Voted the most liveable city in the world seven years in a row, Melbourne has a culinary landscape to match. Even a lifetime spent here seems insufficient to try every restaurant, or laneway cafe, or new bar that appears seemingly every day. How could you possibly choose where to take your client, colleague, boss or team to lunch, given the vast array of options on offer?
Luckily, we’ve done the hard work for you, and by hard work we mean trying out some of the best restaurants in Melbourne and compiling a list of our top picks for a business lunch. This list includes a range of restaurants from casual to fine-dining, boasting cuisines from modern Indian, to classic steakhouse and everything in between. Even this short list may be difficult to choose from, but rest assured any selection from the below is going to leave you and whoever is lucky enough to lunch with you thoroughly satisfied and grinning from ear to ear.
If you ask five local Melbournians where to go for a lunch meeting in the CBD, you can be sure at least one of them will tell you to go to Coda. A stone’s throw from Iconic Flinders Street station and the Yarra River, since 2009 Coda has been serving up some of the most beloved contemporary Asian cuisine Melbourne has to offer.
Over the last 12 years, Coda has cemented its place among the most popular restaurants in Melbourne, which is a tall order given Melbourne’s reputation as a destination for food lovers the world over. Every year since opening, Coda has won The Age Good Food Guide’s ‘HatAward’, as well as picking up several other awards including Australia’s Wine List of the Year.
The food, while not strictly fusion cooking, does showcase influences from around the world. Executive Chef Adam D’Sylva’s extensive global travels, his heritage and his love of Asian flavours have all inspired the creation of the menu. You may struggle to choose between Javanese Curry with Native Greens, Tempeh, Plantain Chips and Macadamia and Steak Tartare with Quail Egg, Mustard Cress and Caper Melba Toasts, but whatever choice you do make is guaranteed to impress whoever is lucky enough to score an invite to lunch with you there.
Cuisine: ‘French – Vietnamese’ or ‘Modern Asian’
Address: Basement/141 Flinders Ln, Melbourne VIC 3000
To be found on Duckboard Place, just off Flinders lane in Melbourne’s CBD, Tonka is the sister restaurant to the aforementioned Coda. Just a short walk from its predecessor, Tonka offers a contemporary take on authentic Indian street food.
Executive chef Adam D’Sylva and head chef Henri Budiman built the menu by swapping family recipes and recreating classic Indian favourites, while maintaining their passion for clean and punchy flavours. You will find the classic Indian staples you’d expect, like Vegetable Biryani and Butter Chicken, alongside creative reinterpretations like Vindaloo Steak Tartare or Cured Spencer Gulf Kingfish with Ponzu, Fresh Wasabi and Rice Pappadums.
Taking bookings for groups of up to ten, Tonka provides two set menus hand-picked to show off the very best on offer. A wonderful place for lunch with a client who has adventurous taste buds or for a team lunch in Melbourne’s CBD, Tonka’s menu will have you bragging to your friends and colleagues for days.
Cuisine: Contemporary Indian
Address: 20 Duckboard Pl, Melbourne VIC 3000
Established in 1996, Becco is a Melbourne staple. Over the last 24 years, the Italian restaurant has established and maintained a reputation for serving hearty, classic Italian food in a minimalist yet smart setting. This room is elegant and quiet, a perfect place perhaps for a more serious meeting, or maybe just for a special client who you want to spend a bit more on.
Simply put, Becco is a classic, and this is reflected in the menu. A typical but impressive array of Italian dishes are on show, ranging from Sydney Rock Oysters to start (we highly suggest you get the full dozen) followed by Beef Carpaccio and Gnocci Osso Bucco for the main course.
This level of culinary prestige comes along with a price tag, with a main likely to be in the ~$40 price range. However, if you want to treat a client or team member to a lunch they won’t forget in a hurry and don’t mind spending a little extra, you won’t be disappointed. The reviews of the food speak for themselves, proving Becco have their craft down to a fine art.
Address: 11-25 Crossley St, Melbourne VIC 3000
In Melbourne’s Chinatown, through a red door and up a short elevator ride, you will find Flower Drum. There, you will encounter an opulently decorated oriental dining room, which is no surprise given the international acclaim this restaurant has received over the years.
In the typical style of Cantonese Chinese cuisine, you can expect a seafood and meat heavy menu at Flower Drum. Speaking of heavy meat, if you feel so inclined you can pre-order a Whole Roast Suckling Pig, though you will part with $800 for it and must provide two days of notice for preparation. If you’re after something less extravagant, worry not as there’s a wide array of delicious fresh meat and seafood available, including their signature dish, the Peking Duck.
Flower Drum takes bookings for small parties, as well as larger groups of up to 15 people, and even has private dining rooms available for groups larger than that upon request. For a business lunch we suggest you stick to the lunch banquet menu, as this mitigates the daunting task of choosing from the extensive and tantalising menu. Two courses are available in this banquet available from $50 per person, ranging to four courses for $80 per person.
Address: 17 Market Ln, Melbourne VIC 3000
Rockpool is a well established restaurant for a business lunch in the CBD, located right on the iconic Yarra River in the Crown Casino complex. This restaurant serves modern steakhouse/bar & grill food, with a stellar wine list to match.
Possibly the ‘fanciest’ on our list, Rockpool sets the bar high. A selection of four different cuts of steak are sure to satisfy even the most seasoned carnivores, with the top cut being the 300g Sirloin On the Bone, coming in at a respectable $190. Fear not, as there are more affordable but equally wonderful steaks starting from $49.
For a more classic fine dining experience, Rockpool is a fantastic choice. Many will be familiar with the name given there are sister restaurants in Sydney and Perth, and will know that the name has come to be associated with an exemplary dining experience, steaks worth writing home about, and service to match.
Cuisine: Steakhouse/Modern Australian
Address: Crown Entertainment Complex, 8 Whiteman St, Southbank VIC 3006
No list would be complete without including one of Andrew McConnel’s restaurants. Andrew knows how to make any new restaurant a success, and Gimlet, his most recently opened venue, is no exception.
At Gimlet you’ll experience the perfect trifecta that makes up an unforgettable lunch: service, décor and extraordinary food. The restaurant is set in the Majestic Cavendish House (in which Hugh Jackman and Deborra-Lee used to own an apartment). The sleek modern furnishings are very evocative of a stylish classic European bistro that can be compared to the iconic Balthazar in New York.
The staff behind the cocktail bar in the centre of the room craft expertly concocted classic cocktails to compliment the skillfully crafted meals being prepared before your eyes in the open kitchen. The atmosphere is exceptionally comfortable and inviting, due in no small part to the wait staff, who are very professional and offer a wonderfully casual, knowledgeable and friendly but un-intrusive service that has contributed to McConnel’s other restaurants success.
It’s difficult to make a menu recommendation given the calibre of the choices at Gimlet, so instead we will just say if you’ve made it to Gimlet, you’ve already made the right choice, and all you need to do now is sit back and enjoy.
Address: 33 Russell St, Melbourne VIC 3000
If you find yourself staying in Melbourne for a business trip, or are just looking for a place to go out for a work lunch or meeting, you can be confident that one of the above restaurants will meet your needs. Whether you’re looking for quiet and traditional, spicy and modern, or interesting and cool, Melbourne’s CBD has the most amazing food and drink that you could ever hope for.