Off the pier
When it comes to knives and forks, are you meant to start from the outside in, or the inside out? There's no need for fussy table etiquette when you take your date for fish and chips by the sea. Off The Pier is indeed just off the pier at Williamstown and it does a cracking trade for folks chilling out in the nearby park. Their two fish choices are super fresh - local gummy and another option that changes according to what's fresh at the market (think flathead or blue grenadier).
Off The Pier, 126 Nelson Place, Williamstown, 9397 4688.
Tiptoe up Little Collins Street, past the romantic, walled ''secret garden'' of the Melbourne Club and duck into Bar Lourinha. Switched-on, friendly staff and a good range of tunes (from Latin to nostalgic pop) create a sophisticated yet relaxed mood. Ordering from the tapas menu creates some fun tension about what to expect next. If your date's not into the kingfish - air-cured, thinly sliced and served with Italian ''lemon oil'' - they're probably not a keeper.
Bar Lourinha, 37 Little Collins Street, Melbourne, 9663 7980; barlourinha.com.au.
A drink is always a good way to start, and with Prudence's well-priced cocktail menu you can afford to segue into two or three. Conversation goes better with a sloe gin sour - sloe gin, gin, lemon, sugar and a maraschino cherry on top. Prudence has a laid-back, unfussy vibe and tunes by Jerry Lee Lewis and Lightnin' Hopkins set the mood. Things going well? Linger over a red curry, ordered in from nearby Melbourne Thai Cafe.
Prudence, 368 Victoria Street, North Melbourne, 9329 9267.
Thanh Nga Nine
If you're dreaming of making your date pancakes for breakfast, mix things up with pancakes for dinner. Thanh Nga Nine serve luscious, bite-sized Vietnamese coconut pancakes, made with coconut cream and rice flour and topped with mung beans and dried prawn. There's also a great selection of vegetarian fare, from vegetarian pho to salt-and-pepper silken tofu. The Saigon 333 beer is cold and the mood is cheap, cheerful and relaxed.
Thanh Nga Nine, 160 Victoria Street, Richmond, 9427 7068.
Cool, composed Carolina is the perfect place for a rendezvous. Tuck yourselves into a booth and soak up the pared-back, stylish decor, with a pressed tin ceiling and a dark wood bar. After a very good short black, banish coffee breath with a plate of brioche French toast with orange blossom cream. From Wednesday to Saturday, Carolina's also open for chilled-out dinner dates or drinks. Alt country and Brit pop tunes keep the mood upbeat.
Carolina, 11 Nicholson Street, Brunswick East, 0425 731 315.
What's your go-to date night destination? Jump on the comments and share your suggestion.