Special occasions and long overdue catch-ups deserve a touch of class. And you're in luck because we've rounded up 12 of Melbourne's best private dining rooms.
Melbourne seems to have come alive again. The streets are pumping on the weekend, but if you're catching up with a crowd your booking ducks need to be in a row. Two-hour seating times, limits on numbers inside venues and the dreaded end-of-evening bill can all make a fun time turn feral.
The solution: hire a private space in a favourite restaurant, gather loved ones and tell them this is how you're all rolling.
It's a favourite with those who live for sitting at the bar and supping on gilda skewers and a glass of wine. If you want to share the love of Matt McConnell's food, book the room upstairs for a Spanish shindig your mates won't forget.
Chuck a tab on the bar, order one of the two set menus and ask the crew to recommend a little Latino live music – a flamenco guitarist perhaps? – to liven up proceedings. If you're after something for a bigger party, you've come to the right place.
How many? Up to 40 people.
How much? There are two set menus at $85 and $110 head.
Minimum spend? Only on Friday and Saturday, when it's $3,000.
37 Little Collins Street, Melbourne, barlourinha.com.au
The private room at Builders Arms Hotel includes a record player. Photo: Roberto Pettinau
Builders Arms Hotel
The Trader House team, headed by chef Andrew McConnell, knows how to organise a celebration, and they've launched Handmade Parties & Events to make it easy. There are many options, but one of our favourites is part of this fun Fitzroy pub.
The room is white and bright, with lots of big windows overlooking the street, an eclectic art collection and a vintage record player. The food is rustic and ample. There might be plates of whipped cod roe, grilled trout and spiced chicken cooked over coals. There's also a range of drinks packages if you're looking to keep things simple.
How many? Up to 18.
How much? From $70 a head for food; a basic three-hour drinks package starts at $55.
Minimum spend? Yes, but it's dependent on date, time and season, so give them a call.
211 Gertrude Street, Fitzroy, buildersarmshotel.com.au
Cappo's private room within the Hotel Fitzroy is a blank slate. Photo: Supplied
Head to the first floor of this tarted-up old boozer to this new Italian spot. Its credentials are excellent, with Maurizio Esposito taking the reins as executive chef and tailoring the Mangia Mangia menu – salumi, arancini and classic Italian dishes – for parties.
Choose a drink package, run a tab or let guests buy their own at the bar outside. The white private dining room is a blank canvas, so you can dress it up. And, if your group is brave/drunk, there are karaoke facilities ready to go.
How many? Up to 24 of your closest amici.
How much? The Mangia Mangia menu is $75 a head.
Minimum spend? Only during peak times.
Level 1, 127 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy, capposociale.com.au
Chancery Lane's chandelier room. Photo: Supplied
Ready to impress? Head chef Rob Kabboord's menu takes European classics and gives them a twist, with seafood choices – Storm Bay clams, Hervey Bay scallops, Moreton Bay bugs – that are hard to ignore. They're included in the Deluxe set menu, which also includes a choice of entree, main course and dessert.
The private dining options, of which there are three, are equally as impressive, but for out-and-out elegance there's no going past the Chandelier Room. It's got a grand, slightly sexy atmosphere with a huge painting of a feast scene and a nineteenth-century French chandelier lending its form to the room's name.
How many? Up to 10 guests; other options offer space for up to 18.
How much? The Deluxe menu is $150 a person, but there's also a $90 option.
Minimum spend? From $1,500 to $3,000 in the Chandelier Room.
430 Little Collins Street, Melbourne, chancerylane.com.au
The leafy private courtyard at Etta in Brunswick East. Photo: Supplied
This smart diner has a lush covered courtyard, known as the Greenhouse, offering a charming private space. In fact, it's the perfect accompaniment to chef Rosheen Kaul's fun-time dishes that are best shared. The set menu might include dishes such as sourdough with chicken schmaltz, crispy curried school prawns and barbecued Milawa chicken. The wine list here is always a treat, with interesting varietals and regions represented – you just need to order what you'd like served before you arrive.
How many? Up to 16 of your nearest and dearest.
How much? $75 a head, plus drinks.
Minimum spend? No.
60 Lygon Street, Brunswick East, ettadining.com.au
Groups are served a set menu at L'Hotel Gitan. Photo: Supplied
The Reymond family dishes up healthy servings of French flair and you can have it all to yourself when you book the Copper Suite, with its custom-made redwood table.
For groups of more than eight, there's a set menu option that might include porcini mushroom croquettes, steak tartare, rotisserie chicken and pommes frites.
How many? Up to 12.
How much? $75 a head or $85 with dessert.
Minimum spend? $1,200.
32 Commercial Road, Prahran, lhotelgitan.com.au
You've got to admire a neighbourhood wine bar where the chef – in this case Tom Sarafian – smashes out amazing dishes with Middle Eastern flavours cooked over coals. Think hummus loaded with spanner crab and king prawns served with pita; and chicken kebab, pickled green chilli and parsley salad. Vegetarian? There's a set menu for you, too.
The private dining room, with its antique dining table and 1960s record player, overlooks Nicholson Street. Bonus points for the wine list that changes regularly and is a little left-field.
How many? Up to 10.
How much? $65 a head, leaving plenty for wine.
Minimum spend? Nah.
555 Nicholson Street, Carlton North, littleandorra.com.au
Minaminishima's private dining rooms each include a private chef. Photo: Supplied
It's not like there's ever a huge crowd at this refined Japanese venue, but there are three private dining rooms offering absolute seclusion. Those who love to watch the slicing, torching and careful placing of slivers of the finest seafood upon rice still get the full omakase show, with each private room featuring its own chef.
Yoshiki Tano, who trained in Osaka and met Koichi Minamishima when they worked at Melbourne's Kenzan, is in charge of the private rooms and brings a sense of theatre to the plate.
How many? Eight people in each room.
How much? The omakase menu is $225 a head.
Minimum spend? Not really although everyone has the same menu.
4 Lord Street, Richmond, minamishima.com.au
The Prince's private room includes a balcony. Photo: Supplied
The Prince Dining Room
There have been plenty of changes at The Prince, but you can be assured that when it comes to food it still gets the thumbs-up. Book the Sainthill Room, with its own private balcony, and you'll be served dishes – poached prawn rolls, barbecued calamari, slow-cooked lamb with smoked eggplant – by chefs Dan Hawkins and Dan Cooper. The final menu, however, depends on what's good at the markets and supplies from local farmers and fishermen. The team is relaxed about drinks, so organise a package or simply order what you like and pay at the end.
How many? Between 12 and 40.
How much? The Big Feast is $75 a head; the Slightly Bigger Feast is $90.
Minimum spend? $3,500.
2 Acland Street, St Kilda, theprince.com.au
Poodle Bar & Bistro
It strutted onto the scene post lockdown and has become a favourite for Euro-inspired dishes and spot-on cocktails. Upstairs, you can hide away in the intimate, dark-hued private dining room.
There's a selection of set menus to choose from, each with snacks, entrees and main courses served long-table-style.
Spend more and you add seafood, charcuterie boards and luxe dishes such as chargrilled grain-fed rib-eye with prawn butter and crispy school prawns.
To keep it simple, chat drinks package choices with the sommelier.
How many? No more than 20.
How much? From $85 to $120 a head.
Minimum spend? From $1,700 at lunch to $3,500 for weekend dinner.
81–83 Gertrude Street, Fitzroy, poodlefitzroy.com.au
The Rosetta Room at Rosetta. Photo: Supplied
Sit back, bask in the view of the skyline and enjoy the elegant Italian fare in the Rosetta Room. Here, there's a shared table of antipasti – salumi, charcoal grilled squid with fennel and more – then you decide how many courses your guests will enjoy, and they get to choose from a short menu of options. There's also a very generous four-course shared table feast that includes a hit parade of dishes. It's just the ticket if you're celebrating an important birthday.
How many? Up to 20 guests.
How much? Set menus start at $115 a head; the four-course shared menu is $155.
Minimum spend? It depends on a number of factors, so best to speak to the events team.
Crown Riverwalk, 8 Whiteman Street, Southbank, rosettarestaurant.com.au
Craving Spain? We all are, but until border restrictions are eased we're heading to this white-washed restaurant inspired by San Sebastian. The private dining room, with its Mediterranean blue tiles and exposed timber beams, overlooks Port Phillip Bay for chill daytime vibes.
There are three set menu choices, each with a selection of pintxos to start, followed by a selection of larger dishes such as crispy mussels, smoked chicken with a la grecque dressing and patatas bravas.
How many? From six to 14 people.
How much? $60, $75 or $90 a head.
Minimum spend? Depending on the date, it starts at $600 and goes up to $1,200.
26 Esplanade, Williamstown, sebastianbeachgrill.com