Multicultural Melbourne: Unleash your Inner Foodie

The city of Melbourne offers a vibrant, cosmopolitan, multicultural experience – something that is best reflected in its fantastically diverse restaurant and café culture. When it comes to eating in Melbourne, the phrase “there’s something for everyone” doesn’t quite cut it. This self-proclaimed cuisine capital of Australia has literally thousands of spectacular eateries for you to keep discovering throughout your time here. Three years later, I’m still discovering new places to keep my palate guessing; enrolling in a postgraduate degree was just an excuse to continue riding Melbourne’s gourmet food train.

The “melting pot” metaphor is particularly apt when witnessing how Melbourne’s diverse population has influenced its multicultural microcosmos of restaurants and cafés. Pockets of ethnic groups scattered throughout Melbourne has given each of its suburbs a distinctive cultural flavour and a reputation for excellence with a certain cuisine. Carlton, with its strong European influence, is well known for providing some of the best Mediterranean food experiences on a student budget. This area’s Italian influence in particular has inspired a fantastically elitist coffee culture; every Melbournian has alarmingly strong opinions on where the best beans are to be enjoyed. Don’t make the mistake of confessing to frequent a chain store for your caffeine fix – you’ll risk being cast out of numerous social circles. (N.B. this is a joke, but only just.)

Melbourne University’s large international student community has also resulted in the emergence of numerous cheap and surprisingly decent-quality Asian restaurants within easy walking distance of the campus. There are seemingly limitless options further afield, too; Flemington, once an obscure and inconsequential suburb, has had its food culture invigorated by an expanding North African community. In Richmond, the suburb’s Greek heritage is still strongly evident in its selection of eateries but areas have also been largely transformed by a growing Vietnamese neighbourhood. From feta to lentils to yum cha, this city delivers.

Experiencing the diverse food culture of Melbourne isn’t limited to a table-and-chairs affair. The city’s myriad of markets also offers some fantastic local and imported produce for customers to sample. Queen Victoria Market, located in the heart of the city, offers a two-hour Foodies Dream tour for just $22 at 10am on Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday, giving visitors a fantastic taste-hopping exploration of what’s on offer. Prahran Market, affectionately known by locals as “the food lovers market”, not only offers tantalising fare during regular hours but also hosts the annual Melbourne Food and Wine Festival that runs during March. This festival offers tasting opportunities, cooking classes and demonstrations from some of the world’s leading chefs. There is also the annual Good Food and Wine Show held at the Melbourne Exhibition Centre in Southbank and the Taste of Melbourne Festival at the Royal Exhibition Building in Carlton. If you’ve ever wanted to witness the magic of culinary creation by the likes of Ainsley, Nigella or Gordon, you’ll have ample opportunity!

As if that wasn’t enough, the city hosts numerous cultural festivals throughout the year which predominantly seem centred around sampling the nation of choice’s cuisine. There’s the Asian Food Festival, the Thai Culture and Food Festival, the Moomba Festival, the Tianjin Melbourne Cultural Festival…the list just keeps on going! What’s more, Melbourne’s residents never seem to tire of the opportunity to keep on sampling endless delicacies; there’s never an empty restaurant or lonesome festival bain-marie.

Melbourne’s love of good food is also reflected in its newspapers and magazines; The Age on Saturday offers a particularly good insert entitled Epicure (a term used in contemporary parlance as a synonym for Gourmet) where restaurant reviews and articles enthusing about the best methods of obtaining olive oil are regular features. There are also great recipe ideas that won’t break the budget.

My Top 3 Multicultural Eats


Moroccan Soup Bar, Fitzroy – this place is truly a wonder of Middle Eastern cuisine. The vegetarian menu is delivered verbally every evening along with a stimulating glass of sweet mint tea and the dishes are consistently spectacular (special mention for their universally-praised Fatteh). And at $18 for a three-course buffet with drinks included, it’s a hungry student’s paradise.

Lygon St, Carlton – it’s impossible to pick a single restaurant out of this Mediterranean multicultural hub; just a stone’s throw from the University of Melbourne campus, the whole street is truly an experience!  Saunter from one delicious eatery to the next perusing menus and bartering with restaurant waiters for the best deals while enjoying the scents of sweet basil and garlic.

The Abyssinian, Flemington – this is genuinely the most fantastic fun place to enjoy dinner with friends. Traditional Ethiopian cuisine is served up on injera, a flat, slightly sour pancake-like bread that also serves as your cutlery! The sharing plates offer affordable prices, generous serves and the hilarity that invariably results from being deprived of a knife and fork for your evening meal.

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8 Comments

  1. bronx says:

    I saw on a chinese tv eating program that the worlds best viet pho noodle place is located in melbourne? does anyone know where?

  2. Jo says:

    I got hungry just reading this article!

  3. Abi says:

    Never knew Melbourne had such a strong food culture, now I can’t wait to visit – Moroccan Soup Bar in particular looks amazing!

  4. Sarah says:

    My friends lived in Richmond and they went out of their way to travel to Flemington to go to the The Abyssinian restaurant every month, they enjoyed it that much. Glad to see it made the list of multicultural eats.

  5. steve says:

    yep, you gotta love those cheap melbourne eats.

  6. Emily French says:

    Hi Bronx
    There are several Vietnamese restaurants in a row on Swanston street that advertise their Pho and certainly attract a large clientele! Richmond also has fantastic Vietnamese – I’ve heard amazing things about a place called Pho Chu The, reviewed here on urbanspoon: http://www.urbanspoon.com/r/71/1427422/restaurant/Victoria/Pho-Chu-The-Richmond

  7. C&C says:

    oh man emily you have done it. i’m going to go there tonight, you’ve made me so hungry!

  8. Five generations in Ethiopia, and going for more time ahead!! I can assure you that eating @ “the Abyssinian” in Melbourne is Ethiopia “13 months of sunshine’ big time. Such a great environment, beautiful people, and real great, Ethiopian food, welcome to my “world”, ………..Melkam Rath.

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