I have passed that tipping point in my life where I’ve now spent more of my days partnered up than I have flying solo. Scary, no? So when friends ask me for tips on Melbourne’s best restaurant to take a new belle or beau, I have to cast my mind back to those in-between months, when my dates fell into three broad categories:
The good: Thankfully, most of my early encounters with Simon fall into this zone.
The bad: Like that time in London when a banker took me to Barbacoa, and we both ate so much meat we couldn’t, errr, move afterwards.
The ugly: My one dalliance with online dating, with a 5ft4 sculptor. We met at a pub in Albert Park, and from memory we shared a $15 steak. Obviously I should have hot-footed it right there and then, but somehow he convinced me to come back to his studio – more of a big shed, really – and then invited me to sit under his giant turtle sculpture. I escaped the mad clutches of Turtle Man and deleted my profile the following day.
So with this pedigree, why would you want my suggestions on how to wine and dine your date? Well, I may be rusty when it comes to courting, but this lady sure knows how to eat. And I’m a big proponent of drinking on the job, so these romance-revving Melbourne restaurants all team stellar food with standout booze. I can’t guarantee they’ll land you in the sack, but I can *almost* promise you won’t end up under a giant turtle. You’re welcome.
OK, I know I bang on about this seductive South Yarra restaurant, but that’s because it’s so damn good. I would eat pasta for every meal if I could, but sometimes a saucy bolognese just isn’t going to cut it when you’re out to impress. Enter the 38 Chairs duck ragu with curly pappardelle. You can cut that pasta into delicate little mouthfuls and still enjoy it with gusto. Chin and cheeks remain clean; carb craving is satisfied. Everybody wins. 4A Bond St, South Yarra.
The lobster mac cheese is enough to make anyone weak at the knees, the whisky cocktails are a sure-fire party-starter, and the dimly lit dining room and secluded booths certainly get my seal of approval. Plus, this CBD eatery has barely just thrown open its doors, so you’ll get bonus points for having your finger on the pulse. But, if you order all the beef, you may be edging towards my ill-fated Barbacoa experience. Remember: There’s nothing sexy about meat sweats. Basement, 195 Little Collins St, Melbourne.
Hammer & Tong
Now, I’m way too old/attached for Tinder, but I imagine if I was swiping my way through the single scene of Melbourne I would, on occasion, deem a brunch date to be in order. And that’s where Hammer & Tong could be your hot ticket. Not only do these guys have a winning way with eggs, they’re also happy to pour you a Bloody Marie or a margarita at any time of day. It’s worth noting that if you’re at third or fourth date stage, then the soft-shell crab burger is totally permissible. And totally awesome. Rear 412 Brunswick St, Fitzroy.
How can I not include Anada, home to my first date with my soon-to-be husband. We can laugh now that he was 45 minutes late, but all I can say is Gamboni was damn lucky the staff at this buzzy tapas joint were happy to ply me with olives and sherry while I waited for him to sheepishly slink in. Not only was he tardy, he also waited until I’d ordered half the menu to tell me he only had half a stomach. Somehow we made it through, thanks to the free-flowing albarino, fabulous Andalusian fare, and the dessert platter the waiter sprung upon us. 197 Gertrude St, Fitzroy. [NB: Simon returned the favour by taking me out for a fajita stack at TGIFridays… no words.]
Vue de Monde
And if money is no object, then why the hell are you reading this blog, cowboy? Just book Vue de Monde (that’s their pavlova pictured up front). Kick things off with an espresso martini in Lui Bar (undoubtedly Melbourne’s best, with wow-worthy views to match), then put your feet up and let Shannon Bennett do the rest. Deal. Sealed. Level 55, Rialto, 525 Collins St, Melbourne.