A chef’s guide to eating in Preston

Zac Cribbes, Lucy Liu

Preston might not be the prettiest suburb in Melbourne, but the concrete jungle to the city’s north is punching well above its weight when it comes to food.

Dozens of ethnic groups call Preston home, peddling culinary gems from arancini to za’atar and everything in between.

So where does one start on an edible tour of Preston? We asked a local with serious food cred – Zac Cribbes, the executive chef at one of Melbourne’s coolest restaurants, Lucy Liu.

Zac loves exploring Preston’s cafes and restaurants with his young family. These are his top 5 places to grab a feed.

  1. Dexter

    1. Dexter
    2. 456 High St, Preston, 03 9973 3577

    3. Dexter is a meat lover’s paradise. It’s an American-style barbecue joint with some really quirky spins. Meat-filled doughnuts are their signature – fluffy little parcels of deliciousness. If you can’t decide what to eat, they do a great “feed me” option, finishing with a big tray of smoked meaty joy. The staff are super friendly and cater well for children. We choose a great kid’s burger and chips, which my little ones love. Insider’s tip – come hungry because portions are huge.
  2. Ping’s Dumpling Kitchen

    1. Ping's Dumpling Kitchen
    2. 358 High St, Preston,  03 9478 8846
    3. Ping’s Dumpling Kitchen has the best dumplings on High Street, in my opinion. The standards are solid – pork and prawn and fried beef – but I go there for the Shanghai-style mini pork buns, which are steamed then fried, with super-light and fluffy dough, salty braised pork inside and crunchy golden brown bases and sesame. Some of the best going around. This is Ping’s second venue, with another in Clayton. Insider’s tip – they are open all arvo, so pick the kids up from school and drop past on the way home for an early dinner.
  3. Gold Leaf

    1. Gold Leaf Preston
    2. Level 1, Shop 7, 417-419 High St, Preston, (03) 9470 2882
    3. Enter upstairs from the Preston Market carpark via a dodgy little alley. At the top of the steeper-than-regulation staircase, you enter the beast that is Gold Leaf yum cha. We love it here on a Sunday morning. If you haven’t booked, get there 10 minutes before 11 and line up. All your yum cha favourites are on the menu. The red braised pork and cheong fun (rice noodle with chive) are my two favourites. Kids love being able to choose their own lunch, and how fast it arrives. Finish it off with a mango pudding and a bowl of jelly for the kids. The staff are brusque and the service is rushed and messy, but that’s why I love it. Insider’s tip – if you have a group of five or more, you should probably book a day or two ahead.
  4. Cedar Bakery

    1. Cedar Bakery
    2. 33-35 High St, Preston, 03 9484 4999
    3. This is where we shop for nuts, seeds and Middle Eastern ingredients. Whenever we do, we can’t resist a few of their pastries. Similar to the famous A1 Bakery on Sydney Road, these superb Lebanese manoush are awesome for a quick feed. We normally grab a lamb, a cheese and a za’atar all with extra lemon and chilli flakes. Grab a container of pickled turnips from the fridge and you have a quick lunch. Insider’s tip – They can sometimes go a bit light on the reheating. Ask them to leave them in the oven a touch longer. They taste even better when they’re piping hot.
  5. Ciccio’s Pizza Kitchen

    1. Ciccio's
    2. 766 Plenty Rd, Reservoir, (03) 9478 8007
    3. Ciccio’s is in Reservoir rather than Preston, but it’s not far away and the pizza here is some of the best in the inner north. They pride themselves on a super-slow 72-hour fermentation of their sourdough bases, making them super chewy and almost completely gluten free. A simple Margarita with chilli flakes is our go-to order. The red veggie with hot salami is also a winner.

A chef’s guide to eating in Preston