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Perching at the bar with a robust negroni, not sharing a parmesan-laden bowl of fresh cacio e pepe is a largely unpretentious dining experience that cuts to the core of hospitality. Perfect for solo dining or a delayed catch-up with your long-lost friend, this type of dining had been lacking in Melbourne until recent years. Nowadays, Melburnians aren't so intimidated with dining solo, sitting right in front of the chef, and foregoing a strong-backed seat for a humble stool. These restaurants and bars will let you pull up a pew in front of the action, and won't judge you on a table for one.
Image: Sunda, Kate Shanasy
Take a seat up front, whether you're dining solo or finally having that long-delayed catch-up.
Rule-breaking Indian fare in North Fitzroy.
Windsor's new modern Italian eatery with local flavours and a sleek design.
Restaurateur Scott Pickett's new sprawling restaurant is an ode to Australia.
This refined Italian eatery in a historic courthouse will transport you to Tuscany for the night.
You'll find everything from 6.30am coffee to late-night sangas at this Collingwood wine bar.
Where Southeast Asian flavours meet native Australian ingredients.
Melbourne's Thor-inspired bar and restaurant riffs on the feasting halls of Valhalla.
Chapel Street has a new moody restaurant and cocktail bar.
Templestowe's bold new all-day offering will leave you spoilt for choice.
An Argentinian restaurant serving up smoky meats and bold red wines in the CBD.
The historic building features five separate hospitality spaces, including a Champagne lounge and a craft beer bar.
Chris Lucas's three storeys of Japanese grandeur.
Grossi Florentino's basement bar is serving snacks and cocktails until 3am every night.
Punch Lane's basement raclette, jazz and wine bar.
Andrew McConnell's gone more casual with his canteen, serving up highballs, fancy cup noodles and, yes, those lobster rolls.
Valoriani clay oven woodfired pizzas, local beers and bottled cocktails in Fitzroy.
An ambitious two-level Windsor wine bar with a 'fireplace lounge' and 'cocktail saloon'.
A CBD wine bar and Italian eatery from the pasta kings next door at Tipo 00.
Casual Vietnamese fare in a breezy CBD space.
A casual fine diner pushing experimental dishes and some seriously memorable meals.
A new contender for northside's number one pizza place.
An all-day European-style eatery across from the Botanic Gardens.
A two-storey barbecue joint complete with its own rooftop bar.
An ex-Chin Chin chef opens a St Kilda restaurant for all seasons.
An enchanting Venetian bar that nails all the best bits of Venice.
Modern Thai food served with a Melbourne twist and some truly great cocktails.
Comforting Caribbean food on Chapel Street.
A CBD restaurant championing contemporary Armenian food.
The Sydney stalwart has opened its first venue in Melbourne.
An all-day dining option on Victoria Street (that's not Vietnamese food).
Magnificently messy dining.
A pan-European menu that inexplicably works exquisitely.
This Toorak bar has all the essentials: wine, wine-matched snacks and a solid happy hour.
Footscray's newest (and only) barbecue joint.
There’s more than just a silver lining on this cloud.
Hot, sugary brisket doughnuts await you at Preston's no-rules BBQ place.
Coffee, wine and wi-fi in the CBD.
True to form, Andrew McConnell serves up another Gertrude Street gem.
This classic family pub has ditched the schnitzels for Spanish-style tapas.
Channel the Prohibition era and sip moonshine below street level.
A burger joint that's completely custom.
A bayside pioneer, bringing Italy down under since 1993.
Enjoy all the Asian fusion food at Rice Paper Scissors' new Fitzroy venue.
High-class fare without the attitude.
The new neighbour set to elevate the dining scene of Preston.
Drink tinnies, down burgers, dance and play pool in Leonard's lounge room-like bar.
A brand new pub for Fitzroy's busiest intersection.
A new small bar for Sydney Road.
Venture north of the main Fitzroy drag for a no-nonsense glass of red.
Picanteria-style Peruvian fare is the new face of this subterranean city space.
Call in ground control, there's another bar on Smith Street.
The Rochey has been rejuvenated, and it's no longer just your average local pub.
Once a questionable choice of venue, the Saint Hotel has been transformed into a sleek Thai dining space and bar.
From Paris to Prahran, this is Jacques Reymond's attempt at the French gastropub.
An eatery and bar spawned from one of Melbourne's best hospo pedigrees.
Richmond's newest Asian joint is a little bit different to its Victoria Street neighbours.
One of the classic 'cool' bars in Melbourne never fails to disappoint.
Recently refurbished, The Post is now a pretty schmick St Kilda gastropub.
A classic option for cool and classy Japanese.
Green Park takes dining all through the day, from morning coffee to after-dinner profiteroles.
Greek street food in a Calombaris' casual fine dining setting.
Fun, convivial Peruvian dining in the CBD.
F**king hot Fitzroy fried chicken.
A new breakfast offering adds new life to this all-day South Yarra institution.
St Kilda's sweetest Sri Lankan restaurant.
Fine dining at one of the best restaurants in the country.
The new Korean king of Church Street.
A Venetian celebration within a thoroughly modern Melbourne setting.
Even with high profile siblings threatening to outshine, this Italian Baby is anywhere but the corner.
Oriental dining edging towards Brunswick Street royalty.
Lobster rolls and karaoke, together at last.
A sensory dream of outstanding food and beautiful design.
Tapas and sherry from the best.
With Fatto meaning 'stuffed' in Italian, this riverside cantina and bar might just be a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Great burgers in a classic Brunswick grunge-pub.
Oysters, absinthe, smoked meat and a 24-hour licence.
Start an affair with Charlie's dumplings.
Go for the food, stay for the view at this Smith Street stalwart.
An all-Sicilian affair that will make you feel an entire world away.
The souvlaki just got sexy, and suddenly, it's no longer just a 'sometimes' food.
Eat a mini (or large) bowl of pho on St Kilda's only Vietnamese rooftop.
A beacon of friendly service leading the renaissance of Abbotsford.
Serving sake rather than beer, Collingwood's newest pub is distinctly Japanese.
New Japanese eatery brings the funkiness of Fitzroy into the flashy end of town; a winning trifecta of food, sake and service.
Despite missing out on the neighbouring Meyers Place revolution, the Waiter's Club remains a city stalwart.
Greek food and a whole lot of Hellenic soul.
Inspired by Argentina’s vibrant culture, San Telmo offers authentic food and wine to match.
Art and food mix to create a sleek aesthetic and culinary experience.
A Spanish worker's bar where tapas, wines and vermouth are king.
With a history steeped in Melbourne Mafia, this bar brings a cosy, speakeasy-style space to Fitzroy North.
A little slice of Spain on Smith Street.
A touch of Italy with a Melbourne sensibility.
A special dining experience on Smith Street.
Accessible, Indian inspired cuisine with a stunning fine dining twist.
Hark back to the golden age of food and drink with South Melbourne's Bellota.
Enjoy good old fashioned pub food from the comfort of a concrete pipe.
Tapas, tap wine and a sexy interior.
'The Chris Lucas effect' has people lining up out the doors each day for hours on end.
A Japanese sharing menu and a killer sake list.
Authentic Italian cuisine with a side of childhood nostalgia.
A restaurant rife with innuendo and good-quality fare.
This little patch of greenery is where some of Melbourne's most loved cafe owners have struck gold once again.
A modern gastronomical experience in a relaxed and intimate atmosphere.
This Prahran pho joint promises classic Vietnamese hawker-style dishes.
There’s a fiesta in Melbourne and everyone wants to be invited.
Parlour Diner's tiny size keeps it grounded with a sense of community rather than commodity.
Tucked away in stencil-drenched Hosier Lane, MoVida offers a grazing extravaganza in an enchanting room akin to what you'd actually get in downtown Barcelona.