11 April 2013 by Luke McCormick
Melbourne's food and wine scene is constantly evolving with new cafés, bars and restaurants opening in the city and its surrounding precincts on a weekly basis. Old dining stalwarts continue to raise the bar with high quality culinary experiences while new purveyors of food and wine challenge what, where and how people eat on a daily basis.
Here is a snapshot of the latest food and drink happenings in Melbourne and surrounds:
• The appreciation for fine dining continues with Andrew McConnell's latest venture Moon Under Water on Gertrude Street providing high-end dining experiences, it joins the ranks of highly acclaimed restaurants such as Jacques Reymond in Toorak, Ben Shewry's Attica in Ripponlea and Shannon Bennett's Vue De Monde, located on the 55th floor of the Rialto building.
• Skipping dinner might be the most sacrilegious thing for a foodie to do. In Melbourne, experiences like Pierre Roelofs' dessert degustation at Café Rosamond, Trocodero's caramel cooked cream, Golden Fields' peanut butter parfait and ‘forest floor' at new dining hotspot Brooks of Melbourne have diners reaching straight for the dessert spoon. Mr Hive Kitchen and Bar at Crown Entertainment Complex offers a three course sugar extravaganza with a take home goodie bag of their Dessert Bar treat.
• Melbourne restaurants and retailers are using rooftop space to create honey to supply the city's hospitality scene. Spring Street Grocery's gelateria, Luxbite and Burch & Purchese are just a few top food and wine purveyors drizzling goods with Melbourne's Rooftop Honey.
• Melbourne's underground bar scene continues to prosper with hidden Melbourne bars like Bar Americano, Bar Ampere and The Everleigh, taking their artisan cocktails to new levels using foraged herbs, house-made liquors and bespoke spirits in their elixirs.
• A number of Melbourne food and wine establishments are helping those in need - profits from drinks purchased at not-for-profit bar Shebeen are sent to development projects in third world countries. Charcoal Lane in the Gertrude Street precinct supports indigenous youth by offering traineeship opportunities and STREAT at Melbourne Central provides homeless youth with hospitality training. Meanwhile, Scarf helps disadvantaged youth by providing mentoring in the hospitality industry with industry experts from several of Melbourne's top restaurants.
• Diffusion dining hits the scene with a number of Melbourne's leading restaurateurs opening up new establishments that serve up high quality food and wine in less formal settings. Cumulus Inc. Café Di Stasio and Grossi Florentino are just a few familiar names leading the way with Cumulus Up, Bar Di Stasio and Ombra Salumi Bar.
• St Kilda continues to be as popular for great food and wine experiences as it is for beachside rendezvous. A walk along the beach can be followed by dinner and drinks at a number of new dining hotspots including rooftop bar Captain Baxter, the newly opened Acland St Cantina or classic beach-side location The Stokehouse, which boats a refurbished beachfront café.
• Melbourne's Gertrude Street precinct in the inner city suburb of Fitzroy has established itself as food-lovers haven. The eat street is dotted with a number of the city's top food spots - Casa Ciuccio, Moon Under Water, Belle's Diner and The Everleigh have joined favourites, Cutler & Co., Sonido, Gertrude Street Enoteca, De Clieu, Charcoal Lane, Ladro and Anada as well as specialist bookstore Books for Cooks and artisan bakery Fatto e Manno.
• Back in the city, cult dumpling scene trailblazer HuTong Dumpling Bar has been joined by new cult dumpling house ShanDong MaMa and authentic Sichuan Dining Room as champions of provincial Chinese cuisine.
• Bao and Banh Mi (traditional Vietnamese dishes) are becoming almost as eponymous in the inner city as coffee. Wonderbao, Bao Now and Nam Loong are the place to secure the perfect pork bao and other varieties, Roll'd, FOB Rolls and the original N Lee Bakery are the destinations to pick up a Vietnamese pork roll on the run.
• Italian heritage is a strong influence in Melbourne. Rosa's on Punch Lane serves up traditional provincial Italian cuisine using local produce, while just around the corner in Russel Place, Neapoli follows a similar theme. Recently renovated and long-time favourite Brunetti, located in Carlton, now serves more than 40 different pizzas from their new super bakery and café site. Inner city Italian dining favourite Grossi Florentino also underwent an extensive refurbishment earlier this year.
• House-made cheeses, rare international varieties and local farmhouse cheeses play a strong role at a number of popular eating spots around Melbourne. Milk the Cow and Il Fornaio in Melbourne's St Kilda precinct offer a selection of local, international and house-made cheeses with matched wines. La Laterria, just north of the city centre, Richmond Hill Cafe and Larder and the newly opened Spring Street Grocery offer comprehensive tastings where visitors can take home the spoils.
• Melbourne holds on to its crown as the coffee capital of Australia with the Melbourne International Coffee Expo hosting the World Barista Championships from 23-26 May. New roasters opening doors around town with names like Code Black Coffee, Petty Officer and Top Paddock are hitting the scene alongside outposts of existing favourites like St Ali North and Market Lane Coffee in inner-suburban Carlton. City hotspots such as Manchester Press, Sensory Lab and The League of Honest Coffee continue to satisfy Melbourne's endless thirst for caffeine.
• Further afield, a number of gourmet food guides have recently launched profiling the wealth of foodie options available a short drive from Melbourne in regional Victoria. Options include the Tasty Little Recipe Book which covers the Daysleford and Macedon Ranges region, Mornington Peninsula Gourmet - an online guide to the food offerings in the Mornington Peninsula region and the Food Fossicking Guide to Bendigo and the Region.
• The Yarra Valley region - less than 90 minutes' drive from the heart of Melbourne is home to the state's oldest vineyards. The region is becoming increasingly popular for its Rosé wine offering with top wineries like De Bortoli, Yering Station, Domain Chandon, TarraWarra Estate and Dominique Portet offering a delicious drop of this varietal at their Cellar Doors. Another must visit destination is the new Yarra Valley Chocolaterie & Ice Creamery, which has visitors arriving in their droves to sample the tasty treats.