I love a good banh mi.
As somebody who’s spent a full year travelling the length and breadth of Vietnam, I’ve eaten more than my fair share of these delicious bread rolls; quite possibly more than I have any other form of sandwich. I can’t get enough of them.
And Melbourne? This city does the best banh mis outside of Vietnam.
In fact, I sometimes very quietly believe the Melbourne versions are even better than the ones you find in Vietnam. You get a hell of a lot more fillings and higher-quality meats in the Australian versions (although you’re also paying 10 times more for them, so it makes sense that this would be the case.)
Either way, whether I’m at home in Melbourne or escaping winter by holing up in Vietnam, I’m nearly always grabbing a banh mi for lunch.
But who makes the best banh mi in Melbourne?
It’s a question I’ve spent years researching.
Because crafting the perfect banh mi requires a delicate balance of flavors and textures, and every shop has its own unique twist on the classic recipe.
You want the bread to be fresh; crunchy on the outside and pillowy-soft on the inside. The meat, whether it’s pork, chicken, or beef, should be tender and packed full of flavour. The pate and mayonnaise are non-negotiable additions that should add a richness and depth of flavour. And the vegetables? They’ve got to be pickled and crunchy, but not too cold and used sparingly. Of course, there needs to be a handful of fresh, fragrant coriander. And you can’t forget the sauce — a dash of Maggi seasoning that works to tie everything together with its unmistakably sweet and savory blend.
The key to the perfect banh mi, then, is balance. Each and every component should work together to create a sandwich that’s neither too sweet nor too salty, too bland or too overpowering. You don’t want the bread to overpower the fillings and the flavors should be evenly distributed throughout the sandwich.
As you can see, I have strong opinions when it comes to banh mi. Bread too soft? I’ll swear off ever going there again. Chuck some tomatoes in there? I’ll be appalled and aghast in equal measure. Carrots that have come straight from the fridge and make the bread cold and soggy? My worst nightmare.
If I’m being honest, a lot of online guides to the best banh mi in Melbourne give the impression that the author hasn’t been to the places they’re writing about.
Descriptions are generic and photos are almost always stock images or taken from the bakery’s Instagram. That, in particular, is always a sign to me that the author hasn’t actually been there themselves. Some of the recommendations I’ve followed in these articles have resulted in disappointment when I’ve hit up a place to try it for myself.
Well, that’s not how we roll (ahem) here at Everything Victoria. I’ve been to each and every place that’s included in our list — often multiple times to test for consistency — and these are subsequently all of my own photos.
I’ve broken down the list by suburb — in most cases, twisting my own arm and forcing myself to narrow it down to one option for each, but occasionally recommending two when I really couldn’t decide.
And in the name of being consistent, I decided to order a crispy pork banh mi from every bakery I visited — mostly because that’s my favourite flavour, but also because it helps me better compare the quality of the rolls that are being put out. Because if you can’t perfect a crispy pork banh mi, then really, what can you do?
If you’re short on time, here are my top five banh mis in Melbourne, ranked from best to almost-the-best:
- Nhu Lan Bakery: Footscray
- Phuoc Hung (Hung’s Bakery): Richmond
- T&L Bakery & Cafe: Cremorne
- Viet Rose Cafe: Fitzroy
- Tiger Bread Bakery: Flemington
But, of course, I do still recommend reading the entire article to see where else has been included. Without further ado, then, here is the 2023 Everything Victoria guide to the best banh mi in Melbourne.
Fitzroy: Viet Rose Cafe
I’ve been to all of the best-rated banh mi bakeries in Fitzroy. The best? There’s no question that it’s Viet Rose Cafe.
This lovely little spot on bustling Brunswick Street serves up some of the best banh mis in the entirety of Melbourne. And this is consistently the case. Dave and I have grabbed a banh mi from here several dozen times over the past couple of years — it’s our go-to whenever we’re craving one for lunch — and they’ve never once wavered in quality.
If you want a fantastic banh mi, these guys can provide.
So what is it that makes them so unequivocally great?
As you can see from my photo above, the banh mis are served up with a generous amount of tender pork; plenty of crackling included. The sandwich isn’t stuffed full of carrots, so the flavour isn’t overpowered by vegetables, and the rolls are always laden with mayonnaise and pate. The bread is perfectly crispy and always fresh, with tiger bread as an option, too.
It all blends together to give you a sandwich that’s crunchy and soft in equal measure; exactly what you want from a banh mi.
Unsurprisingly, it’s a popular spot at lunchtime so you might have to wait 10 minutes for your order, but it’s more than worth it. There’s three tables outside on the street with a quick turnaround, so you can opt to either eat it there or take it with you on the go.
Finally, note that there’s a Viet Rose Cafe and a Viet Rose Restaurant on opposite sides of Brunswick Street. You want to go to the cafe, as that’s the one with the banh mis.
Address: 330 Brunswick St, Fitzroy VIC 3065.
Opening times: 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. during the week, and 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. at the weekends.
Fitzroy alternatives: Is there anywhere else worth checking out in Fitzroy?
My runner-up to Viet Rose is Sunrise Bakery. The first time I visited, the banh mi was so good that I was planning to make it my number one Fitzroy recommendation. On my second visit, however, the bread was stale and the ingredients bland. What’s important is consistency and right now, Sunrise is a bit hit or miss. You could go and get the best banh mi of your life, or you could… not.
Collingwood: N Lee Hot Bread
If you live in Collingwood, you’ll already be aware of The Battle of the Best Banh Mi and it comes down to three main contenders: Sunny’s, Trang’s, or N Lee’s.
All three bakeries have been a mainstay in Collingwood for years, if not decades, and locals passionately debate over who makes the best sandwich.
For us, there’s no question: N Lee Hot Bread makes the best banh mi in Collingwood.
If you like your banh mis to focus on the meat over the vegetables, then this is the one for you. The perfectly-tender roast pork falls apart in your mouth, which is a good thing, as there’s so much of it stuffed in there! That doesn’t mean that the banh mi isn’t in balance, however. There’s a thick layer of pate and mayo, plenty of fresh herbs, and the bread, of course, is freshly baked that morning.
One particularly useful aspect of visiting N Lee’s is that they operate a buzzer system when you order. If you’re there at peak time (which is pretty much every lunchtime) and don’t want to spend 15 minutes hanging around, you can browse some of the nearby shops instead and head back once you’re called.
Address: 220 Smith St, Collingwood VIC 3066.
Opening times: 6 a.m. – 5:30 p.m. during the week, and 7 a.m. – 5 p.m. at the weekends.
Richmond: Phuoc Hung (Hung’s Bakery)
If you love your banh mis then you’ll have undoubtedly spent a significant amount of time in Richmond. Before signing my rental lease here in Melbourne, I spent two weeks living in Richmond and it was almost entirely because I wanted to have an excellent banh mi for every single one of my lunches.
Richmond is one of several Vietnamese strongholds here in Melbourne, with the main street of Victoria Street absolutely blanketed in Vietnamese restaurants. Sometimes it feels as though you can’t walk more than 20 metres without finding a bakery offering up a fresh take on the dish.
As you can imagine, then, competition is fierce. There’s well over a dozen banh mi eateries in this small neighbourhood, so we took it upon ourselves to work our way along every street, sampling as many crispy pork banh mis as we could find.
It’s tough to narrow it down to just one, but if we had to, we’d give the award to Phuoc Hung, which is also known as Hung’s Bakery. They make a seriously impressive banh mi.
As you can see from the photo above, this is a chonky old banh mi, packed full of succulent pork, picked vegetables, and so much coriander. The sauce is rich and salty — but not too much — and the bread is excellently crunchy.
Let’s just say there’s a reason why this bakery receives an average rating of five stars from 1,200 reviews on Google. The banh mi simply can’t be beaten.
Address: 152 Victoria St, Richmond VIC 3121.
Opening times: 6:30 a.m. – 6 p.m. Mondays to Saturdays; closed on Sundays
Footscray: Nhu Lan Bakery
Stroll down Hopkins Street in Footscray at lunchtime and you’ll be able to spot Nhu Lan Bakery before you even see its sign, thanks to the long line of eager customers that stretches out the door and down the street. The unmistakable aroma of freshly baked bread wafts through the air, drawing in passersby and confirming that you’ve found the right spot for an unforgettable banh mi experience.
To many Melburnians, Nhu Lan Bakery has become synonymous with the banh mi itself, and it’s easy to see why. Regularly voted one of the best places to sample it in the city, this bakery has fans from far and wide.
Does it live up to the hype? We think it does.
But first, I have a confession to make. On my most recent visit to Nhu Lan, I looked at the banh mi in my hand and announced to Dave that I thought the bakery had gone downhill. I didn’t think it was as good as it used to be. The bread looked dry and lacking in pate and sauce; it didn’t look like the banh mi I knew and loved.
I hid my wince then took a hesitant bite into the bread roll. I’d barely started chewing before I exclaimed, “This is the best banh mi ever!”
It just goes to show that looks can be deceiving. Nhu Lan is popular for a reason and their banh mis are easily in my top three in Melbourne. The bread is phenomenal, the pork perfectly seasoned, and there was plenty of pate and sauce — I just couldn’t see it as I held it in my hands.
So if you ever find yourself in Footscray, don’t consider anywhere else: head straight to Nhu Lan. It’s more than worth than 10-15 minute wait.
Flemington: Tiger Bread Bakery
I’ve always been a bit of a purist when it comes to my banh mi, so whenever I see an alternative bread option on the menu, I steer well clear.
Well that is until I stepped foot inside Tiger Bread Bakery.
The clue’s in the name I guess.
And, well, it turns out that sticking to what I knew had caused perhaps one of my greatest banh mi-related missteps.
Because the tiger bread from this bakery is hands down the best bread I’ve ever eaten. It was so, so good! The bread was fresh out of the oven and pillowy-soft, but yet so crispy on the outside that it gave off a crunchy texture all the way down to the last chew. I don’t quite know how they manage it, but it had me resolving to revisit every place on this list to order their banh mi with tiger bread!
But how about the fillings?
I didn’t have high expectations. The pork looked a little over-processed, given that it was glowing pink (which is actually due to the seasoning rather than it being fake meat or anything). But despite its unappetising appearance, it was so delicious; well-seasoned and rich in flavour. It didn’t have much crackling, but it also didn’t need it. All of the flavours and textures blended together beautifully and had me asking Dave if we could return the following day for a second helping.
Tiger Bread Bakery is fantastic and I urge you to go and check it out.
Moonee Ponds: Luke’s Bakery
If you’re looking for a particularly filling lunchtime banh mi, then Luke’s Bakery — marked as Luke’s Vietnamese on Google Maps — is the place to be.
They’ve got some really interesting options up for grabs here, with a whopping 22 different flavours available in store. This is a particularly great place to go if you’re looking for the best vegan banh mi in Melbourne, as Luke’s Vietnamese has nine meat-free options, from vegan meatballs to vegan duck to vegan lemongrass chicken to vegan crackling pork.
Our favourite, though, is the Luke’s Special, which comprises charcoal pork and pork crackling. As you can see from our photo above, this is most definitely the most pork-filled banh mi we’ve had so far. There was so much of it, the bread could barely hold it all!
It definitely lived up to its reputation, as this was yet another great banh mi in Melbourne. The pork was tender and buttery, the crackling was crispy and fresh, and the bread was perfectly baked. If you live close to Moonee Ponds, add this to your lunchtime roster: it’s easily the best option in the neighbourhood.
Preston: CJ Roll
If you’re looking for a sensational banh mi, Preston is the place to be! CJ Roll offers up one of the better options for the Northern suburbs, with the pork banh mi in tiger bread being their main speciality. That was convenient for me!
The tiger bread was still warm and fresh when it was served to me, with the perfect amount of crunch on the exterior, while the interior was super-soft. The roast pork was packed into the sandwich with a generous amount of crackling, and when you throw in some smooth pate and a handful of sliced carrots, it really was a fantastic banh mi.
One final thing that makes CJ Roll stand out from the crowd is the welcoming staff! They’re so friendly here and often start to remember you once you’ve visited more than a couple of times.
If you’re not a fan of pork, there’s a few other options on the menu: grilled chicken, beef lemongrass, pork lemongrass, and tofu.
Brunswick West: Mister Truong’s
Brunswick is one of the best neighbourhoods for foodies in Melbourne, so we’ve always been rather surprised by their lack of banh mi offerings. If you’re looking for a high quality version, you’ll have to head west over to Mister Truong’s.
I’ll point out what’s immediately obvious from our photo of the roast pork banh mi: the big old stalk of coriander! There aren’t many banh mi places that stuff their sandwiches with my favourite herb, so a hefty handful is always appreciated. (You might want to ask them to leave it off if you’re not a fan).
But how was the banh mi?
It was a classic crispy pork offering, with some of the most tender, juiciest meat we’ve encountered so far. It wasn’t over-stuffed with pork like some of the options on this list, so it’s a little easier to eat and hold. The vegetables were fresh and crunchy, the hoisin sauce added some tasty sweetness, and the mayonnaise was perfectly tangy.
I was fairly distraught to discover that Mister Truong’s doesn’t add pate to their banh mis (and don’t currently have it as an optional add-on, either). I’m somebody who considers the pate to be an integral part of their banh mi, but you know what? I didn’t notice it was missing! Their crispy pork banh mi is so flavourful that I didn’t mind the pate omission in the end.
Cremorne: T&L Bakery & Cafe
We saw the queue before we saw the cafe.
A stretch of people, 30-strong, leading down the block on Swan Street.
When we realised they were queueing for a banh mi we promptly made our way to the back of the line. Fortunately, the turnover was lightning-fast, so we were putting in our order before you could say “extra pate, please!”
Dave and I had high expectations for the roll — as you can undoubtedly see from this article, we’ve eaten a hell of a lot of banh mis in Melbourne — but I don’t think either of us were expecting for it to be quite so delicious. After my first mouthful, I was debating whether T&L Bakery should be making its way into the number one spot in our guide.
It offered up all of the hallmarks of a delectable banh mi: the bread was fresh and crunchy, the roast pork was succulent and crisp, there was the perfect balance between vegetables, herbs, and meat, and the sauces helped to elevate the experience to a whole new level.
I’m already counting down the days until my next trip to Cremorne so I can queue for another one. The wait is more than worth it.