Melbourne alive, after the races

By Margaret Ambrose
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Federation Square, Melbourne, Victoria

Federation Square, Melbourne, Victoria [©Visions of Victoria]

Fashion at the Spring Racing Carnival - Caulfield
Spring Racing Carnival - Flemington, Melbourne
Melbourne skyline and Yarra River, Melbourne, Victoria
Spring Racing Carnival - Caulfield

The Melbourne Cup may be the race that stops a nation, but during Melbourne Spring Racing Carnival, the city's restaurants and bars step up a gear to make sure the celebrations continue long after the final race of the day is run.

Lost your shirt?

If your sure thing has turned into a no show, don’t worry, there are discounts to be had at some of Melbourne’s most fashionable spots. Show your Derby Day, Melbourne Cup or Stakes Day ticket at Trunk, a chic little eatery at the top end of town, and you’ll be rewarded with a free cocktail.

If a burger and beer is more your taste head over to Federation Square’s Beer de Luxe and your ticket will get you a meal for under $10. For those looking to wind down at cosy club restaurant, check out The Apartment, which has a library, terrace and mezzanine, and where race goers will be rewarded with discounted cocktails.

Trunk -  275 Exhibition Street, 03 9663 7994
Beer de Luxe -  Federation Square Corner Swanston and Flinders Streets, 03 9663 0166
The Apartment -  405 Little Bourke Street, 03 9670 4020

Celebrate your winnings

Had a good day at the races? Why not blow it all at Rockpool Bar and Grill. It's sophisticated, expensive and it's where Melbourne's racing glitterati celebrate their winnings after a day at the races and rub shoulders with celebrity chef Neil Perry. The menu is based on produce, rather than culinary creativity, and your steak will arrive unadorned and alone on the plate. But it will be the best steak you've ever tasted and it will cost you around $50.

The hottest hatted restaurants in the city will be booked well in advance, but if it's been a really lucky day and your palette has a preference for the dramatic, try your luck for post-track celebrations at the glamorous Vue de Monde in Little Collins Street. Or head out to the suburbs for an amazing meal at restaurant of the year, Attica in Ripponlea.

Rockpool Bar and Grill - 8 Whiteman Street, Southbank, 03 8648 1900
Vue de Monde - 430 Little Collins Street, 03 9691 3888
Attica - 74 Glen Eira Road, Ripponlea, 03 9530 0111

In the know

If you want to escape the crowds and obvious tourist traps and visit the places Melburnians like to keep to themselves, head straight to Meyers Place and up a dark, rickety staircase to the Italian Waiter's Club, a place so exclusive that once you needed to recite a password to gain entry. Originally opened as a haunt for Melbourne's Spanish and Italian waiters to unwind after work with a glass of wine and game of cards, the Italian Waiter's Club continues the tradition of simple yet excellent European food, in a basic, no-frills setting.

To find out what might have resulted had Mao Tse Tung opened a restaurant in Melbourne, check out Double Happiness, a small suite of rooms in Chinatown, decorated with Communist Revolution memorabilia and posters, and serving what many Melbournians consider the most authentic Chinese cuisine in the city. Don't leave without trying a lychee cocktail – it’s not on the menu, you will have to ask for it.

Italian Waiters Club - 20 Meyers Place, 03 9650 1508
Double Happiness -  21 Liverpool Street, 03 9650 4488

For the ladies' tired feet

Almost as if specially catering for ladies who having spent a day in heels, some of Melbourne's most popular wine bars and restaurants are located in the same buildings.

Start at Curtain House, often described as a ‘vertical laneway’, and a meal at Cookie, an old New York-style restaurant and bar with high ceilings and huge windows overlooking busy Swanston street. Keep going to the second floor and you’ll find the suitably named Toff of the Town. Reminiscent of gentlemen's clubs of the past, Toff of the Town is decked out in brass, leather and marble and the romantically-inclined will appreciate the individual booths with sliding privacy doors.

Over in Spring street, if the grand and sophisticated décor of Melbourne Supper Club doesn’t make your eyes pop out, the extensive wine list will. Settle in for a late-night feed and tipple and then head next door to the City Wine Shop, where you can sample from a vast list of Australian and international drops ‘on tasting’ over mouth-watering tapas, and even stock up for your own cellar.

Cookie - 252 Swanston Street, 03 9663 7660
Toff of the Town - 252 Swanston Street, 03 9639 8770
Melbourne Supper Club -161 Spring Street, 03 9654 6300
City Wine Shop - 159 Spring Street, 03 9654 6657

What's new in town?

Maha in Bond Street is new but seems like an instant classic, serving rustic Middle Eastern cuisine with completely unexpected modern flourishes. 

Also making a splash is Giuseppe, Arnaldo and Sons (or GAS) - it's a modern trattoria, where the food is Italian, simple but superb, presented with indefinable flair and impeccable service. (It doesn't take bookings, but if you have to wait, it's probably worth it.)

Cumulus Inc, in Flinders Lane is a bar, café, restaurant, which does all three jobs very well. Streamlined, hip design, with an imaginative menu and groovy staff.

Maha - 21 Bond Street, City, 03 9629 5900
Giuseppe, Arnaldo & Sons - Crown Promenade, Southbank 03 9694 7400
Cumulus Inc - 45 Flinders Lane, 03 9650 1445

Down the alley

While most visitors to foreign cities are advised to steer clear of dark alleyways, in Melbourne they are encouraged to explore them  - that’s where you will discover some of the best food and wine Melbourne has on offer. Make sure you pencil in a visit to Spiga, tucked away in Menzies Alley, which serves classically simple Italian meals and has an impressive list of Australian wines, in a relaxed, cosy environment.

Spiga - 2 Menzies Alley, 03 8676 7515



  • Melbourne Surrounds (VIC)
  • Melbourne (VIC)

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