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Where to Eat in the City When You Want to Feel Like the Boss

Places that are ideal for smart lunches with big groups of friends or colleagues.
By Imogen Baker
October 04, 2017

Where to Eat in the City When You Want to Feel Like the Boss

Places that are ideal for smart lunches with big groups of friends or colleagues.
By Imogen Baker
October 04, 2017


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Places that are ideal for smart lunches with big groups of friends or colleagues.

A standard midweek office lunch can sometimes consist of an unholy conglomeration of all the leftover bits and pieces you had in the pantry from the night before. No judgement here; we're down with bulk tuna salad paired with leftover curry and microwave rice, or the off packet of years-old mi goreng. Sometimes meal prep has to take a back seat in between clearing that Netflix backlog and trying to squeeze in some actual fun around work.

This is all fine and dandy until you have to sit down for lunch with your colleagues and eat your Frankenstein bento box in front of them. It's times like these that you may be wise to suggest lunch out, and we've partnered with American Express to arm you with some killer venue suggestions that will gain the goodwill of the work fam (which you'll reap, come Secret Santa time). So leave your lunch to go mouldy in the work fridge, whip out your Amex and forget about your inbox at these prime CBD spots.

Got yourself in another dining situation and need some guidance? Whatever it is, we know a place. Visit The Shortlist and we'll sort you out.

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    Located in the CBD, Massi is the younger sibling of Kew favourite Mister Bianco and offers a similar rotation of coffee, cakes, cold meats and antipasti as well as pastas and Sicilian-style mains. The warm service and modern but intimate interior will make you feel right at home.

    The crudo antipasto corner is perfect for a warm afternoon luncheon when no one feels like downing a heavy meal. Or take a seat and try the pasta selection – the buffalo ricotta gnocchi with pork neck, sage, lemon and egg yolk is particularly indulgent. Or go for something lighter like the wagyu carpaccio served with pickled wild mushroom, pomegranate and crostini or a saffron pea and scamorza arancino.

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    The European is a Melbourne CBD institution. Even on a glum Melbourne afternoon, you’ll be transported to the cobbled streets of a generic European city, compelled to don a Panama hat and light up a cigar, which of course is part of the charm.

    The menu is full of honest fare without trends or fads, at very reasonable prices. The lunch menu will give you a tough decision headache, because it’s all good. We recommend the Moreton Bay bug and crispy chicken salad for a protein-heavy option, or the buffalo mozzarella, pickled pine mushrooms and honey combo for something a bit different.

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    Uncle Collins Street

    Uncle Collins Street (the follow-up to Uncle St Kilda) is a Vietnamese haven in an otherwise noisy city. The first-floor views through foldout windows and leaf-latticed ironwork afford glimpses of the plane trees outside, and the bamboo furniture and tropical lighting ensure the space isn’t at all stuffy. Somehow Uncle manages to capture all that is wonderful about Vietnam.

    Book ahead and start with a selection of the ‘little guys’ section of the menu, like the raw kingfish with longan, sesame, wasabi peas, coconut and tamarind foam. The lunchtime quickie is $28 (before 5pm) and represents great value, with a fantastic mix of entrees, a banh mi, sticky hot and sour chicken wings, plus sides.

    Image: Greg Elms.

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    Nestled in Melbourne Place, Sezar is perfect for a slightly different business lunch. The menu pays homage to Armenia as well as other Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisines. The restaurant’s interior itself is beautiful, with leather banquettes and warm lights, and the menu is quite expansive, so you’ll find something for everyone.

    Sharing dishes include spinach and feta pastry cigars, oysters with compressed apple and anise and the knockout spanner crab manti — Armenian dumplings served with yoghurt and paprika butter. Or, if you’re hungry, fill up on the roasted lamb rump with Jerusalem artichoke, soubise and green onion oil.

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    Rosa’s Canteen is a slightly more traditional lunch choice. Avoid it if you’re prone to afternoon carb crashes because when we say ‘traditional’, we mean it’s a pasta paradise. The calm, well-lit venue is the perfect backdrop for a refined (but definitely not fussy) work lunch. Try Rosa’s antipasto plate for a tantalising nibble to start. The casarecce lamb ragout with peas is a filling dish with fall-apart lamb contrasting well with the curly, perfectly al dente pasta. The tomatoes and peas don’t detract from the lamb, but give the dish heartiness and a nice familiarity.

    Or if seafood is your thing, try the linguine with prawn, pesto and pistachio – the three ‘P’s work beautifully with each other.

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    Kisume is your go-to for upmarket Japanese fare in a decadent setting. It’s a three storey restaurant on Flinders Lane, opened by Chin Chin‘s Chris Lucas. Make a reservation at the sushi bar downstairs (the upstairs Chablis bar and omasake-style dining room are a little too posh for lunch nosh).

    You know you’re in safe hands with Chris Lucas at the helm. The sushi bar promises an array of specialty rolls and sashimi, such as Alaskan king crab with spring onion, flying fish roe and soy paper. And the interior design is so dark and intimate, featuring timber flooring, grey leather, matte brass and dusty pink curtain, so a quick lunch can feel like a refreshing sojourn into party mode.


    As you drink and dine with your American Express, reap all the sweet rewards of being a Card Member. Explore the many ways American Express has your back here.

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