Top 10 fine dining restaurants in Melbourne and beyond

Is it worth it? Man does that debate land you in the privileged basket in a hurry. 

When the Australian Fat Duck and Noma pop-up prices were announced (each diner paid well over $600 a head when drinks came into play), radio stations immediately opened the airwaves so that furious punters could cost it out in parmas.

And fair enough. If you have the expendable income to drop $130-$700 plus on dinner (even if you save that up) you are lucky, and let's not forget it. 

But worth it is still a moot point. Sure, you're bringing together a team of highly skilled players from floor staff who can read you better than a book to a huge brigade of kitchen hands, needed to put together unbelievably intricate dishes. It's still the high art of the food world, worth more than the sum of its parts, and maybe you're more Warhol over Monet?

Here's our best guide for your fine dining needs. 

Attica

Ben Shewry, our Kiwi-born national treasure, is taking the next step in dispensing with Australia's cultural cringe. The flurry of snacks that starts your adventure now includes riffs on smashed avo and a tiny lamb pie in Vegemite pastry. The rest is as high-minded and theatrical as ever.

Who should go? Food nerds: this is Australia's only World's 50 Best entrant and the native ingredient-driven dishes are often as much about making you think as salivate. You'll need to book three months out. 

74 Glen Eira Road, Ripponlea, 03 9530 0111, attica.com.au

Brae

The last hurdle to dining at Brae (driving) has gone now the accommodation, replete with record players and cocktail bar, is finished. It's the garden-girt fine diner near Birregurra where Dan Hunter continues to dominate the scene with his native-ingredient-and-obscure-animal-fat-based magic.

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Who should go? Everyone. It's as innovative as it is delicious. File under (big) business deal, anniversary or bucket list.

4285 Cape Otway Road, Birregurra, 03 5236 2226, braerestaurant.com

Dinner by Heston

Got money to burn? At Heston Blumenthal's Australian outpost, fireballs erupt outside the casino windows while someone freezes your ice-cream with liquid nitrogen. It's all big tricks done to ultimately recognisable Brit-ish food with service that's almost comically ingratiating.

Who should go? It's less about the food than the drama here, and expensive, so go if someone else is paying or you really love bells and whistles.  

Level 3, Crown Towers, 8 Whiteman Street, Southbank, 03 9292 5777, dinnerbyheston.com

Estelle by Scott Pickett

A luxe room of bronze-gold and blacks is backdrop to seven courses (great value at $140) where native ingredients – wallaby, kangaroo, and macadamia – unite in rich, luxe dishes. It's fine dining with fun injected.

Who should go? It's a northside special occasion restaurant that really delivers on glamour dining. 

245 High Street, Northcote, 03 9489 4609, estellebysp.com

Flower Drum

For decades this Chinese restaurant has represented another world of dining. Multiple life-long waiters all move in a dance, each with their own tasks. It's not a modern room, it's a temple of old-world excellence (with incredible Peking duck).

Who should go? Serious restaurant fans who value the story and tradition. First timers - try to find a veteran to take you. 

17 Market Lane, Melbourne, 03 9662 3655, flowerdrum.melbourne

Igni

It's fine dining at its most roll-with-it in the backstreets of Geelong, from the wines delivered by gun hospitality veterans to chef Aaron Turner's mystery mix of incredible ingredients in searingly simple trifectas, like crayfish, buttery pil pil and a pickle.

Who should go? Anyone - it's as laid back as it is deadly serious on the plates and the train from Melbourne is an easy hour. 

2 Ryan Place, Geelong, 03 5222 2266, restaurantigni.com

Lume

Owner-chef Shaun Quade is so determined to make his South Melbourne restaurant world class he's getting the waiters acting lessons. Expect whimsy in your four- to 16-course ($80-$170) journey, such as baby corn in a taco that's not exactly what it appears.

Who should go? How do you feel about camel hump? They push the envelope hard here, so put on your adventure boots first. 

226 Coventry Street, South Melbourne, 03 9690 0185, restaurantlume.com

Minamishima

You can take eight to the tatami room at Melbourne's world-class sushi restaurant for an unbeatable private dining experience. But we still prefer the bar, where you can watch Koichi Minamishima work black magic with fish and rice.

Who should go? If you've only ever had a $2.50 hand roll, the $150 price tag will be a shock, but anyone who knows great sushi will be satisfied. 

4 Lord Street, Richmond, 03 9429 5180, minamishima.com.au

Press Club

What does fine dining Greek look like? At George Calombaris' gold-plated premium restaurant it looks like the most buttery octopus you've ever experienced with salty Santorini wines, all consumed in one of just 10 plush pale leather booths.

Who should go? Anyone closing a deal - it's built to impress and you can do four-eight courses so it works when you need to show off on a schedule. 

72 Flinders Street, Melbourne, 03 9677 9677, thepressclub.com.au

Vue de Monde

Everything about Shannon Bennett's restaurant at the top of the Rialto says money: leather-clad tables and fur-lined chairs; glittering views over Melbourne and a wine list of fearsome expense. Hold out for a late booking – the first service isn't long enough to fully appreciate the dramatic food.

Who should go? You need money to burn (preferably someone else's), but the views and dramatic tricks have a huge following. 

Rialto Towers, 525 Collins Street, Melbourne, 03 9691 3888, vuedemonde.com.au

The Age Good Food Guide 2017 awards night, presented by Citi and Vittoria, is on September 12. The Guide will be on sale in newsagents and bookstores from September 13, with all book purchases receiving free access to the new Good Food app.