No matter if you live in the inner northern suburbs of Melbourne, or you’re meeting some friends for dinner in the area, the best restaurants in Northcote also happen to be some of the finest in the city.
Traditionally, High Street is the heart of the suburb’s dining scene and the entire length of the vibrant thoroughfare features a calibre of restaurants, bars, and pubs you’ll want to keep coming back to.
But what are the very best restaurants in Northcote? A little over a decade ago, Northcote didn’t have too many eateries worth writing home about, apart from a handful of the usual publicans and local cafes.
Today, it’s a very different story. The area has become a hub for good dining and great drinking, offering one of the most cosmopolitan ranges of cuisine in Melbourne’s inner suburbs — particularly if you’re a fan of high-quality Greek and Italian cuisine.
Without further ado, let’s get into the best restaurants in Northcote, with a few stand-out establishments you’ll want to commit to memory.
Boss Hunting’s Favourite Restaurant In Northcote
If there was one restaurant that indelibly changed the face of High Street, Northcote, forever, it is Scott Pickett’s Estelle. From the man behind Collingwood local, Smith St Bistrot, Estelle opened its doors in 2011 and paved the way for the bustling dining scene we enjoy within the suburb today.
As a restaurant that functions equally well as a wine bar, the cocktail and wine lists are excellent (made even better by the Thursday — Saturday happy hour). Meanwhile, the food menu is all about classics: think pork belly, lamb rump, and hand-rolled gnocchi.
Even though High Street is best known for more casual fare, Estelle has thrived for more than a decade for very good reason.
The Best Northcote Restaurants Right Now
A venue that fuses the best of a European deli and bistro, there’s an uncompromising focus on quality ingredients at Zsa’s that we love.
Opened by Zowie Minchin, pasta courses of gnocchi, cavatelli and fettuccine are freshly made daily; as well as a fridge stacked with mouthwatering charcuterie and a generous selection of anchovies, sardines, and more. Honestly, there probably isn’t a better spot on High Street for a long lunch than Zsa’s (the context in which I first experienced the venue), with a wine list built using European and locally sourced bottles, as well as a decent range of pre-batched bottled cocktails.
If you’re hungry for fresh food, great service, and a crisp bottle of white, this is an absolute must-visit (no matter whether brunch or dinner).
Pizza Meine Liebe
One of the dining trends with the most staying power in Melbourne’s eclectic dining scene has been the rise and rise of the posh suburban pizza joint.
No longer satisfied with pre-shredded cheese poured out of 5kg bags and mystery ‘ham’, the denizens of the inner city demanded better and the team at Pizza Meine Liebe (“pizza my love” in German) have been satisfying this demand successfully for longer than almost any other.
I’ve eaten here a handful of times and have never left unsatisfied, thanks to the menu of chewy-crust pizza, paired with quality ingredients and decent drinking options. The service isn’t always spot-on, but if you’re in good company the ambience of the space and quality of the core product are enough to justify a visit.
Mesob Ethiopian Restaurant
Alongside The Horn African Cafe & Restaurant, Mesob Ethiopian Restaurant is another of the best Ethiopian restaurants outside of Footscray, pumping out fresh injera and family-sized plates of stew. Owned by Naz Mahari and Dawit Kebede, your first impression of the space is the brilliant fragrance of the kitchen, followed by wafting sounds of traditional Ethiopian music — provided, on occasion, by a live band.
The bar resembles the kind of traditional thatched hut you might find on the outskirts of Addis Ababa, serving up classic Ethiopian beers such as St. George and Castel, and bringing a real sense of warmth to the venue.
Authentically excellent Ethiopian food isn’t a particularly common phenomenon in Melbourne, which is why Mesob often sports lines out the door all week long.
Vex Dining is the result of a trio of Melbourne hospitality veterans coming together to create their ideal establishment: filled with natural light, quotidian art prints, and an enthusiasm for local sourcing.
A dinner-only establishment (apart from the recently introduced $60 three-course lunch set), the menu is predominantly vegetarian with the exception of a few key dishes; and almost all of the ingredients have been ethically farmed, caught, or otherwise procured from local vendors.
While the menu has plenty to choose from, Vex Dining also offers a set menu that delivers a little taste of everything to your table (which is arguably the best way to experience what the kitchen is capable of).
Northcote Social Club
A legendary venue that’s been pulling pints for over two decades, the Northcote Social Club delivers on everything you’d expect from a pub, yet with the addition of some seriously good live music.
Sharing an owner with the Corner Hotel in Richmond (an iconic Melbourne music venue in its own right), it’s no wonder the Northcote Social Club is able to so consistently book top quality bands and live acts.
The venue offers a solid range of beers on tap and decent cocktails; as well as the classic weekly food specials and beer jugs that everyone loves. A real fuss-free operation, and that’s exactly how we like it.
From the neon glow of the animated “pinched fingers” sign outside to the impressive list of digestivi and amari on the menu, Va Penne is Italian through and through: offering locals and visitors alike a taste of the Mediterranean in Northcote.
As well as a solid array of share plates, you can also expect modestly proportioned pizzas, and plenty of Italian wine producers available by the glass or bottle.
No matter if you’re perched at the bar or enjoying some sunshine in the rear courtyard, Va Penne is a delightful venue that’s hard to visit just once.
Gray and Gray
If you’re on ‘date night’ duty, or are simply after a venue with a requisite amount of cosiness, Gray and Gray offers a perfect option with just 28 seats and a menu focused on hearty Russian and Georgian cuisine.
Opened by two Russian-Jewish friends raised in New York, their focus aligns on quality wine from unexpected regions; and plating up distinctive flavours you’re unlikely to find elsewhere in Northcote.
The menu includes dishes like whipped potato dip with smoked eel and salmon roe, braised cuttlefish with adjika butter, and pork neck skewers. Unpretentious and intimate, Gray and Gray is well worth a visit.
Located down the bottom of High Street’s Ruckers Hill and opposite the famed Westgarth Cinema, Primo is another venue known for slinging some of the best pizza north of Carlton.
Owned by a team of Melbourne hospo veterans (the same folks behind Barry, Touchwood, and Gilson), Primo presents as a well-thought-out establishment — from the terrazzo floors and tiled exterior walls, to the eye-catching neon signs and green leather booths. Expect good pizza, burgers, and a rotating list of soft serves: basically, fun for the whole family.
The inclusion of Chapati on this list seems, at first, counterintuitive (technically its not in Northcote, but rather, neighbouring Fairfield), however, after dining there recently, I simply had to put it on this list.
Located on Station Street — which is humming with activity during the days, but tends to quieten with the dipping of the sun — Chapati is an Indian restaurant looking to transform the thoroughfare into a dining hotspot.
Owner-operated by Arjun Dewan (a veteran of Heston Blumenthal’s Fat Duck) and his family, the menu has been meticulously conceived. Dewan trialed more than 30 different recipes of naan bread before arriving at his current recipe; while the Dhal Bukara is slow cooked for more than 18 hours. The cocktails are truly top-notch, and this is one well worth making the trip to if you’re contemplating dining on High Street for dinner.