Tired of the classic movie and dinner date night combo? Us too. That's why we're always on the hunt for new things to do, scouring the city for not-boring Melbourne activities — ones that are guaranteed to take your next date way beyond done-before beers at the pub. Whether you're taking someone on a second date or doing your 100th with your significant other, we've got some killer (and, yes, cute) ideas for dates to go on this week, no matter how much money you've got to spend. Just think of us as your cultural wingman. You're welcome.
GO TO THE YEAR TEN FORMAL TOGETHER
We promise it will be better (and less nerve-wracking) than the first time around. Hosted by Golden Gibbo-nominated comedy duo Michelle Brasier and Laura Frew (aka Double Denim), this free Melbourne Fringe shindig will take festival-goers back in time to an era of ill-fitting tuxes and emo dance tunes — aka your tear ten formal. The Passion Pop will be flowing and there'll be plenty of bangers at this high school formal, spun by DJ Barnie Duncan. So fire up your old MSN account and ask your crush to go with you on Thursday night.
EAT FREE PORK BUNS
South Yarra's Oriental Teahouse is celebrating with free pork buns for World Dumpling Day this Wednesday. Head to the front window any time between 12pm and 2pm on the day and you'll snag yourself one for free. They are, sadly, limited to one per person — but this could make a cute quick lunch break date if you work around Chapel Street. If you'd rather a full-on feast, it's also hosting a one-off dumpling degustation that night — although it'll cost you $55 a head.
Self portrait after George Lambert, Yvette Coppersmith. Photo shot by Jenni Carter courtesy of AGNSW.
DRIVE TO GEELONG TO SEE AUSTRALIA'S BEST PORTRAITURE
Widely touted as Australia's most prestigious portraiture prize, the Archibald Prize is a curated collection of the year's best portrait paintings. This year, the lineup includes 58 talented finalists who were selected from a whopping 794 entries. After an obligatory stint at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, the exhibition has moved to Geelong Gallery — and it's well worth the drive to see it. The works depict an eclectic mix of subjects, from celebrities and politicians to artists and authors. Melbourne-born artist Yvette Coppersmith nabbed the 97th annual Archibald Prize — and $100,000 cash along with it — for her work Self-portrait, after George Lambert. Entry will be $16 each.
The essence of Venice has made its way to Melbourne in the form of delicious small snacks at bars and restaurants across the city. These bite-sized delicacies are known as cicchetti (chi-ket-tee, FYI), a popular dish found in the Italian canal city. The idea is you fill your tummy up throughout an evening of sipping good wine by steadily indulging in many, many of these bar snacks — which, most of the time, only cost a a couple of dollars each.
You'll find the best Venetian-style fare at Heartattack and Vine. Although the woody establishment is open from breakfast, the real fun starts as the sun sets and the drinks and cicchetti start piling up on the bar's counter. The small dishes frequently rotate, as they are dependent on seasonal produce, and hit your table (or spot on the bar), for just $4 a pop. If you're looking for more options, check out Melbourne's best cicchetti bars.
TASTE MELBOURNE'S NEWEST GIN
If you and your SO love gin, a visit to Richmond's new backstreet gin distillery is calling you for date night. Brogan's Way is a projection from Brogan and Simon Carr, who have created three signature gins, complete with a tasting bar on North Street. It's a welcoming space that's primed for sipping gin when the bar opens on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights — whether enjoyed straight, as part of a tasting flight, or infused into one of the exclusive cocktails. A collaborative effort between Brogan and the legendary Shaun Byrne (Gin Palace, co-founder of Maidenii Vermouth), the cocktail menu features bitters, aperitifs and digestifs also made by the talented gin-maker. And you'll find a strong lineup of tonics from Strangelove and Capi, carefully chosen to complement those house tipples.
Order a tasting paddle and stuck into a range of grazing platters, antipasto boards and charcuterie plates, starring local ingredients, even including pickles made using the distillery's spent botanicals.