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FOOD & DRINK

Eight Classic Melbourne Dining Institutions That Never Get Old

Hype is one thing, but tried and true resilience? That's a whole other ball game.
By Ellen Seah
February 12, 2015
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Eight Classic Melbourne Dining Institutions That Never Get Old

Hype is one thing, but tried and true resilience? That's a whole other ball game.
By Ellen Seah
February 12, 2015
  shares

EIGHT CLASSIC MELBOURNE DINING INSTITUTIONS THAT NEVER GET OLD

Hype is one thing, but tried and true resilience? That's a whole other ball game.

Life on the streets of Melbourne is tough for bright-eyed, bushy-tailed restaurants. New eateries appear just as quickly as they disappear — a reflection of Melbourne's high expectations for quality food, organic atmosphere and something uniquely special. We're a difficult crowd to impress.

So if a restaurant can stay busy and bustling for over 30 years, they're clearing doing something right. Whether it's a distinct atmosphere or authentic, rich cuisine, these are the restaurants Melburnians have been visiting (and revisiting) for decades.

Image: France-Soir by Brook James. 

  • 8

    If we’re talking about institutions, Cafe di Stasio is right at the top of the list. After 26 years on Fitzroy Street, the restaurant and bar still exudes elegance, sophisticated service and decadent Italian food. Here the lunches are long, the wine is expensive and the atmosphere is right on point. There’s a place for old-school, classy dining and this is it.

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  • 7
    Grossi Florentino

    Although it hasn’t always been owned by the Grossi family, Florentino has stood at the 80 Bourke Street site since 1928. In that time it’s changed ownership a number of times, but the sentiment has remained the same: Florentino has always been about authentic Italian dining and great wine. The restaurant has since been split into three parts: the ‘Cellar bar’, ‘Grill’ and ‘Upstairs’. The Grossi family have been running the show for the past 15 year, and it’s still at the top of the list for simple Italian dining in the CBD.

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  • 6
    Pellegrini's Espresso Bar

    Pellegrini’s is a lot like Melbourne itself. A little rough around the edges, with charm that will find a spot so deep in your heart, you’ll find yourself coming back again and again. Perhaps this is best reflected by its often oddball mix of patrons. From its regular crowd to suited workers, young students to families, Pellegrini has something that seems to defy niches. The restaurant has hardly changed since opening in 1954 with its checkerboard floor, vintage red chairs and homely communal kitchen table. Not all available meals are written on the menu, so if you’re lost go for a hearty, cheesy lasagne with a (hopefully available) watermelon granita.

    Image credit: Alpha via Flickr

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  • 5
    Penang Coffee House

    Originally located in Hawthorn, local love for Penang Coffee House’s irresistibly simple hawker-style food spread across Melbourne. Penang’s rich dishes attracted curious customers from every corner who wondered what the fuss was about. Enjoy anything and everything Malaysian at this honest Camberwell eatery, from sour spicy noodles to thick, earthy soups. For dessert there are plenty Malaysian classics to enjoy including sago pudding and the colourful, delectably icy ice kacang. Take a peek in Penang Coffee House — if you’re after a bargain meal and honest Malaysian food, you can hardly go wrong.

    Image credit: Alpha via Flickr

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  • 4

    No one likes Mondays. Monday is the awkward back to work, coffee overloaded, I’d-just-rather-be-in-bed day of the week. Since 1986, France-Soir has been serving little bits of happiness in its packed Toorak brasserie to lighten up Mondays everywhere. Choose from an extensive list of timeless, simple French classics. But it’s not just the food that keeps the restaurant packed after nearly 30 years. The raw intimate, atmosphere of France-Soir is nearly impossible to replicate. Combined with one of the largest internationally recognised wine lists in Melbourne which features over 2100 French wines, France-Soir easily keeps their loyal regulars coming back for Monday night cous cous specials every week.

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  • 3
    Flower Drum

    Chinese food is often connoted with dirt-cheap meals, tired, worn decor and non-existent service. Flower Drum defies, and has been defying this stereotype since 1975. Internationally recognised for authentic Cantonese cuisine and exceptional service, Flower Drum’s menu emphasises fresh seafood and meats with a creative modern twist. You’ll find all the Cantonese classics at this lavish restaurant from silky duck wontons to steamed tofu, and delicate pieces of crab to tender Peking duck. Flower Drum’s interior reflects the restaurant’s notoriety: lush red carpet, delicate wood carving in every corner and attentive, smartly dressed waiters. This little Melbourne celebrity is perfect for a special occasion or a classy night out.

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  • 2
    Bedi's Indian Restaurant

    Supply of Indian cuisine in Melbourne is never limited, with our love for curries and naan causing restaurants to pop up far and wide. After 35 years in the business, this humble South Melbourne restaurant has maintained a solid reputation for quality North Indian food. First established in 1980, Bedi’s was consistently featured in publications such as The Age and Herald Sun when they first opened. Many of Bedi’s curries are prepared in a traditional tandoor oven. Try their famously creamy, spiced butter chicken with some fresh, buttery garlic naan for a satisfying night out.

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  • 1

    We have a lot to thank ol’ Jimmy Watson for — most namely, the humble wine bar. When he opened JC Watson Wine Merchants back in 1935, Melbourne wasn’t so into wine, preferring beer and, at best, a glass of sherry. But Jimmy was the one that bought table wine into Melbourne’s lexicon, and you can still get a glass at the Lygon Street site today. Hint: walk through the restaurant and out onto the small rooftop terrace, the Wolf’s Lair.

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