Food and drink: Exploring Lygon St, Carlton
WELCOME to Lygon St. Dotted with countless restaurants, cafes and takeaways to indulge any palate, Carlton’s famous food strip is abuzz from morning to night, and is a great destination for university students hungry for a bite between classes, or looking for a cosy spot to kick back with friends.
Buon Appetito: a taste of Italian culture
Famous for its Italian culture, Lygon St has one of the biggest selections of Italian restaurants and cafes in Australia.
Start your journey into the delights of Italian cooking at Tiamo (303 Lygon St) – an old favourite with students. A quaint little outfit on the corner of Lygon and Elgin streets, it’s good food coupled with good prices, it’s not hard to see why the cafe is often packed during lunch and dinnertime. Its sister store, Tiamo 2 next door on Lygon St is more open and modern, and is also worth checking out.
Opening Hours: Daily, 7am to 11pm. Price Range: $12.90 to $13.90 for pastas, $19.40 to $21 for mains and $6.90 for desserts
At the corner of Lygon and Faraday St is the Italian dessert and coffee shop Brunetti’s(198-204 Faraday St). It’s the place to get a sweet fix if you are in Carlton, and a popular meeting place for a catch up with friends. Chocolates, crepes, macarons, gelatos and cakes are made fresh everyday. Some suggestions include the Opera cake, which has layers of almond sponge, coffee butter cream and chocolate ganache. If you’ve still got room after that, try the strawberry mousse, enriched with vanilla sponge and kirsch liqueur. Their lavish cakes are also perfect for birthdays and other special oscasions.
Opening Hours: Sunday – Thursday, 6am to 11pm; Friday – Saturday, 6am till late. Price Range: $1.50 to $11.50
When you’re done gorging on chocolates and sweets, head to Carlton Espresso (326 Lygon St) for the authentic Italian coffee experience. More recently, it’s also begun dishing out a good selection of breakfast focaccias and piadinas, pizzas and pastas. There’s a spacious indoor café-bar as well as outdoor seating, It’s great for breakfast, lunch or dinner with friends.
Opening Hours: Daily, 7am to 11pm. Price Range: up to $15 for mains
Keep walking down the street and you’ll see two of Lygon’s busiest Italian eateries next door to each other. Café Corretto and Papa Gino’s have long been the destination for international students looking for their first taste of traditional Italian.
Café Corretto (225-227 Lygon St) has been dishing out pizzas, pastas and steaks for three generations since the Francese family began business in 1972. And if the deco isn’t telling enough, the restaurant is It’s also “home” to the Ferrari Formula One and Ducati Formula 500 teams when they pass through Melbourne.
Opening Hours: Tuesday – Sunday, 11.30am to 11pm. Price Range: $13 to $22 for mains
Getting a table at Papa Gino’s (221 Lygon St) can be quite a struggle especially on weekends and Friday nights. Nevertheless, the service is always good. But the food is even better. The very big menu includes pastas, pizza, steaks and seafood, as well as traditional Italian ice cream desserts like the tartufo and cassata.
Opening Hours: Monday – Saturday, 12pm to 2.30pm, 5pm till late; Sunday, 12pm to 11pm
Il Dolce Freddo (116 Lygon Street), which means “the cold dessert”, is everything Italian and more. The Rocher gelati (think generous chunks of Ferrero Rocher folded through silky smooth gelati) has been among the top selling flavours for years; and the family-run business hasn’t been afraid to innovate, coming up with flavours that international students dig, including the pungent durian, lychee, green tea and pandan.
Now, if only it was open all year round – gelataria is closed during winter.
Opening Hours: Tuesday – Sunday, 12.30 pm to 11pm
Carlton has also become home to many other migrant communities over the years, and is reflected in the restaurants that have sprung up on the Lygon St food strip.
Don’t say we didn’t warn you.The food at Ying Thai 2 (110 Lygon St) is hot, hot, hot. You won’t be able to pass by the Thai eatery without noticing the fluorescent coloured walls, green tabletops and pink chairs. Signature dishes include its tom yum soups, crispy pork skin and green curry. Remember to ask for water.
Opening Hours: Tuesday – Sunday, 12pm to 10pm
Next to Ying Thai 2 is the Indian restaurant Namaste (104 Lygon St) started up by two former international students. The biryanis are packed with loads of spice and flavour, you can choose how spicy you want your curries to be, and the naans are made fresh up the front of the shop. It’s a good idea to go with a couple of friends to try a variety of the dishes on the menu.
Opening Hours: Daily, for lunch and dinner
Jimmy’s the Original Greek Tavern(130 Lygon St) is a Melbourne institution. Dine in or takeaway, this restaurant serves up something most Melbournians can’t go without on a Friday or Saturday night out – a souvlaki. Tuck into richly spiced meat mixed with lettuce and onions, all wrapped up in pita bread and smothered in tzatziki sauce – it’s the perfect cure for the late night munchies. Jimmy’s also has great mixed meat and seafood platters if you’re looking for something more refined.
Opening Hours: Tuesday – Sunday, 6pm to 11pm
Price Range: $18 to $30 for mains
Thresherman’s Bakehouse is a great place to hang out in between classes. The old warehouse on 221 Faraday St has been a Melbourne icon which most students from Melbourne University would recognise. The food is pretty decent, and most importantly, perfect for students on a tight budget. As its namesake suggests, you’ll be able to find breads and pastries, from bagels, sandwiches and croissants to pies, pasties to cakes; but the bakehouse also serves up bowls of hot soup which are perfect for winter, as well as a changing selection of dishes from the bain marie. Look out for discounted breadrolls and pastries at night if you’re after a bargain.
Opening Hours: Daily, 7am till late
And finally, for some pub grub, head to the University Hotel on 272 Lygon St. Dig in to heart parmas, burgers with the lot, and steak. Wash it all down with an ice cold beer.
Opening Hours: Every day till late
Okay, so this is not quite on Lygon St. But you couldn’t talk about food and drink in Carlton without mentioning Seven Seeds.
This cafe is tucked away unassumingly on 106-114 Berkeley St next to the Melbourne University law building, but it’s definitely worth seeking out. The warehouse-café roasts its own beans so the coffee is always fresh. It’s a must for the discerning coffee connoisseur.
Opening Hours: Monday – Saturday, 7am to 5 pm; Sunday, 8am to 4pm
The International Students’ Guide to Carlton has been sponsored by the City of Melbourne’s Opportunities for Carlton Fund.