Best places to catch up with friends at Christmas

As the social calendar swings into overdrive, we’ve gathered the best hangouts to meet up with mates as the year wraps up. From rooftop bars to a very proper high tea, these venues will help get the party started.

The Night Market

Sail through midweek by gathering your pals and heading to the always-popular The Night Market at Queen Victoria Market on Wednesdays. Relaunching on November 15, the market is the perfect place to enjoy a few drinks, some great food and live music. Plus, you can shop the stalls for Christmas gifts while you’re at it.

An aerial shot of a busy night market

The Night Market at Queen Victoria Market is turning 20 this year

Cheap and cheerful

Bursting with flavour, the modern Vietnamese dishes at Hochi Mama will have you duelling with your BFF for the last serve of sticky lamb ribs. Add great cocktails, craft and imported beers and a backstreet vibe, and your festive get-together is sorted. A sharing banquet of their best-sellers, including a glass of bubbles, is available for party or function bookings.

Because everyone loves Mexican

Opposite QV, Touche Hombre is a riot of colour both on and off the plate. Order a stack of fried chicken wings, try a taco or two or chow down on the Mexi Fix shared menu for just $40 per person. Next door, their sister restaurant Mezcalito Agave Bar boasts more than 50 tequilas, as well as mezcals and raicillas – all a product of the agave plant.

Hello Jose does cheap tacos, tostados and churros opposite the Queen Victoria Market. So it’s the perfect pitstop on Wednesdays when The Night Market is also in full swing. Their $10 midweek margaritas and $1 chipotle chicken wings on Sundays are clear winners.

Or try out these other great Mexican places for more south-of-the-border vibes.

A hand holding a taco over a series of different Mexican dishes on a wooden table

Touche Hombre

The pub

With stunning views of Victoria Harbour and the City, The Woolshed is a great spot to have a meal, a drink or host an event. The Christmas Express lunch – complete with bon bons – starts at $49.50 or order a ‘Plum Pudding’ Christmas-themed cocktail and soak up the rays.

Carlton’s The Lincoln is a smart gastropub where much of the food is made in-house, from the bread to the free-range bacon. Twelve taps of craft beer and a quirky, boutique wine list add to the pull of this friendly boozer, where groups can easily be accommodated. A five-course festive-season menu costs $50 per person, or $70 for eight courses.

Garden State Hotel is designed to handle high demand – luckily. There are a handful of distinct areas including an indoor garden, classic pub area (complete with giant TVs) and bistro. Head to the garden after 4pm on Sundays for DJs, gourmet toasties and a curated cocktail menu.

An old fashioned pub bar

The Lincoln

Garden views

With the lush greenery of the Royal Botanic Gardens directly across the road, the aptly named The Botanical offers three distinct spaces to catch up with friends. Try duck liver parfait and wagyu steak at the formal restaurant, or have a more casual meal in the bistro. Hit the bar and lounge for an expertly-mixed cocktail or glass of their own Colonial Brewing Co beer. Private dining rooms are also available.

Glamorous rooftops

Want to party like it’s 1982? Then get your high-waisted pants down to Good Heavens, the glitzy rooftop bar above Fancy Hank’s. Open from midday every day during summer, it’s the perfect spot to sip on a Pretty in Pink or Poco Loco. Spicy chicken ribs, chilli nachos and cheeseburgers taste great, especially when teamed with a $10 spritzer on Sundays (til 4pm).

On the 11th floor of QT Melbourne hotel, the Rooftop at QT has amazing cityscape views. Go al fresco on the outdoor terrace or head to the moody industrial-style bar for a more intimate tete-a-tete. Drinks include a signature G&T with Sabre gin, elderflower quinine and fresh lime, or a vanilla and passionfruit-infused pisco sour.

A beer and two cocktails on a bar

Good Heavens

For the fussy friend

Right-on friends are fantastic, but they can present a challenge when you’re out to eat (and drink). Clever Polly’s makes catching up easy with their natural and minimal intervention wines sourced from small producers. The Japanese-inflected food is also pure of heart – the five-course set menu of simple, fresh ingredients is ethically and sustainably sourced.

Games

The stuff that teen dreams are made of, Flinders Lane’s Bartronica mixes rare vintage arcade games with ‘80s-style cocktails and craft beer. On December 15 they’re hosting their annual Christmas party, with all-night happy hour on tap beer and cider. Select games will be on free play, and a bunch of fun festive activities will be happening.

Two pinball machines in a bar

Bartronica

Sweet tooth

The dark-panelled luxury of the Lobby Lounge at The Westin Melbourne is a sophisticated venue for a spot of high tea. Served daily from 11am, The Westin’s Festive High Tea features sweet and savoury treats impeccably presented on a three-tiered stand. Coffee, tea or herbal infusions are included, or up the ante with a glass of bubbles or two hours of free-flowing prosecco.

A display of tiny cakes in a hotel lobby

The Westin

Best places to catch up with friends at Christmas