The weather's warming up and you know what that means – it's outdoor dining time!
Studies tell us that eating outdoors is better for your health and wellbeing. Packed with nature's benefits, eating outdoors reduces stress, boosts your mood, improves your concentration, lowers your risk of chronic disease, and makes you more productive in the hours that follow.
So where should you dine to make the most of outdoor dining in Melbourne?
Cnr Flinders & Swanston Street
Bokchoy Tang and Cafe Chinotto are now one, and together offer an open kitchen and large alfresco dining area overlooking the Deakin Edge. Traditional Chinese cuisine is on the menu, but so too is woodfire pizza, making sure that every kind of diner is catered for. Family-friendly, it's the perfect spot for grabbing a quick bite or enjoying a longer, more leisurely lunch outdoors.
Situated above the recently refurbished Duke of Wellington (Melbourne's oldest pub), Duchess offers a Manhattan-esque vibe with its curvy booth lounge experience and perfectly crafted cocktails. It offers a contemporary menu of steaks and share plates, the ample selection of grain and pasture-fed meat hailing from the best farms in Australia. Chef Dylan Kemp will tantalise your tastebuds late into the night, so if you've got yourself a clear and warm evening, book a table on the verandah, order a bottle of champers, and soak in the New York atmosphere as you overlook Melbourne.
Serving authentic Italian food with a smile, La Camera Restaurant in Southgate offers a welcoming environment. Nestled among riverside treetops on Southgate's mid-level, La Camera boasts two balconies with stunning views over the Yarra River and iconic Flinders Street Station. Inside, the restaurant is adorned with vintage black and white photographs depicting the history of the family that has owned and operated the restaurant since it opened its doors in 2000.
Nestled in-between Southbank and South Melbourne, Wayside Inn is renowned for its simple, yet elegant food, boutique beers, weekly specials and one of the cutesy courtyard dining spaces in Melbourne. Leafy and sunny, it's made for lapping up the afternoon sun with a chilled beer and a dish from the daily rotisserie. The rooftop deck is another spot to enjoy.
The Wayside Inn uses only locally sourced, seasonal produce, and the menu has been designed to suit a range of tastes. Their $12 workers lunch is a big hit with the locals and is available 12-3pm Monday to Friday.
Established in 1863, the Imperial Hotel is one of Melbourne's most iconic pubs – the third oldest in the city. Located on the corner of busy Bourke and Spring Streets, its fabulous architecture and delicious menu makes it a popular place to be. The rooftop garden is huge and offers plenty of seating, and being the best place in the CBD to watch live sport, it's even got its own rooftop jumbotron screen!
As for the food, it's classic pub favourites like chicken parmigiana, lasagna, and burgers that keep people coming back.
Commercial Road, South Yarra
Atlas Dining offers a 4-course menu for $50 on a Tuesday to Thursday and a 6-course menu for $65 Tuesday to Saturday. Combine that with a courtyard complete with banquet seating that's been designed around a firepit and you're in for one hell of a dining experience.
Atlas Dining brings a little drama to dinner time and the wood fire oven, hearth, and the kitchen are all on display for diners to enjoy. The dining menu continually evolves, with young chef Charlie Carrington (definitely one to watch) adding twists from his travels every four months. Atlas Dining reflects multicultural Australia and pushes the boundaries of your dining experience. Watch this video to learn more.
Family-owned Italian restaurant Arkibar Cucina has been servicing South Melbourne for more than 16 years. Now in its new location, it's more exciting than ever thanks to a great outdoor space. This space is the perfect atmosphere for a relaxing Happy Hour drink and bite to eat, and live music can be enjoyed on Thursday and Friday evenings. Six new wine barrels means there's plenty of space for everyone out there.
Arkibar Cucina is open for breakfast and lunch five days a week and for dinner on Thursday and Friday evenings. It's open for breakfast on Saturdays only, and closed on Sundays.
Combining Australian ingredients with Sichuan flavour, Hidden Jade offers something new and exciting. It's a window for communication between the two cuisines, harmoniously blending the two to create something memorable. With stunning views over the Albert Park lake, the focus isn't just the food though, with the general experience considered just as important. Take a seat on the wooden deck beside the water's edge and you'll never want to leave.
Since opening its doors in 1990, O'Connell's has been at the forefront of pub gastronomy in Melbourne. It's been the home of some of the city's best chefs, who have given O'Connell's a strong reputation as a consistent performer in terms of great food. The current menu remains faithful to its pub roots but is complemented with innovative touches and daily specials to excite.
O'Connell's offers street-side dining that's perfect for people watching over lunch or winding down over a Happy Hour beer.
Swan Street, Richmond
Saint.Urban is a light-filled wine bar bistro that's all about the little details. From the handmade vaulted steel glass windows to the fireplace, to the hard plaster French wax walls and suspended wine racks, every design detail has been carefully thought of.
Saint.Urban is the ideal place to watch the world go by, offering street-side bench seating that will have you thinking you're in a little bistro in Paris. The food is designed to share and includes charcuterie plates, freshly shucked oysters, and sticky lamb ribs. Cheese and wine is their specialty, and they encourage you to design your own plate in which to match your wine.
Victoria Avenue, Albert Park
Housed in one of Melbourne's grandest historic hotels, The Vincent is perfect for all occasions. In terms of outdoor dining, there's plenty of curb-side seating.
The menu at The Vincent focuses on locally sourced, seasonal produce and the summer menu is designed for enjoying outdoors. The Salt & Pepper Squid Salad makes for a great lunch, especially with a side of Cauliflower and Blue Cheese Croquettes. If you prefer a pub classic, The Vincent Burger with bacon, cheese, pickles, lettuce, and tomato with a side of chips will satisfy your appetite.