All posts filed under: restaurants

Oppa Kitchen

I’m a big fan of Korean food, so it was exciting to stumble on this little eatery on Swanston Street recently. Oppa Kitchen has been around for six months or so, always brimming with hip young Koreans, and it’s easy to see why. The bright and minimalist decor is the first thing to entice punters off the street, and the cheap and cheerful menu is a close second. This is not the best Korean cuisine in Melbourne by any stretch — you won’t be getting any exciting little kimchi side-dishes here, for a start — but at $10-$12 for most mains, this place is great value and damn tasty nonetheless. I ordered the very enormous and delicious Korean Beef Bulgogi Meal Bucket — and it really was a bucket. The meal came in a wooden dish, full to the brim with rice, beef bulgogi, tasty salad and an orange slice. It was thoroughly satisfying, and the whole experience — from the self-service ordering system to the bustling atmosphere — was really quite fun, and made …

Lentil as Anything

Nestled among the trees in graceful Abbotsford Convent by the Yarra River is a little Melbourne miracle. Lentil As Anything is a volunteer-run restaurant and cafe serving up simple, hearty self-serve vegetarian food that is, quite literally, priceless. Payment at Lentils works through an honour system whereby diners give whatever they can afford. There are no cash registers here — no waiters handing out bills. There’s just a little wooden box asking for donations — whatever you feel your meal is worth. Photos by Marleena Forward Originally opened in 2000 in St Kilda, Lentils is now a registered not-for-profit organisation with four restaurants in operation: St Kilda, Abbotsford, Preston and Footscray. The Lentil As Anything website explains its evolution and philosophy thus: “Money was influencing the trends in the community, leaving many disenchanted. Lentil As Anything aimed to re-engage those who where left behind. It seemed that money was often a barrier to people participating … We used the money left in the box to run the restaurant. Money became a unifying force. Trust began to feel at home. The quest …

Hien Vuong 1: pho extraordinaire

Ladies and gentlemen, The Melbourne Local has a new favourite pho shop. It’s in Footscray, of course, as most of Melbourne’s best phos are. Tucked down a road off Barkly Street, Hien Vuong 1 is aesthetically modest (none of those shiny black counter-tops here) and gastronomically magnificent. The pho’s broth is fragrant and deliciously spiced, and it just gets better once you’ve added condiments and fresh herbs to your liking. As in most pho places in Footscray, soups here come in three sizes (remember, small = large, large = mammoth-sized) and are dirt cheap at around $8–$10. The staff are very attentive, particularly the friendly owner of the restaurant who has a smile for every customer. Give it a try. You won’t be disappointed.   Hien Vuong 1 Address: 37 Leeds St, Footscray Tel: 9687 1470 Open: Monday–Sunday for lunch and dinner     Read more reviews at  

Shanghai Street Dumpling

I’m a big fan of a decent Chinese dumpling. Quick, light, not too oily, with individual ingredients you can really taste — these, to my inexpert but enthusiastic Australian taste-buds, are the hallmarks of a fine dumpling. Shanghai Street Dumpling in Little Bourke Street are purveyors of such exemplary dumplings. Having tried a bunch of dumpling restaurants along Little Bourke, I believe I can safely declare Shanghai Street the best of the lot — at least at the cheap ‘n’ cheery end of the dining spectrum. You’ll pay a couple extra dollars for a plate of dumplings here compared with, say, Shanghai Dumpling House in Tattersalls Lane, but the dumplings are far tastier, you won’t have to shout to be heard inside the restaurant and you won’t have to contend with rude staff. Shanghai Street specialises in xiao long bao but a couple of my favourites are the pork and prawn wonton soup — light and delicious on a cold Melbourne day — and the deceptively filling pork fried dumplings, both around $8.50–$9.50 for a serving …

Don Don Japanese restaurant

Melbourne’s delicious and cheap range of authentic Asian food has to be one of the things I love most about this city. And Don Don Japanese restaurant on Little Lonsdale Street in the CBD ticks all the right boxes. This eatery, which used to be tucked into a tiny room on upper Swanston Street, has now stretched its wings a little in its new location. But beware: this place still booms at busy times of the day. (I remember my first experience ordering food at the old Don Don during the lunchtime crush — it was really quite scary.) The food here isn’t the best in Melbourne, but it is tasty and very cheap; most meals are between $6 and $9. My favourite is the yummy soba salad (noodles with salad and tofu), although a very hungry tummy might prefer one of the larger meals. A great pick for a quick, affordable city meal.   Don Don Address: 198 Little Lonsdale St, Melbourne Tel: 9670 7113     Read more reviws at   

Mega kebabs at Alasya

Usually, when one orders a kebab after a late night on the town, one expects a fist-sized meal that can be consumed easily, if somewhat messily, as one attempts to find their way home. One does not generally expect to be handed a kebab the length and breadth of their forearm — which is basically what happened to me last weekend after a trip to Alasya Turkish Restaurant. A kebab from Alasya will cost you around $8.50, and in return you essentially get two meals in one (it’s a strong and stretchy stomach that can handle one of these babies all in one go). I’ve never seen so much stuffing inside a kebab before, and you can opt for as many different sauces as your hungry heart desires. Also on the takeaway menu are pides, casseroles, dips, salads, böreks and freshly bakes breads from the enormous domed oven at the back. Of course, Alasya does more than takeaway food. A sit-down kebab meal will cost around $15, with banquet menus priced between $21.50 and $31.50 — …

Rose Garden BBQ

    A pretty rose garden it is not, but this little Chinese eatery in Elizabeth Street is one of the tastiest and best value ‘cheap eats’ restaurants in Melbourne. I’d never heard of the place but every time I passed by on my bike I noticed it was packed to the brim, so one day I decided to try it. I’ve been hooked ever since. The food is basic street-hawker style, and almost everyone here orders something from the ‘Rose Garden Top 10’ menu. My favourite is No 1 — spicy green beans with minced chicken on rice (pictured above along with the crispy skin pork omelette). The servings are enormous — I rarely get through a whole plate — and it’s dirt cheap at only $9.50 or $10.   The service is lighting fast and you’ll be eating your meal within five minutes of ordering. The restaurant is usually very busy, with tables spilling out onto the footpath, but you’ll never wait long for a table. This isn’t the place for a romantic …

cheap and cheerful at crossways

  If you don’t know where to look, you won’t find it. And trust me, if you’re looking for a cheap lunch in Melbourne’s CBD, you will want to know about this place. Tucked away up a stairwell on Swanston Street is the Crossways Hare Krishna vegetarian restaurant — aka the best value meal in Melbourne. Two courses. Vegetarian. Papadams. Lassis. Dessert. All you can eat. Cost? $7.50 — or $5.50 for students and concession-card holders. Yes, I’m being serious. On the first floor above street level you’ll find a room filled with large tables, which you will most likely share with strangers on a busy day. At the back of the room you’ll find the bain-marie, cutlery and self-serve drinks. There’s no table service here, so make sure you remember to return your dirty dishes to the designated area and scrape any left-overs into the buckets there. On the second level, you’ll find another room filled with more tables, plus a bookshelf stacked with titles on Indian spirituality. This space is usually nice and quiet — a good option if the main room below is too noisy or full. You can …

town hall hotel

    Tucked away in North Melbourne’s very cute Errol Street is the Town Hall Hotel, an unassuming little pub that gets a lot of things right. The front bar is suitably dingy for a casual drink — a very casual drink. As the Town Hall’s own website says, you’ll feel right at home here ‘if you’re the kind of person who feels uncomfortable in the foyer of the Hilton, but not self-conscious about a gravy stain on your collar’. Wander around the back and you’ll find a great little beer garden — a lovely spot for a quiet beer or an al fresco meal in summer. But it’s the Town Hall’s central dining area that particularly tickles my fancy. It’s cosy, intimate and shabby enough to put you at ease. An open fire burns in winter and there’s always a tea-light candle on every table, lending just a touch of romance. The food here is generally pretty good, with main meals mostly around the $15–$20 mark. A great choice for a hearty pub meal …

kake di hatti

    Yummy. Affordable. Centrally located (well, relatively…). That’s pretty much all you need to know about this unpretentious little Indian eatery on upper Lygon St. Meat dishes here are around $10–$11.50 (seafood a dollar or two more), veggie dishes are around $6–$12, and naans and rotis are around the $1.50 mark. You can BYO, with a $1 corkage charge per person.   Kake Di Hatti Address: 128 Lygon St, Brunswick East 3057 Tel: 9387 7771 Opening hours: Tuesday to Sunday, 5pm–10.30pm Damage: Around $10–$15 per person     Read more reviews at