Whoever said two's company and three's a crowd forgot to mention that one is pure bliss when it comes to dining out. There's no consulting with a whole table on what to order, you can stay for as long as you like (or get the hell out of there), and making smalltalk is not part of the deal. It can be a helluva time, for sure, but there is a whole lot riding on your hosts to make it an enjoyable night for you. These are some of the best venues to visit when you're flying solo, either because of their set-up, exceptional service or a menu that's suited to eating for one.
Harley and Rose in West Footscray is among Melbourne's best venues for solo diners. Photo: Supplied
Harley and Rose
Pizzeria, natural wine bar and neighbourhood diner in one, Harley & Rose is a gem of the west's most happening 'hood. Bar stools give you the best view of sparkling raspberry negronis being mixed and puffy pizzas being pulled from the glowing wood-fired oven. You might go for one topped with house sausage and eggplant, or perhaps the superior chicken schnitzel with sage-butter sauce. An array of flatbread, salumi and fried, salty things like croquettes are also a smart move.
572 Barkly Street, West Footscray harleyandrose.net.au
Oysters for one at Bar Lourinha. Photo: Supplied
Both the room and the dishes at this CBD favourite are perfectly proportioned for diners flying solo. Full of cosy nooks, set up for bar dining, and crammed with knick-knacks that inspire conversation, Bar Lourinha will never leave you feeling like you should have just stayed at home. Tapas like spiced mussel montadito (rounds of bread) come in single serves: load up on those, add a blood orange flan and pat yourself on the back.
37 Little Collins Street, Melbourne barlourinha.com.au
Crunch time: prawn crackers at James. Photo: Bonnie Savage
At both lunch and dinner, this wine bar offers plates that don't require a table full of mouths. Prawn crackers with red prawn, citrus mayo and tomato powder make perfect after-work snackage; just add broccolini with cashew cream to make it dinner. At lunch, you can go the small plate route or get a bowl of smoked chicken noodles or perhaps a veg-filled bowl of dashi. A relaxed, minimal atmosphere completes the package.
323 Clarendon Street, South Melbourne jamessouthmelbourne.com.au
Nab yourself a seat at the chef's table at Amaru for a memorable 'treat to self' experience. Photo: Chloe Dann
The big question when dining at Amaru isn't who should you take; it's how will you sneak there on your own so you can ensure you get a seat at the chef's table? See all the action, as chef Clinton McIver and his brigade prepare dishes that combine native ingredients like desert lime, preserved seasonal produce, and luxe ingredients like marron or raw scallop for their 12- and 14-course tasting menus. Leather touches, hand-crafted ceramics and generously cushioned stools complete the 'treat to self' experience.
5/1121 High Street, Armadale amarumelbourne.com.au
Wagyu beef salad for one at Thy Thy. Photo: Pete Dillon
Thy Thy Canteen
When designing their new Victoria Street venue, the family behind pioneering Vietnamese restaurants Tho Tho and Thy Thy 2 deliberately chose a variety of seating options that befit its canteen label. Everyone from families to those on their lunch break can swing past for fresh and vibrant bites, like Vietnamese coleslaw with roast duck or an egg noodle soup with prawn dumplings. Salads, rice paper rolls and favourites like pho or bun bo hue round things out.
60-66 Victoria Street, Richmond thythy.com.au
Pull up a seat at the bar and soak up the atmosphere, and great people watching opportunties, at firey Firebird. Photo: Parker Blain
The masters of mood are at work in this former furniture factory in Prahran turned den of char-grilled good times. A 12-seat bar and warm '70s tones make every seat feel intimate, while cocktails that are a cut-above get the night rolling. You could easily spring for just one dish – perhaps charcoal chicken with burnt chilli nuoc mam – but there are plenty of other ways to tackle the menu, from grilled prawns with curry leaf to duck fried rice and a couple of seared scallops.
223 High Street, Prahran firebird.hanoihannah.com.au
Gomi Boys Ramen shows a level of care that is impressive. Photo: Michael Oulton
Gomi Boys Ramen
Not your average ramen shop, every bowl of soup here includes mostly Victorian ingredients and a low-waste commitment. From the Port Phillip sardines that power the niboshi base to the furikake seasoning that is blitzed from offcuts and by products, there's a level of care at Gomi Boys that is impressive, as well as delicious. As well as rich slurpable broths, there's the dry and spicy maze soba noodles, snacks like eggplant karaage and vegan soups made with the likes of Otway shiitake mushrooms.
692 Sydney Road, Brunswick gomiboysramen.com
You can still have your marron for one at Vue de Monde. Photo: Luis Enrique Ascui
Vue de Monde
One of the few degustation-only restaurants in Melbourne to accept solo bookings, Vue de Monde might even be better if you're a party of one: you don't have to share that view with anyone. On the plate, you'll be treated to creative pairings of local and luxe ingredients, whether it's a smoked eel and kelp tofu with caviar, or the signature marron curry with damper flatbreads, as well as ultra-smooth service that makes you feel right at home.
Level 55, Rialto Towers, 525 Collins Street, Melbourne vuedemonde.com.au
Sit at the bar and soak up the buzz at Maha Bar. Photo: Ashley Ludkin
Meze is the word when you're a table of one and Maha Bar, part of Shane Delia's stable, is a specialist of the genre. Choose from cumin-roasted lamb ribs, kataifi prawns and house-made shanklish cheese topped with Yarra Valley caviar while you survey the buzzy and darkly lit room from your perch at the handsome curved bar. Beautiful joinery and vibrant prints by Lebanese artist Raphaelle Macaron provide extra visual fodder; cocktails and a raki list are equally welcome.
86 Smith Street, Collingwood mahabar.com.au
There's a seat at the bar with your name on it at Aru. Photo: Eddie Jim
Star chef Khanh Nguygen's second restaurant was built with solo diners in mind. Not only is there a substantial bar running to 16 metres in the main dining room, but these seats offer the best view of the flames and charcoal that drive Aru's dishes. From charred cabbage to the signature dry-aged duck, you'll see it all come to life. There's also a tactical advantage to booking a spot for one – this is one of the most sought-after restaurant reservations in Melbourne right now.
268 Little Collins Street, Melbourne aru.net.au