Want to treat your folks to a meal in the city? Try these spots that tick all the boxes – affordable, not too noisy and you can book.

University Cafe

Did your mum or dad go to Melbourne Uni? Chances are they spent a bit of time at University Cafe back in the day. They’ll be glad to see it hasn’t changed a whole lot, and only for the better. There are plenty of Italian classics on the menu, like minestrone, cannelloni, tiramisu and of course wine and espresso. This Lygon Street legend has been doing them right since 1952. Bookings are old-school too: phone or email.

Hardimans Hotel

Go west for the best pub classics in Kensington at this recently renovated 1870s corner hotel. Who wants the 300 g porterhouse steak? The spicy fried chicken burger, or the warm chocolate pudding? From mezze plates to Basque cheesecake, Hardimans Hotel is also across modern, international tastes. You’re spoilt for choice when it comes to beer too. There are 20 craft brews on tap.

A busy pub with a curved bar and patrons at tables
Hardimans Hotel


If Becco is a bit beyond your budget, try the more casual, retro-smart Italian sister trattoria Lupino. This semi-secluded laneway favourite offers a concise menu that includes six pasta dishes and a few pizzas. And all of it is handmade. Even with dessert and a bottle of wine, there’s no need to stress about the bill.

The French Brasserie

A classic Paris bistro meets modern Melbourne in this beautiful space with soaring ceilings and glass expanses. Would you prefer The French Brasserie’s main dining room, the upstairs mezzanine or outdoor terrace? Wherever you dine, the fare is ooh la la, from confit duck leg to crème brûlée. Perhaps start with onion soup, or are you game to try the escargots?

A wall installation of champagne bottles in a restaurant
The French Brasserie


There’s nothing like dinner with a view to celebrate a special occasion. Berth offers a waterfront panorama without the eye-watering prices (most dishes are under $30). Maybe share a mezze board, then move on to mains like linguine marinara or kangaroo fillet. Want to keep watching Melbourne’s lights twinkle? White chocolate brulee and sticky date pudding are among your evening’s final sweet temptations.

La Camera

Planning a Melbourne day out, including lunch or dinner within walking distance of the main event? La Camera is close to city essentials like the sports precinct, Eureka Skydeck and Melbourne Arts Centre. Need more convincing? How about gorgeous Yarra River views from two decks, and spacious indoor dining. Plus a menu of classic Italian dishes, like mushroom risotto and spaghetti bolognese.

Food and cocktails on a table outside
La Camera

Garden Restaurant at NGV

The National Gallery of Victoria’s Garden Restaurant is a top option for a special meal doubling as a day out. It’s one of Melbourne’s most hushed dining rooms, with a serene sculpture garden view. There’s food with flair, focused on seasonal, local produce. Like heirloom tomatoes with buffalo mozzarella, or Gippsland grass-fed beef striploin.

China Red

Affordable, convenient and delicious, China Red is where it’s at for a fuss-free family meal. Order via the touchscreen, then watch in wonder as mouth-watering Chinese morsels appear. They're made by skilful noodle throwers and deft dumpling chefs you can see at work behind a window. Be sure to order a double serve of the porky Shanghai xiao long bao. You won’t regret it.

A selection of Asian food on a marble table
China Red

The Duke Of Wellington

After a major renovation a few years ago, The Duke of Wellington has become a CBD favourite for various occasions. Choose from three smart-casual levels, including the rooftop and its super city views. The menu is a feast of popular pub meals, like chicken and eggplant parmas, burgers and beef and Guinness pie. Eton mess to finish, anyone?


The stunning city skyline vista alone makes BearBrass a winner, from breakfast through dinner. But it's not all style over substance at this restaurant and bar named after Melbourne's early moniker. You can enjoy classic dishes including smashed avo, pork belly and eye fillet. How about some share plates like hot wings and calamari? Psst! There's also a $20 weekday lunch special!

Looking to splurge?

Extra special occasions call for a slightly ritzier affair. And don’t stress – you can still book!

Grossi Florentino

Grossi Florentino has set the bar for Italian fine dining in Melbourne since 1928.

The European

Enjoy premium pan-European cuisine with exceptional service.

Flower Drum Restaurant

An iconic upscale Cantonese restaurant serving delicious food.

Cumulus Inc

This all-day restaurant and bar is a modern icon of Melbourne's food scene.

Last updated on Wed 2 Feb 2022

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