A couple of years ago I made a list of 15 things I would miss when we moved away from Melbourne. It should come as no surprise that many of these were food related, not just because I'm a hopeless foodie but also because Melbourne has arguably the best culinary scene in all of Australia.
Last month we found ourselves back on our old stomping grounds for a week as we stopped over to organize some items left behind when we went on our sabbatical and also to catch up with friends. We had the opportunity to pop into a few of our old haunts and were pleasantly surprised to find them still open and as delicious as ever. Visitors shouldn't miss these five Melbourne CBD restaurants - there's something here for every budget and taste bud.
Few things are more Australian than a parmigiana and the kitchen at this popular spot serves up ten different varieties under strict standards it calls, "Parmology." Choose veal, chicken or eggplant and one of the special recipes, which include Mexican, Calabrese and the uber-hot Parma'geddon. The delightfulness doesn't stop there either as you'll be washing it down with selections from their Victorian craft beer menu, including 10 on tap. 25 Little Bourke Street, tel + 61 3 9639 2269, mrsparmas.com.au, pub atmosphere
Melbourne has more Italian restaurants than even full-time residents can handle. If I only had time for one I'd pick this lively little eatery in Southgate. While it used to be mostly known for its risotto, which is still excellent and available in several innovative varieties, diners will find plenty of other dishes on the menu. I never bypass the handmade mozzarella of the day, for example, or the olive ascalone: yummy, meat-filled and crumbed green olives. Don't miss a selection (or two) from their organic and biodynamic wine list. Mid Level Southgate, tel + 61 3 9696 3334, tuttobene.com.au, bistro atmosphere
Just across the street is another favourite, featuring Asian dishes from Thailand and Southern China. Don't be put off by the communal tables, we've always met (or observed with amusement) interesting people when we've dined there. Everything is designed to share with the other members of your group and the servers are always eager to help you select the perfect balance of flavours for your meal. Be sure to try the yummy cocktails or something off the wine list and arrive early if you don't want to wait as they don't take reservations. 40/44 Little Bourke St, tel +61 3 9671 3151, longrain.com/melbourne_intro.htm, high-end dining in a busy atmosphere
I found the city's best sushi here but we came back continuously for the delicious cooked dishes. The restaurant features six split levels to choose from depending on the type of meal the guests would like to have. These include the Japanese style BBQ levels with smokeless grills set into the tables for self-cooking of the ingredients, traditional Japanese style Horigotatsu and country style floor settings and regular seating near the sushi bar. After dinner, continue the evening in the upstairs karaoke rooms.
25 Market Lane, tel +61 3 9650 0848, www.shoya.com.au, fine dining in a variety of settings
Giuseppe Arnaldo & Sons
The service was so frustrating the last time we visited this Italian restaurant at the Crown Entertainment Complex that I almost dropped it from the list. But the food won us over as it always does. The menu is unique in both offerings and design and it will take newcomers some time to explore it as they munch on the delicious table breads and the restaurant's own olive oil. I recommend starting with olives, cheese or salumi and then moving on to one of the hearty meat or pasta dishes. The steaks here are my favourite in the city, as delicious to me as the ones served at Rockpool down the corridor. Plenty of delicious Italian and Australian wines are also on offer. The restaurant doesn't accept reservations so be prepared to wait at the bar on busy nights, potentially for hours on Friday and Saturday nights.
25/8 Whiteman Street, tel +61 3 9694 7400, idrb.com/giuseppe_main_flash.html, casual, busy atmosphere
What's Melbourne's best restaurant in your opinion?