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mainLike a particularly bountiful windfall from the indigenous black sapote tree, the fruits of our recent trip to Australia to launch Mr & Mrs Smith down under have been falling thick and fast onto the blog. We’ve already tapped Hilary Doling of Luxury Travel & Style Magazine and Gourmet Traveller editor-at-large Leo Schofield for their insider knowledge of where to eat, drink and stay in Sydney, and now it’s the turn of the movers and shakers we were lucky enough to meet at the full-to-bursting Smith launch party – held in cool art deco hideaway The Prince in Melbourne.

The city’s style set were out in force to celebrate the opening of our new Melbourne office, and plenty of tastemakers from the arts and culture scenes, including Film Victoria CEO Sandra Sdraulig (responsible for bringing all the biggest British and US movies into Australian cinemas), were there to sample the cocktails and raise a toast to our Antipodean success.

Also at the launch, I bumped into Veronica Ridge, editor of The Age Epicure, the food and drink supplement of Melbourne’s biggest newspaper. Her culinary advice is eagerly devoured by Melbournians every Tuesday, and what she doesn’t know about the city’s restaurant scene just isn’t worth knowing. It was her who told us about the new trend among the city’s restaurants to not accept reservations – thus guaranteeing big queues down the street, and equally long column inches in the foodie press. Here are her top tips on where to go if you should ever find yourself hungry in Australia’s second-largest city.

main-3Attica The chef at this Ripponlea restaurant has embraced the Danish ethos of incorporating less-than-obvious natural ingredients, and has applied it to what he can find in the Melbourne area. His beautiful, experimental dishes contain stuff like tree moss and seaweed taken directly from the beach, and they’re an absolute must-try.

Movida The Spanish influence in Melbourne is very big at the moment, and Movida, which specialises in genuine Northern Spanish tapas, is right at its forefront. The restaurant gets booked up well advance, so if you can’t bear the wait then try its much smaller sister establishment Movida Next Door, which is, erm, next door. The food may be slightly different and the ambience a little more café-like, but it’s still a great experience.

Veronica’s other Melbourne favourites include Cumulus Inc, which serves excellent tapas in lovely, laid-back café surroundings (no booking required) and Cutler & Co – the hot new fine-dining ticket in town.

We also had a long chat with James Campbell of the Herald Sun, who eagerly told us about his favourite places to eat Italian food in Melbourne. The city has a long-established Italian community, so there are no shortage of trattorie in which to find excellent, home-cooked dishes from the bel paese

Solarino (273 Little Collins Street; +61 (0)3 9663 2636). This tiny informal restaurant in the city’s laneways manages to be both stylish and cosy – not an easy feat to pull off – and serves up wonderful pasta and salads. It’s also a great spot for breakfast.

Il Bacaro A fixture on the city’s dining scene for more than a decade, this high-end Italian restaurant specialises in seafood-dominated regional cooking, and is rightly proud of its extensive and expertly chosen wine list.

The Italian Roberto Scheriani’s establishment on Collins Street has become a foodie favourite because of the chef’s dedication to fresh, locally sourced ingredients. The signature dish of tuna carpaccio with marinated anchovies is unbelievably good.

main-2To sum up, we absolutely loved Melbourne – we were made to feel very welcome and, though we had limited time to explore the city properly, we did spend one afternoon wandering the laneways (Melbourne’s small Victorian alleys, which are jam-packed with boutique shops and cafés). It’s just as well we did, otherwise we’d have never stumbled across the über-cool Chiodo, in the basement at 114 Russell Street. Run by Andrew Chiodo, the store, which oozes cool and calm, sells a wonderful selection of streetwear fashions, accessories and leather goods.

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  • I’m planning to visit Australia this fall…which city would you say has a bigger arts & design community: Melbourne or Sydney?

    From what I’ve heard, residents of those two cities can be very biased, so I’m not sure if I can get an objective perspective from an Australian… 😉

  • Laura

    Hi Josiah,

    Having lived in both Sydney and Melbourne there are some great art galleries in both locations, well worth a visit! Melbourne definitely has a more ‘inviting’ arts community and there are literally hundreds of small, more boutique galleries with some stunning upcoming artists which are begging for you to visit! Sydney, on the other hand has a huge range of galleries featuring more prolific, established artists and can be utterly inspiring when you visit.

    However, every artist needs to eat, and for fear of sparking some colourful conversation from Sydney-siders, I have to suggest that you therefore visit Melbourne!!! The vast array of gorgeous cafes, think sitting outside in the sun, on handcrafted wooden chairs made by a local carpenter, eating simple, delicious food with the freshest local produce made by people that are genuinely passionate about the plates they serve, just flicking through design magazines leading you to your next back street gallery….you can’t go wrong!!

    Happy to throw some suggestions of my favourite places over to you!

    Good luck with all your bookings – and you must take Mr and Mrs Smith’s advice with The Prince Hotel in Melbourne….stunning!

    L x

  • Mathew White

    This remains a great list of luxury restaurants, even after a year later and the launch of several other restaurants. I was just reading up on the award given to Cutler Co, one of the restaurants in your list.

    I also share your enthusiasm and pride for Melbourne’s culinary diversity and international cuisine. For almost every type of food you crave for, you can find it cooked in several ways in Melbourne, from the traditional, to the modern Australian and fusion style of cooking.

    Hope to see your 2010-2011 list soon of recommended Melbourne restaurants!