There’s no use denying it any more – Christmas is well and truly upon us, and with it comes a spate of holiday parties. 2015 is nearly at its inevitable conclusion, and regardless of whether you had a kickass year full of personal and professional successes (congratulations) or a comically bad series of crushing mishaps (commiserations), it’s time to kick up your heels.
Here are the best venues in town to toast the spoils of the year. They’re good for drinks with both work buddies or close friends – but remember, you’ll have to wear the consequences of making out with either.
The Botanical is beautifully situated on the edge of the Botanic Gardens and offers three-course luncheons as well as opulent fine dining. Function spaces are available for special events, and catering can be tailored to suit dietary requirements – they’ll also organise décor, audio visual equipment, and entertainment. The Botanical recently started doing brunches that are equal parts champagne and chia – so whether you’re after a family catch-up or early morning team drinks, it’s definitely a stylish choice.
Nine years young and a hit with locals, LULO is a beautifully relaxed South American Restaurant with group menus available for 8 to 35 people. A LULO lunch features five courses to share, as well as a glass of house wine or sangria, while the dinner menu offers a chef’s selection of Latin-inspired dishes. Alongside your patatas bravas, jamon, croquetas and churros, you can savour Argentinian and Chilean wine, Spanish beers and experimental cocktails.
There’s no better way to feel Supernormal with your work colleagues or visiting cousins than scoffing down dumplings at Andrew McConnell’s Japanese-style diner. It’s a venue with built-in conversation starters; like the Japanese snack vending machines, and the open-plan kitchen where a squad of chefs execute dishes at warp speed. The private dining room can be booked for up to 40 people for meals (or 60 for cocktails) and includes access to the basement karaoke den. Bonus!
The award-winning dining room at The Grand serves up traditional Italian food in a setting that’s appropriately swanky for end-of-year celebrations. The menu has won The Age Good Food Guide’s Chef Hat for the last ten years in a row – plus, it’s got tick-the-box staples like house-made pasta and twice-cooked duck, as well as antipasto platters and bombolini donuts. Three different-sized spaces are on offer, as well as a roomy lounge bar with arguably one of the best beer gardens in Melbourne.
A kooky conversation-piece of a restaurant that fits right in on Smith Street, Shu specialises in reinvented Sichuan cuisine. It’s now taking group bookings for Christmas or New Years parties – the perfect opportunity to try out their glorified street hawker snacks and outré aperitifs. Nearly a third of the menu is vegan, and Shu also offers a vegan 10-12 dish degustation every Wednesday for $45 per head. All-You-Can-Eat-Dumplings happens every Thursday, too.
Inspired by travels through Peru and Argentinia, the food at Piqueos is a tasty mix of regional and street dishes that offer something a little bit different for Christmas shindigs. The space is best suited to smaller parties, though special bookings for groups of 8 or more can be made. The $65 tasting menu is a fantasy feast of barbequed meats, fat empanadas and fried provolone. And of course, no trip to Peru would be complete without a Pisco Sour or four - not to mention quirky wines sourced from Patagonia, Mendoza and Salta.
Tucked inside Hamer Hall, Sake is a stunning yet relxed Japanese restaurant which can fit up to 36 seated or 60 cocktail guests. There are two set menus for large groups – one full of signature dishes, the other featuring the chef’s selections of the day. Either way, you’ll have no difficulty getting into the party spirit after a few sake bombs and cheekily named cocktails, judiciously (or not) mixed in with assorted dumplings and colourful handrolls. The riverbank view ain’t bad, either!
The Wilde is not only extremely close to the city, but it also has a colonial-themed function room called the Explorer’s Club, with wide open spaces for up to 60 people. What more could you want? How about a free pool table, projector and dart board? Oh yeah!
Share a couple of rounds of Christmas cocktails under the bright and beady eyes of taxidermied peacocks and parrots at the Carlton Club’s Dining Room - it fits up to 50 guests seated, or up to 80 guests standing. Head upstairs to the copacabana-style Palmz Deck or tiki-tastic Hasti Bala, where private booths can be reserved with drinks delivered right to your table. The retractable roof awnings on the upper levels ensure you’ll be protected from the temperamental Melbourne weather should you decide to book a BBQ package.
This South Melbourne gem recently reopened after a massive refurbishment. They’ve ditched their gastropub shtick for a succinct new menu full of smoke and flavour which focuses on Spanish and South American food, painstakingly prepared with local, seasonal produce. Groups can book a cocktail room, a wine room, a sunroom or – if the occasion calls for it – take over the entire dining space at Lamaro's.
Want more of the best Christmas party venues in Melbourne? Search 'Function Space' in The Directory!