The Yarra River slices through Melbourne and in doing so, provides plenty of waterside dining opportunities. And one of the most popular spots to grab a drink or bowl of something tasty is along the Southbank.
Of course, this is an extremely convenient place to dine if you’re heading to a performance at the Arts Centre or the Southbank Theatre. Similarly, if you’re returning from an exhibition at the NGV or a concert at the Melbourne Recital Centre, this is a where you head to debrief over a glass of wine and some nibbles.
However, it’s also a destination in its own right. On a warm summer’s evening, Golden Hour lights up the skyscrapers framing the Yarra. Melburnians who were heading home are lured across Princes Bridge and the Southbank Promenade buzzes with life.
There’s something for everyone along this stretch of businesses. From burger joints and coffee shops to upmarket Japanese and Italian restaurants and gourmet pizza kitchens. And let’s not forget the swanky dining rooms of Crown Casino.
So let us guide you through this dynamic precinct of bars, cafes and other eateries in this, our take on the best restaurants in Southbank Melbourne.
Location: Crown Melbourne, Crown Casino, 8 Whiteman St, Southbank, VIC 3006 Ph: (03) 9081 0532
It’s fair to say that whether you eat at Rockpool Bar & Grill in Melbourne, Sydney or Perth, this quintessentially Australian group of restaurants offers a superior dining experience.
Rockpool Melbourne is modelled on the impressive upmarket steakhouses of the USA. But, with a distinctly Aussie slant. Rockpool prides itself on working closely with producers to give customers what they believe is the best Australian beef available. And you’re aware of that beef as soon as you walk in. Flintstone-sized hunks of it hang dramatically in custom-made meat lockers, undergoing the dry-ageing that gives it such incredible flavour.
And of course, as is so fashionable at present, the preferred cooking method is coaxing whatever you choose to burnished perfection on a wood-fired grill.
Open with the smoky, zingy Wood Fire Grilled Octopus with Chimichurri & Charred Eggplant ($44). Or maybe the Buffalo Mozzarella with Confit Leeks, Pistachios & Grilled Bread ($32). From there, it’s hard to ignore the pull of juicy red meat. The Cape Grim Dry Aged 36 Month Old Grass Fed T-Bone 400g 40 Days ($92) is a great choice. Especially when paired with the addictive Potato & Cabbage Gratin ($19/24).
Add to this impeccable service, atmospheric lighting and an exemplary Wine List and you’ve got a very special evening.
Yes, Rockpool Bar & Grill isn’t cheap, but it’s undoubtedly one of the top restaurants in Southbank Melbourne. And for a special occasion, it’s worth every penny.
For recommendations for more great Steak Restaurants in Melbourne, see here.
Location: Crown Melbourne, Crown Riverwalk, Crown Melbourne, 8 Whiteman St, Southbank, VIC 3006 Ph: (03) 9292 5777
Getting the internationally renowned Nobu to open inclusively within the Crown restaurants stable was definitely a major win for the casino group.
So far, Nobu Restaurants have a spot in Crown Metropol Perth and the new Crown Sydney at Barangaroo, as well as Crown Melbourne. And their reputation for innovative modern Japanese food and cutting edge restaurant design makes them a popular destination for an unforgettable meal.
One thing that sets Nobu Melbourne apart from other fine dining Japanese restaurants is that here, the food is a balanced marriage between Japanese and South American favours – particularly those of Peru.
Although Nobu offers Lunch Menus and full A La Carte Dinner option, one of the best ways to benefit from the culinary knowledge of the kitchen is by ordering the Omakase Dinner Menu. This exquisite experience takes you through 7 of Nobu’s most noteworthy plates for $170 pp.
Stand-outs include the delicately seasoned Salmon Tartare with Caviar and the Chef’s Selection Nigiri – where only the freshest fish and seafood is skilfully prepared. However, Nobu’s signature dish is the Black Cod Miso and it really is as good as is claimed. Pearlescent petals of meaty fish flesh, cooked to melting deliciousness, marinaded in a magical blend of Miso, Sake and Mirin. It’s salty yet sweet and lusciously buttery.
Can you tell that we love it?! No wonder it makes our list of the best restaurants in Southbank Melbourne.
Finish off with the frothy charm of a Whisky Cappuccino and you’ll go home replete.
As you might expect from a venue of this calibre, the Wine List is extensive and Sakes are well-represented. The bar also stocks a large range of spirits, including Whisk(e)y from around the malt-loving world.
Lastly, the wait staff are discreet, attentive and knowledgeable. They are the respectful icing on the cake.
Read all about our favourite Japanese Restaurants in Melbourne right here.
Location: River Terrace, Hamer Hall Arts Centre Melbourne, 100 St Kilda Road, VIC 3006 Ph: (03) 8698 8800
Fatto Bar and Cantina is a relaxed Italian bar and eatery in a bright, minimalist space drenched in natural light. Fatto is perfectly located if you’re taking in a show or exhibition at any of the Melbourne Arts Centre venues, being just a few minutes walk from them all.
The restaurant looks over the Yarra River with one of the most enviable views of the Melbourne city skyline.
Fatto serves contemporary takes on classic Italian food and takes pride in what it calls “Italian by hand“, with pasta made fresh daily in venue and a menu driven by the best seasonal produce.
Conveniently, Fatto offers two distinct spaces. The Cantina provides table service and a range of signature Italian dishes including Pasta, Steak, Salad and Dessert. The Bar and Bar Terrace offer a substantial drinks list featuring classic Italian cocktails as well as Snacks, Antipasto and specials like the $10 Formaggi Burger and $10 Pizzas.
What’s more, the outdoor heated terrace runs the length of the building, providing al fresco dining under the vines on the doorstep of the Arts Precinct.
Fatto is open daily from 12pm until late. The Cantina welcomes reservations and walk ins. ‘Aperitivo Hour’ runs every day in the Bar from 4-6pm offering $9 classic Italian Cocktails, $7 Wine and $5 Beer – no need to book, just grab a seat and order at the Bar.
You’ll find that weekend nights are buzzing as local Melbourne DJs take over the Terrace from 5pm until late.
If pushed, we’d confess that our favourite dish is the Spanner Crab Spaghettini, with lemon and chilli. It’s perfect for a pre-theatre dinner option as it’s punchy, fresh, medium-sized and arrives at the table promptly.
Fatto is a cool place for a celebration or special event – it’s wonderfully located and has a funky vibe to go alongside the fabulous views. Group and exclusive packages are available.
If you have a passion for Italian cuisine, see our guide to the Best Italian Restaurants in Melbourne.
Sept 2023 – We’ve been advised that Fatto is currently closed. Melbourne’s Arts Centre and surrounds was particularly hard hit by the long Covid lockdowns and Fatto appears to be an another unfortunate (and much-missed) casualty. As this is the case, perhaps try this Italian restaurant instead…
Location: Southgate, MR2/3 Southgate Ave, Southbank, VIC 3006 Ph: (03) 9699 3600
Just along the waterfront from Fatto, Sake and others, you’ll find the Southgate Melbourne Restaurant & Shopping Centre. In here, as well as various boutiques, there are a number of bars and eateries, including La Camera Southbank.
La Camera is a traditional Italian restaurant which prides itself on serving quality, authentic fare.
Open with the flavoursome Taleggio Cheese Arancini ($16) or a plate of the buttery Calamari Alla Griglia ($21) – grilled Calamari marinated in Garlic, Chilli & Herbs. From there, it’s hard to ignore the pull of Pasta. Our choice is the Pappardelle Al Ragu Di Mariale ($38). Ribbons of Fresh Pasta doused in melting Slow Cooked Pork Shoulder, Garlic Leek, Fennel, Mushroom, Onion, Porcini Mushroom, Red Wine and more. It tastes as good as it smells.
But it’s not just great Pasta at La Camera Italian restaurant. The kitchen also makes creamy Risotti, cripsy-based Pizzas, and a particularly memorable Porchetta ($39.5).
However, there is another reason why La Camera is one of the top restaurants in Southbank Melbourne – the balcony. For whilst the internal dining room is large, bustling and inviting, there is also a large outdoor area. This spacious terraces faces over the Yarra and so offers fabulous views of the city over the ‘River.
On a balmy summer’s evening with a glass of wine in one hand and a bowl of Spaghetti Carbonara ($28.5) in front of you, there are few better spots to be in the Victorian capital.
Whether you like them thin and crispy, or saucy and fully-loaded, these are our top Pizzas Places in Melbourne
Location: University of Melbourne, Southbank Campus, 140 Southbank Blvd, Southbank, VIC 3006 Ph: (03) 7009 5377
Sitting in the spot where Script Bar & Bistro used to be, Miss Pearl Bar & Dining is a great option for a meal prior to an MTC play at the Southbank Theatre.
Here, the menu roams across South East Asia stopping in on Thailand, Vietnam, Japan & China, along the way. Many of the plates are perfect for sharing and the kitchen also does 3 budget-friendly Banquets – including a fully vegetarian one.
If you are a fan of Eggplant, you really MUST try the Crispy version ($7ea) at Miss Pearl. Wedges of Eggplant, almost candied on the outside and velvety soft inside come dusted with Lao Gan Ma Chillies & Chives. They are super-addictive. Another dish that packs big, bold flavours is the Wagyu Tataki ($25) with Smoked Ponzu Sauce & Radish. The citrusy sauce goes beautifully with the wafer-thin slices of Beef.
Whatever you do, make sure you grab a cocktail with your food. Our current top tipple is the Yuzume ($21). This delightful concoction blends Vodka, Yuzu Syrup, Ginger, Lemongrass & Pinot Grigio and tastes like a tropical holiday in a glass.
For our recommendations on the Best Asian Fusion Restaurants in Melbourne, see here.