Australia's second city is first-rate when it comes to food, with the promise of new tastes around every corner. Here, where to experience the best of it—in just two days.
DESTINATION Melbourne STAY AT Lyall Hotel & Spa (14 Murphy St., South Yarra; 61-3/9868-8222; www.thelyall.com; doubles from $300) ESSENTIAL READING The Age Good Food Guide 2006 (widely available at bookstores in Australia; $24), a comprehensive listing of the city's best restaurants
Day 1 City Center
BREAKFAST The diminutive épicerie-café Piadina Slow-Food (Rear 57 Lonsdale St.; 61-3/9662-2277; breakfast for two $20), hidden down a pedestrian-only street in the City, opened last August and has quickly become a neighborhood favorite. Turn up after 9 A.M., when office-bound regulars relinquish their seats, and order the signature grilled-flatbread sandwich (scrambled eggParmesan-spinach is our breakfast choice).
LUNCH You may be on a graffitied laneway across from Fed Square, but one look at the tarifa de consumición at Movida (1 Hosier Lane; 61-3/9663-3038; lunch for two $40) and you'd swear this was Barcelona. The room is dominated by a massive Tasmanian blackwood bar; matinee-idol waiters deliver bottles of wine to execs indulging in three-Tempranillo lunches. Try the anchovies with smoked-tomato sorbet, the roasted lamb cutlet (swathed in Catalan pork pâté), or the piquillo peppers stuffed with bacalao.
COFFEE Inside a landmark building, two twentysomething friends (Jade's a barista, Kate's a graphic designer) have transformed a once dingy DVD-rental kiosk into Switchboard (Shop 11/12, Manchester Unity Arcade, 220 Collins St.; no phone; coffee for two $4), the hippest coffee spot in town. Have Australia's "it" caffeinated drink, the Flat White: a latte with no foam, served in a teacup.
COCKTAILS The cavernous new Thai restaurant Longrain (44 Little Bourke St.; 61-3/9671-3151; drinks for two $22), an outpost of the legendary Sydney hot spot, has more than 50 novel (and tasty) cocktails. Pick a perch at the spotlit bar, order the My Thai martini (chile, cucumber, lemongrass, vodka, mint, and ginger), and watch fish swim in the giant aquarium.
DINNER Don't bother booking at Vue de Monde (430 Little Collins St.; 61-3/9691-3888; dinner for two $120) if you're not up for surprises: there's no printed menu at this temple of haute gastronomy. Nor is there much humor in the open kitchen, where Marco Pierre Whitetrained chef Shannon Bennett barks orders at his crew. The dishes on the four- to 13-course menus range from impressively creative (tomato consommé with gazpacho jelly and basil ice) to overly so (deconstructed wagyu-steak sandwich with beetroot tuile). Still, it's worth the time (and expense) to experience the most high-flying cooking the city has on offer.
AFTER-DINNER DRINKS The Transport Hotel's Taxi Dining Room may get top honors from the press, but its rooftop terrace, Transit Lounge Garden (Level 2, Federation Square; 61-3/ 9654-8808; drinks for two $22), is what delivers, with killer drinks and views to die for.
Day 2 Outer Neighborhoods
Breakfast The mod Coffee Darling (2 Darling St.; 61-3/9867-2488; breakfast for two $12) is an epicenter of cool in trendy South Yarra, where media types and "yummy mummys" stream through for brekky-on-the-go. Settle into an Eames chair and have a grilled open-faced ciabatta sandwich or the silken bomboloni (doughnuts).
MID-MORNING SNACK Head to the ever-popular Botanical (169 Domain Rd., South Yarra; 61-3/9820-7888; snack for two $25) before the lunch crowd descends. You must, repeat must, have the truffled eggs with polenta and molten Parmesan cheese, a heady dish that makes you wish calories had never been invented.
LUNCH If you somehow feel lighter after a three-hour meal at Circa (Prince Hotel, 2 Acland St., St. Kilda; 61-3/9536-1122; lunch for two $60), it's because everything here seems to glide. The service is effortless and efficient, the room is a study in crisp white linens, and chef Andrew McConnell's menu hits all the right notes. Don't miss his smoked-eel carpaccio, or the saffron-and-harissaspiced marron (crayfish).
GELATO After lunch, hop the No. 16 tram ($2.40) for a 30-minute ride back to the City and one scoop of Simon Humble's gelato at Tutto Bene Gelateria (Mid Level, Southgate; 61-3/9696-3334; gelato for two $5). Seasonal flavors include pear, chestnut, blood orange, and limoncello.
DINNER Following an afternoon of gallery-hopping on Gertrude and Brunswick streets, ease up to a marble-topped table at the casual Italian restaurant Ladro (224 Gertrude St., Fitzroy; 61-3/9415-7575; dinner for two from $50). Jovial waiters in red T-shirts make even newbies feel like regulars, and perfectly singed pizzas emerge from the wood-burning oven, which also works wonders with an entrée of grilled quail with potatoes and asparagus. On balmy nights, ask to sit in the candlelit garden.
Tutto Bene Gelateria
Botanical, South Yarra
Transit Lounge Garden
The Transport Hotel's Taxi Dining Room may get top honors from the press, but its rooftop terrace, Transit Lounge Garden, is what delivers, with killer drinks and views to die for.
Vue de Monde
The views from the 55th floor of the Rialto Tower are stunning, as is Shannon Bennett's French-inspired cuisine. This is the location for celebrating, which is why guests leave their fate in the hands of the chefs, visible in a gleaming open kitchen, with the gastronomes (tasting) menu. Multiple courses of delicate dishes might include kangaroo, local lamb, or marron (crayfish), according to the season. The room itself is a design dream, with tables covered in stretched kangaroo leather, salt and pepper hidden in rough "rocks," and a light sculpture inspired by fireflies.
Inside a landmark building, two twentysomething friends (Jade's a barista, Kate's a graphic designer) have transformed a once dingy DVD-rental kiosk into Switchboard, the hippest coffee spot in town. Have Australia's "it" caffeinated drink, the Flat White: a latte with no foam, served in a teacup.
Lyall Hotel & Spa
Favored by frequent travelers to Melbourne, this South Yarra escape is renowned for its understated, yet exquisite service. Designed with luxe fabrics and locally crafted furniture, the 40 spacious suites—all enhanced by the addition of a terrace—display a contemporary Asian influence. The Lyall Spa has eight treatment rooms, including a private steam room for the spa's popular anti-jet lag sessions. Each guest is also given a shopping privilege card to enjoy at local boutiques.