Melbourne can be an expensive place, but that doesn’t mean you have to slum it. From bargain blow waves to express lunches at Melbourne’s fine dining establishments, here’s our handy guide to some of the best deals in town. This list may or may not include a $15 blow dry…
Eats & Drinks
While there are some seriously good cheap eats in Melbourne town, today we’re talking fancy feasts at five-star venues, without the three-figure price tag.
Our mates at Bomba do a cracking $15 lunch special with a tapa, main and side for a measly $15. Think quail with pistachio and buckwheat or smoked eel croqueta to start with, Pedro Ximinez braised pork jowl with cauliflower for your main, and a side of patatas bravas. Add on a massive glass of sangria or a sherry for $5 and you’ll be full and pleasantly tingly. Sure beats a boring sanga.
Attica. Yep, we went there. Before you neck your $9 bottle of shiraz in shock, let me explain. While Wednesdays through Sundays you’ll be coughing up some serious moolah for their tasting menu (add in matching wines and you’re looking at around two weeks’ rent), the Tuesday Night Chef’s Table option is a more palatable $140 pp (wines additional). We’re not suggesting a standing weekly booking or saying it’s cheap, but here’s an opportunity to enjoy five courses of the most innovative food in town at a relatively reasonable price.
On the other end of the scale, Tuesdays means $15 pad Thai and Tiger pots at St Hotel. Trivia’s on from 7:30, so it’s essentially dinner and a show.
The Grazing Table option at Syracuse offers fancy fare at a steal. For bookings of four or more, after 6pm, you’ll feast on five courses for $25 per person ($100 per table). That’s three sharing plates and two large plates—think Duck liver brûlée, with mandarin and grilled sourdough, and Smoked Aylesbury duck breast, with grilled gem lettuce, roquefort dressing and lentil jus. Drool.
For an upmarket steak night, bypass the local and head to South Yarra fave The Botanical. On Thursdays it’s $25 for steak served with fries, salad, and a glass of vino or beer. Nearby, Prahran locals can enjoy a two-course dinner and glass of wine at David’s for $33 on Mondays, and the truly exceptional set menu at Highline will set you back a not-ridiculous $70 for five courses.
On the other side of town, Smith Street’s much lauded Saint Crispin is surprisingly affordable, with two courses (dinner Tuesday – Thursday, lunch and dinner Friday – Sunday) for $50. Nearby, Huxtable has a fixed price lunch menu on weekdays, where diners are asked to choose one bite, such as a Jalapeño and cheddar croquette, a main option such as Dory, saffron-buttered leeks, rainbow chard and cloudy bay clams, and one side to top it off, for $30 per person. Over in Northcote, Estelle Bistro serve a 'Seasonal Sunday Lunch', where you’ll bag three delicious courses and a glass of wine for $50.
The Press Club’s another fancy pants Melbourne restaurant that’s keeping it real with a great lunch deal, Monday through Saturday. From 12pm, dine on two top notch Greek-inspired courses for $35.
Also in the CBD, Om Nom Kitchen & Dessert Bar offers a special lunch menu where you can try some of their iconic dishes for only $38 from Monday to Friday. You’ll get three dishes, including one of their mind-blowing desserts.
Speaking of Om Nom, sweet tooths should check out Two Tart Tuesday at both the Emporium and South Yarra Adriano Zumbo stores. Buy one tart and receive the second half price. Sweet.
Looking good don’t come cheap, but there are a few ways to get your gorge on without breaking the bank. While we wouldn’t suggest scrimping when it comes to a quality cut and colour, it brings a tear to our eye to hand over 60 smackers for a BLOW DRY. The Poodle Blow Dry Bar in South Yarra does an express blow wave for $35 and Blo Bar in Oakleigh is also on the cheaper end of the scale at $40. Many of Melbourne’s best blow dry bars, like The Blowout Bar in Toorak, also offer discounts when you purchase a series of treatments.
If you really want to penny pinch, head to a BIBA Academy on Swanston or Gertrude Street, where you can get a banging blow dry from a trainee from $15. Bookings and walk ins are welcome.
There are dozens of cheap spray tan deals in Melbourne but, as someone who’s been mistaken for an oompa loompa one time too many, I’m sticking with the experts. Most good spray tanning salons in Melbourne sell 5-10 pack deals, which are definitely worth considering if you like a golden glow from spring through summer. Luella Beauty Bar in Prahran does a beautiful, natural tan and offers a 10 pack for $359, while St Kilda East’s Beautyologist is bargain central at just $300.
The cost of makeup can be extortionate, but ain’t no way we gonna give it up! Pro-tip: Next time you’re planning on splurging at a Mecca store, make sure it coincides with an event you want to look super spesh for. Book in for a five-star makeover with one of their gun makeup artists and they’ll create a fully customised look for you for $90, redeemable on prodz purchased on the day.
For pretty much any of your beautification needs, you’d be bonkers not to book in at The Salon at Beauty EDU’s Melbourne CBD campus. We know what you’re thinking—I may want to save my biccies, but I still want my back rejuvenation treatment to be done in the lap of luxury, dammit!—however, this is the most pimped out beauty school we’ve ever laid eyes on. More day spa than clinical classroom, they offer a huge selection of treatments, from massages to makeup, waxing and brow and lash grooming (a lash tint’s just 8 bucks), to a 75-minute spa mani for $20(!!), foot therapy, facials and blissful body treatments. Super stressed? The 45-minute Indian head massage for $15 has your name on it.
Health & Fitness
Fitness Classes & Gyms
Gym memberships are exxy and often they don’t deliver all you’re after, which means you then fork out even MORE MONEY for an extra yoga or barre studio membership on top. But that doesn’t mean you should be a lazy lump. Consider making nifty fitness app KFit your new best friend instead. For a single (and reasonable) monthly fee, you’ll have access to a bunch of Melbourne’s best fitness classes and studios. Get your friends to sign up too and you can swap one of your twice-weekly wine and whine sessions for a reformer class. Your body and your bank balance will thank you.
Before you lock yourself into a studio, we would never ever ever suggest you pimp yourself around a bit, taking advantage of the two-week trial offers at some of Melbourne’s best yoga studios. Seriously, don’t do that. It’s bad.
Hey, did we mention that most yoga and Pilates studios do awesome intro or trial offers? One of our faves, One Hot Yoga, offers a crazy-good deal: the One Hot Yogi 2 Week Trial Membership, which gets you unlimited hot yoga, power yoga and yin yoga, plus hot mat Pilates. An actual steal at $25.
Or if it’s a serious case of 2 Minute Noodles ‘til payday, you can drop in to the free yoga, pilates or barre classes held at lululemon stores across Melbourne. Check out the website to see what’s on near you.
Public transport may be smart, but it’s not exactly sexy. Plus, keeping your myki topped up can drain the dollies pretty quickly. Our pick for looking chic and saving cash? Invest in some stylish, eco-friendly wheels. Reid Cycles is your pal for thrifty transport—ladies, you can currently pick up their pretty Vintage Ladies 7-Speed Classic PLUS for a tidy $249. Think of what you’ll save on parking, taxis and petrol AND think of the fitness benefits. It’s win-win.
Even if you’re not a once-a-week movie buff like me, not getting a membership card to one of Melbourne’s great cinemas (I like Palace, Cinema Nova and Yarraville’s Sun Theatre because they let me drink wine), is seriously crazy. It’ll cost you $10-$20 for a year, but pays for itself after just a few flicks. You’ll also get fun things like special offers and a free movie ticket for your birthday.
Nova also has the answer to your mundane Mondays with cheap as chips flicks—$7 before 4pm if you’re really lucky and don’t have a job, or $9 after 4pm.
They say laughter is free, and it almost is with this spiffing offer from The Comic’s Lounge in North Melbourne. For $50 you’ll get a Gold Comedy Card, and you and a mate can hit up any comedy show of your choice for a year (find a fellow fan of laughing and split the cost?). If you see more than two shows in a year, you’re laughing.
Stay tuned for a cheapskate’s guide to bagging high-end bargains in Melbourne.
Love bargains? Check out our round-up of Melbourne's Best Op Shops.
Image credit: Chocolate mandarin dessert by The Press Club via Facebook