Local roaming: 10 of the best restaurants in South Yarra

South Yarra's best restaurants | Eat My Words

Discover 10 of the best restaurants in South Yarra, Melbourne, from seasoned fine-diners to dirt-cheap Asian eateries, cool cafes and cutting-edge bakeries.

South Yarra's best restaurants | Da Noi | Eat My WordsDa Noi
Full disclosure: I have a crush on Pietro Porcu. The Sardinian-born chef has a certain rock-star swagger, and the things that man can do with meat? My lord. He’s often found roasting a suckling pig in the backyard, or braising capretto (baby goat) from his farm in Yarck. Dining here is all about the ‘Feed Me’ menu. It’s never the same twice – and it’s not even the same for every table, so speak up if you spy something sublime across the room. There’s always abundant antipasti to start (perhaps kingfish crudo, fried zucchini flowers and soulful eggplant parmigiana), followed by pasta, a meaty main and a trio of desserts. 95 Toorak Rd, South Yarra, (03) 9866 5975, danoi.com.au

This old-faithful Frenchy draws a crowd for dependable bistro classics. Lunches here have been known to segue into the dinner service, as terrines and pate give way to steak frites and endless glasses of Bordeaux. Channel the glammed-up locals and nab one of the coveted window seats to sip champagne and see and be seen. 11 Toorak Rd, South Yarra, (03) 9866 8569, france-soir.com.au

South Yarra's best restaurants | 38 Chairs | Eat My Words38 Chairs
This slim, dimly lit dining room, just off Chapel Street, dishes out my favourite pasta in Melbourne: curly pappardelle with duck and porcini ragu, topped with ribbons of fresh pecorino (left). I find it hard to deviate from this lusty little number, but should you choose to stray, the seafood linguine is also worth a look in. Owner and maitre’d Gino Forlano is ex Caffe e Cucina… and he is divine: he greets me with a kiss each time and has been known to spoon-feed me tastes from the kitchen. Yep, I have a thing for Italians. 4A Bond St, South Yarra, (03) 9827 5553, thirtyeightchairs.com.au

Dainty Sichuan
Lovers of Dainty Sichuan (top right) hold a special place in my heart. Here, it’s all about the hotpot, an incendiary blend of Sichuan peppercorns, dried chillies, a serious slick of oil and god knows what else. I add a pick-and-mix selection of raw fish, thinly sliced beef and chewy squid balls, plus a flurry of Chinese greens and thumb-sized rice cakes to soak up that fiery liquor. Warning: there ain’t nothing dainty about the burn from this bad boy. 176 Toorak Rd, South Yarra, (03) 9078 1686

South Yarra's best restaurants | Miss Chu | Eat My WordsMiss Chu
As you’ll know from my not-so-secret burger addiction, I’m not generally one to go in for vegan fare. But surprisingly the vermicelli salad with stir-fried mushrooms and tofu has become my go-to dish at this mod-Viet bolthole. Splash in a liberal dose of Sriracha and you have the ultimate hangover cure. Also place a tick next to the steamed prawn dumplings, rice paper rolls filled with satay chicken or omelette with balsamic onions, and the non-negotiable vodka-spiked coconut slushies (right). 276 Toorak Rd, South Yarra, (03) 9041 5848, misschu.com.au

The Dumpling Table
Speaking of dumplings, this no-frills diner is my South Yarra restaurant of choice for plump pan-fried dumplings. Standouts include the garlicky, tofu-flecked vegetable versions or juicy pork numbers, though I tend to steer clear of their ho-hum xiao long bau. For a Chinese take on spaghetti bolognese, order the unappealingly named but delightfully flavoured noodles with pork sauce (top left). It’s pure comfort in a bowl. 6/210 Toorak Rd, South Yarra, (03) 9827 6777

South Yarra's best restaurants | Cafe Gaia | Eat My WordsCAFES & BAKERIES
Café Gaia
This chic little cafe dishes out the best breakfasts in South Yarra, with standouts such as pine mushroom ragu with poached eggs and grilled polenta (left), or a wicked pulled pork sandwich on toasted brioche. The green smoothies will encircle you with a virtuous cloud of smug, and the Proud Mary brews are expertly poured. 3/4 Avoca St, South Yarra, (03) 9866 7522, cafegaia.com.au

Tivoli Road Bakery
Tivoli Road has filled the Bourke Street Bakery-shaped hole in my life since I left Sydney, thanks to their textbook-perfect rendition of BSB’s lamb and harissa sausage roll. Their glossy fruit tarts, sourdough loaves and utterly naughty custard-filled doughnuts are top-notch, too. 3 Tivoli Rd, South Yarra, (03) 9041 4345, tivoliroad.com.au

South Yarra's best restaurants | Burch and Purchese | Eat My WordsBurch & Purchese Sweet Studio
It’s hard to ignore the siren call of Darren Purchese’s experimental bakery, particularly his beautiful tube desserts (this exploding chocolate and raspberry number is a cracker) and mind-blowing, multi-layered birthday cakes. Well worth the splurge for a special occasion. Plus, I love the fact that they ply you with taste tests the moment you walk in the door. 647 Chapel St, South Yarra, (03) 9827 7060, burchandpurchese.com.au

Luxbite also likes to push the boat out in the sweets department, with rainbow-hued macarons and many-textured cakes in creative flavour combinations. You can also buy spoonable jars of salted caramel and kaya coconut jam to go. 38 Toorak Rd, South Yarra, (03) 9867 5888, luxbite.com.au

For more Eat My Words reviews, check out Melbourne’s best burgers and fabulous fried chicken.

Sarah Gamboni is an Australian food, drinks and travel writer. Sarah writes for leading lifestyle magazines and websites, and produces content for a range of clients spanning tourism bodies, beauty products, food and fashion. She is currently based in Dubai with her husband, Simon, and daughter, Francesca.

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