By WENDY HARGREAVES
Buffets have come a long way since the bad old days of luke-warm bain-maries and soggy salad bars.
Melburnians are a fussy bunch when it comes to food, so restaurants offering all-you-can-eat deals have upped their game. Just make sure you avoid the bread and starchy carbs, not because of any health reasons…. you want to be able to fit in dessert.
These are five of the best all-you-can-eat sessions in Melbourne. Make sure you wear your stretchy pants.
THE LANGHAM’S MELBA RESTAURANT
1 Southgate Ave, Southbank, 1800 641 107
Starting at $67 for lunch and $97 for dinner, Melba’s buffet is the prettiest in town. Start with oysters, prawns and sushi before moving on to the antipasto. Then try the Asian dumplings and a stir fry, made to order at the wok station. Perhaps a steak, also cooked to order, or a curry and naan bread from the tandoor oven. Oh, but that won’t leave room for the carvery with fresh-baked Yorkshire pudding. Or dessert, which is always exceptional. At least there’s always space to dip strawberries in the chocolate fountain.
If you love seafood, time your run. It’s crab on Monday, lobster on Tuesday, oysters and bugs on Wednesday, sushi and sake on Thursday, with ribs on Friday and fresh waffles on Saturdays.
A new late-night buffet supper is on trial at Melba from 10.30pm to 1.30am on Friday and Saturday nights. Executive chef Deepak Mishara decided to trial the night owl session after failing in his search for a late night Singaporean laksa after work, so you can expect an excellent laksa along with toasties, curries, fries and other comfort food, all for $29pp.
DAVID’S ENDLESS YUM CHA
4 Cecil Pl, Prahran, (03) 9069 4235
Bottomless dumplings… two words that spark warm fuzzies for any fan of good yum cha. David’s dumplings are always plump, fresh and generous. It costs $40 on Saturdays and $45 on Sundays, and bookings are essential. BYO is allowed on Saturdays, which makes it even better value.
BREAKKY + HIGH TEA AT THE GRAND HYATT
123 Collins St, Melbourne, 3 9657 1234
The $45 breakfast buffet at Collins Kitchen has won Gourmet Traveller’s best hotel brekky three years running, mostly because of the hotel’s focus on fresh produce from local farmers (not to mention a dedicated smoothie/juice bar, carving station, ridiculously good patisseries and an eye-popping wok and steamer section).
Another great option is the Grand Hyatt High Tea – non-stop finger sandwiches, pastries, desserts and fluffy little scones with jam and cream, all washed down with a cup of your favourite tea in beautiful tea-ware by designer Cristina Re. An extra $20 gives you free-flowing Chandon NV Sparkling Brut. The Mother’s Day sittings have already sold out, but there are a few tables left on the Saturday before.
GAIJIN’S ALL-YOU-CAN-EAT SUSHI
135 Commercial Rd, South Yarra, 03 9804 8873
All-you-can-eat sushi and sashimi for $50? Now that’s a bargain. It’s even less if you only want the sushi ($42). Available from Monday to Thursday in the evening, you can overeat without too much guilt knowing you’re boosting your Omega 3s.
UNLIMITED VEGAN AT CROSSWAYS
Level 1&2, 123 Swanston St, Melbourne
Blink and you’ll miss the Swanston St stairwell leading to Crossways, where Melbourne’s Hare Krishnas serve all-you-can-eat vegan, wheat-free tucker for $8.95 (concession $6.95). Pay an extra 55c for take-away. Even omnivores like me have to acknowledge the CBD value for money. On any given week day, you might find steaming bowls of Malaysian curry with papadams, satay vegetables with tofu or red kidney beans.
SOFITEL’S BREKKY WITH A VIEW
For brekky with a view, Sofitel’s No35 restaurant wins hands down. Priced at $45, the food is spot on, but it’s worth the money for the amazing vista from the 35th floor, not to mention an excellent egg station.
No35’s bottomless weekend brunch might be at the pricey end at $120pp, but it includes a extensive carvery, excellent salads and a huge variety of desserts, plus free-flowing beer, wine and soft drinks. Children under 11 cost $60, and under fives cost $35.
Wendy writes online at fiveofthebest.com.