Today it’s hard to imagine that time in Melbourne when no-bookings policies were as fashionable as bao and salted caramel. The restaurant reservation is king in our post-lockdown world. But thankfully for those of us who like things a bit more last-minute, or who just can’t land a table anywhere else, a handful of venues are helping you out of tight spots, setting aside seats for walk-ins each service in addition to the spots available for reservations.
Keep in mind that venues are operating at extremely limited numbers right now and are keen to maximise every table they can. If you arrive without a booking and they can only seat you for half an hour for a cocktail, take it. If they decline to seat you and your date on a table that would otherwise accommodate a large group, it’s usually because they’re trying to make the numbers work. Keep that in mind, be flexible and you’re bound to have a great time.
Arbory Bar and Arbory Afloat
With beach-club vibes and plenty o’ seats ahoy (even at COVID capacities), these sister bars nestled between Flinders Street Station and the Yarra are a great bet this spring. Bookings are available for those who are organised, but walk-ins are welcome to try their luck.
1 Flinders Wa, Melbourne, arboryafloat.com.au
This temple of Italian style is welcoming walk-ins for breakfast every day. And what a treat it is to eat eggs you didn’t cook yourself. Get into it.
44 Toorak Rd, South Yarra, barcarolina.com.au
Soon, you’ll be able to enjoy your escargots and the signature Margaux burger street-side, with outdoor dining arriving in the next couple of weeks. A few tables will be set aside for walk-ins each day – bon chance.
Basement, 111 Lonsdale St, Melbourne, barmargaux.com.au
The Builders Arms
This Fitzroy favourite is buzzing again with the clamour for whipped cod roe and jugs of beer. But thankfully there are tables available outside for walk-ins – you’ll just have to get there first.
211 Gertrude St, Fitzroy, buildersarmshotel.com.au
This is a team that gets it. “For those of you too spontaneous or just plain disorganised, all our outdoor seating will be walk-in only so instead of kicking yourself you can congratulate yourself, maybe with a spritz.” Hear, hear, Capitano.
421 Rathdowne St, Carlton, capitano.com.au
Caterina’s just celebrated 25 years in business. Part of that success is knowing what customers want – table for two, no booking? Right this way.
221 Queen St, Melbourne, caterinas.com.au
Daughter in Law
The colour and buzz of Jessi Singh’s CBD restaurant isn’t just for the planners. The team sets aside a third of their available seats each day for those who stroll in.
37 Lt Bourke St, Melbourne, daughterinlaw.com.au
If it’s your lucky day, you could soon be sitting down at a table tucked below Flinders Lane, poring over the impressive wine list and working your way through dishes like mussels pickled with dashi or pipis tossed with roasted chilli jam and pork jowl.
Basement, 164 Flinders La, Melbourne, dessous.com.au
“Embla was built on casual walk-in easiness and we want that to keep rolling while the starched white-collar of enforced bookings is with us,” says Embla chef and co-owner Dave Verheul. Amen to that. If you’re feeling lucky you might try walking in for dinner; otherwise, stroll in for a glass of wine from 3pm.
122 Russell St, Melbourne, embla.com.au
If you’ve ever wondered whether your favourite Everleigh cocktail would taste better enjoyed on a side-street in Fitzroy, you’re about to find out. Outdoor dining is coming soon, with a few alfresco tables reserved for walk-ins each day. And if you can’t get a seat, a takeaway bar is set to open in the foyer this Thursday. We can’t wait.
Level 1, 150-156 Gertrude St, Fitzroy, theeverleigh.com
Fitzroy Town Hall Hotel
Looking for schnitties and steaks that are a cut-above? Roll up to Fitzroy Town Hall and nab a table outside, saved for walk-ins.
166 Johnston St, Fitzroy, fitzroytownhallhotel.com.au
The basement bar below Chin Chin is ready and waiting for dates, nightcaps and maximum Melbourne vibes.
Basement, 125 Flinders La, Melbourne, chinchin.melbourne
Bookings are highly recommended at this easy yet elegant Flinders Lane spot but you can also try your luck – and soon a walk-ins only outdoor area will be opening. Your odds just got better.
164 Flinders La, Melbourne, hazelrestaurant.com.au
You’ve missed her. And she’s missed you. And you can still hark back to the good ol’ days of rolling up to Melbourne’s loudest bar when your night is already well under way – phew. But if you want a guaranteed Heartbreaker fix, there are bookings too.
234a Russell St, Melbourne, heartbreakerbar.com.au
If beef madras, okra fries and chana masala have been missing from your home-cooking repertoire, this Fitzroy North address has you covered.
167 St Georges Rd, Fitzroy North, hornplease.com.au
Hardware Lane, a bottle of something delicious and snacks from Kirk’s are the makings of a perfect spring afternoon. Just try and walk past without stopping.
46 Hardware La, Melbourne, kirkswinebar.com
The menu of irreverently named Israeli street food guarantees something for everyone in your squad, whether they’re meat and dairy-free, a lover of all things meaty, or staying away from bread. Winner.
59 Hardware La, Melbourne, miznonaustralia.com
The latest venue from Jessi Singh combines the character of a historic pub with Indian-leaning snacks and an array of craft beer on tap.
343 Clarendon St, South Melbourne, instagram.com/mr_brownierooftop
A seat at Mrs Singh sounds mighty fine: the cocktail list features five twists on the G&T, snacks include vindaloo pork momos and lobster rolls, and there’s a choice selection of Champagne.
88 Flinders La, Melbourne, mrssingh.com.au
There are plenty of nooks and crannies both under cover and outdoors at this friendly local in Brunswick East. Get comfy, order a pizza or some snacks, and say cheers to spontaneous drinks.
295 Lygon St, Brunswick East, mrwilkinsonbar.com.au
With new outdoor seating on the way and a menu of European-leaning comfort food, The Moat is one to keep on your radar for impromptu socialising.
176 Lt Lonsdale St, Melbourne, themoat.com.au
The Moon has always been about surprising your tastebuds with wines from near and far, and chef Charley Snadden-Wilson (late of Etta) is upping that ante. Likewise the team are only too happy for you to surprise them with a visit. Of course, walk-ins are subject to availability but if you time it right, there’s fun to be had.
28 Stanley St, Collingwood, themooninmelbourne.com
That beautiful room. Those dishes. The warm Italian welcome. All ready and waiting for you, booking or not.
360 Lt Collins St, Melbourne, emiliamelbourne.com.au
By Emma Breheny