Melbourne's best new places to eat and drink 2013
Best new on-trend restaurant: The noisy, fun and fast Gazi. Photo: Eddie Jim
Another tumultuous year in the hospitality industry draws to a close and the tea leaves are being examined for the next. Korean looms as the next big hit; even raw food might be about to have its moment in the sun. But what was 2013 all about? A cynic might say Little Hunter was the most on-trend restaurant of the year (it lasted six months before going under), but there were plenty of reasons to rejoice in a year of spectacular openings, significant rebrandings and a whole lot of thinking outside the square.
Goodfood.com.au's second annual awards for Melbourne's best new places to eat and drink were put together by our expert panel of food commentators and critics. Post your nominations below to join the discussion. And here's to 2013.
VIDEO: Larissa Dubecki shares her thoughts on Saint Crispin.
Best new restaurant
The joint winners of 2013's best new restaurant both come from established players, but they're no B-listers. Saint Crispin, from the Estelle's Scott Pickett and former Press Club head chef Joe Grbac, is an exciting take on bistronomy that mines the chefs' classical experience at Phil Howards' two Michelin-starred The Square in London. Tonka, from the crew behind the (mostly) south-east Asian restaurant Coda, is a long-awaited journey into modern Indian. With smooth fit-outs, great service and laid-back cool, both made Melbourne sit up and take notice this year.
Best new on-trend restaurant
It was the souvlaki that stopped Melbourne; another spin on ethnic fast food that somehow made it more than the sum of its parts. The Made Establishment's re-run of the ageing Press Club (reborn as a tight 30-seat fine diner) led the pack in a year of recalibrations. Trocadero became Fatto; the Aylesbury went Bomba. The "street" scene of Gazi might be played to within an inch of its life, but this is what the crowds want: noisy, fun, fast and loud. They nailed it.
Details: 2 Exhibition Street, city, 03 9207 7444, gazirestaurant.com.au
The Arabic flourishes are subtle, the ambience is international cocktail bar, and the staff know their stuff. B'Stilla is a Moroccan restaurant cut from a new cloth. Owner-chef Jason Jones Mamasitas the food of North Africa and the result is the most contemporary of new-style casual eatery. It's street food with a touch of glam; it's a cocktail bar well targeted to the South Yarra crowd.
Details: 30b Bray Street, South Yarra, 03 9826 2370, bstilla.com
Best new under $30
Winner: Dainty Sichuan, Box Hill
Specialising in hotpots for one, this latest Dainty Sichuan (the third) introduces Melburnians to a way of eating that's having its moment now in China. Each diner has their own induction cooker and chooses their broth (from a possible 12), then it's time to decide on a platter of ingredients for the table, hit the sauce bar and get cooking. It's loud, fast and fun. DIY dining exceptionally well done.
Details: Level 1, 2a Cambridge Street, Box Hill, 03 9041 4318
Runner-up: Bistro K
Adding Korean flair to Euro-based fare, Bistro K is a pin-up of new-school K-eats. Sous-vide pork belly comes with kimchi and apple chips, and risotto might be infused with seaweed. It has one foot in the traditions of Korean cooking - creating balance with spice and sour, heavy and light - while the other foot playfully kicks around with international-city influences.
Details: 366 Smith Street, Collingwood, 03 9973 6055, bistrok.com.au
Best new global gem
Winner: Bistro Goemon
The Japanese dishes at this casual bistro are exacting in their presentation and sometimes-complex construction – like little marvels on ceramic dishes. Called "tapas", plate sizes are small and for sharing. In typical Tokyo style, a few dishes have a delicate dab of something Western, such as rare tuna slices drizzled with gorgonzola sauce or salmon tartare with garlic bread. It's top value too.
Details: 281 Glen Huntly Road, Elsternwick, 03 9523 9900, bistrogoemon.com.au
Runner-up: Fomo Thai
Authenticity and balance are bang on at this two-storey, modern Thai diner. Serving the classics, its starters include sticky grilled pork and zingy fishcakes. Mains to share might be a fragrant green curry with house-made fish dumplings or a luxe massaman curry. Soothe the more fiery dishes, like basil-flecked minced chicken, with sweet fleshy coconut water or iced milk tea.
Details: 171 Bourke Street, Melbourne, 03 9650 7987, fomothai.com.au
Best new bar
Winner: Thomas Olive
So-hot-right-now Saint Crispin's has added another feather to its cap with Thomas Olive, a beautifully little gem of a bar above the restaurant. It's a good-looking, dark-hued place but its main attraction is James Tait, a talented bartender with a penchant for French booze. His cocktails are subtly powerful, sophisticated beauties and drinking them here makes you feel like a better, more worldly person.
Details: Upstairs, 300 Smith Street, Collingwood, 03 9419 2202, saintcrispin.com.au
Runner-up: Bar Economico
It's been the year of rum, and this gorgeously, hilariously realised Central American-themed dive bar is the perfect place to knock it back, straight or in classic cocktail form.
Details: 438 Church Street, Richmond, 03 9428 0055
Best new cafe
Winner: Top Paddock
For the full cafe buzz, Top Paddock is hard to beat. It's a custom-designed space that's all dark timber and tiles surrounded by full-length windows. A big central bar pumps out crowd-pleasing brews of a custom Five Senses blend, plus house-roasted single origins for filter. The kitchen, run by Jessie McTavish, delivers a flavour-packed, seasonal menu with something for everyone, from drunken gingerbread with fresh berries to a real Kobe beef steak sandwich with tempura baby leeks.
Details: 658 Church Street, Richmond, 03 9429 4332, toppaddockcafe.com
Runner-up: Everyday Coffee
If you could drink coffee at only one cafe in Melbourne, this would be it. Everyday showcases the best of the city's specialty roasters brewed as delicious espresso or filter cups in a cool but comfortable little space, supplemented by the tastiest cakes and pastries from Melbourne's microbakers.
Details: 33 Johnston Street, Collingwood, 03 9973 4159, everyday-coffee.com
Best new roastery
Winner: Industry Beans
Steve and Trevor Simmons, of Penny Farthing Espresso, stepped up with this brand-new and stylish cafe-roastery in the heart of Fitzroy. Great filter and espresso brews of premium beans, roasted right here, complement a tidy, brunchable menu full of inventive flavours: cauliflower and carrot fritters, a date, nut and cacao bar with fruit salad, or a charcuterie plate featuring coffee-cured duck bacon, tea-marbled eggs and citrus cured salmon. There are burgers, too, of course, featuring coffee-cured beef, pulled pork and a vego black bean version.
Details: Corner Rose and Fitzroy streets, Fitzroy, 03 9417 1034, industrybeans.com
Runner-up: Code Black Coffee
A eurostylish space with a menu that mixes up the breakfast and lunch cafe favourites with plenty of flavour twists, and a roastery working on a variety of green for espresso and filter brews.
Details: 15–17 Weston Street, Brunswick, 03 9381 2330, codeblackcoffee.com.au
Look out for: Allpress Cafe & Roastery
The Kiwi roaster continues its push into Melbourne with this brand-new back-street complex that's like a secret world. It's a stylish, bright cafe with a lovely garden courtyard and features a simple daily menu. Through the glass a state-of-the-art roastery works on those classic dark Allpress roasts.
Details: 80 Rupert Street, Collingwood, 03 8405 5755, allpressespresso.com
With Michael Harden, Simone Egger and Matt Holden