Melbourne’s Southbank promenade stretches along the Yarra River, shaded by pretty plane trees that change with the season. It’s dotted with street performers and knocks your socks off with stellar views of the most striking city in Australia.
Yep, Southbank sounds like the perfect tourist trap. A victim of its own success, Southbank has a reputation for overpriced and unimaginative restaurants cashing in on the tourist dollar. When I first set foot in Southbank two years ago, I was quick to agree.
Since moving to Melbourne in January, I’ve come to appreciate Southbank for its pretty river views and nice mix of cafes, bars and restaurants.
While I wouldn’t call anywhere along Southbank a bargain, most of the menus have reasonable options, great lunch deals or happy hours and are interesting enough to warrant a closer look. Southbank is a short stroll across the footbridge from the city and is close to a number of hotels, making it an easy place to have a wonder if you’re staying in town for a few days.
Even in single-digit-degree weather, there’s a crowd squeezing onto Ponyfish Island in the middle of the Yarra. Best enjoyed on a sunny day, pull up a barstool for sweet views of the city and Southbank. Access via the footbridge.
Fatto Bar & Cantina
The view of the Melbourne skyline from Fatto’s patio is one of Melbourne’s best kept secrets. Toasting the weekend after work with a glass of champagne or aperol spritz is one of my favourite ways to spend a relaxed Friday evening in Melbourne.
The Bond Store
This is one of my favourite cosy cafes because you can almost always get a table (it’s hype-free) and the menu is fresh, simple and delicious. Keep in mind that it’s not open Sundays!
Go for the Limoncello Martini, stay for the San Daniele pizza. Even if alcoholic, liquified lemon meringue pie isn’t your thing, Soho is a nice spot for a drink & a snack while watching the world go by on the Southbank promenade. Most of the waitstaff, and from what I’ve seen, all of the kitchen are Italian, which might explain why the pizza is so delicious!
If you’re with a group, try the lychee cocktail jugs – ahhhhmazing!
It took me six months of living in Melbourne to venture all the way up South Bank to Ludlow, mostly because I’d never get past Soho’s San Daniele pizza. Ludlow’s cosy, moodily-lit lounge makes it one of my favourite places to get cocktails in Southbank – particularly during their cocktail happy hours from 5pm on Thursdays and between 6-9pm on Saturdays.
Ribs are the name of the game here. I wouldn’t usually expect much from a place that focuses on ribs, but The Breslin has earned major brownie points with me for having yummy salads and seriously more-ish cocktails.
Tucked up inside the Southgate Building, head to Blue Train for their cheap-as-chips happy hour. I had low expectations for a $5 house white, but it’s delicious! Perfect spot for a casual catch up with friends on a weeknight.
I only venture into the behemoth Crown Casino for Gradi’s international award-winning pizza.
Gradi is the little sister to 400 Gradi in Brunswick, which made headlines when it took home the trophy for world’s best margarita pizza. Yes, it beat the Italians. You will need to book.
Okay, so it’s technically not in South Bank, but it may as well be. Arbory is my favourite place in Melbourne to while away a Sunday afternoon – if the sun is shining. The bar is one long deck, stretching along the Yarra River in the place of an old Flinders Station train line. They have a great selection of beer & wine and their burgers are so indulgent but so delicious. They also do brunch!
It’s just across the river from South Bank, at the entrance to Flinders St Station. Easiest access is via the footbridge.
It’s entirely outdoors, but if you’ll be okay in winter if you can grab a table with a gas heater. It’s also very pretty after dark when it lights up with fairy lights.
Riverland is also on the city side, not in Southbank. It’s below street level and is right on the river, beside the Princes Bridge, so you feel like you’re in Southbank, a world away from the city. Near the start of the Princes Bridge, near the Transit Hotel, take the stairs down to the river level.
Have you been to Melbourne? Where is your favourite restaurant precinct?