romantic restaurants

Where To Go For The Best Romantic Restaurants In Melbourne?

Melbourne is known for its amazing food scene, with a huge variety of restaurants to choose from. If you're looking for a romantic restaurant for an anniversary or special occasion, which one should you choose? We've put together a list of the best romantic restaurants in Melbourne, based on our personal experiences. Let us know if we missed your favourite! 

For those who love good food and are looking to spend some romantic time with their partner, Melbourne is the place to be. This city has an impressive range of excellent restaurants that cater to every taste and budget possible. So, if you're looking for somewhere special to celebrate a milestone event like an anniversary, look no further than these amazing spots. Each one has

The 14 Best Date-Night Restaurants In Melbourne

We’ve found the most romantic restaurants in Melbourne for the ultimate date night. Whether it’s for a special occasion or much needed alone time, these foodie havens are perfect for cuddling up close with your loved one.

Poodle Bar & Bistro

Welcome to Poodle, yet another art-deco inspired multi-level venue that’s graced our fair city, where head chef Josh Fry (Marion, Cumulus Inc) takes kitschy dishes and gives them a signature Italian-inspired makeover. 

But this isn’t just another multi-level venue. This is more. The green, marbled and dark wooden veneered bones of the site designed by Melbourne studio Bergman & Co scream Italianesque grandeur, but the people within make you feel at home. Owner Zoë Rubino operates the door, and partner Emilio Scalzo floats around, providing service and smiles iterative of any ex-McConnell staff.

Downstairs you'll find intimate booths, doodles by previous guests framed on the wall and a locked and loaded bistro menu. We order the Padrón peppers, wrinkled, lightly charred and doused in a black garlic vinegar that lends its acidity to the spice and smokiness of the peppers. 

Flaky vol-au-vents time travel into 2021 and meet their fate, filled with garlicky taramosalata, chunks of spanner crab and salty orbs of fish roe, the four marrying together quicker than a couple on Married at First Sight. 

Soon beefy skewers of duck hearts emerge from a literal trial by fire, bronzed and content in their chargrilled state. Prawn cocktail, anyone? Yes, you heard me correctly – and no, you aren’t nose-deep in an Australian culinary magazine from the '70s. The retro summer staple distances itself from its gaudy prototype. It arrives dressed to the nines in diced celery and prawn meat swimming in a lightly spiced cocktail sauce with sprigs of dill while whole, extra raw prawns delicately balance off the rim of a Martini glass.

Fry’s magnum opus is a nod to the surf and turf. A monster charcoal-grilled, dry-aged 800g hunk of O'Connor rib-eye steak, glistening in a pool of umami-laden prawn butter (a concoction devised of butter and heavy prawn bisque) and deep-fried school prawns. It’s pre-cut to avoid making an Eton mess of the thing and best paired with fries.

Matilda 159 Domain

There will be no such existential ponderings at his latest move on the Melbourne restaurant chessboard. We’re at Domain Road, opposite the Botanic Gardens, a stretch whose time as the home of hotness has come and gone, and now is coming again with the arrival of Pickett’s Matilda 159.

The fit-out is so luxe you can almost smell the expense. There’s a fire and charcoal-driven kitchen, botanical-filled glass cabinets and a dining room of rough-edged wooden-topped tables and the fattest, softest leather banquettes that elicit a gasp of surprise from more than one diner (it’s the endlessly entertaining Matilda spectator sport). 

Pickett has built his reputation on a jazz-riff approach to Michelin classicism. Still, here he’s notably stepping away from any hint of tweezer action in favour of the visceral attractions of smoke, flame and char. The fundamental approach to cooking goes hand in hand with the strictly a la carte menu and a pragmatic wine list that will please both the haves and the have-yachts.

You’ll pay for bread, but don’t get cross: as per the new Melbourne norm, there’s value-adding to soften the blow. Pickett goes above and beyond with his spongy bran-crusted spelt slices, adding sour cultured butter and a pot of smoked chicken thigh rillettes, which means all is immediately forgiven. 

Any diner bold enough could make it the perfect $6 lunch. But they’d be missing out on the Matilda must-order, a happy mix of picked spanner crab, finger lime, and sea succulents scooped from a crab carapace onto charry unleavened bread. It’s a fresh approach to classic flavours served with a designer’s eye. Not rich enough? Just add a smoosh of butter sprinkled with dried prawn dust.

Vue De Monde

To adopt its new Australian vernacular, Vue de Monde has more history than you can poke a stick at. The turn-of-the-century Carlton restaurant announced Westmeadows wunderkind, Shannon Bennett, to the world. It's a grand statement, slightly awkward sophomore period at Normanby Chambers. 

And the past eight years perched at the top of the Rialto, where this Melbourne fine dining star has taken the mantra of evolution rather than revolution as it journeys from French-leaning neo-classical purist to a restaurant with its Aussie-accented voice. 

With Bennett now splitting his time between Melbourne, Byron Bay, and the MasterChef set, how much of that shift can be attributed to the overlord himself and how much is due to various executive chef lieutenants anointed along the way, such as Mark Briggs, Cory Campbell and most recent incumbent Justin James, remains a matter of conjecture. 

And conjecture we food boffins will. All that garden-variety diners need to know is that this slick black-on-black dining room is in good hands with the new kid on the block. Hugh Allen is 24, a graduate of various Noma incarnations, and a brilliant fit for the Vue of now. 

A meal at Vue de Monde is still dressed in the accoutrements of the Euro gastro-palaces Bennett came of age emulating. A Champagne trolley greets you on arrival; a cheese trolley helps bid adieu. But this classical sandwich contains a modern filling that’s a more subtle taste of Australia than before. The intense moments have largely been banished; the mood is light-hearted rather than quasi-religious. 

Take heed of the bread: a pumpkin scone that shades Flo Bjelke-Petersen. Take heed of the obligatory Crudo number: lightly cured kingfish and avocado in a palate-brightening drift of wasabi “snow” conjured from Tassie-grown Japanese horseradish and frozen buttermilk. It’s cool, fresh and modern, with a polite measure of nostril-rattling edge. 

romantic restaurants (2)

Attica

The last time Time Out checked in on Attica, it was 2012, and things were somewhat different. Ben Shewry and his then-wife Natalia weren’t yet sole owners, for one. The Iva Foschia makeover to celebrate their exclusive possession of the keys hadn’t yet blackened the timber walls and conjured a dining room worthy of Shewry’s sublime cooking. 

Perhaps most pertinently – at least for the Shewry family accountant and the busy individual who takes the bookings - it hadn’t climbed to numero uno in Australia on the World’s Best Restaurants list.

Vive la difference. These days Shewry's captain of his ship. The restaurant has undergone a sexy yet understated makeover that finally banished the ghosts of bank buildings past. Rippon Lea Estate kindly provides sprawling kitchen gardens exclusively for the suburb’s favourite son.

Like Neil Finn, Shewry is one of those Kiwis we like to claim as our own (nb: they can keep Russell Crowe), but you can tell by his cooking that he’s got the maverick eye of the outsider. Attica 2.0 gives a cheeky spin on Aussie-isms that a homegrown chef might overlook. 

There’s a play on smashed avo on toast, a canapé built for the Millennial debate, value-added with finger lime and juvenile Ripponlea herbs. There’s a mini saltbush lamb pie in a Vegemite-addled crust, making a delicious gentle dig. Even the bread goes native: sour damper made with fermented native grains and served with butter and macadamia cream.

You’d imagine being a World’s Best Restaurants darling could be the cooking world’s equivalent of an albatross, leaving chefs of a lesser character hell-bent on holding onto that status with their cold, dead fingers. Instead of being food from the crypt, however, Attica is nothing less than a breath of fresh air.

Marion Wine Bar

A firm local favourite, this Fitzroy stalwart has recently extended its outdoor dining onto the street to allow for more socially distanced feasting. Accidentally (on purpose), touch hands with your date as you scoop up tasty morsels from Marion’s share plates. 

The burrata, rockmelon, prosciutto and sherry vinegar is perfect for a warm evening – especially when paired with a bottle of 2018 Inkwell ‘Tangerine’ Skin-contact Viognier. Order the cos heart salad with sour cream, fried anchovy and parsley – you will not be disappointed.

Farmer's Daughters

The newest labour of love for Alejandro Saravia – of Pastuso fame – has been in the works for four years. This restaurant, housed in the new 80 Collins development, is a three-story ode to the abundant produce of Gippsland. 

Whether you choose to sip cocktails on the rooftop – designed around a greenhouse – or enjoy a few plates of Gippsland’s finest produce at the restaurant, chances are you’ll want to stop by the deli for some take-home treats before calling it a night.

Gimlet

The grandeur of this 1920s building will have you wishing you’d donned a string of pearls or a bow tie for dinner at Gimlet at Cavendish House. Indulgence is the operative word at this Gatsby-Esque dining experience, with Beluga caviar and Rock oysters with seaweed butter and rye on the appetiser list. Large windows and sparkling chandeliers cast ambient light over the red velvet booths and elegantly set tables – the scene is laced with romance.

Chancery Lane

‘For friends, strangers, partners, lovers…’ is the self-professed tagline of this sparkling new restaurant by Melbourne hospitality stalwart Scott Pickett. A four-course Valentine’s Day dinner featuring John Dory, Yarra Valley salmon roe and creamed kale – with seductive sides to share – could kick off your love affair with this glamorous fine dining establishment. 

Its Collins Street digs have been fitted out to emulate a European-inspired bistro – with a focus on opulence, luxury and indulgence in the finer things in life.

Cutler & Co

The folks at Cutler & Co know a thing or two about the ingredients that make a romantic date night – they’ve been in the fine dining restaurant game going on 12 years now. Curious diners can put their faith in the chef with the Chef’s Selection Menu – add the Sommelier’s Selection for true commitment to the ride. 

A dedicated vegetarian tasting menu will take you and your zucchini flower – we mean date – from one mouth-watering dish to another, with an apple mint sorbet, blueberries and lemon verbena to cleanse the palate.

Di Stasio Citta

If your perfect date resembles a scene from Lady and the Tramp, then this Italian trattoria is the perfect backdrop to your pasta-slurping fantasy. This St Kilda restaurant brings together owner Di Stasio’s dedication to the Melbourne hospitality scene, a love of Avant guard art and his familial home of Italy. 

For maximum commitment to the movie theme, share the Linguine Capri with prawns, parsley, lemons and (that all-important ingredient) sunshine.

romantic restaurants

Etta dining

The small and intimate dining area in this Brunswick East restaurant is ideal for cosying up with a date. The seasonal menu caters well to vegetarian diners – order the woodfired eggplant with crispy enoki, roast sesame and silken rice off the summer menu. And the pork belly rib with oyster and vets ‘from the fire’ is sure to satisfy a more carnivorous inclined partner. 

The paired back ‘Sunday Sessions’ offer a refined menu of bar snacks, including the housemade sourdough bread with sumac butter or devilled blue swimmer crab on toast.

TarraWarra Estate

If you’re keen to venture outside the bounds of Melbourne city, a day trip to the Yarra Valley will certainly win you some brownie points. Stop off for lunch or dinner at the picturesque TarraWarra Estate in Yarra Glen – just over an hour’s drive from the Melbourne CBD. 

The wine list itself is enough of a drawcard to this intimate dining experience; however, the tasting menu – available also in a plant-based version – and the view from the floor-to-ceiling windows will have you whiling away the hours in satisfied bliss.

Cumulus Inc

'Eating house' doesn't quite cut it. ‘All-day diner’ falls worryingly short. When trying to sum up the place Cumulus Inc plays in Melbourne’s hungry heart, ‘favourite clubhouse’ comes as close as any description. And maybe that’s the thing about our winner of the 2018 Legend Award. 

Cumulus Inc is so many different things to so many different people. For city office workers, it’s the perfect show-off gaff for breakfast meetings with out-of-towners (bonus points for feigned nonchalance in the face of its boast-worthy fabulousness). For solo launchers, it’s a place where singleton status is never a problem.

(all the better to study the grooming habits of fellow diners). Come evening. It’s the kind of place you want to think about sensible footwear to endure the inevitable queue. And you can’t lay claim to being a true Melburnian if you haven’t been in for late-night Negronis and the fuzzy memory to go with them the next day. 

Legend status is warranted for Andrew McConnell being the first chef in Melbourne to think of serving a tin of Ortiz anchovies. It comes with the tuna tartare with goats’ curd, and crushed peas spawned a thousand imitators. 

It trails in the wake of the show-stopper slow-roasted lamb shoulder, the recipe for which A-Mac has shared in print but which somehow never tastes as good not in situ. And as for the rum baba, where the whole bottle is handed over to glug onto the sponge cake at will? You guessed it. Legend.

Tempura Hajime

The Japanese cuisine spectrum is astounding. At one end, $2 hand rolls; at the other, perfectly crafted mouthfuls of art for which you would happily part with $75. Being almost impossible to find and seating just 12 people, Hajime is definitely at the latter end of the range. This is a real tempura house, and the quality of these morsels of magic compared to some of the Japanese available in Melbourne is like the difference between line-caught bluefin tuna and the fish John West rejects.

Upon entering, you are gently ushered through the tranquil waiting room and seated around a semi-hexagonal bar. You are invited to choose either the tempura or the tempura sushi set ($75/$85). Aside from the impressive list of sake and good wine selection, this is where your choice ends but relax: you’re in hands far more capable than your own. 

First, you are presented with sashimi, everything the dish should be, with real wasabi and firm, fresh-as-hell kingfish, tuna and prawn. Next, you are set up with a dipping station featuring dishes of salt, lemon juice and soy broth into which you disperse a ball of grated radish.

 Assorted tempura of asparagus, scallops filled with creamy urchin roe, prawn and smoked eel are then presented piece by piece with instructions of “lemon only” or “dip please”. Finally, the chef prepares the sushi main, his hands moving with such speed and accuracy it’s like watching martial arts mixed with brain surgery. 

Diners watch in silent awe as perfect nigiri are assembled in seconds, flambéed with a torch and basted in lemon. The skill is so sublime and the service so gentle and efficient that you sit there feeling like an ungainly rhinoceros. This cannot be helped, so try to behave nicely and enjoy.

Conclusion

Here’s how to make a romantic dinner in Melbourne. First step: book early. Especially around the dreaded V-Day. Most of the city’s swankier eateries fill up weeks in advance, and if you leave it too late, the maître d’ will laugh at you down the phone. 

Second: pick somewhere small, cosy, intimate. Candlelight if you can get it. Avoid the trendy but frantic CBD hotspots where it’s too loud to deploy all that witty and seductive banter (that means you, sorry Chin Chin). 

This list was tough because there are a lot of great restaurants in Melbourne that fit these criteria. But here are our favourites. Chuck on some Barry White and enjoy.

FAQs About Melbourne Restaurants

The restaurant should be intimate, but with sufficient space between tables; lively enough for an atmosphere, but not so loud that you can't hear your partner speak; and with lighting that's sufficiently muted to set the scene, but not so dark or so full of candles that you're inches away from being engulfed by flames.

Standard fine dining restaurant etiquette calls for women to be served first, then men, all in a clockwise fashion, for every stage of service during the meal.

6 Unique Ways to Impress Your Customer

  • Answer all their queries: Communicate to your customers that you are always approachable, and they can contact you very easily for small or large questions. ...
  • Go out of the way
  • Be spontaneous
  • Surprise them
  • Keep your promises
  • Treat them as your boss

Romantic Dinner Ideas on a Budget

  • Sausage and Tortellini Soup.
  • Pesto Pasta.
  • Southern Sweet Potatoes.
  • 4-Ingredient Chicken Roast.
  • Chicken Taquitos.
  • Have a Picnic.
  • Dream About the Future.
  • Be Tourists Together.

It's better to get stuck into your lunch sooner rather than later between 12.30 pm and 1 pm. 12.38 pm is the best time. And when it comes to dinner, the later you leave it, the worse it can be for your diet. The optimum time for dinner is between 6 pm and 6.30 pm, at 6.14 pm preferably.

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