Chef Alejandro Saravia on the Melbourne Restaurants You Shouldn’t Miss

Alejandro Saravia

Chef Alejandro Saravia has played a major role in introducing Peruvian cuisine to Australia. He’s behind Melbourne venues Farmer’s Daughters on Exhibition Street and Victoria by Farmer’s Daughters at Federation Square and Sydney spot Morena, which opened in April 2024 in Martin Place.

Saravia says while each venue has its own style, Farmer’s Daughters, his first restaurant and the flagship of his hospitality group, is his favourite. The dish to order there is the crumbed fish. “It’s served with chive hollandaise,” he says. “It’s been on the menu since day one. That paired with our soda bread — it is delicious.”

Aside from his two venues, Saravia frequents another in Melbourne regularly: City Wine Shop, which he says is an institution in the city and best experienced on a sunny afternoon. The dish to order there is the steak tartare. Pair it with a pinot noir from Victoria.

Farmers Daughters Melbourne
Image: Farmer’s Daughters

“[The restaurant is] beautiful,” he says. “It has this European flair. You can sit outside on Spring Street and, in the backdrop, you will have Parliament House. It’s always a good pre-theatre drinks and catch up with friends [spot].”

For an affordable meal in Melbourne, Saravia recommends Soi 38, a BYO Thai restaurant on Mcilwraith Place. Inspired by Bangkok street food, its menu features deep-fried, raw and hot pot dishes. Saravia’s picks are the BBQ pork and dry noodle soup.

Saravia’s favourite meal in the city is at Grossi Cellar Bar, next to Grossi Florentino. It’s a tortellini dish with pumpkin, brown butter and sage, which he enjoys most in winter when he’s looking for food with round flavours.

“Every pasta there is just a nonna’s hug,” he says. “With the traditional flavours that Guy [Grossi] does in his restaurant and preserves through time — it’s just a must. I think the

For brunch, he headed to now-closed Sunny in Brunswick East, which he says is a local gem with a beautiful setup and out-of-the-box menu. For coffee, he grabs a long black at Market Lane at one of its three locations around the city, Queen Victoria Market (QVM), the city or South Melbourne. The QVM is also where he picks up fruit that’s in season, seafood and red meat.

“We’re very lucky in Melbourne because we have a lot of fruit and veg markets,” he says. “Queen Victoria Market is an iconic market in Melbourne, I also go to South Melbourne Market.”

Market Lane Melbourne
Image: Market Lane

When Saravia is craving South American flavours, he heads to Casa Iberica, a deli in Fitzroy. There, he collects items like Peruvian yellow chillis, Latin American spices and chorizos that he uses to make traditional Latin American recipes at home. While he’s shopping, he’ll grab some empanadas to snack on.

As for Australian restaurants’ take on Latin American food, Saravia says he’s witnessed the country grow a lot with it since he arrived from Peru in 2006. The Australian palette, he says, is used to the heat of the cuisine and also open to exploring new flavours that haven’t been introduced here yet.

“Now we’re seeing people understanding the difference between Colombian cuisine, Peruvian cuisine, Argentinian cuisine,” he says. “Australia is embracing Latin American cuisine really well. The category is growing.”

However, what Saravia wants more of in Australia are Latin American seafood-centric restaurants, venues championing solely seafood from the area, like cevicherias. They’re venues focused on ceviche, a dish of fish or shellfish marinated in citrus and seasonings.

“I would like to see fewer takes on cevicherias and more doing it the authentic way,” he says. “I would like to see more fine dining restaurants that focus on Latin American flavours as well.”

Related: Matt Moran’s Two Favourite Restaurants in Canberra (Apart From His Own)

Related: 11 of the Best Restaurants In Bondi, According to Someone Who Eats There Once a Week

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