step above: you’ll find classic brekkie items (eggs on toast, French toast) and dishes that are ‘classic’ in other regions, such as the Middle East’s staple Shakshuka. And starting at 10am the lunch menu - with burger, pasta, fish, and salad - is open for business.
Give a big push to the roller door on the converted tool shed in West Melbourne and you’ll feel like Alice after falling down the rabbit hole. This small cafe packs a punch by serving up food with thought: their dedication to fresh, local produce and ethical farming reminds patrons that tasty food doesn’t have to come at a cost to our environment. Roller Door Cafe is a tasty reminder to make the best of what’s around and making the best of it too.
On the outside: a classic 1970s warehouse designed by Alistair Knox in the northeastern suburb Eltham. On the inside: a bakery-cum-gallery. Jason M Jones (Entrecote, Friends of Mine) has transformed yet another unassuming space to foodie hangout. The natural light pours in as the high ceilings fill with the aroma of fresh-baked breads, pastry, and the ingredients for a knockout lunch. What seems like your town’s recreation room will soon become your go-to brunch locale.
Hidden in plain sight, Tonka is a modern Indian restaurant located on Duckboard Place, just off the iconic Flinders Lane. This eatery is as much a feast for the eyes as it is for the stomach; designed by award-winning architects, Tonka takes its diners through the laneway into the ‘kitchen dry store’ before they get to the actual dining room. The tantalising menu offers a la carte choices or set lunch and dinner menus and lucky for us, they are open 7 days a week.