Melbourne

Mr. Harper's Travel Guide

The capital of the state of Victoria is a bustling seaport, as well as a thriving technology and financial center. Melbourne’s position on sheltered Port Phillip Bay and the Yarra River has historically been a great advantage. With a lively arts and cultural scene ...

The capital of the state of Victoria is a bustling seaport, as well as a thriving technology and financial center. Melbourne’s position on sheltered Port Phillip Bay and the Yarra River has historically been a great advantage. With a lively arts and cultural scene, Melbourne also ranks as one of the most livable cities in the world. 

The City Centre is where the shops, restaurants and nightlife are concentrated. The Docklands is an old shipyard turned into an entertainment district, and colorful Chinatown has its roots in the gold rush of the 1850s. The Italian-inflected Carlton neighborhood is home to an abundance of galleries and museums, including the Melbourne Museum. Housed in a contemporary building in Carlton Gardens next to the splendid 1880 Royal Exhibition Building, the museum is a cultural highlight, with an exhibit devoted to the First People as well as a room displaying artifacts from the Pacific Islands. Federation Square is a gathering place that includes The Ian Potter Centre, showcasing Australian Aboriginal art. If you enjoy discovering cities on foot, Melbourne’s grid layout — at least in the central business district — is a real plus, as is the extensive tram system, with more than 152 miles of track. The famous Melbourne Cup horse race is held each November, and the Australian Open draws throngs of tennis fans to Melbourne Park in January. 

bird icon Recommended Luxury Hotels in Melbourne

All Andrew Harper-recommended hotels offer impeccable accommodations and high levels of personal service. Only the best of the best make our list, so we rate them on a scale from bird icon 90 to 100.
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Best Restaurants in Melbourne

The upscale warehouse look might lead you to think that the food here isn’t all that serious. Certainly, the crowd — a cross section of ages — is convivial to the point of being boisterous. But the casual fare on the menu, which changes frequently, is well-conceived and well-presented. You could begin with a salad of broccoli, walnuts and sardines, and then move to a main course such as grilled spatchcock chicken with cabbage and a Jerusalem artichoke gratin. 

45 Flinders Lane Melbourne US$65

This bulwark of classic Cantonese cuisine is one of Melbourne’s most beloved restaurants. Its chef, Anthony Lui, has been at the stoves for 33 years. I almost passed on this place, but given the importance of Asia’s influence in the city’s restaurant life, I relented. I’m glad I did. The dim sum were exemplary; a pork and shrimp wonton soup proved deeply flavorful; and diced pork with fried tofu, peppers and pine nuts in a spicy Szechuan sauce was delicious. The service could not have been more gracious. 

17 Market Lane Melbourne Four-course seasonal menu, US$90; chef's six-course menu, US$145

There comes a time on every trip when I crave something comforting and familiar, and I found it at this lovely Italian restaurant. Downstairs is a lively grill, while upstairs is like being in Italy, thanks to chandeliers and frescoed walls. The smartly dressed waitstaff performed with polite precision. The menu features classic Italian dishes employing carefully sourced local ingredients. You will wish the risotto with prawns, saffron and zucchini would go on forever. But then you'd miss the suckling pig with salami, apples, dates, pepper, sherry purée and mustard greens. Closed Sunday.

80 Bourke Street Melbourne Three-course menu, US$105

If one place exemplifies Melbourne’s Asian fusion movement, this is it. In a large, bright, open space, the restaurant has both table and counter seating (and can get noisy). The menu offers a tour of Thailand with exciting side trips elsewhere in Southeast Asia. Among the best dishes we tried were the spicy corn and coriander fritters embellished with house-made chili jam, and a just-fiery-enough rendang curry of braised wagyu beef enlivened with cumin, coriander and toasted coconut. 

125 Flinders Lane Melbourne US$50

Set in a long, sleek space just below street level, ezard embodies chic elegance, with subdued lighting, tables set with white linen, and impeccable service. The kitchen, under chefs Teage Ezard and Jarrod Di Blasi, brings together East and West in delicious, refined dishes. Among those you might consider are cured kingfish with pickled cucumber, wasabi, native finger lime, soy and sesame; steamed scallop dumplings with aromatic hot-and-sour broth, and snow ear white fungi; and Chinese-style duck breast with fermented black bean-and-chili dressing, smoked tofu and an Asian herb salad. In lesser hands, dishes like these could be chaotic mashups; here, they are masterful. Closed Sunday.

187 Flinders Lane Melbourne US$75
SIMILAR REGIONS TO Worldwide //  Australia/New Zealand/South Pacific //  Australia //  Melbourne

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