A Local’s Guide to Melbourne’s Underrated Coffee and Food Spots

Higher Ground Melbourne

When it comes to city secrets, hotel concierges know some of the best. They chat to hotel guests about their experiences in the city daily and are tapped into the city’s latest venue openings and closings. As such, they’re the perfect people to ask for recommendations.

We did exactly that, asking a Melbourne hotel concierge to spill her best city secrets. Georgie Richards has been in the role of front supervisor of Hilton Little Queen Street for the past two years. The hotel is home to streetside cocktail bar The Douglas Club and modern Australian restaurant Luci. Richards says she’s always had a passion for food and drink.

“I’m the go-to person for all the guests’ recommendations on where to eat, drink, shop or visit, so I am always keeping my eye on what’s new in our city and the first in the hotel to hear about new openings,” she says.

“And, of course, I love going out and trying all the latest restaurants and bars in the city for myself. We’re really lucky in Melbourne as there’s always new spots cropping up.”

Ahead, Richards shares her current, lesser-known and known, but worth their hype favourites. From a Filipino restaurant at the end of a dead-end laneway, to a tiny bar with an aesthetic inspired by a popular Japanese TV series, these are what she says are the best

Best Coffee Shops in Melbourne

“I’m a big fan of Patricia Coffee Brewers,” says Richards. “It’s a gorgeous, locally-owned coffee shop founded by two best friends. They serve their own seasonal ‘Patricia’ blend and I’m partial to a skinny latte, myself. It’s standing-room only, so great for when you’re on the go.

Higher Ground is also one of my top picks. It’s in a heritage-listed powerhouse in the CBD so a very cool spot to set yourself up in for the afternoon to work. Bonus, they’ve got a great, creative all-day menu too — the avocado pretzel with whipped ricotta is like avocado toast 3.0.

“Lastly, you can’t go past Brother Baba Budan on Little Bourke. It’s a Melbourne original and the first operation from the ever-popular Seven Seeds team. Using some of the best coffee in the country, this place proves why Melbourne is the coffee capital of Australia.”

BROTHER BABA BUDAN melbourne best coffee shops
Image: Brother Baba Budan

Best Bars in Melbourne

Caretaker’s Cottage on Little Lonsdale is a perfect cosy spot to visit after a long day exploring the city. With a pub-like feel, the quaint bar is set up in a cottage and serves up a carefully curated selection of craft beer, wines and cocktails — the martini, in particular, is a must-try.

One or Two in the CBD is also a tiny bar worth knowing about — think whisky and cocktails in a chic-minimalist setting decked out in natural woods and monotones. It’s founded in the traditional Japanese design aesthetic of wabi-sabi and inspired by the Japanese TV series Midnight Diner.

“Not so lesser-known — but with a discreet entrance and up two flights of stairs, it is harder to spot — Bouvardia is a must-try for cocktails. There’s a good reason it’s won a string of best bar awards.”  

Best Restaurants in Melbourne

“One of my favourite restaurants has got to be Serai, a modern Filipino spot that’s found at the dead-end laneway at the end of Little Bourke. It’s set in a buzzy, semi-industrial building and the seared kangaroo is mouthwatering.

“In the basement on Lonsdale, you’ll find Margaux behind an assuming door marked “MGX”. The food is classic French done well, think steak and duck frites and fresh oysters. My tip? Head there between 10pm and midnight for the Golden Hour supper menu which includes a burger, frites and tap beer for $29 — bargain.

Bar Margaux
Image: Bar Margaux

“Dubbed the first Thai Style Hot and BBQ, Nana’s Thai Style Hot Pot is my go-to for Thai street food in Melbourne. There is usually a line, but boy, is it worth it! The hybrid of hot pot and barbecue is deliciously good, but be warned, the Northern Thai dishes are next-level spicy.”

Best Laneways to Visit in Melbourne

“If you’ve already seen Hosier Lane, I’d opt for its sunny sister Hardware Lane. While it can’t compete in the street art department, it’s got great shops, food and bars and is always buzzing.

“For street art, I’d recommend ACDC Lane — an ode to the band that kickstarted the city’s love of laneways! Duckboard Place is also great and close to ACDC Lane so you can visit both in one trip. Duckboard has the grunge and old-school grime which is just iconic Melbourne.”

Best Things to Do in Melbourne

“The National Gallery of Victoria Triennial is fantastic — and free! — and still on until April 7, 2024. I always recommend our guests carve out a good couple of hours to spend here and explore the exhibitions.

“Shopping-wise, I recommend a personal shopping experience at David Jones so they can beat the crowds and get that expert advice. Our Shop & Stay package with David Jones has been hugely popular to date, and includes a $200 voucher to the store.”

Related: Tastemaker Alyce Tran on the Best Spots to Eat, Stay and Play in London

Related: New Melbourne Hotels to Check In to in 2024

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