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Open: Sun-Thu midday-11pm, Fri-Sat midday-1am
Cho Gao is one of the inner city's best kept secrets. Housed within Melbourne Central, it looks like an upmarket Asian restaurant at first glance - all well and good, but nothing to get particularly excited about. That's a common beginners mistake. Have a look inside and you'll discover a wonderful terrace that overlooks the State library and buzzing Swanston Street.
While the main room comprises of antique, south-east Asian furniture, mixed with contemporary timber and cane themes, it's the outside terrace that gets most of the action. Well, the drinking action. If you're simply after a good Asian meal, then the main restaurant will do the job nicely. If you're looking to knock back a few beverages while watching the world go past then outside is the place to be.
Arrive earlier in the evening and the terrace is notable for it's minimal decor and ample space to swan around. The furniture is a pastiche of contemporary Asian designs - all low wooden armchairs and polished pine benches. Lanterns hang from the ceiling to illuminate the space, and the views over the State library are wonderful.
The drinks menu at Cho Gao is another pleasant surprise. Aside from a large selection of imported Asian beers, they have about 20 different varieties of tequila, vodka and whisky - not what you'd expect from a restaurant/bar in Melbourne Central. Putting all this booze to good use, there's also a varied cocktail list that incorporates classics and Asian-themed variations. Simply put, if you haven't tried this restaurant/bar already you're missing out.