MELBOURNE | There are lots of great Melbourne date night restaurants. How do you decide what a good restaurant is for a date night? Well everyone’s criteria will differ slightly. Personally, I say let’s go somewhere where things are loud and we have to get messy. Work your way around a meal that requires some effort and eating with your hands and I’ll be impressed!
Having said that, I know that’s not what you’re probably looking for if you’ve Googled “Melbourne date night restaurants” and have found your way to this page. You’re probably looking for something that’s busy, but not hectic, serves “nice” but not pretentious food, with low lighting and an ambience that is conducive to conversation.
With that in mind, here’s a selection of Melbourne restaurants that you should consider for date night if you want to impress your date. And who knows, maybe I’ll do an alternative list using my other definition down the line.
ARU features a menu influenced by the flavours of South East Asia and Australian native ingredients. It’s one of the city’s most innovative restaurants, with fire and fermentation playing a big part. Reserve a table in the quiet, low lit rear part of the restaurant, or perch up on the bar with your date for a view of the kitchen in action.
Hidden down a basement on Lonsdale Street, Bar Margaux is is from the team behind Heartbreaker and The Everleigh. It has a French bistro meets prohibition era speakeasy vibe about it. Low lighting, chequered tiles, lots of wood and leather, booths and the like. There’s a great wine and cocktail list and a French inspired menu.
This Brunswick East local’s favourite has gone from strength to strength since it first opened. Under the stewardship of owner Hannah Green, and head chef Rosheen Kaul, Etta nails the food, drink, and atmosphere that you want on a date night. I highly recommend one of the booths on the side for a casual, yet sophisticated experience.
Hope St Radio
One of the best new openings of the past year, Hope St Radio is a bar/restaurant/indie radio station that’s unlike anything else in Melbourne. The food menu features a rotating, seasonal selection of comforting food with a fresh spin. For wine, there’s a focus on interesting, minimal-intervention drops from around the world. Your date will definitely be impressed.
IDES is the brilliant modern Australian Fitzroy restaurant by Peter Gunn. The former Attica sous chef ran it for three years as a monthly pop-up before opening up on Smith Street in 2016. The technique driven menu is full of bold seasonal flavours and changes regularly. It might be famous for the ‘Black Box’ MasterChef dessert, but everything here is fantastic.
Part of the recently opened Next Hotel, La Madonna is not your typical hotel restaurant. It features a seasonal menu that leans Italian with Asian flourishes. The kitchen also draws upon the bar’s barrel ageing program for some unique dishes. Come for dinner, then enjoy a cocktail with views in the adjoining bar.
At Lagoon Dining, a team of Ezard Melbourne alumni create food that bounces between Cantonese and Sichuan, with a bit of a Japanese, and occasional nods to Lygon Street’s Italian heritage for good measure. It’s contemporary, delicious, and a lot of fun.
The fitout at Lesa is relaxed and refined, with a European ski resort cabin kind of feel about it. Lots of wood, rustic furniture, vintage posters, and soft lighting. Co-owner and head chef Dave Verheul’s food is simple, creative, and technique driven with seasonal ingredients, unseasonal fermented goodness, and a keen use of fire in the kitchen. For a more casual vibe, Embla (downstairs) is also great.
Shane Delia’s restaurant Maha is arguably more of a “date night” restaurant then its more casual Collingwood sibling, Maha Bar. However, this intimate diner has a charm that I think works great for a date. The food and drinks are delicious, taking you on a journey through Malta, Turkey, Lebanon and more.
Mono XO is a chill, intimate venue, with a broadly Japanese influenced menu by owner/chef Sam Stafford. The food is contemporary and exciting, and the space is definitely one for conversations where you won’t be overpowered by music and the sound of the other diners. This influence carries on to the drinks menu, which features biodynamic wines, highballs, and other creative cocktails.
Netpune Food & Wine
This venue is long and narrow, with low lighting, exposed brick, timber, and polished concrete floors. This leads into a section with a mixture of tables and booths, with a lounge and fireplace. Neptune’s wine list features something for everyone, with a fantastic selection of over 300 wines. For food, it’s a modern Mediterranean menu features simple food which pairs well with wine.
After several years of planning and lockdown related delays, the Melbourne outpost of Sydney restaurant NOMAD, is here. It’s only just opened and is already kicking goals. Executive chef Jacqui Challinor’s menu focuses on fire and locally-sourced produce. It’s all presented in a modern, welcoming space.
Old Palm Liquor
Old Palm Liquor is a casual space, with lots of browns and timber, a long blackwood bar, and curved wooden ceiling fans. Very relaxed and chill in a way that suits a date perfectly. Chef Almay Jordaan’s food is centred around a large wood-fired grill, and draws upon Jordaan’s South Africa heritage. It’s excellent, as is the drinks list.
The fun food menu at Poodle puts a contemporary Italian leaning spin on retro and kitschy dishes. It’s backed up by a drinks list that’s exciting and delicious. The space features low lights, dark wood panelling, marble, and tiles create an air of Milan meets Paris. There’s also a rooftop bar if that’s more your style.
Local’s favourite Rascal started life as a wine bar before morphing into a part bar part bottle shop during lockdown. On the drinks front, there’s an extensive array of old and new world beers, wines, spirits, cocktails and non-alcoholic products. Food is casual and quality, with a focus on local, sustainable produce. Book one of the booths, which are perfect for a date.
Have you been to any of these Melbourne date night restaurants before? Have you got any suggestions that you think people should know about? Check out my Melbourne City Guide for more tips on where to eat and drink, and what to do in Victoria’s bustling capital.