Eat here now: your Melbourne CBD restaurant bucket list

Osteria Ilaria has many of the qualities appreciated in its sibling Tipo 00.
Osteria Ilaria has many of the qualities appreciated in its sibling Tipo 00. Photo: Arsineh Houspian

Melbourne's central business district might not have had the swiftest start to 2017 on the eating and drinking front, but a handful of strong players have come in to shake up the scene. And in the coming few months there's going to be a major battle for the late-night crowd, with two supper clubs opening from operators with serious cred. In the uphill push to spring, here's where to tick off your list in the city.

Osteria Ilaria

So here's the second part of the story for Tipo 00. Ilaria has filled the former Scando bar Du Nord, just next door to Tipo, with the modern wine bar model. Sleek, bricked and marbled with a central open kitchen, it's a place where chef Andreas Papadakis and sommelier Raul Moreno do a little dance. Some dishes are built to support the potent wines – just-singed octopus and 'nduja, hot cobs of fennel-flecked sourdough and maybe a liverish sausage. Other times, gentler German pinot noirs defer to rosy duck. Put it all together with sherry, port and tequila-spiked cocktails and you have a party.

367 Little Bourke Street, Melbourne, 03 9642 2287, osteriailaria.com

A range of dishes at Long Chim.

A range of dishes (including greens in fermented yellow bean sauce, centre) at Long Chim. Photo: Supplied

Long Chim

David Thompson's street-Thai party (the third Australian branch) scorched its way into Crown Casino in January, bringing with it incredible fire power in the chicken larb – a rubble of chicken skin, spices and roasted chillies that starts burning around your lips and finishes somewhere next week – but also stunning depth and balance to the familiar, which makes getting a green curry, duck fried rice and especially the greens in fermented yellow bean sauce smart and essential. It's not street food cheap, but worth the spend and the lunch banquets for $50 a head are great value.

8 Whiteman Street, Southbank, 03 9292 5777, crownmelbourne.com.au

EMBARGOED FOR GOOD WEEKEND, JULY 8/17 ISSUE. Eat review :?Chris Lucas' Flinders Lane Japanese restaurant, Kisume Photograph by Bonnie Savage

Kisume in Flinders Lane. Photo: Bonnie Savage

Kisume

There are three levels of opulence, modern art and solid bamboo furnishings at Chris Lucas' new Japanese palace on Flinders Lane. But narrow your focus to doing omakase at the main glowing sushi bar for the best experience. Here you get the full benefit of the freshness of the all-Aussie-sourced (and sometimes alive) tuna, crabs and sea urchin roe, palmed into just-warm nigiri that show all due respect to the textures and tones of the fish. There are razzed-up hot dishes, colourful caterpillar rolls and a mortgage-y wine list too, but nothing beats getting centre stage.

175 Flinders Lane, Melbourne, 03 9671 4888, kisume.com.au

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The Burrata at Uncle, 15 Collins Street CBD.

Italo-Asian fusion: Uncle's burrata starter. Photo: Darrian Traynor

Uncle

The team from St Kilda East's Vietnamese(ish) resto-bar Uncle have never promised traditional. They've always aimed for good times, flex and potency and achieved it. And now they've brought that package, wrapped in bamboo, to the city. Here they'll borrow Thai staples like the ubiquitous bar snack of betel leaves and fill them with lime-cured hapuka. They might sling you a pork knuckle cooked to destruction in master stock or go for hell for leather into Italo-Asian fusion with burrata, dressed with heirloom tomatoes, barrel-aged fish sauce and pickled papaya. And that's just fine.

15 Collins Street, Melbourne, 03 9654 0829, unclerestaurants.com.au

The tiny Melbourne Whisky Room is crammed with more than 1000 vintage, collectable and independent whiskies.

The tiny Melbourne Whisky Room is crammed with more than 1000 whiskies. Photo: Wayne Taylor

Melbourne Whisky Room

Brooke Hayman and Julian White are largely responsible for teaching Melbourne to party with brown liquor. Originally opened as Chez Regine, their Russell Street bar Whisky & Alement has long had one of the most extensive and considered global whisk(e)y collections in the country. They hold classes and tastings, and White has published a book. And now that the craft whisky world has exploded globally, they've plumbed deeper and opened an even more specialist bar upstairs. Head up for soft couches, soul on vinyl, flickering candles and collectible, one-off bottlings.

270 Russell Street, Melbourne, 03 9654 1284, whiskyandale.com.au

Juliet

A few Melbourne wine bars might have (excellently) tweaked their lists to celebrate great women of winemaking. But this new basement bar, which extends 25-year-old stayer Punch Lane, has that as its mission statement all the time. "We're embracing these wines because they have huge merit – they are ticking all the boxes big time," owner Martin Pirc says. Don't care? You don't have to. There's an open fire, deep chairs, sharp sherry cobblers and tequila old fashioneds, Mediterranean share plates and raclette – as soon as the proper grill arrives. It's the cure to watching The Handmaid's Tale.

31-41 Little Bourke Street, Melbourne, 03 9639 4944, punchlane.com.au.

Kirk's Public Bar features a curvaceous American oak bar.

Kirk's features a curvaceous American oak bar. Photo: Pat Scala

Kirk's Public Bar

The latest from the European group is another stunningly wood-panel-wrapped bar on the corner of Hardware Street, but this time the focus is on beer and British-style bar snacks. Lean on the curved oak bar and make a dinner of golden-yolked scotch eggs, whipped cod roe with pickled veg, maybe a Pacdon pork pie or the hot meal of the day – probably some form of steak with a side of hand-cut chips. The taps give a neat summary of everything good in craft beer right now. It's as close to the Brit pub ideal as you can get without being strictly British, or a pub.

382 Little Bourke Street, 03 9600 4550

Buttermilk slider with baccala and crispy onions, the type of bar food Guy Grossi will serve at his new Melbourne wine bar.

Buttermilk slider with baccala and crisp onions, the type of bar food Guy Grossi will serve at his new Melbourne wine bar. Arlechin.

Coming soon

Arlechin

From the Grossi family comes a new wine wine bar where you'll be able to get a manhattan, nebbiolo and a fist-sized snack until 3am, every night.

Mornane Place, Melbourne. Opening July 27.

Mayfair

Pei Modern at the Sofitel is becoming a more flexible wine bar doing late night supper (until 3am), cocktails by Romeo Lane's Joe Jones and potentially intimate gigs on a piano.

Sofitel Melbourne on Collins forecourt, 45 Collins Street, Melbourne. Opening August.

Saxe

Joe Grbac of Saint Crispin is launching his own venue on Queen Street with a formal restaurant upstairs and a more casual bar downstairs slinging mod-Oz plates.

221 Queen Street, Melbourne. Opening September.

Longsong

"When is Longsong opening?" That's Franklin chef David Moyle's favourite question to field about the long-awaited, Thai-influenced 200-capacity bar that will sit above Longrain. Ask him! Sometime before the end of the year is the latest word.

44 Little Bourke Street, Melbourne. Opening 2017 (ask Moyle).

Embla Upstairs

Delays in getting enough power to do two levels of the greatness that is Embla wine bar mean we're looking at an early 2018 opening of the upstairs restaurant.

122 Russell Street, Melbourne. Opening 2018.

The Good Food Guide Awards presented by Citi and Vittoria will be held in October. The national Good Food Guide will be available at bookstores, supermarkets and newsagents around Australia.