Missed dining out? Same here. The big ticket spots are probably on your radar, but these hidden gems might have slipped by undetected. We sent food writer about town Sofia Levin to get the scoop on a few secret spots to add to your list.

Remember - things are a little different right now. Contact individual venues for more information on their post-lockdown offers. Be sure to view the reopening roadmap and check restrictions from the Victorian Government before heading out.

Fuumi Fuumi

Fuumi Fuumi is a new neighbourhood Japanese bakery and cafe 700 metres from Queen Victoria Market. Choose from a range of sandos including tonkatsu, ebi fried prawns with egg salad and seasonal fruit and cream. You can also buy mini loaves of shokupan milk bread swirled with sweet potato, tuna mayo and pepperoni. Other carby treats include pan rolls flavoured with takoyaki and Japanese chorizo hotdogs with corn and cheese. Don't skip sweet treats like chiffon cake, mochi bread and cookie cups.

A white bread roll filled with scrambled eggs, topped with half a boiled egg
Fuumi Fuumi

Crossley Street Cantina

Vermouth on tap. A late-night menu served until 1am. Boozy 90-minute bottomless brunches on weekends for $65. There's a lot to love about Crossley Street Cantina. Owner Geoff Machirus (also Bodega Underground) opened the restaurant in March. Chef Federico Perez serves snacks such as calamari stuffed with spiced rice and raisins and chorizo jam with crisp sourdough. Larger plates include lamb with peach, baby carrots and garlic custard. Peacock-coloured banquettes and a green-tiled blackbutt bar bring the Mediterranean vibes. The laneway seating is equal parts Barcelona and Melbourne.

Taiwan Cafe Melbourne

Taiwan Cafe opened in March in an industrial part of West Melbourne. The Taiwanese family that runs this unembellished cafe has been in hospitality for three generations. They immigrated to South Africa 30 years ago, moving to Melbourne to escape political instability. Taiwanese bento boxes with braised pork rice and pickled vegetables are a no-brainer for lunch. There are also noodles with pork nuggets, beef noodles, traditional meatballs and sausages.

Noodles, bento boxes and other asian food dishes on a wooden table
Taiwan Cafe Melbourne

Seoul Toast Bong

Seoul Toast Bong is opposite Nico’s Sandwich Deli on Healeys Lane. It’s the first overseas branch of a South Korean franchise established in 1997. There are more than 200 national stores, and we have the only one outside SK. The small, gilgeori toast cafe combines Korean street toast with Melbourne’s love of coffee. Gilgeori toast is Korea’s favourite street breakfast sandwich. Here you can have it with egg, ham, bacon or bulgogi beef. There are also options to add cheese, a hashbrown or both. Pro tip: pair your sandwich with galbae juice (Korean pear juice) to put an instant stop to your hangover.

Kazbah Egyptian Street Food

Egyptian falafel, which is made with broad beans (aka fava beans), is far less common in Melbourne than its chickpea sibling. You can find it at Kazbah, just opposite Kensington Station. The tiny, casual restaurant and takeaway shop also recently introduced a ring-shaped falafel-doughnut hybrid. If you order it filled, it’s a “fabagel”. Vegans are already fans of Kazbah’s take on the halal snack pack (their VSP). But if you double down on dairy, go for the buttery flatbread inspired by traditional feteer (layered Egyptian pastry). Co-owner Tony Carne describes it as half way between a pizza and a cheese toastie.

A falafel in a bowl with chips and veggies
Kazbah (Photo by @SofiaKLevin for What's On)

Old Street Hunan

Also known as Xiang cuisine, this Mid City Arcade restaurant specialises in the spicy, savoury and sour dishes of Hunan. Old Street Hunan opened in 2020, but it has flown under-the-radar with lockdowns. Hunan cuisine is abundant with chillies and fermenting techniques, while pork and fish are the main proteins. It’s a modern fit-out with concrete flooring, red neon Mandarin signage and green highlights. Look for dishes such as duo jiao zheng yu (steamed fish heads blanketed in pickled chillies) and Mao shi hong shao rou. That's Chairman Mao’s red-braised pork belly, fragrant with star anise, cassia bark, chilli and ginger. First timers should stat with a rice noodle soup. Those up for a challenge can order pungent black stinky tofu.

Cairo Nights Restaurant & Bar

Cairo Nights is an Egyptian restaurant and shisha bar in the middle of Melbourne’s Little Italy. The family behind South Yarra’s now-closed Casa Besta opened it in June 2021. Chef Tharwat Bestawros has more than 30 years experience, plus he's cooked for the former Egyptian president and Janet Jackson. Try traditional dishes such as keba iskandarani (marinated veal liver pan-fried with chilli and garlic) and mokh bel dukkah (breaded lamb brains coated with dukkah). Not into offal? Opt for mombar rice-stuffed sausages, mixed grill, or a hearty Egyptian clay pot. Hang around for shisha and clap along with belly dancers on weekends.

More new places you might have missed

Musou

Spicy, numbing Sichuan, stir-fried to order.

atiyah streetfood

Lebanese street food served from a zero-carbon kitchen in Fed Square.

King William

Seriously upstanding sandwiches from the west end of town.

Sinjeon

Popular Korean street food chain with 700 stores globally.

Gai Wong

Gai Wong is a Chinese restaurant specialising in Hainanese chicken and char siew pork.

INDU

A celebration of Southern Indian and Sri Lankan village culture, flavours and hospitality.

BIO by DOC

An Italian vegetarian and vegan restaurant in Carlton.

Hemingway's Wine Room

Brasserie and Wine Bar that is inspired by seasonality, with dishes based on European fundamentals

Last updated on Fri 5 Nov 2021

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