Beef short rib with roasted celery vinaigrette at IDES.
Beef short rib with roasted celery vinaigrette at IDES.
| Credit: Rebecca Newman/Courtesy of IDES

For a taste of both Melbourne’s regional and multicultural culinary offerings, head to Smith Street, a mile-long strip dividing the inner-city villages Fitzroy and Collingwood that has shed its rundown reputation in recent years to become a revitalized, food-centric destination for the city. Here, you’ll find a range of cafes, bars, and restaurants with influences from around the world.

Among our favorites are Shimbashi Soba and Sake Bar (entrees from $11-14), where chef Taka Kuma-yama grinds Tasmanian buckwheat fresh daily for his hand-cut soba noodles. At the Tijuana-themed taqueria Hotel Jesus (entrees $13-$19), order plates of ceviche tostada (with minced snapper, pico de gallo, avocado and sesame seeds) and the chichilo mole with beef cheeks. For Thai street food, head to Noi Thai (entrées $9-$19), where the chicken skewers with spicy peanut sauce and coconut prawns rival anything you’ll find in Bangkok. Alimentari (entrees $7-$18), meanwhile, is a classic Melbourne café-delicatessen for salads (an excellent kale caesar with anchovy mayo dressing), panini, and pasta — plus perfect flat whites.

For something a little more high-end (but still in line with the neighborhood’s laid back atmosphere), Ides (four course tasting menus from $80) is Smith Street’s premiere destination. Chef Peter Gunn creates Aussie-centric dishes using Victorian-grown ingredients, the likes of which you’ve probably never had before, like pumpkin flowers with braised pumpkin seeds in an oxtail broth or smoked ice cream with hemp seed oil. And the setting — a long, sleek room in shades of black, gray, and white — is almost as compelling as the food itself.

Gelato at Gelato Messina
Gelato Messina.
| Credit: Katie Wilson/Courtesy of Gelato Messina

When you’re ready for something sweet, join the throng at Gelato Messina for 40 flavours of iced desserts made with fresh-churned Jersey milk from country Victoria. The special varieties — rosewater gelato with chunks of housemade baklava; bourbon and vanilla gelato with chocolate and whisky pecan pie — are the ones to get.

And two blocks away, Panama Dining Room is an ideal spot for an after-dinner glass of local Pinot Grigio from the King Valley wine country, three hours north of Melbourne. If you need a place to wait out a reservation, though, it’s also a good spot for a pre-dinner cocktail and oysters.