With residents originating from more than 200 countries now calling the city home, it’s no wonder that Melbourne has made a name for itself as the international hub of Australia. Different nationalities bring with them new traditions and perspectives, which can only add to the vibe that already engulfs the city. From art galleries to museums, restaurants and even festivals, each community has added its own enticing cultural touch, which has not only influenced Melbourne’s culture at large, but also remains more prominent in specific suburbs and districts dotted throughout the city.
Lonsdale Street is the one strip that gets many nods in the travel brochures, but there are also copious amounts of fine, hearty Greek cuisine spread about town – from Richmond to Collingwood to Brunswick and the heart of the CBD. Melbourne’s original fish and chip shops were mostly run by Greek migrants setting up a new life in the 1950s and ’60s, and many still stand with the original owners operating the grill behind the counter.
Little Bourke Street is perhaps the focus here, yet Melbourne’s Asian community has pockets all over the city and its suburbs with banquets, cheeky, inexpensive yet luscious dumplings or yum cha widely available. But here in the heart of the city, every crevice of Chinatown emanates with the sights, smells and migratory tales of a proud ancient race.
Running up and down Victoria Street in Richmond, much of Melbourne’s finest Vietnamese cuisine appears on this strip. Anywhere from the cheap and cheerful variety, to the more deluxe eateries pack diners in every night of the week. Victoria Street truly is the pho-capital of this fair state.
Dominating the Lygon Street shopping precinct, migrants from Italy have made their home in Australia since the post-World War II years. Home to vintage barbershops, gelato venues, pizzerias, movie theatres and the like, Lygon Street is the place to get your Italiano fix when in town.
A taste of India
Throughout Melbourne authentic Indian restaurants serve delicious meals, but it’s in parts of Sydney Road, Brunswick and the outer suburbs that premier Indian cuisine is best represented. When it comes to the take-out or eat-in variety, rogan josh, samosas and chicken korma are as popular with Melburnian palates as Vegemite.
An African edge
In the last few decades, Ethiopians, Sudanese, Kenyans and Egyptians have all made their homes in Melbourne after fleeing oppressive regimes. Many of the town’s best restaurants now boast the flavours and textures of Africa. And in many of the Ethiopian eateries, no coffee ceremony is complete without popcorn and sometimes dates and a sweet soft bread called himbasha taking pride of place on the table.
German clubs are located throughout Melbourne with the German Club Tivoli in Windsor being a standout. Here you can sink your teeth into calf’s liver with apples and crispy onions (Kalbs Leber-Berliner Art), wiener schnitzel or bratwurst with sauerkraut and mashed potatoes – all washed down with some quality Deutsche bier. It’s like a German home away from home.
The Jewish Quarter
Carlisle Street in Balaclava defines much of the Melbourne-Jewish tale with almost every second bakery, house, school and store retaining a Jewish attribute. St Kilda, Caulfield, Elsternwick and other areas of the ‘Southside’ all feature synagogues and food that strongly reflects the culture’s religious beliefs.