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Many of Melbourne’s favourite foodie spots are also the hardest to find. But they're always worth the journey.
An iconic eatery in an unknown laneway tucked behind mysterious neon. Lucy Liu has taken hiding their door to a whole new level. Seek them out to be rewarded by juicy dumplings, top tier sashimi and creamy chocolate pave with peanut butter ice cream.
What’s more hidden than a tiny robot-themed laneway bar projecting anime from the ceiling? The neighbouring ramen shop with a secret basement bar. Located down Bligh Place off Flinders Lane with essentially no signage, it’s not hard to skip right over Mugen. Detour down the lane and grab a seat in the minimalist dining room. Or head to the mood-lit basement, where classic Japanese films are projected on the wall.
You can’t get more Melbourne than the back of an alley. Tonka’s modern Indian cuisine is very well hidden in ACDC Lane. Executive chef is Italian-Indian Adam D’Sylva, whose many claims to fame include being the first chef at Longrain. Try his next-level butter chicken, the prawn balchão betel leaf with pineapple and anise, and the organic tandoori chicken.
Curtin House was one of Melbourne’s first so-called ‘vertical laneways’. But the tenant that put it on the map was Cookie. A bar, Thai restaurant and club rolled into one, this venue is worth the stairs. Perfect pad thai and sticky lamb ribs are served with hand-picked gin, margaritas and Trappist monk inspired beer.
Blink and you’ll miss Cathedral Coffee, a tiny nook inside striking Cathedral Arcade. During the day opt for loaded Italian sandwiches, Portuguese tarts and impeccable espresso. Head in after work for the late-night wine bar, serving small plates and natural drops from local farms and Aussie winemakers.
East China Trading Company and Golden Monkey
Handmade dumplings and handcrafted cocktails are two of life’s great pleasures. Have the best of both worlds upstairs at East China Trading Company. Then pop downstairs through velvet curtains, for the romance, mystery and decadence of Golden Monkey. Think Shanghai 1920s cocktail bar meets delicious late-night feasting.
Simple Argentine cooking at San Telmo keeps the restaurant bustling. Follow the neon sign to find a vibrant menu filled with share-style dishes. Warm weather? Sit outside for an al fresco evening set against the backdrop of Mike Makatron’s amazing Meyer’s Place mural.
Pizza Pizza Pizza
This Meyers Place takeaway joint is far more than meets the eye. Venture further than the standing room only entrance and you'll find a secret dining room behind the pizza warmers. Settle in at the plush booths and order giant slices of classic NYC-style pie. Wash down that triple cheese with a drinks list that ranges from PBR to pineapple daquiris.
Yamato is a cute, eclectic morsel of authentic Japanese dining. Head down what is possibly the narrowest lane in Melbourne (or enter through the Chinatown end of Corrs Lane) to find an unassuming brown door. Step inside and it’s like a trip to Tokyo’s quirkiest Izakaya, stacked wall-to-wall with retro Japanese Kitsch. Take your shoes off, settle on the tatami and feast on deliciously meaty shabu shabu.
More of Melbourne's most hidden spots
Small, hidden Japanese retro and pop culture bar serving Japanese whisky, beers and cocktails.
An authentic French pâtisserie serving cakes, pastries and baked treats.
Vertue Coffee Roasters
A small cafe serving breakfast, lunch and house-roasted coffee.
Serving unfussy, home-style Italian food to a late-night crowd since 1947.
The ultimate guide to Melbourne's hole-in-the-wall cafes
We found Melbourne's tiniest cafes in laneways, under train tracks and on top of traffic islands.
Last updated on Tue 20 Apr 2021
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