Sean Goedecke is a freelance writer trying to visit every cafe in Australia. If you enjoy his articles, it can't hurt to click the 'like' link at the bottom or subscribe.
Published August 5th 2011
Everyone's got an opinion on what the best parts of this city are. Whether it's the best café or the best pub, most die-hard Melburnians will be able to rattle off their top five without too much trouble. There are constant debates about the best coffee (Coffee Vault), the best free meal (the Krishna temple in Albert Park), or the best street to get dinner on (Brunswick St). Among all these recommendations, it's hard to judge for yourself without some harsher criticism. With that in mind, here are the three most overrated places in Melbourne, starting with:
Good but not perfect.
Brunetti is undeniably a great café and a Melbourne icon, as any number of people will tell you. What they won't mention is the constant crowd or the slow service. Don't expect to find a table easily, or to be able to hear yourself talk over everyone else's conversations. It's not surprising that Brunetti doesn't live up to its reputation – the more acclaim a café receives, the more crowded and unpleasant it becomes (through no fault of its own). Instead, try Seven Seeds' coffee or La Colline for pastries.
Despite the excellent produce section and food stalls, the rest of Victoria Market is dreadful: shop after shop full of tourist kitsch and knockoff Australian souvenirs. If you're under twelve years old or find buying toys for twelve-year-olds fascinating, you might enjoy it – otherwise, probably not. The live music and occasional good deal on clothes tries valiantly to rescue this area of the market but mostly fails. Instead, try South Melbourne or Prahran Market.
The king of overrated Melbourne areas, Lygon St is a endless parade of the same Italian restaurant in different tacky outfits. It's constantly cited as the best place to get dinner in Carlton (or even the whole city), seemingly due to the quantity, not quality, of its restaurants. The food isn't bad, just usual Italian fare – but compared with the rave reviews Lygon St receives, it's a miserable failure. Instead, try nearby Brunswick or Smith St. Or anywhere else.
It's certainly possible to disagree with these picks – who knows, perhaps there's some foodie somewhere who considers Lygon St his personal paradise, owns an incredible selection of fake leather jackets from Victoria Market, and has managed to find the single hour in the day when Brunetti isn't busy. If you're that person, then there's nothing wrong with that and there's certainly no reason for you to stop going to any of these places.
I like the food on Lygon St, Im not big on the men who stand and try to call you into their restaurants. I love going to the movies there too. There are some great book shops too.
By Jody Kimber - senior reviewer Tuesday, 9th of August @ 02:48 am
I also think this is a great idea for an article, and really well written. On my infrequent visits to Melbourne I've never visited any of these spots. Maybe it's because I'm with locals so haven't done the touristy stuff. Now I know I haven't been missing out.
By tessa16 - reader Tuesday, 9th of August @ 02:59 am
At least a sincere comment on those three places in Melbourne. I live in the CBD, (200m from the QV Market...), and think exactly the same about them. But hardly dare saying so, as people consider it sacrilege to criticise them
By johan21 - reader Tuesday, 9th of August @ 03:04 am
I like how you've offered alternatives. It's always good to get an insiders tips.
By Carly Ogborne - senior reviewer Tuesday, 9th of August @ 05:26 am
Awesome article & great idea. And, yes, Lygon St = SO overrated.
By Kat Cook - senior reviewer Tuesday, 9th of August @ 06:37 am
couldn't agree more!
By itsli - reader Wednesday, 10th of August @ 03:10 am
I used to be a Lygon St die-hard, but over the last few years have found absolute gems in the laneways of the CBD & other suburbs.
By kjjoh - reader Thursday, 11th of August @ 03:38 am
Last time I was in Melbourne we went down Lygon Street to find somewhere to eat, we left pretty quickly too! Found the people out the front so pushy an intimidating, and nothing seemed that amazing for the prices.
I was also sorely disappointed by the Queen Victoria Market. As a visitor I didn't have much need for fresh fruit and veg, and everything else was so tacky!
I agree about Brunetti's! the food was stale and tasteless, the service was slow and rude!
By theastronaught - senior reviewer Tuesday, 23rd of August @ 03:13 am
At the moment Chapel Street for fashion. It used to be a fashion mecca. Now its pretty ordinary. There are so many great shops everywhere else. Even Fitzroy out does Chapel Street now.
By Jody Kimber - senior reviewer Friday, 26th of August @ 01:56 am
I agree wholeheartedly with Brunettis. It was a nightmare to move about, even harder with a coffee in hand, and almost impossible to get a table on Sundays.
By Anonymous Sunday, 28th of August @ 01:53 am
I regularly visit Queen Victoria Markets for weekly grocery shopping. There is a great variety at good prices. Also, the Deli Hall with its delicious brunch options (for example the famous Borek and Bratwurst stores) is worth visiting.
Whilst it's a great place to shop for city dwellers and locals, I could not recommend it as an interesting tourist attraction. The clothes, accessories and other goods there are expensive and you can buy the same quality items for a lot cheaper elsewhere. I agree with you that QV Markets is overrated. Even the night markets are crowded, with expensive food, and insufficient seating.
By Winnie - senior reviewer Sunday, 4th of September @ 09:49 am
Yes, couldn't agree more. Brunetti is no better than your average decent coffee shop but at higher prices with poor service
By Anonymous Thursday, 8th of September @ 03:03 pm
Melbourne in general = Massively overrated.
By Anonymous Wednesday, 21st of September @ 01:27 pm
Tiamo on Lygon the ONLY reason for visiting the street, ever. And you think the crowds at Brunettis around the corner are bad? Try Readings Bookstore along from Tiamo. There's a reason they (sardonically) call it the best second-hand bookstore in Melbourne!
By Anonymous Sunday, 25th of September @ 02:36 am
Lygon Street does have 'Readings',the demise of other bookshops is to be lamented by booklovers,but we have been left with the best.The hours are good, the staff friendly and accomodating,the selection of books,cds,dvds,vinyl and other
things make it a local gem.
By david281 - reader Tuesday, 27th of September @ 06:15 am
I think food in St Kilda is overrated, apart from a couple of restaurants its hard to find a good meal. Many times its a place to be seen rather than a place to find quality food.
By missr2 - reader Tuesday, 27th of September @ 08:56 am
I visited the StKilda Sunday market last week for the 1st time in some 10years & I won't be rushing back. It was pathetic. Save ur pennies and visit the Boneo market on the Mornington Peninsula. I was embrassed for St Kilda residents. Poor form
By teams0 - reader Thursday, 6th of October @ 10:22 am
Agreed, but in fairness need to point out the gems of Lygon Street, namely, the Carlton Yacht Club for a drink, Carlton Expresso for great food & staff and the great bottle shop next door to the great fruit shop!
By averi0 - reader Thursday, 20th of October @ 02:07 am
the press club better chicken from a sovalaki shop and pretty average service.
By missr2 - reader Thursday, 27th of October @ 05:39 am
brunetti's camberwell....no crowds, same great coffee and cakes!
By chugh - reader Friday, 28th of October @ 12:39 am
I agree unless yr buying food the Victoria Market its a waste of time, I diasgree with Winnie, the Borek @$2.50 is cheap, you get what you pay for, one bite and you realise you paid for pastry, it has a much flavour as a piece of paper. Overrated.
By Kathy22 - reader Friday, 28th of October @ 04:38 am
I agree that Brunetti's is a totally overrated cafe/cake shop. I find the cheesecake is filled with nothing but air, and of course you can never find a decent seat and why on earth do we need to waste our time in cues for a drink. We all really want to go to a cafe to have a coffee and CHAT with our friend(s).
By ozang - reader Friday, 4th of November @ 06:01 am
Brunetti has been successful with concoting an amusement park feeling of Italy. Coffee is Ho Hum, cakes all taste the same and made in a cake factory in the suburbs. Gelati is popular though I think its oversweet and way to obvious in strength.
By Anonymous Saturday, 17th of December @ 11:22 am
This is a great article. Thank you for being honest. I love these places, but I also hate these places for the reasons you cited. I might still go there sometimes, but at least I won't complain about it because I knew the drawbacks.
By liana - reader Friday, 18th of May @ 02:03 am
You clearly haven't ventured around Lygon St much at all... there are some absolutely fabulous restaurants there which are as good as in Italy. True, there are a few which are less than impressive, however there is some amazing food to be found. Perhaps you need to look around the area a bit more before exclaiming it as aweful and not worth a visit...