Sometimes, it feels like Melbourne is the be-all and end-all of dining in this state. But visit certain parts of regional Victoria, and that illusion quickly falls away.
You’ve probably heard of Brae, which has twice appeared on the World’s Best Restaurants list. Browse this group of restaurants, and you’ll see there are plenty more places worth taking a road trip for, regardless of how many hours they drive is. Our tip?
Stay the night and make a weekend of it – it’ll only make the meal that much more memorable and special.
Victoria Restaurant Guide
Some of Victoria's best dining is out of town. Across the state, innovative chefs are using the freshest local produce to create groundbreaking local and international dishes.
Critics' awards and chefs hats can be found far and wide: from Dan Hunter's Otways hideaway, Brae, named Regional Restaurant of the Year by both the Good Food Guide 2020 and the 2020 Gourmet Traveller Restaurant Awards, to the Mornington Peninsula's Tedesca Osteria, awarded Gourmet Traveller Restaurant of the Year 2022.
Award winners or local favourites, these restaurants will draw you to places you may never have thought to go to and to places you may never want to leave.
What is it: A famed pillar of Italian cuisine in the heart of Victoria, it's the perfect spot to enjoy traditional dishes at a more than fair price. First opened in 1979, this quaint foodie hub was recently renovated with a lot of care to maintain the cheerful ambience.
Why go: Go early for happy hour or brave the hangry but patient lineup for live klezmer, jazz, and gypsy swing to accompany dishes with names like meet John Doe and the prawn broker. Got a friend who can't get enough? Drop some dough on a Pagliacci gift card and help everyone you know to get their pasta fixed. Leave the diet at home—carbs and legendary cheesecake are best enjoyed with red wine.
What is it: Fish and chips on the dock aren’t anything unusual in Victoria, but this wharfside chippy does one better with Oceanwise seafood, served in tempura batter, hand-rolled tacos or buns. Salmon, tuna, oysters and cod are all represented in the fried firmament here—it’s no wonder lineups wind along the harbour like so many sea serpents.
Why go: Where the heck else can you try the fusion delight that is jerk fish poutine? A Quebec-inspired combination of west coast fish in Jamaican jerk sauce served over fries. It’s best eaten while gazing meaningfully at hungry harbour seals just offshore.
What is it: Fine dining restaurant with exposed brick walls, shiny lamps and a tasting menu that features wine pairings and a fusion of local west coast ingredients and French-inspired preparations.
Why go: One of the hottest spots to open in 2017, Saveur is off the beaten track on the north end of downtown. Extensive development in the area is bound to bring full reservation lists in the coming year. Try the halibut cheek with nettle veloute and puffed wheat berries or the beef strip loin with bone marrow marshmallow (really). They also serve a range of local beer and cider and specially formulated cocktails which deliver a great boozy punch.
What is it: Tokyo-style dining in a modest little restaurant with a relaxed atmosphere. It's not huge, but it's comfortable, and the bowls of steaming ramen are satisfyingly sizeable.
Why go: The tonkatsu (pork) and tori (chicken) broths, plus a tomato-based vegetarian version, are all must-tries. The service is prompt and welcoming. Not to mention the Sapporo they have on-tap. What more could want?
What is it: Date night in Victoria can often mean a stroll to the funky residential neighbourhood of Fernwood, a play at the Belfry Theatre, prefaced or finished with a reservation at Stage Wine Bar. Small plates like langos (fried potato bread) soak up the libations, or larger dishes like smoked salmon poke or bison sirloin with blackberry sauce offer something meatier to discuss.
Why go: After the playlets out, debrief with fellow theatregoers over a glass of wine from the extensive list—Stage stays open past 10 pm on Friday and Saturday nights.
What is it: Although the entry may be a little reminiscent of a dentist's office (and we all know how much a visit there is), step a little further. You'll discover a speakeasy-style eatery that serves up delectable cocktail and tapas pairings.
Why go: Handcrafted, creative cocktails made with locally sourced artisanal ingredients. But the real bar star? An absinthe fountain that brings libations to a new level. Explored the drinks menu and now ready for some fancy foodie accompaniments? Sink your teeth into some opulent truffle fries or a summer berry pavlova.
What is it: Breakfast and brunch are huge in Victoria, and brick-walled, coffee-scented Jam wins for its all-day egg-extravaganzas. The only problem is every other early-rising hipster in town is in line ahead of you—and the venue doesn’t take reservations. But, once you get in, creative cocktails like the Madras mimosa and the bacon-garnished Bourbonator Caesar soothe the sting.
Why go: Hangovers have been rumoured to be cured by Jam’s naan breakfast burrito, and the chicken-and-waffles theme carries over to Benedicts and French toast.
What is it: Organic, vegan, gluten-free and, darn it all, so freakin’ good for you, you won’t be able to figure out how it manages to taste so good and be healthy at the same time. Try the quinoa bowls topped with fresh veggies and sauces or the wild nettle tart with red onion jam.
Why go: Atone for your gastronomic excess with what Be Love calls “pure nourishment”—it’s so healthy, infused with west coast goodness and locally grown produce that you’ll radiate wellbeing, or at least self-righteousness, all over your yoga mat.
What is it: Japanese tapas translates to an izakaya-style restaurant with craziness like the “avocado” (tempura-fried whole avocado) and sushi silliness like the Victorian secret and yoga flame rolls. Don’t let the names fool you—the food is spectacular.
Why go: If you can get a reservation or a table, you have to go because they’re hard to come by. It’s worth it to say you tried the Tamago spam musubi (Hawaiians would understand) or the maguro eruption—marinated tuna you sizzle yourself on a hot stone.
What is it: A major complex that includes The Kitchen, a fine dining restaurant, The Commons, for awesome cocktails and oysters, and The Bistro, for some morning-after brunch. If the ingredients aren’t grown on their nearby organic farm, they’re caught by local anglers or raised by local farmers.
Why go: To have well-prepared, fresh food. Seasonal tasting menus give you the best of what’s new, from berries to spot prawns. Locally brewed beers, French press coffees and handmade gelato round out a virtuous meal indeed.
What is it: The chance to enjoy three different restaurants in one: a seafood eatery in a heritage building offers fine dining, a casual oyster bar with a perfect summer patio, and a tapas and wine bar—if you can’t find a table at one, chances are good the other venues will be able to accommodate you.
Why go: Fresh oysters served by candlelight with champagne in the upstairs dining room. If the aphrodisiac powers of this favourite local shellfish are true, you’re in for a hell of a romantic night.
What is it: Ever since siblings Peter and Jo Zambri opened this local, Italian-inspired hotspot back in 1999, the local culinary scene has been considering it a mainstay. The superstar pasta, with fresh noodles accompanied by classic sauce pairings—think peas and gorgonzola—while the mains include locally raised pork and chicken.
Why go: It’s almost always possible to get a seat at the bar, although the stylish big room does fill up fast, especially on weekends. In addition to the great food, make sure to try the house gin and tonic—every single ingredient used in the cocktail is made from scratch!
What is it: Happy hour meets golden hour at this waterfront hotspot. Offering spacious seating indoors and out, this place boasts a nightclub feel even in the daytime. Fresh seafood, flatbread pizzas and a wide selection of burgers, sliders and sandwiches make this a casual favourite for gatherings of loud friends.
Why go: The waterfront patio catches the sunset warmth, with a view of both scenic and working harbours to enliven happy hour. Comfy furniture and patio heaters ensure the party carries on well past dusk.
What is it: An Italian-inspired eatery where the surroundings evoke the aesthetics of a cozy Tuscan countryside inn. Think decorative wooden furniture, ambient fairy lights, and paintwork with rich blue, yellow and red hues.
Why go: The small, neatly created menu varies from season to season, as new fruits and veggies appear in the surrounding area. They farmed and fished goods also change, meaning the à la carte offerings are always fresh and local. If you can't decide, opt for half-sized portions or if your hunger knows no bounds, try a family-style meal. But the best thing? Café Brio has almost 300 different wines on offer, which the sommeliers can talk you through and advise on.
What is it: A fuss-free night out that's perfect for last-minute dinner plans, not to mention great Chinese food. J&J doesn't deliver, and they don't take reservations, so you can always get a seat, even if you have to wait a few minutes for it.
Why go: Located on the east side of Chinatown, this family-vibe restaurant offers classic dishes like spicy Sichuan-style chicken and ginger fried tofu. The decor is a bit bare, but that's reflected in the price. Anyway, who needs upmarket wallpaper and white linen tablecloths when the food's this good, and you can watch it being made through a window into the kitchen?
What is it: Named after the old school building in which it’s housed, this downtown eatery takes French cuisine and turns it into something uniquely west coast by following a seasonal approach—the menu is small and based mainly on local ingredients availability.
Why go: The fancy but casual atmosphere lets you feel at home. They don’t take reservations, so show up early or stroll nearby Chinatown while you wait to be called for a table.
What is it: Named after a blue neon sign that says “Sally” (still seen close to the café’s original location on Douglas Street), this café has been a local favourite lunch spot for more than 25 years. A Sally bun is a Chinese steam-bun taken to a whole other level: slightly sweet dough stuffed with fillings like curried chicken, mushroom or bacon, cream cheese and artichoke. These tasty hand-held lunches are best scarfed down on the go.
Why go: Sally buns are the perfect snack for a picnic or plane ride. Go after 4 pm for two-for-one prices. Make sure not to miss out on the massive cinnamon buns.
What is it: This Victoria original, located in historic Market Square, offers vegetarian and vegan dishes made fresh on-premise. Mainstays like rice and salad are always on offer, while specials change daily, giving you a reason to return again and again.
Why go: Pay by weight means you can be as indulgent or frugal as you like. But don’t miss out on the desserts, like the lemon cheesecake or house-made gelato. In-house-made tempeh and tofu are packaged to go, as well. If you're one to jump on health-food trend trains, you can also order a refreshing kombucha with an organic soda shot.
What is it: Upscale-rustic west coast resort featuring a small but exquisite dining room. Lunch is first-come, first-served, with dishes like yam and black bean croquettes or seafood pasta, while dinner offers a small selection of main courses (think salmon, roast chicken and steak) and a handful of well-considered appetizers.
Why go: Worth the hour-plus trek from the city, this is the ideal spot to unwind after a day of hiking west coast beaches (reserve in advance). Most tables offer a view of the ocean, and the staff will provide you with binoculars so you can determine whether that’s a seal or a shipwreck out there in the waves.
In 2019, Beaconsfield’s destination garden-to-plate restaurant O.My moved to bigger and better pastures – right next door to the original. The restaurant's chic 25-seat dining room is now complemented by an intimate wine bar called Ned's Lounge – a more casual space for snacks and cocktails with room for an additional 20 people.
Brothers Chayse and Blayne Bertoncello opened O.My in 2013 and have since won a swathe of awards for the restaurant’s sustainable philosophy and progressive food offering. Chayse works as a sommelier and handles the front of the house, while head chef Blayne is in charge of the kitchen and the restaurant’s two-acre farm nearby Cardinia.
If you were to visit Bertoncello’s farm, you’d find more than 350 growing beds, an orchard of 50 fruit trees, a berry patch and a beehive – all of which inform the restaurant’s minimal-waste degustation menu.
The offering changes daily and ranges between 12 to 25 surprising dishes that hinge on seasonality. Past highlights include a zero-waste pumpkin dish that uses the entire vegetable (core, flesh, seeds, skins and all) and a Jerusalem artichoke dish that layers different parts and textures from the vegetable. Also, dry-aged duck served with mushrooms, green tomato and celeriac.
Ned’s Lounge, which is found in the building's front room, is a more relaxed affair. You’ll find a large communal bench and a row of lantern-lit perches along with the front window. A menu of inventive bar bites, which might include dill pickle gherkins fried in sourdough culture; or in-house cured meats such as venison bresaola and Kangaroo jerky, also changes daily.
A wine list centred on drops from Victorian producers sees bottles from Gippsland and the Yarra Valley side-by-side with some outstanding international labels. You’ll also find cocktails informed by farm-fresh produce and Victorian brews to pair with your high snack.
FAQs About Melbourne Restaurants
7 Most Popular Victorian Dishes
- Street Food. Doug. Melbourne. Australia.
- Street Food Sweets. Hot Jam Donuts. Melbourne. Australia.
- Snack. Chiko Roll. Bendigo. Australia.
- Sweet Pastry. Cruffin. Melbourne. Australia.
- Fried Chicken Dish. Chicken Parma. Victoria.
- Dumplings. Dim Sim. Melbourne.
- Spread. Vegemite. Melbourne.
Top Things to Eat in Victoria, B.C.
- Butter Chicken Pizza.
- Wild Pacific Salmon.
- Dungeness Crab.
- Fish Chowder.
- Bannock Bread.
- Okanagan Fruit.
- Maple Syrup.
Victoria is a small, big city. It's a place where you get all the amenities of a world-class city like universities, a downtown core, entertainment and great outdoor activities with the friendliness of a small-town vibe. If you're making a long-distance move in Canada, you'll be glad to kick your feet up in Victoria.
Seafood—one of the freshest and most popular food categories on the West Coast. It's no surprise that Victoria has a vast and exciting array of seafood restaurants and eateries, and it was no easy choice for our Tasting Victoria readers to select their top three favourite places to eat seafood in Victoria.
Victoria offers a positive working experience, great accessibility and a wide range of job opportunities. Add in a beautiful surrounding natural environment, warm summers, mild winters and a high quality of life, and it's no surprise people from around the world choose to call Victoria home.
Victoria is an amazing city with some fantastic restaurants. A little unknown fact – Victoria has the highest number of restaurants per capita of any major city in Canada! That being said, there are sadly many opportunities to eat a mediocre meal (or sometimes worse!), so we hope that we can help you avoid that pitfall.
If there is something in particular that you are looking for, whether that is a craving or wanting to celebrate a special occasion, You may notice some restaurants appearing in more than one category…something for everyone!
Don’t worry! We know you’re on holiday, and that doesn’t always mean packing your finest ball gown or suit and tie. Good news! This is Victoria, and we keep things pretty casual here! Wear whatever makes you feel comfortable, and you won’t feel out of place. We promise