Food and drinks are great and all, but when it comes to putting the icing on the cake of dining out, service that gives you the warm fuzzies is where it’s at. From an impressive-yet-not-intimidating array of factoids about the menu, to table service with an unforced smile—even at 1.30am—to presentation flourishes that’d put our Olympic gymnastics team to shame. Here are the Melbourne restaurants really nailing service right now. Bravo, you hospo heroes.
Northside newcomer Host is surely one of the most interesting restaurants that’s popped up in a Melbourne laneway of late. Thankfully, here, ‘interesting’ doesn’t translate as ‘way to f-n hipster for you’ and instead means excellent wine recommendations, down-to-earth help when it comes to those obscure ingredients, and no scrimping on the sourdough portions.
If you’re looking for one restaurant to splash out on this season, Amaru—an intimate eatery in Armadale run by an ex-Vue de Mode chef and front of house team—should be your pick. The sommelier service here is second-to-none, and even when dishes are served with a flourish, you’ll feel ENTIRELY OKAY asking random questions, like ‘what’s that black stuff on top of it?’.
The last time we ate here, ex-Attica chef—Pete Gunn, who runs the good ship Ides, came out for a chat about how he swaps ingredient tip-offs with local eateries and loves nothing more than a burger once he’s knocked off for the night. An authentically creative restaurant, with service to match.
I’d die a happy—if broke—woman if all restaurants treated their customers the way the team at Thai-inspired, off-the-wall, degustation-only restaurant Nora does. I know what you’re thinking, it sounds high-concept so you’re likely to get served by wankers, but seriously, the service at this restaurant is just the right side of personable, with a dollop of Thai-nglish thrown in for the lols.
Can a restaurant that serves food until 3am really promise service with a smile, even if you’re the last order of the night? Imitable CBD restaurant Dutchess does just this, serving life-affirming steaks, seafood and nibbles in its buzzing restaurant and bar until the wee hours—in a way that makes you feel as if your dish will be treated with as much care as the staff’s firstborn. Pure dining ecstasy.
An oldie but a goodie, Woodland House is for you classicists out there. White tablecloths, traditional décor, and wine glasses the size of your head are the finishing touches that make this restaurant’s gracious service an absolute treat, especially if you’re treating your folks—who just don’t get the idea of share plates, or why kitchens put Sriracha in every-bloody-thing these days.
In a similar vein to Dutchess, Prahran’s Japanese jewel—Toko—has a killer soundtrack and an up-beat vibe, meaning that if you’re anything like me, you’re all too paranoid that the service is going to be somewhat chaotic and laissez-faire. But at this sashimi haven, it’s anything but. Whether you’re kicking back with a sake-laced cocktail at the bar, popping in for the express lunch, or settling down for an entire evening of indulgence—team Toko always delivers.
Set-degustation concept dining is DEFINITELY something that relies on cracking service to ensure that a) you have a vague idea of what’s going on, and b) you still care about what’s going on after course number thirteen. South Melbourne restaurant Lume nails a blissful balance between hinting at what you’re going to experience, and still managing to surprise you after two hours of tucking into edible artworks. It might not be up everyone’s alley (if you’re the sort of person who always orders the steak and chips, this one ain’t for you…), but if you’re looking for service that’s an experience, rather than a necessity, book your table, pronto.
The Meat & Wine Co
Southbank, South Yarra, Hawthorn East
The Meat & Wine Co is much more than your standard steak and veg joint. Combining some of the best steaks you’ll have with outstanding service. The staff are friendly and super knowledgeable about everything on the menu, and of course are more than happy to help you out with recommendations.
Image Credit: Dutchess, Michelle Jarni for The Urban List