Want to snuggle up on date night, or enjoy your family’s warm embrace? Craving a hearty meal away from the cold? These restaurants are just right.
Meatball & Wine Bar
What’s more warm and comforting than meatballs? Meatballs and a ballsy glass of red! Although there’s more to choose from, including charcuterie and cheese boards, Meatball & Wine Bar is really all about these two pleasures. Choose from pork, beef, chicken, fish or veg balls. Select a sauce, and something for your balls to rest on, like creamy polenta or smashed taters. That’s winter sorted. Or keep it simple with spaghetti and meatballs.
Cecconi’s Flinders Lane
A name synonymous with Italian food and hospitality since 1998, Cecconi’s Flinders Lane is a third-generation family-run restaurant. This cosy-chic basement space is perfect, day and night. How about some Cotechino sausage, eggs and espresso for breakfast? A quick but satisfying plate of pasta for lunch? Maybe some chianti and antipasti at the bar, or a long, indulgent dinner? Every time, it’s a taste of la dolce vita.
With a kitchen focused on flame, Matilda was warmly welcomed at the start of winter. Different woods, smoke and charcoal produce distinctive flavours in the fresh produce at this smart-casual Mod Oz restaurant. Still not convinced? It’s brought to you by Scott Pickett, the chef-restaurateur behind Estelle Bistro, ESP and Saint Crispin.
Italy’s trattorie are more casual than ristoranti. It’s all about keeping customers (especially regulars) happy with good, fresh food at affordable prices in a welcoming, comfortable environment. That’s what the two gentlemen from Modena behind Emilia Trattoria deliver, especially with the $79 five-course winter tasting menu. Settle in and taste that Italian sunshine.
With its dark wood, time-worn red brick and wood-fired oven that drives the grazing menu, this wine bar invites you to linger. Especially when you start considering the eclectic list of vinos, which includes some local drops otherwise limited to the winemakers’ friends. If you like the vibe, you’ll love this news: in August the Embla guys are opening a restaurant upstairs called Lesa. If the weather sets in, you’ll hardly need to move to make a night of it.
Take an 1884 two-storey terrace house, serve wholesome, almost rustic European dishes and regional wines, and turn on some good old-fashioned hospitality. That’s Epocha Restaurant, where the menu ranges from risotto with pine mushrooms to Strathdownie venison, cheese plates to apple tarte tatin. Sunday lunch is strictly a nostalgic roast with all the trimmings – what a heartwarming way to enjoy winter afternoons!
Il Solito Posto
It translates as ‘the usual place’, and since opening in 1995 Il Solito Posto has become just that for many Melburnians. Time and again, they’re drawn back by its lively yet cosy subterranean atmosphere and classic food. At half-street level there are quick meals like veal ragu pasta, or breakfast-time scrambled eggs with pancetta, roma tomato, basil and parmesan. A few steps down in the candle-lit trattoria, settle in with a menu that takes you from garlicky prawns to chocolate pudding.
Melbourne’s everlasting romance with Italy continues at Osteria Ilaria, the little sister of primo pasta joint Tipo 00 next door. Drop in for an aperitivo and let the bar-side kitchen’s sights, scents and warmth reel you in for a very smart casual dinner. After a wine or two, or perhaps a crafty beer or classy cocktail, you’ll be transported by the vibrant European vibe.
Syracuse Restaurant – Bar
One of Melbourne’s best kept dining secrets for more than 20 years offers a great escape behind the entrance’s red velvet curtains. Originally a 19th century hotel foyer, Syracuse Restaurant – Bar’s hand-carved dark wood, ornate columns and gracious arches evoke old-fashioned luxury. Since 2016, the head chef has been Philippa Sibley, whose legendary status began with turn-of-the-millennium ‘it’ restaurants est est est and Ondine. Hot tip: she’s famous for her desserts!
This snug but sophisticated Melbourne institution seems to have been around forever. Its timeless, Old World-inspired interior – think wood panelling, black-and-white chequered floor, bentwood chairs and countless wine bottles – never changes. The classic breakfast-to-supper menu, which looks to France, Italy and Spain, evolves almost imperceptibly over the years. The wine list is exactly what you would expect from an establishment called The European.
An instant classic when it opened in 1996, this bistro is like a petit slice of Paris in the heart of Melbourne. The trompe l’oeil painted ceiling, huge vintage French advertising poster and wood panelling will transport you before the first bite of bouillabaisse. Next to the Athenaeum and opposite the Regent, Bistrot d’Orsay is perfect for pre or post-theatre indulgence.
Inspired by Paris steakhouse Le Relais de l’Entrecôte, this restaurant is famous for its Cape Grim pasture-fed porterhouse. Entrecote – Paris Steakhouse & Winebar, which is opposite the Royal Botanic Gardens, does much more than beef though. Like $2 oysters and $12 Mumm Champagne during the daily 4pm to 6pm happy hour.