Synonymous with the Greek community, Oakleigh is a compact and atmospheric chunk of Melbourne 15 kilometres south-east of the CBD, teeming with old-school grocers, delis and a thriving central mall lined with sprawling al fresco cafes dedicated to the fine art of long conversations over heady Greek coffee.
Unsurprisingly, the lion's share of eateries in Oakleigh is Greek, so if you've got a hankering for juicy souvlaki or honey-drenched pastry, you're going to be in heaven here. Here's a rundown of just a few of Oakleigh's tastiest.
Start the day the Oakleigh way
There are a bunch of great breakfast options here, but it's best to get into the swing of things – ie. coffee and lingering al fresco conversation – by saddling up at the epic Vanilla Lounge where punchy coffee and heaving cabinets of pastries and cakes beckon. Pair your long black with bougatsa (filo-wrapped semolina custard) here, or further down at Nikos. If you're in the mood for something savoury, you can brunch on eggs at the relaxed Watch This Space (look for the sign that says "no name").
While Oakleigh does retain a delicious sense of tradition, it's certainly not stuck in the past. 5Five is a bright and airy cafe, tricked out with cheery yellow chairs and serving brunchy hash-brown breakfasts alongside big, fresh sandwiches and luscious doughnuts with wicked fillings. Cote Terra, situated in a bright white corner block, is a lovely pared-back space serving specialty coffee (pour-over and Aeropress, plus take-home bags of Proud Mary beans) and all-day breakfasts of almond porridge or french toast with poached pears and hazelnuts. (It also does a cracking $14 lunch special that includes a glass of wine or cider.)
The Ambrosiary is a welcoming and creative reimagining of the classic deli-cafe with an organic twist. At the front you can sit with knockout coffee and a light bruschetta (or a house-made TruffleTella Nutella truffle – go on) then you can pop down to the back and pick up a few healthy cupboard essentials such as organic pasta sauces and bulk nuts and pulses.
Vanilla Lounge, 17-21 Eaton Mall, 9568 3358
Nikos, 25-27 Portman Street, 9569 6338
Watch This Space, 5 Eaton Mall, no phone
5Five, 22 Eaton Street Mall, 9078 5441
Cote Terra, 17 Station St, 9939 6805
The Ambrosiary, 70 Portman St, 9568 4490
There's something so leisurely about dining on Eaton Mall that breakfast can segue into lunch and dinner without you noticing. Naturally, souvlaki is the biggest name of the game here, so order up at Orexi Souvlaki Bar Cafe, MeatMe or Aroma Grillhouse and Meze.
Mick Adams is a zeitgeisty burger joint fitted out with gleaming white subway tiles and slinging burgers such as soft-shell crab with coriander or a classic double cheese – order a side of crave-worthy feta sprinkled chips.
Venture off the beaten mall and you'll find Kalimera Souvlaki Art, one of the newer waves of souvlaki restaurants. It's spacious and stylish, serving a signature pork souvlaki alongside house-made dips, chips served in metal serving scoops and a simple, but addictive Cretan salad.
Orexi Souvlaki Bar Cafe, 18 Eaton Mall, 9569 1151
MeatMe, 24 Eaton Mall, 9568 555
Aroma Grillhouse and Meze, 28 Eaton Mall, 9563 2633
Mick Adam Burger Bars, 38 Portman St, 9563 0331
Kalimera Souvlaki Art, 41 Chester St, 9939 3912
Pagoto churns its gelato fresh daily; Greek flavours are a highlight – think smashed baklava, kataifi pastry strands, boozy ouzo or refreshing watermelon and feta. Stop by for a post-souva scoop or waffle (open til 10pm Sun-Thu; 11pm Fri-Sat).
Newcomer Mykonos Crepes and Cafe serves Illy coffee and luscious crepes that are a major meal in themselves, stuffed with sweet or savoury fillings like egg, bacon and Russian dip or a bougatsa-inspired custard. A soothing space that captures all the bright whites and stunning blues of the Greek island of Mykonos, this cafe is a visual tonic and a delicious treat.
Pagoto Gelato & Waffle House, 26 Portman St
Mykonos Crepes and Cafe, 58 Portman St, 9569 6767
Mezedakia is a lively evening option (although most restaurants keep it going when the sun goes down), while Euro Bites Greek Eatery has a cosy charm and killer classics on the menu – skewers with lemon potatoes or a homely slab of moussaka.
Not in the mood for Greek food? Make for All Seasons Dumpling Restaurant for a mountain of Peking pork dumplings for less than a tenner (you can also buy them frozen to take home for even less than a tenner). Uyghur Cuisine is a simple and understated dining room with a flavour-packed menu specialising in house-made noodles and lamb.
Mezedakia, 12-18 Chester Street , 0416 653 000
Euro Bites Greek Eatery, 21 Portman St, 9530 4600
All Seasons Dumpling Restaurant, 39 Portman St, 9568 7888
Uyghur Cuisine, 97 Atherton Rd, 9569 5754
Get your supplies
Much of Oakleigh's village vibe can be attributed to the plethora of small, local, specialist grocers and delicatessens. Places like The Peoples Market, Cosmos Deli, The Squirrel's Den – this is where you'll find tubs of loose legumes, jumbo cans of dolmades, Greek candies, frozen filo, bags of sweet or savoury rusks and shelves groaning under the weight of colourful cans of olive oil. Oakleigh Market is a small, straight-up pocket of shops – good butchers, fishmongers, excellent produce and a fantastic nut shop selling fresh-made peanut butter. For Asian supplies, head to Little Korea or Oakleigh Asian Supermarket.
Portman Continental Butchers, with its wrought iron doors and smoky warm aromas, is one of the area's most irresistible stores. This stalwart has been around since the '50s and stocks high-quality meat (including house-smoked cuts) and an array of European jams, biscuits and pickles within its warm and comforting confines.
The Peoples Market, 24 Chester St, 9568 4411
Cosmos Delicatessen, 55 Portman St, 9568 0524
The Squirrel's Den, 40 Portman St, 9568 3964
Oakleigh Market, 12-18 Chester St, 9563 4995
Little Korea, 33 Atherton Rd, 9568 2315
Oakleigh Asian Supermarket, 29 Portman St, no phone
Portman Continental Butchers, 19 Portman St, 9569 7078