Melbourne's Best Retro Spots for When You're Feeling Nostalgic

The question isn't just where to go, it's which era to spend time in.
Kat Hayes
Published on October 03, 2017

Melbourne's Best Retro Spots for When You're Feeling Nostalgic

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The question isn't just where to go, it's which era to spend time in.

Sometimes a walk down memory lane becomes a hike down memory lane. Then, before you know it, you've been reminiscing about the hotdogs from your school tuckshop for a good hour and you've got the munchies. Luckily, there might just be a fix. Melbournians are spoilt for choice when it comes to a good ol' fashioned eatery that'll give you all the nostalgic feels, pop some comfort grub on your plate and serve you up an experience of a bygone era at the same time.

Of course, some things don't stay the same. You probably can't get as many doughnuts for your $2 pocket money as you used to, for example. So, with the help of American Express, we've created a list of retro places you won't need to rummage around for change to pay at: the nostalgic factor is high and the inconvenience is low ('cos you can just whack it all on your Amex card).

Whether it's tuckshop food, punch bowls and finger sandwiches, or an immense Greek all-you-can-eat, take a stroll down that lane with these places — and brace yourself for the heartachey feels (but in a good way).

Got yourself in another dining situation and need some guidance? Whatever it is, we know a place. Visit The Shortlist and we'll sort you out.

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    France Soir - one of the best BYO restaurants in Melbourne. South yarra.

    Since 1986, France-Soir has been serving little bits of happiness in its packed Toorak brasserie. Wish you were in Paris? Want to pretend? Head here, and choose from an extensive list of timeless, simple French classics.

    But it’s not just the food that keeps the restaurant packed after more than 30 years. The raw, intimate atmosphere of France-Soir is nearly impossible to replicate, and it’s quite the drawcard. Combined with one of the largest internationally recognised wine lists in Melbourne which features several thousand French wines, France-Soir easily keeps their loyal regulars coming back — and there’ll for sure be something on the menu to remind you lavishly of that one week you spent in Paris way back when.

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  • 7

    Retro favourite Ruby’s is full of personality, which comes down to the influence of owners Becky and Mik Tsatsis. Mik’s Greek heritage shines through on the menu — haloumi, Greek yoghurt and feta all feature, and there’s a spanakopita available for lunch.

    Also tell your stomachs about banana and Nutella jaffles, Nutella and peanut butter milkshakes (groan) and even a French Kiss — French toast made with Greek sweetbread served with yoghurt, house-made lemon curd, red berries and maple syrup. The broader milkshake menu that is fast making a name for itself with such combinations as raspberry, flaked almond and pomegranate, and a spiced chai with chocolate ice cream.

    All this is packaged into a retro-furnished atmosphere that feels like the living space of your coolest friend’s northside share house where everyone’s happy to welcome new visitors (and there’s a cute courtyard out the back for sunny mornings).

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  • 6

    Since opening on an unsuspecting corner in Caulfield North, Tuck Shop Take Away has swiftly transitioned from new kid on the block to coolest guy in school — there’s no denying the sense of nostalgia that washes over you thanks to the retro, school-themed interior. Tuck Shop offers staples like burgers and chips but also novelties like jaffles and Mintie milkshakes, or gear your stomach up for the School Meal. Large, white-faced clocks hang from the wall, and — charmingly — a traditional schoolyard water fountain bubbles away in the corner, ready to sate your thirst.

    Best of all? There’s no sign of bullies or grumpy canteen ladies here. The service is cheerful and efficient — officially worth skipping class for.

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  • 5

    1806 is Melbourne’s old-world gem where the cocktail is king. Think 1920s prohibition theatricality, and envisage a boozy sanctuary that’s home to approximately 60 cocktails, red velvet chairs and strapping bartenders. The extensive menu is categorised into eras from 1650 to the present. We’ve got classics like the whisky toddy, old fashioned and negroni all on offer, as well as contemporaries like gin fizz tropical, mai tai and cosmopolitan.

    1806’s food offerings are ideal for late-night cocktail fuelled snacking or the essential pre-boozing lining of the stomach. Grilled haloumi with truffle oil is a must-order dish, while chunky chips, crispy calamari or roast lamb sausage rolls will all satisfy your cravings.

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  • 4
    The European

    An all-day diner and a Melbourne institution, The European has been welcoming patrons for more than a decade — and every visit will transport you to the old-world romanticism of Europe. Regardless of the time of day, the menu brings the traditions of France, Italy and Spain to the table in honest fare without the presence of trends or fads. From 7:30am until very late, take your pick: a continental breakfast, seasonal mushroom risotto with truffle oil or duck ravioli are all at your calling.

    Then, back it all up with timeless desserts such as sticky date and carrot pudding, blood orange creme brulee and petit fours. And, while it’s a classic “I’m never gonna live in Europe, am I?” experience, going back again is almost the next best thing.

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  • 3

    Anywhere else, Madame Brussels’ decor would seem daggy and aged. It’s akin to a model right out of a ’60s wedding catalogue. Once you’ve sat — there’s curled iron chairs in the hedged bar, and white-picketed wooden deck chairs out on Madame’s rooftop terraces — an entourage of waiters, all dressed in tennis-style getups (think white pleated skirts, tight polo shirts and canvas loafers), will swish by to take your order.

    Splash some cash with a friend and share a cocktail jug — the Moscow Mule will go perfectly with a hefty charcuterie or cheese plate (which is perfect if you just want to eat your feelings in brie). There’s also some tasty sandwiches (chicken and chive, plus ham and cheese) and snag rolls if you want to relive when your Great Aunt used to throw garden parties. Then, to top your dreamy night off, head for the cupcakes.

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  • 2

    Non-fussy, simple Greek fare is the focus at Jim’s Greek Tavern. From the whitewashed walls and unpretentious wooden tables to the smorgasbords of meat and seafood, this endearing rowdy restaurant is the way to go for no frills, good food eating.

    You won’t find menus here, but don’t worry — their Australian-Greek waiters will run you through the options which include homemade dips, saganaki and all the protein you can think of. BYO is welcome and corkage is free, win. Come if you want to just eat heaps of meat and dream about the Mediterranean, then take yourself off, post-meat coma, for an early night.

    Image: Leah Hulst.

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  • 1
    Jimmy Watson's

    Easily the best-kept secret of rooftops, Wolf’s Lair at Jimmy Watson’s is a Carlton oasis popular with students and connoisseurs alike. Nestled in behind Lygon and Elgin Streets, its rooftop is a tranquil cul-de-sac concealed amongst the terrace gables. Astroturf, market umbrellas and lanterns decorate the ‘treetop’, making it an ideal spot to for drinks by the jug.

    Go for old-school charm, saloon vibes and some delicious cocktails, as well as the snuggly cushioned nest on the rooftop. Astroturf has that magical quality of transporting you to somewhere much quainter as soon as you step on it, and Aperol Spritz jugs have that magical quality of making you very happy.


    Still searching? For even more spots where you can drink and dine with your American Express (and reap the sweet rewards of being a Card Member), click here.

    Top image: Brook James.

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