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By Kat Hayes
June 28, 2018

Where to Enjoy Your Champagne Tastes on a Beer Budget in Melbourne

Live the high life without the high price tag.
By Kat Hayes
June 28, 2018


in partnership with

Live the high life without the high price tag.

It's more than alright to live above your means occasionally and embrace your more pretentious desires — in fact, it's good for your soul and your mental health (just maybe not your wallet). Perhaps for you it's doing a yoga class in a fancy-smelling studio, paying full price for avocados at the organic grocers, or buying the non-house red wine. Or going out for a 'light dinner' and then spending your rent money on wheels of triple-cream brie.

Together with American Express, we want to help you treat the part of you that wants to get monthly massages but maybe doesn't touch on your Myki all that often. With this list, we will guide you through realising your Champagne dreams on your beer budget with some guidance on where you can whip your Amex out, wave it, promptly forget, and then not get too much of a fright the next day upon looking at your bank account.

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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    Supernormal Canteen, a casual sibling to the Andrew McConnell’s Flinders Lane restaurant, doesn’t fall too far from the Supernormal family tree in style and cuisine — though it’s bringing plenty of its own personality to the table. With the check-the-box menus and buzzy crowd, it’s cruisier, cosier and more Japanese than its CBD sibling — it’s good food over here, but a little more chill in vibe and on the wallet.

    Familiar faces on the menu include the classic McConnell New England lobster roll ($16), returning to its roots six years after first melting hearts on the Golden Fields lineup. It’s as good as ever, with that dreamy combo of warm brioche, cool salty lobster and creamy mayo. Then there’s the hibachi grill put to good use all over the menu, as well as crunchy chilli school prawns but — perhaps most relevant to you here — some fancy, highbrow cup noodles to placate your sodium cravings, in cute ceramic, full slurp form ($14).

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    The simplest way to describe Kisumé, the luxe Japanese restaurant from lauded restaurateur Chris Lucas, may be this: three storeys of considered grandeur. Its design is impressive — a Chablis bar, a wine wall, avant-garde art — and considered attention to detail travels throughout the three levels, from the menu down to the nifty coin-sized refreshment towels that entertainingly expand when you open them.

    Not too cool for the likes of you, though. There’s no denying this is a place for a fancy time, but there are achievable ways into the menu’s goodness too: try the lunchtime bento box or a deluxe sushi box. Plus, unlike Chin Chin, you can book in advance.

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    In a city saturated by endless food trends, Cutler & Co. at once remains innovative and traditional. The highly flexible dining room makes the ideal location for business dining, drinks at the bar, long lunches and truly extensive degustation experiences — and can meet you in the stakes of indulging your taste for the luxe on a less-luxe budget.

    With an extensive menu of variable tastes designed for sharing, we recommend the Sunday lunch: a seasonal selection of dishes that demonstrates Cutler & Co. in its best light. The set menu means you’re free to enjoy a truly leisurely afternoon, and at $75, is extremely good value.

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    Estelle in Northcote has seen a couple of reincarnations. Starting with Estelle Bar and Kitchen, it’s now progressed to a more casual bistro version of the original with Estelle Bistro, as well as a fine dining version, Estelle by Scott Picket (ESP), next door. Chef Scott Pickett is no small fry in the hospitality world, having earned Estelle a hat within the first year of opening, and working for many a hatted venue in his past around Melbourne.

    He’s turned his very capable hands to this bistro, creating refined yet more casual offerings nestled in next door to its more formal counterpart. The three- or five- course tasting menus are good value (each under $100), and the oysters come at $4.50 each — four for less than a lobster is reason enough for us to indulge.

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    Sitting atop Cumulus Inc., Cumulus Up is the place to ascend to if it’s cold, you’ve had a hard week, and you want to give yourself a nice winey treat. Open Tuesday to Saturday, the wooden floors, warm lighting and buoyant wine choices will keep you afloat as well as feeling the good feels.

    More good feels by splashing out (moderately) on some good Andrew McConnell curated food — oysters are $4 a pop, and there’s both a raw fish (in buttermilk and dill oil for $18) and a beef tartare (with tarragon and fried anchovy for $16) which will showcase the restaurants focus on fresh, fine ingredients. If you’re really treating yourself, leave room for the rum baba ($17).

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    Long the bastion of fine Cantonese dining in Melbourne, Flower Drum more often than not has the word “institution” thrown around in the same sentence. Service, menu, décor and ambience see this stalwart hit a solid ten on the very good scale, along with a very tasty dim sum selection and standout peking duck.

    But price can be hefty around these parts. Luckily, the lunch banquet is where it’s at to let loose without having to sell your car and walk home afterwards. A $45 two-course winter tasting lunch means you (yes, you!) can partake in this absolute banger of a gold-standard Chinese restaurant. Join the legions of fans who come back time and time again and walk on the red carpets, while resting assured you’re dining within your means and budget.

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    Although it hasn’t always been owned by the Grossi family, Florentino has stood at the 80 Bourke Street site since 1928. In that time it’s changed ownership a number of times, but the sentiment has remained the same: Florentino has always been about authentic Italian dining and great wine. The restaurant is split into three parts, but the Grill is where you should head to dine yourself into a happy, meat-filled stupor within your budget.

    Tuscan flavours on the menu and an open kitchen mean you’re caught up in the action and feeling like you’ve just stepped off an Italian street into the place. Go for some of the best pasta you’ll have in Melbourne, for under $30 a plate.


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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