I’m finally moving on.
Melbourne’s been nothing short of incredible to live in, and I know I’ll always look back on St. Kilda in particular as one of the coolest neighborhoods I’ve ever called home. Still, it’s time to leave. In a country as vast as Australia, and with my visa here lasting only a year, there’s just far too much to explore to stay in one place.
So in honor of leaving, this post is dedicated to one of my favorite parts of living in Melbourne (and, let’s be honest, one of everyone’s favorite travel activities): eating and drinking.
Melbourne is widely considered not only Australia’s foodie capital, but one of the top culinary destinations in the world. I knew this before moving here and still found myself blown away by how extensive the food, coffee and bar culture really is. I swear, it’s hard to walk even a block without passing a half-dozen seriously drool-worthy restaurants.
I think that for the rest of my life, perfectly poached eggs, frothy cappuccinos, heaping serves of dumplings and huge bowls of hot, spicy-as-it-comes pho will always take me back to Melbourne. I’ve enjoyed plenty of amazing meals and bars around the city, but of course I know my home neighborhood best. From brunch to dinner and after, these are my favorite restaurants and bars in St. Kilda. (As a quick sidenote: sorry for some of the iPhone photos! I don’t often have my good camera on me while eating out. Sometimes the iPhone’s great, sometimes not so much.)
1. Galleon Cafe (9 Carlisle St.)
Just a few minutes from the Esplanade apartment my friends and I shared, Galleon was our brunch go-to. The vibe is bright and fifties-esque, the cappuccinos are some of the best around and every single thing I ate here was perfect. I’m also a big fan of their spicy Bloody Mary — I’m the kind of person who likes my food as spicy as I can get it, and this was on point. Bonus: there’s also a laundromat next door, making this the perfect place to grab a bite while your clothes are in the wash. Just note that if you come on a weekend, you might have to wait — there’s always a line at the door.
2. Dr. Jekyll (107-113 Grey St.)
Dr. Jekyll was practically my home away from home. Between the wifi, outlets, amazing coffee and great staff, this cafe was my favorite place to sit and write. They also do incredible breakfast — the brekkie burger was our favorite, and the kitchen was always willing to make a crazy good vegetarian version with mushrooms and avocados for me. Dr. Jekyll has also recently opened up as a wine bar with small plates and dinner at night. I haven’t checked it out yet, but the menu looks incredible.
3. Miss Jackson (2/19 Grey St.)
You can never have too many options for brunch, right? This somewhat hidden cafe does seriously amazing food. I’m pretty sure you can’t go wrong with anything on the menu, but their baked eggs with roti special and soba noodle salad with trout are probably two of the best things I tasted in Melbourne. In a city like this, that’s saying something.
4. Derby Thai (131 Grey St.)
During my first week staying at the hostel in St. Kilda, my friend Joe and I made it our mission to eat here everyday. We did, and we kept coming back after that. It’s delicious Thai food (the hokkien noodles from their specials board and panang curry are my favorites), but it’s the price that’s the real draw. At $8.50 for curries and stir-fries all day everyday, you can hardly beat the cost. Free delivery for dinner orders only encouraged our Derby habit more.
5. La Formaggeria (70 Acland St.)
This bright little corner store is run by the friendliest Italians and boasts an in-house micro cheese lab. It’s my favorite place in St. Kilda to grab a to-order panini for there or to go. Their sweet treats are pretty great, too.
6. Rabbit Blues (C/92 Ackland St.)
This became one of my favorite lunch spots in part because of the super friendly and personable owner, but of course the food is fantastic too. This is big, flavorful Chinese food — not greasy or bland at all. Plus, the $10 lunch specials are big enough that if you’re on a tight budget, you could probably even get two meals out of them!
7. The Banff (29/145 Fitzroy St.)
The Banff is home to my favorite happy hour in Melbourne. Everyday between 3 and 6pm, pots are $2.50, wine is $3.50 and jugs are $9. It’s not the cheapest around, but it’s close, and the vibe is perfect. There’s outdoor sidewalk seating for sunny days and the coziest cabin-like interior (fireplace included!) for cold and rainy days. We go as much for their simple but amazing pizza as for the drinks: they’re $6 apiece all day on Mondays and Tuesdays and until 5:30 Wednesday through Friday. The Banff is also a great place to go for some sticky date pudding — it’s cheap, delicious and more than big enough to share.
8. The St. Kilda Branch (204 Barkly St.)
While The Banff has my cheap pizza loyalty, the St. Kilda Branch does pretty great $5 pizza on Sundays too. Come here for the daily dinner specials, not for the full-priced menu. From $12 steaks to $10 parmas, there’s always a good deal on. It’s usually pretty crowded, and especially so on the weekends.
9. The Nelson (2/56 Acland St.)
I can’t tell you how many times I walked past this place without noticing it, and if a friend hadn’t invited me one night, I may never have found it. That would have been a tragedy, because this is easily my favorite bar in St. Kilda. The Nelson has something like fifty varieties of rum on offer and the service is some of the best I’ve experienced in Melbourne — the staff is especially great for recommendations. The interior is gorgeous, and while I’ve only been at night, the beautiful porch looks perfect for sunny days. I haven’t eaten here yet, but there’s a pretty impressive selection of share plates on the menu. Next time I’m back in St. Kilda, this will be one of my first stops.
10. The Vineyard (71A Acland St.)
Don’t come here for food — come for a fun, laidback, unpretentious night out. The vibe’s a bit grungy, but that’s part of what makes it so great. This is the perfect neighorhood bar, located right in the heart of St. Kilda near Luna Park. There’s always something going on at night and nearly always a crowd, usually a good mix of locals and backpackers. My nights out at The Vineyard have never disappointed.
There are a few places I loved in St. Kilda but rarely made it to, usually because of my hours working in hospitality or because of their location. Uncle (188 Carlisle Street) wasn’t very nearby, but a small bowl of pho paired with a mini banh mi made for one of my favorite meals in St. Kilda. Like The St. Kilda Branch, Iddy Biddy (35-39 Blessington Street) does great food specials every day of the week. Even better, they have $5 pints on Mondays. Big Mouth (168 Acland Street) is one of my favorite local bars for a night out — from the bartenders to the crowd to the music, it’s always a fun time.