Whether it’s your turn to organise the anniversary celebrations (dammit) or you need to get back into your mother’s good graces (one day you’ll learn), Melbourne’s best fine dining bars are a winning choice. Hitting the sweet spot with top-notch wines, balanced cocktails and delightful dishes, here are Melbourne’s best fine dining bars.
The brainchild of ex-Attica and Rockwell and Sons, Bar Liberty serves innovative share-style dishes alongside a quality drinks menu. Wines are on point, with the drinks menu filled with quirky explanatory notes for the drinking virgin (do these exist?). The contemporary, sleek interior is compact—there’s just one communal bar bench and a handful of tables. If it feels exclusive, that’s because it is. And you’ll love it.
Exposed, worn wooden floors complement French Saloon’s deep timber tables. Picturesque and reminiscent of a boutique French bistro, French Saloon is effortlessly classy. Just like you, amirite? Food is on par with Melbourne’s finest, featuring refined, confident dishes helpfully paired with a generous wine menu. In summer, the bright blue and red outdoor courtyard make it the ideal drinking hole.
The Town Mouse is clearly designed for sharing, before you even get your eager hands on the menu. The space is set up into two sections—tall tables and stools and a cosy, circular communal bar bench. Featuring dark grey and black tones, Town Mouse is instantly recognisable as one of Melbourne’s best upmarket, modern bar slash restaurant hybrids. Expect slow roasted red cabbage with prunes, parmesan and red apple…Best. Vegetables. Ever.
Saké Restaurant and Bar
Overlooking Melbourne’s (slightly) unimpressive Yarra River, Saké Restaurant and Bar is anything but. Bringing sexy, fresh Japanese cuisine to Melbourne’s waterfront, Saké features a mouth-wateringly good black miso aged rib eye with shimeji, oyster mushrooms, broccolini and yakiniku soy. The drinks menu (don’t attempt to read it in it’s 20-page entirety), is home to specialised Saké and local, Australian wines.
Championing simple, fresh produce in impeccably presented dishes, Collingwood’s Saint Crispin has one of the best local and international wine lists in Melbourne. From France to Spain, Italy to Austria—red-lovers will have a serious decision ahead of them. Food is served in courses of two to seven, with choices including kangaroo loin with pickled cucumber, bonito, nori, kohlrabi and nashi pear (hint: choose this one).
Moon Under Water
If you’re not exactly a wine aficionado, Moon Under Water is a top choice to put on your training wheels. Offering paired wines with their three, four and six course menus, enjoy the best of the best in Moon Under Water’s sophisticated, elegant space. Featuring velvet green floors and polished white hues, dishes are simplicity at its best.
Meaning secret treasure in Japanese, we haven’t found a more appropriately named bar slash restaurant in Melbourne yet. Dim lighting and dark leather furnishing creates a cosy, intimate space at Hihou. With asymmetric timber features and a concrete ceiling, Hihou is one of Melbourne’s best looking restaurants. The menu, designed to share, includes a rotating main dish of the week. Japanese wine, sake and beer dominate the drinks, and we highly doubt you’ll miss your favourite brew.
Split into bistro, bar and dining sections, The Botanical is three venues rolled into one extremely neat, good-looking package. The drinks menu, you’ll be pleased to hear, remains similar throughout the three distinct areas. If you’re after a relaxed, upmarket bar—head to The Botanical bar. Special occasion? The dining room is home to moreish French and Mediterranean cuisine you’ll be more than happy to pay for.
It used to be a hidden gem down Crossley Street in Melbourne’s CBD, but nowadays you’re more likely to find a queue underneath Gingerboy’s neon red sign. Featuring dynamic, sophisticated Asian-inspired dishes like the crowd favourite twice cooked pork belly with plum and ginger relish and green apple slaw, Gingerboy’s menu has hints of Malaysian, Thai and Chinese cuisine. That, and a generous wine and cocktail list, sounds like a lot for one restaurant to take on, but Gingerboy easily delivers.
If you’re anything like my anchovy-adverse self, Richmond’s Vietnamese-inspired Anchovy had alarm bells ringing. Not to worry, anchovies hardly play a part at this bright restaurant, with the only parallels being Anchovy’s delicate, petite menu. Expect skirt steak tartare with chilli, cucumber and upland cress or pan fried whole flounder with a curry vinaigrette and fennel. The drinks menu is considered with a handful of local brews, international wines and classic cocktails. All in all, Anchovy is much more impressive than its namesake.
After splurging on fine dining bars you'll definitely need this list of the 20 Free Things To In April!
Image credit: Town Mouse, John Newcombe for The Urban List.