Takeaway is not what it was. Sure, our image of some kind of greasy spoon or fast-food joint rustling up quick, cheap food to go - often fatty and calorific - still prevails. But that picture has also evolved and expanded.
Increasingly restaurants are promoting some form of either takeaway or take-home meal to fit in with our busy, fast-paced lives (not to mention those offering it under the table as one-offs or to regulars). Some are high-end, providing dishes off the a la carte menu, while others are among the newer, more hip breed, purpose-built to feed into - or off - our increasingly casual, health-conscious approach to eating. Huxtable - like Ocha's ocha2go before it - went as far as to establish a separate takeaway outlet in Huxtaburger.
''I reckon takeaway is the next big thing, which is why I got into it,'' says Matt Wilkinson, owner of Pope Joan and produce store Hams and Bacon. ''Everyone's lives are speeding up, everyone wants to eat better … experience a place without having time to sit down.''
There's also the benefit of an additional revenue stream for restaurants. ''It takes advantage of peaks and helps ride out troughs,'' says Restaurant and Catering Industry Association head John Hart, whose organisation encourages members to consider the option.
It also increases capacity because it leaves a seat free for another paying customer, points out Colin Wood, head chef at Cumulus Inc, which has exploited new markets in the city's burgeoning residential population as well as the busy exec working late.
''We get a spike [from businesses] around tax time,'' says Wood, who has noticed an uptake in takeout for home dinner parties on Friday and Saturday nights.
Wilkinson similarly sees opportunity in the apartment boom happening in and around Brunswick, where cooking facilities and skills might be limited. In this, he spies a market in pre-prepared meals, and is launching a take-home line under his Mr Wilkinson label on December 2, similar to the Living Room's Too Tired to Cook! range and Brighton's The Pantry.
Restaurants attached to high-rise apartments also are picking up extra business from residents and neighbours. Paul Dunlop's GG Restaurant & Bar at 150 Clarendon Street, East Melbourne, for instance, offers takeaway to tenants and is negotiating with Epworth Freemasons Maternity Hospital to provide meals to expectant and new mothers. ''We don't say no to anyone,'' says Dunlop. ''Most businesses are like that these days.''
Top 20 fancy takeaways
1. Flower Drum, 17 Market Lane, city, 9662 3655
Who would have thought this three-hatter does takeout? This inveterate top performer elevates Chinese takeaway to a whole new level. Best to order before 8.30pm.
Bestsellers Peking duck pieces, spring onion, cucumber and sauce packed either individually or pre-wrapped with sauce separate ($16.70 for two pieces); san choi bau with lettuce and quail meat bagged separately ($14.40).
Popular with Glamour-seekers who are too broke to eat in.
Also try Bamboo House, city; Choi's, Hawthorn; Happy Palace, city.
2. David's, 4 Cecil Place, Prahran, 9529 5199
In the wake of this Shanghai dining institution's makeover last year, David's added to its takeaway service in May free delivery of its dinner menu to homes and offices locally.
Bestsellers Sticky pork belly braised in soy and sugar for three hours, with chat potato ($23); soft-shell river prawns ($24).
Popular with Prahran's lucky-duck locals; office parties.
Also try Hu Tong Dumpling Bar, city.
3. Cumulus Inc 45 Flinders Lane, city, 9650 1445
Andrew McConnell's one-hatter provides a near-full menu - including breakfast - for takeaway, apart from oysters, seafood and some perishables.
Bestsellers Lamb shoulder slow-braised sous vide at 230C for seven hours ($69); wheat freekeh salad ($12)
Popular with The city iCloud crowd.
Also try Cafe Vue, city.
4. Merchant Osteria Veneta, 495 Collins Street, city, 9614 7688
Surrounded by time-poor suits at the Rialto, Guy Grossi's restaurant has a tailor-made clientele after quality food-to-go. Note, there's a mini rush hour between 4.30pm and 6pm.
Bestsellers Duck ragu ($19), and risotto, made from premium-grade hand-milled Ferron arborio rice, so the grains stay intact, perhaps with porcini mushroom and young hop shoots ($20).
Popular with Corporate types, Grossi fans, and Rialto Hotel guests.
Also try Stellini Bar, city.
5. PM24, 24 Russell Street, city, 9207 7424
Philippe Mouchel's French bistro offers its popular hero dish, the rotisseried Milawa organic chicken with rosemary and preserved lemon for takeaway. And that's it, but it also includes potatoes and vegies.
Bestsellers Roast chicken ($25).
Popular with Chook-craving regulars.
6. The French Brasserie, 2 Malthouse Lane, city, 9662 1632
The French call it savoir-faire - knowing the right thing to do - and for the Brasserie that was to capitalise on its possie at the top end of town. Expect a choice of main and side - perhaps beef tartare or terrine, with side of French fries or champagne-dressed salad.
Bestsellers Medium-rare minute steak medallions with onions caramelised in bone marrow and Bordeaux sauce and fries ($35).
Popular with Francophiles, and boeuf-heads.
7. Hellenic Republic, 434 Lygon Street, Brunswick East, 9381 1222
This fleet-footed operation is well set up to handle takeaway from its full table menu, catering for one or for a whole Greek wedding. Monday to Thursday, check out $12 takeaway lunch specials and evening family packs. Locals also have been known to BYO cookware.
Bestsellers Pita and dips ($13.5-$14.5), shared menus including spit-roasted meats (from $45, children half price), grain salads ($12), rice pudding ($8).
Popular with Greeks who love to say, ''My mum makes better [insert food item here] than this."
Also try Mama Baba, South Yarra.
- Make your own: Hellenic Republic's cypriot grain salad recipe
8. Ladro Gertrude, 224 Gertrude Street, Fitzroy, 9415 7575
Ladro has gradually expanded its takeaway offering from pizza to include its full bill of fare, including shared plates, (calamari, cured meats), salads and desserts (tiramisu, panna cotta).
Bestsellers Pizza (from $10.50), pasta ($23), farro salad ($14), arancini ($3).
Also try Royal Saxon, Richmond; Pizza e Birra, St Kilda; 400 Gradi, Brunswick; Firechief, Hawthorn East; Valentino, Hawksburn.
Popular with Carb-loaders and cheese fiends.
9. Golden Fields, Shop 2, 157 Fitzroy Street, St Kilda 9525 4488
This beloved favourite among baysiders offers most of its menu to takeaway. Raw dishes (food safety), fish mains (too delicate) and ice-cream (it melts) are exceptions.
Bestsellers Those famous buns - cold-poached crayfish served in a hot-buttered brioche with cress and Kewpie mayo ($15); or twice-cooked duck ($24).
Popular with DINKWADs (Double-income-no-kids-with-a-dog.)
10. Bombay by Night, 355 North Road, Caulfield South 9578 6150
A cut above your local Indian, Bombay offers much of its menu about 20 per cent cheaper than dine-in. Takeaway orders before 7pm also receive 10 per cent discount.
Bestsellers Batata vada (spicy potato fritters; $6.50) and aloo gosht (lamb curry) ($18.50).
Popular with Seekers of posh Indian.
11. Acland Street Cantina, 2 Acland Street, St Kilda, 9536 1175
This Mexican kitchen has a special food-to-go menu, with more than a dozen snacky dishes, including quesadillas, tacos, chicken and salad. There's a drinks-to-go list, too.
Bestsellers Pulled pork ($15), Mexi-burger ($12), ice-cream churros taco ($12).
Popular with South-of-the-border late-nighters.
12. Paladarr, 7 Rowe Street, Alphington, 1300 725 232
This top-notch Thai favourite provides many dine-in dishes for takeaway as well as some unavailable a la carte.
Bestsellers Pad Thai (from $13), chicken green curry ($15), tom yum ($9.50).
Popular with Those in the 'hood.
Also try Easy Tiger, Collingwood; Little Thai Princess, Glen Iris.
13. The Pantry, 1-5 Church Street, Brighton, 9591 0393
Order off the menu or from the massive selection of 35-plus take-home meals.
Bestsellers Slow-cook lamb shoulder ($39); pizzas (from $17), coq au vin ($16.5), ancient grain salads (from $7).
Popular with Time-poor families and solo diners.
Also try Cafe Claremont (Too tired to cook!), Malvern.
14. Kuni's, 56 Little Bourke Street, city, 9663 7243
A Chinatown fixture for over three decades, Kuni's takeaway has increased, including city slickers taking sushi home for the kids.
Bestsellers Sushi (from $18), sashimi ($19).
Popular with City dwellers.
Also try Kumo Izakaya (dinner only), Brunswick East; Ocha2go (with limited delivery), Hawthorn East; Nama Nama, city; Hannabishi, city; Pabu Grill & Sake, Collingwood.
15. Hanoi Hannah, 180 High Street, Prahran, 9939 5181
Orders flying in from passers-by, over the phone or via the restaurant's app keep this 18-month-old Vietnamese on its toes. Despite the persistent clamour for pho during winter and rice paper rolls in summer, expect only a five- to 10-minute wait.
Bestsellers Pho ($10.50-$11.50), rice paper rolls ($5.50-$7.50).
Popular with Gen-Ys and cool couples.
Also try HH's big sister restaurant, Saigon Sally, Windsor.
16. GG, 150 Clarendon Street, East Melbourne, 8415 0411
With a ready-made clientele above in the swanky apartment tower, GG's does brisk trade.
Bestsellers Rotisserie meats (market price) and pizza ($11.90-18.90), duck-fat fried potatoes with garlic aioli ($8).
Popular with Upstairs locals and the MCG crowd.
17. Gazi, 2 Exhibition Street, city, 9207 7444
The menu might've changed since its old Press Club days but many customers remain the same. Take a souvlaki or something from the spit to Treasury Gardens or, for late-working corporates, back to the desk.
Bestsellers Spit-roasted meats ($28), souvlaki ($9.50-$12.50).
Popular with Calombaris spotters and souva addicts.
18. Mamak, 366 Lonsdale Street, city, 9670 3137
It started as a market stall, and this high-vibe Malaysian hotspot is true to its roots. Everything here is good-to-go with desserts ice kacang ($6) and cendol ($6).
Bestsellers Roti canai ($5.5), mee goreng ($12), chicken curry ($16).
Popular with Malaysian funksters and ''Remember when … ?'' South-East Asian travellers.
19. Huxtaburger, 106 Smith Street, Collingwood, 9417 6328
A brassy US-style diner with a hip, inner-city taste and top-shelf burgers: glazed brioche bun, Wagyu beef, and a side of crinkle-cut chips.
Bestsellers Classic Huxtaburger ($8.50), Denise with jalapeno ($9).
Popular with Everyone.
Also try The Merrywell, Southbank.
20. Fonda Mexican, 248 Swan Street, Richmond, 9429 0085
Such was the success of Fonda Richmond, they opened Fonda Windsor to cope with demand. The entire menu is available to takeaway; margaritas stay on site.
Bestsellers ''Six-inch fish taco'' made from corn maize ($7), ''12-inch beef burrito'' with tortillas from Abbotsford Convent Bakery ($14.50).
Popular with Young and cool hombres and senoritas.
Also try Touche Hombre Electrica, South Yarra.