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Friendliness, food quality or X factor: what is a restaurant's most important attribute

Amarillo wins for cosiness while Cookie has all the X factor.

What constitutes a good feast? Is it the venue, the vibe, the people that serve you or simply the food? A little of all comes into play, of course, but if you’ve decided to focus on one rather than the other, here is where I suggest you head.

For the cosiest venue in town, I’d suggest snuggling up at Amarillo Bar on Brunswick Street, Fitzroy. It’s more of a bar than full restaurant, although that’s not to say they don’t offer tasty small and large dishes to accompany your fine wine. Get comfortable in their stylish wooden booths with leather finishes, and order a bowl of marinated olives to warm the evening. I found this to be my most visited Melbourne bar last winter, where I would meet friends and catch up for hours uninterrupted. Try their roasted lamb shoulder with tomato and chickpeas, with a side of local asparagus, and a bowl of paprika fries.

For the X factor venue, I like dining at Cookie within Curtin House in the CBD. Seriously good Thai food aside, your night can really go in any direction. If you’re after a delicious feast in a buzzing city eatery, then Cookie shall fulfil and complete your night. However, if you wish to party on, head to Toff and sip on some cocktails under dimly-lit booths, while you enjoy the music that blasts from the opposite room. 

For warm-hearted people that will serve you like their family, I would suggest going Greek. Greek dining is a commitment both emotionally and to the stomach – in all the finest ways. Expect to feel at home, and sit for hours on end while food, love and probably plenty of shouting will unfurl. Greek dining is not a space to sit quietly and solo, to be left alone while having a light meal. Think of it as more like having a party at your family home, so if you don’t feel like socialising, order takeaway, or find a souvlaki joint close by.

It’s too tricky to narrow it down to one venue where the food speaks the loudest, so I’ll name a few. Any pizza at Shop 225 in Pascoe Vale, son-in-law eggs from Streat Cafe in Collingwood, gnocchi from Kaprica in Carlton and ragu from their sister restaurant Mr Pietro, that’s also in Carlton. Tofu laksa from Viet Rose in Fitzroy, salmon soba from Shimbashi Japanese Soba & Sake Bar Restaurant in Collingwood, The Fun Guy Pizza from Lazerpig down the road in Collingwood, spaghetti and meatballs from Pelligrini’s Espresso Bar and spicy pork ramen from Mugen Ramen, both in the Melbourne CBD.