Time Out Food Awards 2013: Best Casual Diner

It's been a big year for loosening the ties. These are the restaurants who have made eating good food a lot more fun

Winner: Ombra

Everyone jumped on the casual diner train this year, including a lot of Melbourne’s big players. Which has been nothing but good news for diners. There’s no better example than Ombra. Guy Grossi (he of fine dining wonder Grossi Florentino) has come kicking and punching into 2013 with this salumi bar – a modern proposition that encapsulates everything great about Melbourne dining right now. In place of tapestries and linen, you’ll find polished concrete floors, and bareback tables designed for building makeshift meals of all things preserved. In Italian ‘ombra’ means shade, but culturally it means something closer to ‘let’s down tools and drink in the afternoon’. It’s a masthead they’ve embraced. It’s here you’ll find fresh pizza bases for layering up DIY-styles with slices of house-made salumi, including pink pinches of capocollo and spicy fat-flecked salami nobile. There’s also a myriad of tiny snacks for eating street-side on a sunny afternoon. Perhaps it will be charred and sticky lamb ribs, fat friggitelli peppers and tiny buttermilk buns filled with a fresh bite of ‘slaw, crozzled onions and sticky braised intercostals – those tasty muscles from between the ribs. Grossi’s son Carlos is in charge here, keeping the cocktails flowing, and the service on point. It’s a friendly, and fun joint where you can prop it up on a stool at one of the high tables with boatload of Lambrusco – the revival of this retro Italian sparkling red started here – or commandeer the dining room upstairs and get into some of the more serious and freaky wines you’ve come to expect of anywhere Grossi-related. Welcome to the era of fun food.

Runners Up

Rockwell and Sons


It’s all about craft beers, great tunes and good times here. Straddling the fancy-casual divide Manu Potoi and Casey Wall are pushing well-conceived share plates and salads of foraged greens alongside buttermilk chicken and a burger with Kraft cheese singles gluing the meat together. 

Movida Next Door


After a quick facelift earlier this year, things are as good as they ever were at Movida’s shellfish and sherry-loving sibling. Sit at the bar and order big on those little snacks for maximum fun.

The Smith


Michael Lambie is doing it for the south side, pushing an agenda of international share plates, bar snacks and wild cocktails that keep the punters coming from lunch till late every day of the week.

Albert Street Food and Wine


Sydney Road, long devoid of anything fancier than an excellent kebab, was turned on its head when pastry queen Philippa Sibley rocked up with her pizza paddle, pots of smoked trout rillettes and her Snickers Bar dessert. Brunswick hasn’t looked back.


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First published on 16 Jul 2013. Updated on 13 Jun 2014.

By Time Out Melbourne editors   |  

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