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The Ten Best French Restaurants in Melbourne

Live out your Parisian dreams with escargot, caviar, steak frites and lobster thermidor at these exceptional French diners in Melbourne.
By Concrete Playground and Andrew Zuccala
February 09, 2024
By Concrete Playground and Andrew Zuccala
February 09, 2024


Live out your Parisian dreams with escargot, caviar, steak frites and lobster thermidor at these exceptional French diners in Melbourne.

The best French restaurants in Melbourne are often reserved for times when we really want to treat ourselves. Rarely do you find cheap French eats. Instead, you've got delicately roasted duck topped with caviar, lobster smothered in buttery goodness and big steaks aplenty. French fare is rich, creamy and best paired with fine champagne.

But you don't have to go full eleganza extravaganza when hitting up the best French restaurants in Melbourne. At many, you can simply dine at the bar — sampling a few small plates and some glasses of wine while reading a book on your lonesome — or get an express lunch with colleagues that won't cost a small fortune. Whatever your preference, we've got you covered with this list.


Recommended reads:
The Best Restaurants in Melbourne
The Best Japanese Restaurants in Melbourne
The Best Mexican Restaurants in Melbourne
The Best Italian Restaurants in Melbourne

  • 10
    Bistro Guillaume - is one of the best French restaurants in Melbourne.

    Bistro Guillaume in Crown isn’t the kind of place you visit to be surprised — unless you’re not expecting top-quality classic French fare — for everything here is done by the books. Chef Guillaume Brahimi isn’t trying to reinvent the cuisine. He isn’t even trying to make it contemporary. His menu shows how he is a purist — executing the French favourites without deviation. And we can only applaud him for this.

    Being here, it can feel as if you’re dining in Paris. But like Paris, this fare doesn’t come cheap. It is in Crown (and most French food is on the expensive side), so we aren’t terribly surprised by that. But don’t be shocked to receive a fairly stacked bill at the end of the night — especially if you get caught up in the mighty impressive wine and cocktail list. Perhaps, save this one for a particularly special night out.

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  • 9

    Opened by renowned chef Scott Pickett (EstelleMatilda and Longrain), Chancery Lane resides in the historic Normanby Chambers site at 430 Little Collins Street. The space is kitted out with moodily lit dining zones, curved banquettes and arched windows framed in dapper black steel, while the Euro-accented bistro serves up fare that’s at once timeless and unafraid of modern technique.

    The expansive seafood selection features a range of caviar served by the gram or the tin, alongside bites like prawn cocktails with apple and cantaloupe. A grand, globe-trotting wine cellar rounds out the fun at one of Melbourne’s best French restaurants, including a pick of top-shelf wines displayed artfully in a former safe within one of the dining room walls.

    Image: Tania Bahr Vollrath

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  • 8

    This French fine diner sits within a striking three-storey Edwardian corner block, painted a dazzling winter white — outside of which, you’ll often find stacks of locals sipping on chablis and sampling fresh oysters on a sunny day. When the less favourable weather comes, pull up a stool at the bar and tuck into its signature tartines (open sandwiches). They change seasonally and have gained somewhat of a cult following.

    It wouldn’t be one of the best French restaurants in Melbourne without a banging wine list. Sample old-world drops and natural skin contact vinos by the glass or dive into some classic cocktails made with top-shelf spirits. And if you really want to treat yourself, this is a fab spot to jump on the caviar train.

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  • 7

    A part of Society — also home to Society Dining Room and The Lounge cocktail bar — Lillian Brasserie is where you go for some of the best French food in Melbourne CBD. It’s dark, moody and throws chic Parisian late-night dining vibes — with all the frivolity and joie de vivre centred around the various dishes.

    Dive into lobster and leek croquettes with a fresh herb emulsion before moving onto the cured salmon with house pickles, confit duck cassoulet and one of the rare steaks, fresh off the woodfired grill. The wine list is impressive, too. Just be sure to ask the staff for help choosing, because there are over 10,000 bottles in the Society cellar.

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  • 6

    Gitan is a very Melbourne interpretation of a modern French bistro. Dining here feels like you’re sitting in a hole-in-the-wall eatery in Paris, but the Spanish, Italian and Australian influences are hard to miss.

    Typically French dishes like buttery escargots, croque monsieur and liver parfait sit effortlessly alongside kingfish sashimi and a Victorian Southern Ranges 230-gram eye fillet with choice of sauce. The wine list is worldly also, with drops from Spain, France, Italy, Australia and New Zealand — which are available by the glass, the pichet or the carafe, as well as a lengthier list of wines available by the bottle. It’s easily one of the best French restaurants in Melbourne and well worth a visit.

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  • 5
    Bar Margaux 2019 bar front

    The team behind The Everleigh and Heartbreaker has also created this chic yet laidback French underground bar and restaurant. At Bar Margaux, the fun kicks on till midnight on weekdays and 3am on Fridays and Saturdays (a rarity with venues of this sort in the CBD), with a substantial supper menu of classic French fare on offer right through to close.

    So, if your late-night munchies tend to sway closer to creme brulee than kebabs, this is the place to go. Order some champagne or cocktails and pair it all with some oysters, ratatouille and pomme frites. It’s for those feeling fancy after midnight.

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  • 4

    Renowned chef Scott Pickett (EstelleMatilda and Longrain) transformed his former Italian restaurant Lupo into the Parisian-inspired Smith St Bistrot back in 2021. The bistro and bar celebrates the French chapter of Pickett’s own culinary training. It opens at 12pm from Friday to Sunday for those chic lunching, sipping and snacking sessions, with a rotating menu du jour showcased come dinnertime (starting from 5.30pm every day).

    Classic European flavours star throughout a long list of finely tuned dishes. Meanwhile, a matching wine offering has options for all occasions and budgets and favours local and international winemakers who take a hands-off approach to their art. Design-wise, expect old-school Parisian glamour — think brass chandeliers, antique mirrors and wrought iron balustrades, with a spiral staircase leading to a mezzanine level and second private dining space.

    Image: Alex Squadrito

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  • 3
    Steak frites at Entrecote - one of the best steaks in Melbourne.

    On one of Jason Jones’ trips to Paris, he stumbled upon three rules of Parisian dining worth abiding by. Keep it simple. Serve it till late. And never shirk on the fries. Thus Entrecôte was born — Jones’ famed French restaurant modelled closely on the Parisian restaurant L’Entrecôte.

    Head to the new-ish Prahran location for its signature steak frites or, almost equally popular, escargot and beef tartare. Classic is king here but you can also find an ever-changing selection of more contemporary dishes on the specials board. Want to take this dining experience home with you? Just hit up the on-site store and buy some of its famed sauces and pastries.

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  • 2
    The dining room at Gimlet in Cavendish House - one of the best restaurants in Melbourne

    Yet another hit from legendary chef Andrew McConnell (Cumulus IncCutler & CoMarion), Gimlet is a suave Melbourne restaurant and cocktail bar located in the 1920s-built Cavendish House. A dapper fitout by Acme features soaring ceilings, geometric tiles and honeycomb chandeliers, while the food and drink offering is that of a very chic French bistro.

    Like the space, the menu is also a little bit indulgent — expect caviar, champagne and truffles aplenty. It boasts lots of European influence, deftly mixing old-world elements with a touch of modern flair, via plates like wood-roasted rock lobster with bisque sauce, and a gnocco fritto featuring bresaola and parmesan. Gimlet has even scored international acclaim, taking out number 84 spot in the World’s 50 Best Restaurants awards longlist for 2022.

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  • 1

    A true legend of the game, France-Soir has been dishing up French-accented goodness from its charming Toorak brasserie since 1986. Many consider it a go-to for those timeless, simple French classics, thanks to its menu of expertly executed fare. From escargots and white wine mussels to steak frites and duck a l’orange, it’s a study in essential Euro flavours, done well but without unnecessary fanfare.

    But it’s not just the food that keeps the Parisian-inspired restaurant packed after more than 30 years. The intimate, understatedly elegant atmosphere of France-Soir is nearly impossible to replicate, and its old-school sense of hospitality is hard to resist. Throw in an extensive, internationally recognised wine list featuring thousands of French labels, et voila — there you have the best French restaurant in Melbourne.

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Top images: Entrecôte by Alex Squadrito.

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