Melbourne’s best restaurants make charming backdrops for any special occasion. Whether you’re marking a birthday, a date night, an anniversary, or a professional achievement, Australia’s second-most populous city, long considered Victoria’s cultural heart, has a table for you.
A low-lit, Japanese charmer in the Central Business District, known for seasonal sushi and robata offerings, calls for intimate special occasions. In Brunswick East, a lively, Lebanese spot, ideal for more boisterous get-togethers, serves up one of the city’s best shareable feasts. To turn up the wow factor, head to a storied spot on the Mornington Peninsula, where oysters and kingfish crudo come with panoramic Port Phillip Bay views.
At these 12 special occasion restaurants in Melbourne, the food, service, and ambiance are made for festivities, so book a table now on OpenTable.
The best special occasion restaurants in Melbourne to book right now – read on for a guide.
For the wow factor – try La Madonna in Melbourne CBD
A sweeping Italian marble staircase guides you to La Madonna, a golden-lit restaurant and bar in CBD’s Next Hotel. Wow your guests at this swanky spot from powerhouse duo Danny Natoli (Zia Rina’s Cucina, Neptune Food and Wine) and Adrian Li (also of Rina’s and Tokyo Tina), that serves coffee and breakfast, through to cocktails and share plates. Menu highlights include grilled quail with rosemary and pickled pineapple, and blue swimmer crab linguini with broccolini, nori and yuzu. To drink there’s an Australian-focused by-the-glass wine list, local beers and standout cocktails such as Raspberry Berret, tequila, raspberry, shiso infused lillet blanc and lime. To level up your experience sip on a barrel-aged negroni in a private room lined with barrels ageing cocktails, spirits and herbal liquors.
For an intimate feast – book at Tulum Turkish Restaurant in Balaclava
Chef Coskun Uysal (Attica, Vue du Monde) honed his skills in Istanbul and London before opening Tulum Turkish Restaurant, to quick own a spot in the 2022 Gourmet Traveller Top 80 Australia’s Best Restaurants. The menu balances traditional Ottoman cuisine with modernity, using local seasonal ingredients to hone a Turkish east-meets-west approach to both the al la carte and 7-course set menu. Small plates shine, think borek filled with black truffle and aged turkish cheese, and fava (broad beans and molasses pate with roasted grapes) served with rye lavash bread. On the more substantial side, the braised lamb shoulder with smoked eggplant puree and tomato rice is a standout. Cosy up in the low-lit dining space, featuring splashes of turquoise tiling, with an Anatolian wine or inventive cocktail and enjoy the ‘best of’ Turkish cuisine.
For a glamourous cocktail experience – head over to The Everleigh in Fitzroy
Award-winning (World’s 50 best bars 2013, 2014) cocktail bar The Everleigh is inspired by the Golden Era of fine drinking. Ascend the stairs on Gertrude Street, into a dimly-lit, atmospheric space with leather booths, vintage furnishings and a stunning marble bar. Cocktail connoisseurs embrace the Bartender’s choice experience and witness mixology unfold based on their personal palate. Choose a house cocktail such as the catavino with cocchi Americano, amontillado sherry and bitters or book martini hour-a carafe for two with a selection of garnishes pre-dinner (5-7pm). Feeling peckish? There’s accoutrements to complement your cocktail in this glamour drinking spot.
For an intimate celebration – visit Alta Trattoria in Fitzroy
Inspired by Italy’s Piedmont region, Alta Trattoria in Fitzroy is a charming dining spot from veteran hospitality restaurateur Carlo Grossi (Ombra, Grossi Florentino). Chef McKay Wilday cooks simple dishes, just like nonna, prioritising seasonal ingredients in modernised classics. Don’t miss the tajarin (long ribbon-like tagliolini) with rabbit ragu, hailed as a ‘“favourite dish of the year” by Besha Rodell, chief dining critic at The Age. Sommelier James Tait (King & Godfree) has curated a drinks menu that focuses on Piedmontese wines (think Barolo), with a few favourite producers from other regions. Informal, yet intimate ALTA Trattoria will elevate any occasion.
For a playful dinner party – visit Pretty Little in Balaclava
Strangers become friends at convivial Pretty Little, perched on Carlisle St in Balaclava. Thanks to a 16-seat communal table that takes centre stage, the vibe at this laid-back restaurant and wine bar channels a playful dinner party. The menu leans seasonal, fueled by produce from local farms (2, 3 and 4 course options are available). Socialise over plates such as raw sea bream with yuzu chive oil and snapper with curry sauce—no two dinner menus are identical here. Dishes pair well with Pretty Little’s all-Victorian wine selection, featuring viognier from Passing Clouds and Shiraz from historical Beechworth.
For a hot date night – book at Akaiito Restaurant in Melbourne CBD
With its low-lit, minimalist interiors, this chic Japanese spot is a coveted setting for a cosy celebration. The centrepiece is an illuminated red thread installation that stretches across the roof, making Akaiito one of the most breathtaking dining rooms in Melbourne. Enjoy a five-, or seven-course seasonal menu created by sushi and robata chefs—and watch them while they prep. Seasonal plates might include hand-picked spanner crab, WA marron with leek velouté, or seven-day dry-aged duck with shimeji mushrooms, lardo, and cherry red wine jus. Extend your special night out with an after-dinner cocktail at Ototo, Akaiito’s underground, speakeasy-esque bar.
For a zero-waste celebration – try J A M E S in South Melbourne
Australian Korean set menus, conceived by chef Sangsoo Kim, await at this inventive South Melbourne spot, which opened its doors in 2021. Despite its newcomer status, J A M E S is already a hatted restaurant, making it a sought-after spot for long, leisurely gatherings. Kim’s thoughtful plates include charred cucumber with smoked yoghurt and white grape, abalone with wild and sticky rice, and quail with daikon, and coffee shoyu (soy sauce). Kim’s kitchen is steered by a no-waste philosophy: Unused parts of one dish often appear in another. So rest assured your celebration here will be an eco-friendly one.
For a toast with champagne – head to Bistro La Provence in Brighton
Bistro La Provence, a beloved French bistro, makes a charming setting to celebrate an anniversary. Toast with champagne in the elegant dining room, dressed with white tablecloths and chandeliers. Treat yourself—and someone special—to decadent classics including escargots in garlic and parsley butter, confit duck à l’orange, or steak tartare. Don’t skip dessert: showstopping confections such as crêpes Suzette and upside-down apple tart bring a slice of Provence to Melbourne.
For festive photogenic plates – try Freyja in Melbourne CBD
Executive chef Jae Bang, formerly of MICHELIN-starred Re-Naa, brings the heat to the menu at this cinematic, Nordic-inspired spot, worthy of practically any special occasion. Signature dishes such as skate dressed with tomato and lemon, and topped with oscietra caviar, as well as duck with radicchio, pancetta and lavender round out the Danish-accented menu. The festive plates are enhanced by Freyja’s photogenic interiors (it’s housed in a heritage-listed Olderfleet building) which include cathedral windows with views of Collins Street, plus timber, metal, and raw brick accents galore.
For a banquet-style celebration – feast at Mama Manoush in Brunswick East
For a group celebration look no further than the bright, colourful, and lively Mama Manoush. Go for traditional Lebanese fare, served banquet-style. Start with dips such as babaganoush, hummus, and toum (a whipped garlic sauce), served with flatbreads. Then feast on mezze, tabouli, and fattoush salads, plus a selection of charcoal-grilled meats. To that, add a classic cocktail such as a Beirut sour, drizzled with Lebanese red wine, and you’ve got all the components for a memorable, Middle Eastern bash.
For a grandiose special occasion – head to Yugen Dining in South Yarra
Yugen’s soaring stone walls and suspended porcelain light installation add grandeur to any special celebration. The opulent, Capitol Grand building space is split into a dining room, an omakase bar, and a private golden orb booth that juts out over the main dining room, seating eight. Its modern, pan-Asian menu takes cues from Japan, Korea, China, and Thailand, with seafood-forward highlights such as fried barramundi, with Sichuan chilli condiment, assorted sashimi platters, and prawn toast. The prolific sake menu (there are over 20 kinds to choose from) is made for toasting, as is the varied wine selection. Live DJs play here every night, sure to up the ante on any occasion.
For a special date night – book a table at Kahaani Modern Indian in Carlton
Shareable plates from various parts of South Asia make Kahaani, a modern Indian spot, a shoo-in for date night. Must-orders include crispy kale chaat with beetroot coulis, pot set biryani of the day, cooked to order and sealed with parda (puff pastry), and fire-grilled prawns with curry leaf butter. The intimate dining room feels like a friend or family member’s home, with cosy vibes and relaxed service, setting the tone for a laidback but special evening.
Catherine Fallon is a passionate food writer in Melbourne enjoying all the eats and drinks this wonderful city has to offer. Follow her on instagram @forkingoutagain.
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