From Curtain to Cocktails: How to Treat Yourself to a Night Out in Melbourne When You're Seeing The Phantom of the Opera
Whether it's a pre-show dinner or a stylish spot to grab a drink after the final curtain, here’s everything you need to know about planning the perfect night out at the theatre.
November 22, 2022
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With an abundance of art exhibitions, amazing creative institutions and all-hours eateries, Melbourne has well and truly cemented itself as Australia's cultural capital. And one of the best ways to explore it is by planning a night at the theatre — specifically, one where you catch a live performance of Cameron Mackintosh's The Phantom of the Opera — while also crossing a few other must-sees off your list.
Whether you're a travelling out-of-towner or a local looking to enjoy a sophisticated city staycation, our essential guide promises to deliver the ultimate evening out.
KICK OFF YOUR CULTURE FIX
EXPLORE THE STREET ART AT SOUTHBANK
Melbourne's labyrinth of lanes is a blank canvas for emerging artists. So when it comes to galleries, some of the most innovative ones on offer are outdoors. And while public artworks are spread across the city's streets, those on display at Southbank are truly striking. Our don't-miss-pick is the vibrant, neon floral Outdoor Living mural created on the outside walls of Hanover House by local artist Atong Atem. Otherwise, if you're keen to test your own creative snapping skills, then we suggest you take the time to stop for a good-for-gram shot on the Princes Bridge.
VISIT THE ARTS PRECINCT
A recent glow-up has seen the Melbourne Arts Precinct on St Kilda Road transformed into the largest cultural infrastructure project in Australia's history, and home to the most visited art gallery in the country. With a plethora of creative communities nestled between Federation Square and Southbank (as well as up to 3000 performances and exhibitions every year), we're confident you'll find a theatre, gallery, museum or music venue to get you into the mood for the main show. However, if you need a little inspiration to get started, we have a few suggestions. Like the aforementioned National Gallery of Victoria, the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art, the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, the Melbourne Theatre Company, the Australian Ballet school, the National Institute for Dramatic Arts and even the ABC.
GO GALLERY HOPPING
As the world's first major gallery dedicated exclusively to Australian art, The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia in Federation Square rightly recognises the creative contribution of some of our country's best craftspeople. Take some time to explore this spectacular showcase comprised of over 20 galleries housed within a landmark architectural complex. Otherwise, check out the ACMI (formerly Australian Centre for the Moving Image) and navigate the universe of film, TV, video games and art, or the Koorie Heritage Trust — a not-for-profit First Nations-owned and managed arts organisation providing opportunities for all people to connect with the rich living cultural heritage of Aboriginal Victoria. Complete your experience with a walk by the banks of the Birrarung Marr or the River of Mists (also known as the Yarra River)
INDULGE IN AN EARLY DINNER
SPECTACULAR SUSHI AT SAKÉ
Award-winning eatery Saké Restaurant & Bar offers contemporary Japanese cuisine, alongside an exclusive range of its namesake drink. And although the extensive cocktail list and exquisite sashimi are common across its various Sydney and Melbourne locations, only its Southbank outpost offers phenomenal Yarra River views courtesy of the floor-to-ceiling walls.
PADDOCK-TO-PLATE AT PURE SOUTH KITCHEN
This modern Australian restaurant is pure by both name and nature, with every single item on the menu made with ingredients that arrive daily from farmers, fisherpeople and artisan food producers across the Bass Strait. Expect dishes featuring handmade bresaola, sustainably caught cod and organic fruit and veggies, from Tasmania and Flinders and King Islands. Head upstairs to the elegant dining room for dinner with a view of the Melbourne skyline, or grab a quick bite at the more casual corner downstairs.
AMAZING ARGENTINEAN AT ASADO
Some of the most succulent steaks this side of Buenos Aries can be found at this sophisticated South-American-inspired bar in the heart of Southbank. As well as the range of specialities that you'll find roasted over the open fire pit and traditional three-metre bespoke charcoal parrilla — like the Tira De Asado (Argentinian style short rib), Polpo (Fremantle octopus, saffron & smoked paprika sauce, pickled fennel) and Cordero (pasture-fed lamb rump with chimichurri sauce) — expect a selection of tasty tapas and very impressive wine list.
CELEBRATE THE STATE AT VICTORIA BY FARMER'S DAUGHTERS
Fresh ingredients focusing on the best that Victoria has to offer come together at this farm-to-fork restaurant. Score yourself one of the 250 seats on offer at this venue and experience the Farmer's Daughters' philosophy of showcasing seasonal and regional produce that celebrates the finest offerings of The Garden State. The rotating "region in residence" ethos is embraced in the dining options and also extends to the drinks, which include only-in-Victoria wines, cocktails exclusively crafted with the state's best spirits and a selection of Victorian beers on tap.
SAVOUR A PRE-SHOW SUPPER AT THE ARTS CENTRE
"Dinner and a show" is an iconic pairing for an amazing evening out. And, one of the easiest ways to enjoy both is by taking advantage of the three-course prix fixe (fixed price) menu being served at The Arts Centre Melbourne, before finding your seats at your selected performance of The Phantom of the Opera. In addition to a glass of sparkling on arrival, The Phantom of the Opera Dining Experience will plate up fancy French-inspired fare like goat cheese and asparagus tart with black currant pearls and frisée, grilled ocean trout with lobster bisque and baked celery salad and a chocolate mousse cake (with chocolate crumble, white chocolate shavings and a chocolate macaron), for the final act. Simply add the dining package to your cart after selecting tickets for any of the performances or purchase separately.
WIND DOWN WITH A POST-SHOW WINE
COCKTAILS AT EAU DE VIE
Intimate, cosy and discreetly nestled in Malthouse Lane, the bar considered by many as one of the best in Melbourne gives serious speakeasy vibes. Inspired by America's 1920s prohibition era, Eau de Vie will certainly recreate the mood of the show you just watched, with its theatrical cocktail creations, dramatic whiskies (secretly hidden behind the bookcase) and a selection of fine wines served by bartenders who have perfected their own art of performance. Choose a spot at the bar, or sink into one of the private booths towards the back and channel your inner Gatsby.
ROOFTOP VIBES AT SIGLO
Perched above Spring Street, this charming, old-world rooftop terrace bar serves cocktails, gourmet snacks and seriously impressive views of Parliament House, the Princess Theatre and St Patrick Cathedral's towering spire. While it's renowned for sparkling views as the sun sets over Melbourne city, its late-trade hours (it's open till 3 am), mean anytime is a good one to visit.
LIVE MUSIC AT MUSIC ROOM
Head to the first level of four-storey mega-venue HER and discover Melbourne's first official listening bar. Modelled on similar sound-proof spaces throughout Japan, Music Room is a little bit club, a touch of recording studio, a sprinkle of vinyl record store, and a whole lot of fun. Treat your ears to mixes by one of Music Room's exclusive DJ residencies or something from the 3000-strong collection of hard-to-find vinyl, before grabbing a neat whiskey to tend to your thirsty taste buds.
ESCAPE TO AN ICONIC HOTEL
SWEET DREAMS AT THE SOFITEL
A year-and-half-long, $15 million renovation has revamped the Collin's Street location of this luxe hotel. The splash of cash has seen each of the 360 rooms re-imagined into uniquely designed accommodation fusing classic Sofitel French flair with all the latest tech, as well as a return of some decadent dining options such as Sofitel's famous afternoon tea experiences. As regular guests will confirm, one thing that has never really needed upgrading was the views, with the Sofitel continuing to deliver breathtaking vistas across Melbourne's main landmarks, including the Arts Centre, Flinders Street Station, Fed Square, and even Luna Park on a clear day. As the official hotel partner for the Melbourne season of The Phantom of the Opera, the Sofitel is also offering guests an exclusive Phantom-inspired cocktail menu. Head to the Atrium Bar on level 35 for decadent drinks with a touch of drama.
LUXURY AT THE LANGHAM
Opulent, old-school elegance is on full display at this iconic Southbank sleeping spot. Tear yourself away from the utter indulgence on offer in your room and head to the rooftop pool for a midnight swim and uninterrupted vistas across the Yarra River and the rest of Melbourne's cityscape. If you have time, we really recommend making a booking at the Langham Spa before you check out. The Chinese massages are so good, you may be tempted to book another night, just so you can enjoy them again.
WELLNESS AT THE WESTIN
As appealing as your surroundings may be, sometimes you just need a little time out to escape the hustle. In these instances, The Westin is where you want to head, with this idyllic urban sanctuary offering an exceptional opportunity to relax — without straying too far from the fun. Find your inner zen in the sauna, steam room or spa, lose yourself in the accommodation's enchanting aesthetics (which includes a dramatic staircase, deco-inspired lobby and a deluge of contemporary artworks lining the walls) or while away the evening with some bubbles and a good book by the fireside library at the plush Lobby Lounge.
WRAP UP YOUR STAY WITH A REFUELLING BREAKFAST
BAKED EGGS WITH CHORIZO AT HARDWARE SOCIÉTÉ
Both branches (Katherine Place and Hardware Street) of this Melbourne brunch institution are within walking distance of the Arts Centre, meaning you have no excuse not to pop in. And although the lines can be long it's truly worth the wait. Our suggestion is their signature Baked Eggs Deux, made with spicy Spanish sausage, potato, piquillo peppers, queso manchego, almonds and aioli. But by all means, peruse the menu and pick anything that catches your eye. It's all undoubtedly good.
BREAKFAST RUBEN SANDWICH AT BOWERY TO WILLIAMSBURG
Make like a New Yorker and head to this classic diner-style joint — an ode to the Big Apple's Bowery subway station. Nab one of the 50 seats on offer at the large communal table inside or settle in for your "caw-fee" (using Padre beans from Brunswick) at one of the undercover cafeteria-style tables outside.
A QUICK COFFEE AT KING STREET ESPRESSO BAR
The name of this hole-in-the-wall coffee shop (formerly known as Sbriga) may have changed. But its commitment to churning out quality cups of caffeine continues. Inspired by the old-school espresso bars of Italy, King's Street's early hours of operation — you'll find the doors flung open from 6am — make it perfect for a short black by sunrise, paired with a sliver of biscotti.
A SLICE OF DACQUOISE AT BENCH COFFEE CO
Juxtaposed amongst the urban, utilitarian architecture of this coffee shop (which gets its name from the modernist glass bench centrepiece) is one of the sweetest ways you could possibly start your day — a slice of dacquoise. With variations of this baked meringue and buttercream dessert the only food item on the menu (alongside an extensive selection of brews) you can be sure that Bench is raising the bar when it comes to doing breakfast right.
For the ultimate Melbourne escape, don't forget to grab your tickets to The Phantom of the Opera. The show is now playing, with best availability for January 2023.
Top image: Southbank Melbourne at night by Lycheeart.
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