Affordable Melbourne Date Restaurants for Valentine's Day
Valentine’s Day is just around the corner, which means you’re probably thinking: “where are the best Melbourne restaurants to take my sweetheart?” If you’re not thinking that, I recommend a tub of Connoisseur salted caramel ice cream and a onesie (it's like a big hug you can wear). As for the others, believe it or not, there are affordable romantic restaurants in Melbourne that won't result in a maxed out credit card. As a woman with an appetite, I'd be much more impressed by a memorable date with good food and a top-notch atmosphere than a 17 course degustation with a horse and cart drop off. That’s why I’ve put together this list of romantic restaurants in Melbourne that won’t break the bank. In no particular order, here they are…
Aka Siro | 106 Cambridge St Collingwood, VIC 3066
Aka Siro is a cozy little eatery perched on the corner of Cambridge and Peel Streets in Collingwood. Outside, red and white ‘noren’ flutter in the doorway. Inside, blond timber and white tiles give the space a bright and airy feel and quirky Japanese decorations sit beside aqua blue bottles of sake. The food is arguably the most authentic Japanese cuisine in Melbourne. If it’s sushi you're after, head somewhere else. Here you’ll find crispy soy and ginger chicken, authentic deep-fried pork loin known as 'tonkatsu', market fish in a special sauce, and a range of Japanese soul food to bring you back to your roots. Plus if you score a bench seat, you can subtly squish up next to your date.
Price: mains between $14-$18
Feel: casual but cozy
Good for: authentic Japanese and crisp sake
Hell of the North | 135 Greeves St Fitzroy, VIC 3065 |
(03) 9417 6660
Alright, I admit it: I was wooed at Hell of the North. Maybe it was the dim lighting, or the worldly wine list. Perhaps it was the cocktails. Then again, there was certainly something sexual about biting down on a plump, fleshy scallop, perfectly cooked with Jerusalem artichoke. We sat at the sparkling brass bar, framed in timber and stocked with booze, but there are individual tables too. Need a talking point? The 1830s bluestone building used to be a brothel.
Price: mains between $12-$23
Feel: Fitzroy trendy but still warm and welcoming
Good for: food until 1am/getting your date tipsy on cocktails
Horn Please | 167 St Georges Road Fitzroy North, VIC 3068 | (03) 9497 8101
“Horn Please is not your typical Indian joint,” says the Horn Please website. Biased much? Thankfully, after eating at Horn Please a few times, I can back them up. Their curries are full of flavour, minus the excess oiliness and creaminess found all to often in Indian food in Melbourne. Horn Please serve more than just curry, including the absolutely must try papdi chaat, which is kind of like Indian nachos. Everything is as fresh as can be, made with local ingredients and stone-ground spices. You can even help yourself to craft beer from the fridge. The dim lighting adds a romantic feel, while the decorative tiles, colourful portraits and Bollywood films projected on the wall add a splash of fun.
Price: mains $14-$18 excluding rice and sides
Feel: hospitable and warm
Good for: their amazing kulfi ice cream (up there with the best ice cream in Melbourne)
Izakaya Den | 114 Russell St Melbourne, VIC 3000 |
(03) 9654 2977
Image courtesy of timeout.com.au
Once you actually find Izakaya Den, you’ll quickly realise it’s the ultimate date place. It’s beneath an office block, in a basement, down a laneway; so make sure you get your bearings before making a fool of yourself and getting lost. The bar lines the length of the open kitchen and bar seating boast a theatrical view of your meal being prepared. The hum of chatter de-formalizes Izakya Den and fills any awkward silences. Order some sake and start with the sweet corn kaki-age, a nugget of golden corn in a battered ball served with green tea salt. The main sashimi and sharing dishes won’t disappoint, but make sure you save room for the salted caramel fondue at the end.
Price: share dishes between $6-$26
Feel: sleek and minimalist minus the intimidation
Good for: consistently good food with a consistently good vibe
Kid Boston | 44 Chapel St Windsor, VIC 3181 | (03) 9939 5256
“Always do sober what you said you’d do drunk. That will teach you to keep your mouth shut,” reads the Ernest Hemingway quote on Kid Boston’s impressive drinks list. Not bad advice for a date. The owners are cocktail pros, and it shows with concoctions like the Char-Grilled Pineapple Julep and Earl Grey Martini. The menu is good for a snack or a feed, depending on whether you want to share chilli, fennel and paprika spiced popcorn or grilled chilli octopus served on a salad of cucumber ribbons, fennel and orange. Heartier dishes include sweet and sticky pork belly, buffalo wings and beer hanger steak. Wooden finishes, street art and a generous scattering of pot plants also add a sultry, jungle-like feel, ideal if you’re planning a Tarzan and Jane scenario later on.
Price: share dishes between $16-$20
Feel: Sultry jungle. Yep, really
Good for: the soundtrack, which swings smoothly between jazz and hip-hop
Bar Lourinhã | 37 Little Collins St Melbourne, VIC 3000 |
(03) 9663 7890
If you’re after a romantic bar as opposed to a fancy restaurant, Bar Lourinhã is the spot for you. The ambiance manages to be sophisticated, despite the roar of people enjoying their food and drink. It’s got to be something to do with the kitsch wall hanings, from antlers and fans to delicate plates and wooden signs. Be prepared to squeeze onto a seat or make friends at the communal table - it’s all part of the fun. As for the tapas, the exquisite bites have a heavy Spanish influence but maintain an air of innovation. Try the grilled squid and black cous cous as well as the shaved wagyu beef shin with pickled chilli.
Price: tapas between $4-$24
Feel: Loud and fun, but romantic too
Good for: top service and a stunner of a wine list
Horn African Restaurant | 20 Johnston St Fitzroy, VIC 3066 | (03) 9417 4670
There’s no fancy food here, just traditional Ethiopian fare. Sure, it's sloppy, but that’s only so you can mop it up with spongy injera flatbread. Plus it’s packed with flavour. Surrounded by friendly multicultural staff, African art, and plates with a genuine homemade feel, it will be a date to remember. On Thursday to Sunday, there’s live jazz, too.
Price: mains between $16.50-$22
Feel: Great informal vibe. Authentic and organic
Good for: eating Ethiopian style with your hands then asking your date to lick your fingers clean
The Cellar Bar at Grossi Florentino |
80 Bourke Street Melbourne, VIC 3000 | (03) 9662 1811
The Cellar Bar is the shopfront to the much more expensive Grossi Florentino. It epitomizes the Melbourne café society and attracts everyone from politicians to taxi drivers. Eating from the Cellar Bar menu, you’d think you were in Italy. It’s all about simple flavours with that extra ‘oomph’. There’s a range of pasta dishes for $18, from potato gnocchi with gorgonzola to pappardelle with duck livers, tomato and olive. Everything you order here is best washed down with a hearty Italian red and a late night smooching session.
Price: mains between $17.50-$26
Feel: Romantic Italian
Good for: pretending to be a sophisticated, Italian romantic
Pellegrini’s Espresso Bar | 66 Bourke St Melbourne, VIC 3000 | (03) 9662 1885
Image courtesy of theaustralian.com.au
The words ‘traditional’ and ‘authentic’ get thrown around a lot these days, but if there’s an eatery that deserves the title, it’s Pellegrini’s. Some people say it’s outdated, I say it’s a wonderful old-school Italian joint where you can revisit the 1950s. Hungry couples and those after a casual bite sit on red vinyl stools while waiters in crisp white shirts run around the checkerboard floor. For a casual date, the best seat in the house is at the communal kitchen table, where you’ll be thrust bowls of Mama’s spaghetti bolognaise, minestrone of the day, pizza napoletana, risotto, ravioli and rich lasagna. Try and save room for an Italian sweetie after your meal. And if you have room for dessert, have some of that too!
Price: mains approximately $15
Feel: Casual Italian
Good for: a nostalgic experience
Takeaway from Richmond Oysters |
443 Church St Richmond, VIC 3121 | (03) 9428 5121
There’s something awfully romantic about fish and chips. It doesn’t matter whether you eat it at the beach, in a park or at home, it just works. But instead of your usual greasy fish and chips joint, pay a visit to Richmond Oysters and pick some takeaway together. Flake, calamari and a salad will only set you back $13, as will a seafood basket. There’s also seafood linguini and risotto for a couple of dollars more, or a burgers for $8-$11. Just don’t forget the oysters ($14 per dozen) and pick up a bottle or three of white wine on the way home.
Price: less than $20pp
Feel: horny, you're eating oysters
Good for: fresh, quality seafood
Melbourne Food Trucks | Around Melbourne
On another note, hunting down Melbourne’s many food trucks is a great idea for a fun and affordable date. For a list of the trucks and how to find them, see this recent blog post.