It’s a rare restaurant that can claim to cater for power-lunching moguls and swooning couples alike, but Circa is in that esteemed company. The drama is all around, from the black organza curtains screening the intimate dining room to the plate, where dishes such as “drunken” chicken with ginger puree and braised veal with local morels and truffled risotto dazzle the palate. Executive chef Andrew McConnell is quite the Melbourne player, with fingers in several talked-about pies (including buzzy new restaurant Three, One, Two).
If any style of food has been slightly overlooked in Melbourne over the years, it’s sushi, but that’s all changed now that Nobu Matsuhisha’s in town (or his namesake restaurant, at least). Habitués of Nobu in the States will recognize the signature touches of the empire—the dramatic onyx bar, dishes such as black cod with miso—but the setting, in the Crown complex in Southbank, is equally drama-filled. As in the chef’s other outposts, the scene in this Nobu is quite a…well, scene, so dress up and expect to fight your way through the clusters of beautiful people en route to one of the coveted tables.
Five years after relaunching this former pub, chef Paul Wilson still demonstrates the magic touch at the Botanical, one of the most awarded and patronized shows in town. The light-filled dining room is always packed elbow-to-elbow with well-heeled scenesters quaffing wine from an ably stocked wine wall that runs the length of the room and choosing from an inventive menu replete with bold flavors (expect anything from ibérico ham to pigs’ trotters). Whatever you do, don’t leave without sampling Wilson’s signature dish, the warm poached egg with Parmigiano-Reggiano, truffles and soft polenta. It’s every bit as good as it sounds.
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