In 2011, with the advent of Estelle and the untimely demise of Merricote, things began to heat up in Northcote. Northcote's dining scene is highlighted by the former, which remains the area's best restaurant. However, let's say you're interested in a less hectic evening meal. One of the best Ethiopian restaurants in town, Israeli takeout, and a traditional pub meal can all be found in the Northcote area. Afterwards, stroll over to Cuppa Turca for some pliable Turkish ice cream.
Food Places In Northcote, Melbourne
Northcote Melbourne’s Northside has established a reputation as the go-to destination for serious dining. With its modern Australian style and refined French cuisine, pioneer restaurant Estelle, five years since opening, proves the staying power of the northern food movement.
Scott Pickett has been a chef for 30 years this year (2019). His impressive career began long before Noma came along and revolutionised the way the world talked about food. His restaurants Estelle, Saint Crispin, and Matilda all reflect this quality. The menu has a modern appreciation for seasonal ingredients without sacrificing its classic foundation. There's a surprising amount of technique behind even the simplest dishes.
The Berkshire pork is thinly sliced, doused in jus, and served on a bed of wilted mustard leaf and kohlrabi shavings. There is a halo of yellowish, ephemeral foam around the hand-rolled macaroni (straight, pencil-length tubes, not mini elbows), but the flavours are traditional cacio e Pepe (cheese and pepper). Despite its high level of sophistication, this is food that can be appreciated by anyone. Pickett calls it "a touch of innovation without being scary or confronting," and we couldn't agree more.
The main dining room at Estelle is defined by a striking Christopher Boots interlocking-hoop light fixture, and the other two major areas are a wine bar/waiting room with a menu and a courtyard with greenery that is partially covered. The dining room provides a five-course tasting menu (for $90.00) with matched wines ($60.00), but this format seems odd in such a lively setting. Moreover, a la carte is available for those who prefer variety. The Coravin vacuum-sealed system allows for the serving of many of the list's higher-priced wines by the glass.
Australian and French heavy hitters like Grosset riesling, Craiglee shiraz, Jean Dauvissat chablis, and Domaine Rougeot burgundy are among the favourites of French-born sommelier Fabien Moalic, who previously worked in a similar capacity at the Press Club. There is a noticeable lack of the typical next-generation, minimal-intervention wines.
Even when you’re already inside and eating at Primo, you’re reminded you’re in Primo. That’s thanks to the huge, pointed finger spinning pizza dough in yellow neon over the street-side window. At Primo, the lights are bright, and the music is a party playlist. In vivid-green T-shirts, chefs visible from the bar roll out the bases.
This pizza restaurant is from Loren McBride (who founded nearby cafe Barry) and her husband Jamie (Mammoth, Touchwood and Gilson). Jemma Richards and Iza Dawkins are also partners in the business. First, there’s the Roberta (named after the Roberta’s in Brooklyn), with pepperoni, cream, chilli and honey. There’s also a “salad pizza”. It’s exactly what it sounds like and comes out looking like an actual garden, flowers included.
It Is named after a diner in LA. It comes with sweet-ish Christmas ham, pickled chillies, and pineapple shavings (not chunks) soaked in vodka. It works.
There are snacks, too; a submarine, a cheeseburger and a couple of kids dishes.
There’s free delivery on orders over $25, and Primo can send over booze, too (including a bottled white Negroni). Soft-serve flavours change weekly. Marble terrazzo on the floors and green leather booths and banquettes are the Italian touches. There’s also a pink-tiled loveseat outside by the door – a good spot for sharing a soft-serve in the warmer weather.
Mesob Ethiopian Restaurant
Mesob is an Ethiopian restaurant in Northcote that serves traditional food, has traditional decor, and offers traditional Ethiopian hospitality. During the weekend, there is also live jazz. Large traditional (and gluten-free) fermented pancakes called injera are served with dishes like spiced lentils and meat stews. To eat the lentils, you tear the injera into pieces with your hands and use it like a giant edible spoon to scoop them up.
Their first restaurant is called Mesob, after the baskets used to store and serve injera. These mesobs are used to create the smaller, two-seater tables, while larger, wooden tables accommodate more diners.
The bar is decorated with traditional Ethiopian handicrafts, paintings, and statues from Mahari and Kebede's collection and other sources to create an atmosphere similar to that of a traditional straw hut.
Not many Melbourne eateries have owners who come running to the front door to greet you and then walk you out at the end of your meal to bid farewell.
If you crave great Indonesian fare created with love, try Yuni’s Kitchen on High Street in Northcote. Nestled in a historic building, this fun and funky restaurant is a hidden gem as guests gather in vibrant surrounds of red and teal walls, Balinese statues and recycled wooden furniture, setting a chilled-out vibe for enjoying dishes made from scratch using premium local produce.
Embark on your flavoursome journey with vegetable spring rolls or chicken satay skewers; before mains such as duck curry, created with traditional spices, served with tomato and green beans, or prawn laksa, with egg noodles, vermicelli, cabbage, carrot, choy sum, tofu, bean sprouts, spring onion and coriander. Deep-fried banana, palm sugar syrup, and housemade ice cream entice for an indulgent finish.
Pizza Meine Liebe
Pizza Meine Liebe (German for "Pizza my love") arrived on the scene with the influx of straightforward, cutting-edge, and produce-focused pizzerias that swept the city a few years ago, but it has endured.
You can expect pizzas with thin, chewy crusts, topped with artful combinations of premium ingredients, and wood-fired to perfection. The menu features inventive takes on traditional dishes while also dipping its toes into the weird and wacky. Sweet pizzas and panna cotta are available for those with a sweet tooth, and seasonal salads and calzones round out the savoury menu.
On any given night of the week, Pizza Meine Liebe is bustling with customers; it's easy to see why it's so popular amongst the locals, though the restaurant's popularity does occasionally threaten to disrupt customers' meals. Reservations are highly recommended if eating in. If you'd rather not deal with the sluggish service and dated decor of the '60s, ordering takeout is always an option. Pizza Meine Liebe is great, but if you want a pint with it, we suggest going to Joe's Shoe Store down the street.
Since its success, Pizza Meine Liebe has spawned For the Love of Pizza, a sister restaurant located further up High Street. Both offer reasonably priced, produce-focused pizza meals.
Zsa's Bistro in Northcote, Melbourne, serves European-inspired cuisine, deli treats, and fine wine. These establishments, which are loosely named after the actress Zsa Zsa Gabor, feature a light-filled atmosphere that is meant to transition from day to night, complete with vintage furniture and shelves brimming with tempting goods.
Relax in the back courtyard with a glass of wine and a plate of cured meats, or dine in the restaurant proper and order anything from a fancy tin of fish to the house speciality porchetta roll. The bistro menu features dishes such as kingfish Crudo with apple, dill, and avruga as an appetiser, and main courses such as Mirror Dory en papillote with sauce Normandy, French fries, and dressed leaves, or pappardelle with nduja and buffalo ricotta.
Pizza Meine Liebe Two
Northcote’s beloved 14-year-old pizza joint Pizza Meine Liebe has a second spot just 900 metres away. The site was formerly a takeaway joint For the Love of Pizza, with the same owners as PML – Elena Bonnici and partner Sean Keenan. Unfortunately, renovations took about a week longer than planned. Bonnici jokes it was probably because of all the attention the shop was getting – there’s no missing the giant “PIZZA” sign out front.
This spot is slightly smaller than the original 60-seater, but it’s related: the walls are the same greenish-grey as they are down the road. The menu takes cues from the first outpost, but it’s all “a bit fresher,” says Bonnici, who also says her tastes and way of eating have changed as her two children, now seven and 12, have grown up.
So the menu is an elegant balance between heavy and light. Entrees such as quinoa tabbouleh sit comfortably next to salt-and-vinegar fries with blue-cheese aioli. The scales might be tipped to the heavy side, though, by the banana split with passionfruit semifreddo or the cherry cheesecake. Or the ice-cream fridge by the counter.
Pizzas include the QLDer, with speck and pineapple, and the Greenpeace, topped with taleggio, mozzarella, parmesan, silverbeet, broccoli and lemon. Four different vegan cheese kinds can also tap in if needed. Drinks are BYO; for the kids, sodas are made in-house, flavoured with seasonal fruits.
Lé Léé Authentic Macedonian
Pay homage to rich, vibrant, centuries-old cuisine at Lé Léé Authentic Macedonian on High Street in Northcote. This warm and charming restaurant sees conversations flow and time stand still in rustic surrounds of exposed brick, dark blue-clothed tables, a dominant mural and colourful cushions strewn on bench seating.
There is a saying in Macedonian that means to ‘do it with your soul’, and that’s what you can expect on a traditional menu showcasing the flavours of the homeland, along with bottomless glasses and live music. So start your adventure with tikvichki – fried zucchini, garlic and parsley; before memorable mains of slow-roasted pork belly, cubed roast potatoes and feta cheese, with a Macedonian salad of peppers, tomato, cucumber, olives, onion and parsley on the side.
Vex Dining is the clever wine bar (former head chef at Neighbourhood Wine and Little Andorra) and co-owners (previously head chef at Bar Romantica), and Owen (ex-restaurant manager at Andrew McConnell’s Marion).
The trio didn’t have to do much to the former Westgarth cafe to turn into the contemporary wine bar they envisaged. A coat of white paint and a slight rearrangement of the solid red gum counter for the airy dining room, some new large-scale photographic prints of a Starbuck’s cup, a tin of Sirena tuna and a box of Redheads matched by Melbourne artist for the back wall.
In the afternoon, the interior is bathed in sunlight, but if you can’t capture a seat there, the astroturfed courtyard is your next best bet, under the shade of an impressively large lemon tree dotted with fairy lights.
The menu is concise and changes often. It might include tiny, intensely fragrant turnips poached in dashi, glazed with soy and vinegar and smoked over feijoa wood from a tree the team removed from the courtyard. Or Stockbrot, dough that’s been wrapped around a stick, dusted with sesame seeds and grilled, served with whipped crème Fraiche and pumpkin-seed oil made by Ribul’s family in Austria.
The team has a veg-focused ethos and shuns large amounts of protein – but that doesn’t mean the menu is all vegetarian. For example, Spanish mackerel comes with chickpeas, sorrel fronds, a creamy brown-butter emulsion, and hanger steak is served with whole roast beetroot from Day’s Walk Farm and a coffee-kombucha glaze.
For dessert, there’s amaro sorbet and a vegan mille-feuille. Steeping sheets make its “pastry” of potato in sugar syrup, then layering it with coconut cream, lemon gel and rhubarb.
Vex also takes a low-waste approach. For example, leftover turnip leaves are fermented, ready for use in dishes months down the track, and lemon rinds are used to make salted lemon curd.
When it comes to wine, the team opts for producers with good farming ethics and buying in small quantities to bring in new bottles often and keep things fresh. Beers are from breweries nearby, including Westgarth Bitter, a hyper-local collab with Low Key, a small bar just over the road, and Bodriggy Brewing Co in Abbotsford.
House-made tonic is flavoured with whatever is on hand; perhaps kaffir lime leaves from the tree in the courtyard (paired with the Southeast Asian flavours of Kyneton’s Animus gin), or a coriander-fennel tonic that the team serves with Hendricks.
Continuing a family journey to make real a place where people from all walks of life come together to celebrate through delicious food, Brother Bon on High Street brings Asian fare with flair to Northcote.
From the beautiful wooden chess table to comfy couches and potted greenery, expect to relax in an oasis of calm or perch on a stool at the recycled timber window bench and watch the world pass by. Expect vegan and vegetarian dishes like rice paper rolls made fresh to order, filled with crisp Vietnamese salad, fried shallots, vermicelli noodles and hoisin sauce; or pan-fried chicken-flavoured tofu dumplings and ginger soy sauce.
Those with heartier appetites can delve into Malaysian laksa, sliced tofu, fried eggplant, vegetables and noodles, in a creamy coconut curry broth.
The Espresso Room
If you need a caffeine fix or some tasty café fare on your way into or out of Melbourne, stop by The Espresso Room in Northcote. This café is bright and airy on the inside, with a combination of warm timbers and sleek finishes, from black decor to crisp white subway tiling; it is a casual yet trendy meeting spot for friends to enjoy a long chat over coffee.
The Espresso Room's seasonal menu features dishes like the Green Hash, which consists of falafels topped with asparagus, broccolini, green beans, kale hash, beetroot hummus, goat cheese, almonds, and a poached egg, and other ingredients sourced from nearby regions and suppliers.
Salads made with calamari marinated in lemon and pepper are served with a variety of other salads dressed in Thai dressing, including cabbage, carrot, kale, apple slaw, orange segments, spring onion, cubed avocado, wasabi peas, and more.
Before you even set foot in Va Penne, you’ll be struck by the animated, neon red hand (with “pinched fingers”) flickering in the window. A classic Italian gesture translates to something like, “Whaddaya want?” It’s bold, a bit flippant, but ultimately charming – just like this dimly lit Italian bar and eatery. (And its name is a pasta-y play on VA bene, which means “alright” in Italian.)
Shoe Store runs it down the road. The drinks list at Va Penne is short but sharp – and reasonably priced. Vermouth is a big focus, present across about half of the cocktail menu (try a sour made with Chinato, an aromatised wine somewhere between vermouth and an amaro). “
There’s also a small selection of local and Italian beers (Peroni Red included) and, of course, wine. The list is mostly around Italian-style drops, but that doesn’t mean they’re all imports.
Va Penne’s food menu is also locally minded and intentionally minimal, leaving room for rotating specials. For example, small antipasti plates (think house-made pickles, salsa-verde-doused burrata and salumi) come with a bread basket, including crisp, cracker-like Sardinian flatbread made in-house.
There’s also a pork-and-fennel meatball ragu studded with speck; a Rotolo pasta (loaded with Tuscan cabbage and ricotta); and a scene-stealing spaghetti vongole.
There’s also a selection of punchy 11-inch pizzas, with toppings such as gorgonzola, fig and vincotto; and broccoli, white anchovies and chilli.
While the menu has no particular regional focus, it changes with the season. For example, southern-Italian dishes and ingredients take pride in place in summer and spring, while the team moves towards northern-style cooking in the cooler months.
Va Penne’s outdoor courtyard has room for 40 people. Inside, there’s a curved front bar, exposed red brick and cosy booth seating built by the same person responsible for Joe’s fit-out – a dose of familiarity for those not quite ready to move on.
Named after the King of Naples, who would sneak out of the palace to eat pizza, Ferdinand on High Street in Northcote fulfils cravings for tasty Italian fare. This sleek, trendy hangout mixes shiny, black tiles with wooden furniture and rectangular brass lights, exuding a chilled-out vibe ideal for a leisurely meal.
In warm, sunny months, dine alfresco in the brick courtyard, with a glass of vino in hand and take in wafting aromas of pizza cooking in the wood-fired oven and pasta like Nonna used to make. On offer are must-haves like salt and pepper calamari, with housemade aioli, or the Infernale pizza - mozzarella, cherry tomatoes, roasted eggplant, salami and ricotta; pasta lovers can twirl a fork around fettuccine, with chilli, clams, tomatoes and zucchini, cooked Aglio e olio style.
Northcote Social Club
Approximately in the middle of High Street is where you'll find the Northcote Social Club. Partially owned by the same people as Richmond's Corner Hotel, this establishment also puts an emphasis on live performances.
The band room is more intimate than the Corner, making it ideal for more subdued performances.
There won't be as many people or giant pillars to obstruct your view, but the music is just as good. In 2004, after the Commercial Hotel had undergone extensive renovations, the NSC opened its doors. In just a few short years, it became an institution of Melbourne's alternative music scene. The 2015 revamp (by Breathe Architecture) was a major upgrade.
A new menu of pub classics and share plates, as well as an updated, more user-friendly environment, are the results of this project. Raw salads and slow-roasted mushroom burgers are just two examples of the many options available for vegetarians and health-conscious diners.
But the real draw is the band room, which promotes regional artists and brings in speciality acts from other states and even abroad. The weekly Monday Night Mass features a free concert by three bands, as well as $15 parmas (chicken and eggplant) and jugs of Carlton Draught.
Northcote dessert lovers head to Cuppa Turca on High Street for a slice of Turkish heaven. This eclectic dessert parlour, with a striking feature wall in earthy tones of orange and sea green, beckons guests into an authentic décor of copper tables and stools, where plump cushions await those longing to linger over a decadent sweet treat and strong coffee.
Specialising in stretchy Turkish ice cream dondurma, Cuppa Turca’s flavours range from pistachio to hazelnut and halva. They can be enjoyed by the scoop or sandwiched between Koska wafers and halved slices of baklava.
Be tempted by a tasty treat such as kunefe - a crispy, cheese-filled dessert made from finely shredded pastry, sprinkled with bright green pistachios, cut into wedges and teamed with organic tea or hot sand brewed coffee.
FAQs About Food Places In Northcote, Melbourne
Pay homage to rich, vibrant, centuries-old cuisine at Lé Léé Authentic Macedonian on High Street in Northcote. This warm and charming restaurant sees conversations flow and time stand still in rust... Swing by The Espresso Room in Northcote when heading in or out of Melbourne city for a caffeine fix and tasty café fare.
Northcote has some of the best dining options, including restaurants that offer fine dining to cheap casual lunches with a glass of wine. Choose from some of the best venues in one of Melbourne’s most sought after locations.
Inspired by Israeli street food with a gourmet twist, Tahina Bar on High Street in Northcote gives new meaning to the concept of fast food.