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FOOD & DRINK

The Best Restaurants for Big Groups in Melbourne

These spots are large (and rowdy) enough to host all your mates for dinner.
By Ellen Seah and Concrete Playground
September 07, 2018
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The Best Restaurants for Big Groups in Melbourne

These spots are large (and rowdy) enough to host all your mates for dinner.
By Ellen Seah and Concrete Playground
September 07, 2018
  shares

THE BEST RESTAURANTS FOR BIG GROUPS IN MELBOURNE

These spots are large (and rowdy) enough to host all your mates for dinner.

Someone's asked you to organise dinner...for a group. Don't get anxious. Sure, it's a little daunting to have everyone's enjoyment hinge on your choice of restaurant — you've got to make sure you can get everyone a seat, that dietaries are catered for, and, most importantly, everyone has a good time — but all you've got to do is find somewhere that's large, loud and takes group bookings.

And Melbourne's got plenty of those. With a large group, you have the luxury of making a booking at Chin Chin and eating copious amounts of seafood at Jim's. Great (and delicious) things happen when you bring people together, so get your best ones involved in a Facebook group message and organise dinner at one of these restaurants that welcome big rowdy groups.

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    Annam is all about traditional Vietnamese dishes — in fact, Annam was a historical region in Vietnam. But don’t confuse traditional Vietnamese food with homogenous Vietnamese food. The cuisine has picked up influences from China, France and Japan, as well as from the country’s neighbours Laos and Cambodia. Expect dishes like tuna tataki with cumquat nuoc mam (fish sauce) and crispy onion, whole grilled kingfish with rice paper, braised goat somm la curry with pea eggplant and bo kho spiced beef ribs with mustard leaf. The best part is that you can book for groups of any size and the banquet menu is a very reasonable 40 bucks.

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    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 big portion eating. You won’t find menus here, but don’t worry — the 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.

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    Fancy Hank's

    Since closing its venue at The Mercat, the the Fancy Hank’s team has moved into a flashy new two-storey home on Bourke Street. It comes with 100 seats and a a two-tonne smoker that had to be brought in through the first-storey window — so rest assured there will be enough space and food for your group. At $50 per person, the pitmaster’s selection is the easiest and best value way to order — your table will be piled high with brisket, pulled pork shoulder, and sausage, and sides like corn bread, fried and baked beans. If you’ve got a vegetarian or vegan in-tow, they’ll be looked after with an insane barbecue eggplant.

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    Need to cater for vegetarians and gluten-free folk? No worries, the banquets at Moroccan Soup Bar will have even the most stubborn carnivore professing their love for vegetarian food — and it’s just $25 a head. This homely dining space is popular among locals, but — great news — you can book for groups of six or more. Go straight for the banquet and spend your time relaxing with a cup of warm mint tea. The dishes are filled with traditional North African herbs and spices — their legendary chickpea bake is the sacred dish here, so try to get that placed down your end of the table.

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    Bomba

    Everyone can get on board with tapas. Classic Spanish food dominates the menu at CBD stalwart Bomba, including baked scallops, morcilla-stuffed peppers and individual marinated lamb ribs. Hungrier appetites can always opt for big plates of pork jowl and barramundi — and we’d suggest the set menu to make things easy ($49). You can visit the newly renovated upstairs rooftop bar for pre- and/or post-dinner drinks.

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    St Kilda’s Supernormal Canteen is fun. It’s got check-the-box menus and a buzzy crowd, making it cruisier, cosier and more Japanese than its CBD sibling — and perfect for a group dinner. If you’re lucky, you’ll get one of the booths, where you can settle into the signature Supernormal banquet. That includes the classic McConnell New England lobster roll, and the chicken and pork dumplings, which rock a gutsy vinegary chilli sauce. The dan dan noodles with chicken skin will reduce your table conversation to a chorus of slurps, and the famed peanut putter parfait dessert gets a go as well.

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    Chin Chin’s Bangkok-style dining hall is always packed and almost always has a line out the door and around the corner. But if you’ve got a group of six or more, you can bypass the queue and book a table. Thai-inspired food decorates Chin Chin’s menu, but the dishes also skim Malay and Chinese cuisine territory. The best option is the Feed Me option ($69.50) for a handpicked selection of Chin Chin favourites — the staff will keep bringing the food until you tell them to stop.

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    This new bar-cum-pizzeria in Melbourne’s west is a 90-seat neighbourhood restaurant perfect for groups (including kids), and it has a front courtyard perfect for summertime drinks with friends, to boot. The menu is simple, featuring six woodfired pizzas and five mains alongside a heap of salads and snacks, including cured meats and tasty seafood plates. You’ll find all the Italian classics on the pizza menu; there’s everything from margherita to prosciutto to diavola, as well as a pipi pizza with parsley, lemon and cream. For those after a little more, mains include the prime rib eye steak, whole baby snapper, and the highly coveted spaghetti cacio e pepe. 

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    Cumulus Inc.

    It’s been a decade since Cumulus Inc. entered the Melbourne restaurant scene. And just a few months ago, the restaurant launched a reservations system for the first time ever — so you can take a group along without any long table waits. The restaurant does do a banquet for $75 which reads like a McConnell best-of, but ordering off the menu should be no issue — the waitstaff here are extremely attentive and will be able to make suggestions based off the size of your group and any dietary requirements. Just make sure you order the slow-roasted lamb shoulder and some madeleines for dessert. And if you are planning a celebratory brunch, you can now make morning bookings, too.

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    Sezar

    If you and your group aren’t acquainted with Armenian cuisine, perhaps you should pop down to Sezar to find out. Its menu is dominated by superbly cooked meats, but also has some sides, salads and sweets thrown in the mix. That, paired with a well-stocked drinks menu, makes it an attractive choice for group eating — the banquet is $68 a head and you can even book a private room if you prefer. You’ll be happy to know that the ‘new-style’ baklava served as an ice cream sandwich is included in the set menu.

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    Le Bon Ton is a barbecue restaurant, saloon and cocktail bar and all-round great place for groups — it’s rowdy, has heaps of nooks and crannies, and you can make bookings (inside only). The banquet menu lets everyone try a serve of the restaurant’s signature fried chicken, chilli cheese fries and a selection of smoked meats. No one will leave hungry. The restaurant is also open until 5am on Friday and Saturday nights, so, even without a booking, you can rock up with your crew into the wee hours.

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    L’Hotel Gitan offers casual (yet classic) French dining in the heart of Prahran in a refined pub-like setting. While it doesn’t offer a banquet menu on days other than Sundays, you’ll have no trouble building your own feast. Start with chicken cigars and tuna tartare before moving onto a steak — at last count the kitchen was doing seven cuts, so you can choose whichever one works best for your table. There is, of course, a very French wine list — we suggest choosing a few bottles and settling in.

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