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FOOD & DRINK

Melbourne's Least Awkward Spots for a First Date

Because first dates are nail-biting enough without the added challenge of picking a good place.
By Imogen Baker
October 07, 2017
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Melbourne's Least Awkward Spots for a First Date

Because first dates are nail-biting enough without the added challenge of picking a good place.
By Imogen Baker
October 07, 2017
  shares

MELBOURNE'S LEAST AWKWARD SPOTS FOR A FIRST DATE

in partnership with

Because first dates are nail-biting enough without the added challenge of picking a good place.

If there's a single universal truth that people of all denominations can agree on, it's that first dates are awkward as heck. What to wear? When to meet? Whether to reveal your dorky side or pretend to be cool? Should you spontaneously burst into flames right then or wait until you get home? It's a complicated equation to balance. There's one thing you shouldn't worry about though, and that's the venue. We've got you covered on that one.

There are plenty of factors that make a venue ideal for a casual first date. After years of field research in the form of many, many awkward dates, we believe the magic sweet spot is somewhere between rowdy and stuffy, and between day and night. They have to serve food so you have something to stuff in your mouth and stop yourself from babbling, and, ideally, the venue should have that certain je ne sais quoi that's both buzzing and intimate.

It's a tall order, but we've enlisted some help from American Express to uncover the least awkward places in Melbourne to take a casual date — where you can also tap and earn some points from that Amex you just signed up for. Now all you have to do is swipe until your fingers bleed and make it to the second date with your dignity intact.

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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    Love craft beer, but also have a soft spot for a good whisky? Does the idea of drinking them together excite or intrigue you? Are you a little nervous about this date? If so, Boilermaker House is the perfect venue for you. For the uninitiated, a boilermaker is an American beer cocktail consisting of a shot of whisky and a beer chaser.

    Plus, we all know there’s nothing more effortlessly casual than a charcuterie board, with Boilermaker House boasting an excellent selection of cured meats and cheeses from all over the globe. Try the small ploughman’s platter, which features beautiful serrano, cacciatore salami and bresaola cuts paired perfectly with 1,000-day gouda, chicken pâté, sweet quince and pickled vegetables.

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    If you’re a marvellous kook and your thing is cheerful day dates, book your next Tinder match into Archie’s All Day. The backyard courtyard and street dining are perfect for warm arvos — or you can hide from Melbourne’s surprise rain showers inside, listening to vinyl to fill in any awkward conversational pauses. The space is tasteful and minimalist but not cold, with retro flourishes here and there, and a good mixture of seating arrangements to choose from.

    Cover your date anxiety with coffee by local roasters Proud Mary, pumped out of a seriously huge Synesso Sabre machine. When it’s time to order, show off your fiscal rebelliousness and grab the smashed avo – it’s served with goat’s feta, mint, parsley, lemon, sumac and pepita dukkah. And if things go well and you wanna roll that lunch date over into a dinner, know they serve a mean wagyu double cheeseburger after 5pm.

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    Embla is a beautiful and intimate bar on Russell Street that’s sure to impress. But if you want to be casual about it, try these two things. Firstly, go at lunchtime and book a table, as they don’t take reservations for dinner and you run the risk of missing out. And, secondly, say hi to all the staff like you go there so much they know you personally. This will give the whole affair a casual feel.

    Social machinations aside, the menu is hearty, protein-heavy and varied. Snack on oysters, delicate anchovy toasts or pickled cucumber, which arrive dotted through a pool of feta and sprinkled with dill dust. Or, go for something more filling like a half roast chook — playing the ‘share meal with date’ card is super effective. And when it comes to ordering drinks, defer entirely to the waitstaff. They really know their stuff.

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    If you’re after a cheap and cheerful date venue on the southside, you can’t go past Lucky Coq. With dim lighting, electronic tunes and kitsch furniture, it’s a good place to sprawl on a lounge and chat — but make sure you arrive early before the Friday and Saturday night crowds take over the place. Or go with a day beer in the courtyard when the weather is good.

    It’s also a fine venue for a casual Sunday date that won’t break the bank, thanks to $4 pizzas. And it won’t break your heart, even if the date doesn’t work out (again thanks to $4 pizzas).

    Image: Leah Hulst.

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    As the weather warms up, there’s nowhere better for a casual date than Arbory. The spacious bar by the Yarra slays as a date venue for two reasons. Firstly, there are lots of seats so you won’t have to do that awkward ‘standing around waiting to find a seat and feeling the panic rise’ shebang. Secondly, the locale provides ample people-watching opportunities — and we all know there’s nothing cooler than wry observations about passers-by. Well, except espresso martinis on tap, which they also have.

    If you think you can pull it off (and you can, we believe in you), order yourself a big fat double cheeseburger served with crinkle cut chips. Because if they can’t handle you at your food coma worst — total burger satiation and covered in tomato relish — then they don’t deserve you at your best.

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    Yellow Bird is one of those venues that’s always good. Squeeze into your tightest leather pants and arrange a meet-up there during the day or night — it doesn’t matter which, you’ll always find a chill atmosphere. It’s got all the ingredients for an interesting date: weird and wonderful décor as a talking point, all day booze and coffee service, and loud jams.

    They serve a hearty menu of stacked burgers and sandwiches, as well as tacos and lighter snackables that will suit the taste of the even the fussiest date. If you want to dance with danger, try the Death Benedict on the all-day breakfast menu. A combo of hash browns, bacon, poached eggs and hollandaise, it might stop your heart — but what a story to tell your grandkids one day.

    Image: Leah Hulst.

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    Ichi Ichi Ku is generally known as a takeaway joint for South Yarra locals, but, hot tip: there are a few tables inside that are perfect for a cosy (but cool) date. Low lights and chocolate timber interiors combined with the hustle and bustle of the staff create a relaxed atmosphere. It’s one of the unique places that simultaneously make you feel part of an exciting crowd but alone in your bubble of privacy.

    If you’re interested in carbs — and we all are — fill up with the tempura udon bowl or a chicken teriyaki don. For something slightly healthier, the brown rice maki sushi is a solid choice. And to keep your date sweet on you, hit the dessert menu hard. Try the black sesame cheesecake with red bean paste, as well as a matcha tiramisu and, if you want to show off, wash it down with some Choya plum wine.

     

    As you drink and dine with your American Express, reap all the sweet rewards of being a Card Member. Explore the many ways American Express has your back here.

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