Winter may have arrived, but you can rest assured that our beautiful city has more than a few places of respite hidden away. Whether you want to channel the Vikings while you drink from a horn or eat in a natural history museum while you chow down on something deliciously warm, we’ve found the best spots to while away your winter in Melbourne.
Firelight Festival Long-Table Dinners
Returning in 2018, this foodie event at Firelight Festival is inspired by long-table dining experiences from across the globe. The night will feature three traditional Italian courses, and the long-table format means you’ll definitely make some new friends. Collins Square’s fine-dining institution, Chiara, is set to warm up even the most glacial Thursday evening. Wine, Italian food, new friends, and a killer venue. What more could you want?
Modern Scandinavian design meets historic Viking features at Mjolner, a huge 80-seat restaurant upstairs with a Speakeasy cocktail bar below in a busy Laneway in Melbourne. Speciality dishes from the rotating carvery menu are perfect for a winter’s night – with a special shout-out to the roasted bone marrow. Keep your blood pumping and your extremities from turning blue with Mjolner’s signature cocktails, wines, spirits, craft beers, and – of course – mead.
Does anything scream ‘warmth’ quite like American-style BBQ meats cooked in a custom-built, 2-tonne smoker? Think brisket, ribs, and pulled pork – all served alongside traditional sides and unique dishes inspired by a mixture of southern cooking and Aussie style. The meats here are sourced free-range from Gippsland and served with house-made condiments produced by the award-winning chefs out the back. A glass of red from the local wine list pairs perfectly with the huge windows, ideal for observing the bustle of Collins Street below. Don’t let the wall of glass scare you, as heaters and hot drinks are guaranteed here in winter.
Natural History Bar and Grill
This one takes inspiration from the world’s most iconic natural history museums. A huge space, Natural History seats 350 people at a variety of table, booth, bar and lounge options. Michael Deany and Jaime Wirth designed the layout of the venue, separating the elegant and artistic dining room from the booth and bar areas where “all manner of early and late-night shenanigans are planned to occur”, they say. Artist Vanja Zaric created the diorama in the dining room – a 15-metre expanse of taxidermy and mural – that gives this already unique space its name. Steaks, chicken, and a crab lasagne are all highlights of the menu; Natural History provides a steakhouse menu with a South American twist. While a beautiful spot to camp and spend hours poring over your meal, Natural History is a respite from the cold and adds serious uniqueness to your lunch break – they encourage speedy eaters to try the Cajun Fish Sandwich, named one of Australia’s best fish burgers by Herald Sun Food Editor Dan Stock.
Late night ramen, early ramen, black ramen, spicy ramen, stir-fried, cold, hot, big, small – the sheer number of choices are ridiculous. Shujinko, rebranded from its previous incarnation as Menya Sandaime, serves you traditional and elegant Japanese cuisine 24 hours a day. An ode to the night-owls and party animals amongst us, the friendly but bustling vibe sees queues out the door, even in the wee hours of the morning. If you head here after a night out, or before one, make sure you line your stomach with fried chicken or gyoza.
If you’re looking for a speakeasy that’s only a short walk from a main train station or tram stop, head over to Boilermaker House on Lonsdale Street. A Boilermaker is the signature drink around which Speakeasy Group’s second Melbourne venue was created: a mere splash of whisky paired with a smooth and simple beer. Over 800 whiskies and a rotating roster of various beers mean there are almost limitless options for your late night creation, all served with a small taste of cheese or meat to enhance your flavourful experience. Perfect accompanied with their extensive range of artisanal cheeses and charcuterie, along with entrees and mains from the House kitchen. The venue is warm for the body and for the eyes; slabs of wood as serving platters, a stone-top bar, and cosy booths are all welcome relief from the chill of Melbourne’s wintery streets.
1806 opened its doors in 2007, won the title of The World’s Best Cocktail Menu in 2008, and thereafter became a place for education and pilgrimage for mixologists from all around the world. This venue combines prohibition-era décor with a repertoire of classic cocktails made to please everyone, served up to you by a team of quirky, insightful bartenders. Each cocktail comes with a story; the menu starts off in the mid-1700s and provides a cocktail for almost every decade – as well as its well-known descendants.
Eau-De-Vie offers some of Melbourne’s most creative cocktails and they pride themselves on their 5-course degustation experience, served at the degustation table alongside expertly crafted drinks. Bookings can be made throughout the main bar area and in the private booths as well as for exclusive private events in the Whisky Room. ‘The Whisky Room?’ I hear you asking… Well, it’s exactly what you think it is; a room dedicated to the bar’s huge collection of rare and exclusive whiskies. Good luck finding it, though. The entrance to this room is as hidden as the bar itself – tucked behind a bookcase. As if they weren’t catering to our favourite drinks enough, Eau de Vie also offer Bottle Lockers; you can purchase your favourite spirit bottle from the bar, and store it for your next visit – practical, safe, and classy. Do yourself a favour and become a regular.
Siglo is an open-air rooftop terrace found on Spring Street, commissioned in 2007 as an ode to the Princess Theatre’s 19th-century mural. 20th-century architecture featuring French industrial steel and glass creates a timeless and elegant drinking space. Don’t worry about the ‘open-air’ setting – they’ve got you covered in winter with outdoor heaters and classic cocktails, as well as premium spirits, wines, and champagnes. A bar food menu is also available, with house-made rillettes, smoked salmon with crème fraiche and dark rye, fluffy pork buns, and crispy, golden fingers of fried polenta all at your fingertips while you sip.
This one’s a special treat for any winter evening. Popping up on the Common Man Lawn this winter, big blankets and mulled wine are on the cards while you huddle around a flame, nestling into comfy camping chairs. Directly beside the Yarra on Dukes Walk, Southbank, the Fire Garden will host live music and entertainment to distract you from the winter chill. Pop in for a series of craft beer sessions, specialty tastings, and a bespoke James Squire-inspired menu, led by smokers and rotisseries.
Located on the corner of Lonsdale and Russell, you won’t miss this one – just keep an eye out for the cherry-red neon sign that reads Heartbreaker in calligraphic script. There’s a jukebox up for grabs, and a rowdy vibe cementing this venue as a bar that values both quality and speed – drinks are churned out as fast as you can say ‘the famous four’. There are four pre-batched cocktails to choose from, including Negroni, Martini, Old Fashioned and Manhattan. Rare spirits and bottled cocktails can be ordered and taken home until 11pm – although you can linger at the bar, in a booth or at a table, for way, way longer.
This article is proudly sponsored by City of Melbourne in partnership with Beat Magazine. Learn more about our editorial policy here.