Those of you who work in Melbourne's CBD know that lunchtime can get hectic. There are so many choices, but where you eat is always a gamble- with quality and with time. If you need to rush back to the office, you can't afford to wait half an hour for a meal to arrive, no matter how delicious. But there's no reason why you should compromise the quality of your dining experience either. Instead of rushing to the closest food court, try one of these fresh, quick and tasty alternatives next week!
If you work near the intersection of Collins and Spring Street, you've undoubtedly walked by the building that houses this elegant little café. But whether or not you noticed that there was a café depends on how much attention you were paying to your surroundings- and whether or not Café Alcaston's sign was propped up. Even if you can't see Café Alcaston from the outside, the word has gotten out around Collins Street about its existence and the place is always bustling.
A full café usually means a good café, and Café Alcaston is no exception; what is exceptional, though, is the rapidity of the service. I've always had my meal in front of me 5 to 10 minutes after sitting down. Café Alcaston is known for its pies, which are homemade and kept warm so that guests can enjoy them almost immediately upon ordering. A favourite is the beef and red wine pie, accompanied by homemade chutney. If you feel like something lighter, try the rocket and pear salad.
2. Famish'd 130 Little Collins Street Melbourne, 3000
Famish'd, on Little Collins near Exhibition, fills a gap in CBD lunch culture. Very few places make custom salads or spuds. The beauty of Famish'd is that you can create your own meal. All you have to do is pick the salad base, select the toppings you want, add meat or other protein and voila: a healthy lunch where you control the ingredients. If you're rushed for time, good news: the salad bar functions in assembly-line style, which guarantees rapid service. Famish's also offers a wide range of premium coffee in the morning and is open until 4pm, which is perfect for a later lunch or snack.
So far, we've talked about healthy options, but there's nothing wrong with a burger from time-to-time, especially if it comes Strange Wolf. Strange Wolf, housed in a basement just off of Exhibition and Collins, is what you'd expect a wolf's lair to resemble, with dim lighting, low music and faux fur hanging from various parts of the cave-like dining space.
But instead of wolves, you get Melbourne's yuppies eagerly awaiting their Wolf Burger (grilled beef, caramelized onions, mozzarella, tomatoes and iceberg lettuce) or the highly recommended Mushroom Burger (filled with roasted field mushrooms, brie and truffle aioli, along with the usual suspects). While you're there, do try one of the delicious cocktails (as you'll deduce from the setting, Strange Wolf turns into a bar in the evening).
One final word of advice: if you want a quieter meal, go to Strange Wolf before 12 o'clock, but not before 11:30, when the kitchen opens. The place really fills up for the big lunch rush, but even if it's almost at capacity, the service will be quick and efficient.
If it's Friday and you have a little more time for lunch, check out Swiss Club, a favourite of Melbourne businessmen. As the name entails, the restaurant has a Swiss chalet feel, with long, wooden tables and traditional décor. In fact, it is part of Melbourne's Swiss expat community centre. This is definitely a meat lovers' locale, but you do have the option of a self-serve salad bar. For a more-than-decent porterhouse steak at a relatively decent price, Swiss Club offers a perfect end-of-the week lunch alternative. Just a heads-up: don't forget to make a reservation, because Swiss Club fills up fast!