The best new outdoor dining in Melbourne

Published on 12 November 2020

Photo: Hazel's new outdoor area (credit: Pete Dillon)

We’ve renewed our romance with the city’s parks and our picnic rugs; now it’s time to spread the love and take a seat street-side for your next meal, as Melbourne embraces outdoor dining with gusto.

Venues are working with local councils and their neighbours to try and maximise the number of guests they can accommodate, expanding into previously unused space outdoors, converting parking spaces into trading areas known as parklets and making the most of waived or reduced permit fees.

The results are transforming our cityscape. There’s a new riverside bar on the Yarra, some streets are closed in the city to make way for marquees and mezze, tables set up in front of beautiful old churches, and colour along our main streets. And for the first time, you can enjoy your Bar Americano Negroni sitting down. Here’s our pick of Melbourne’s best outdoor dining open now.

(Note that the trading times here all indicate when the first and last seating times are available, with the exception of The Prince Hotel and Arbory Afloat.)

The Prince Hotel

A new rooftop bar in St Kilda definitely counts as a silver lining of 2020. The Prince Rooftop Beer Garden is offering pizza a tavola, hot chicken rolls, Brick Lane beers and gin cocktails from Nagambie Distillery – and, get this, every table is reserved for walk-ins. For now, the beer garden is slated to stick around until mid-December, but hopefully Melbourne’s enthusiasm can change that.

2 Acland St, (enter via Jackson St stairs), St Kilda. Thurs-Fri 4pm-9pm, Sat noon-9pm, Sun noon-6pm. theprince.com.au

Golda outdoor dining

Golda

Israeli restaurant Golda only opened in June, but the team wasted no time in fitting out the space for Covid-safe dining while they were closed during lockdown. The refreshed terrace is ready for rain, hail or whatever else Melbourne throws at it, with retractable awnings, heating and permanent roofing. And it’s a beautiful space to boot. Meanwhile, the rooftop at the adjacent Cullen Hotel will soon play host to private dinners and events by the restaurant. Those city views are calling your name.

162-164 Commercial Rd, Prahran. Tues-Sat noon-2.30pm, 5.30pm-8.30pm. Enquiries are open now for events for the rooftop. goldarestaurant.com.au

Pétanque Social

There’s a new playground on the Yarra just in time for summer, and it comes with jugs of Pimm’s, sushi by Nobu and plenty of beach club vibes. Pétanque Social is the outdoor venue in front of Crown Melbourne, bringing together food from some of its most popular Riverwalk venues including Bistro Guilluame, Nobu and Gradi, a line-up of refreshing cocktails, plus an oyster bar on the weekends. There are plans for live DJs, jazz, screens to watch the tennis or cricket, and, as the name suggests, a pétanque terrain if you fancy a game.

Crown Riverwalk, 8 Whiteman St, Southbank. Wed-Thurs 4pm-9pm, Fri-Sun noon-9pm. crownmelbourne.com.au

Petanque social outdoor dining

Estelle

If you’ve been on Northcote’s High Street recently, you may have had to look twice when passing the Uniting Church. Each night, tables draped in white are assembled on the forecourt of the church, part of the latest extension of Estelle’s dining room. Many councils are allowing for restaurants to use the footpath or other public space next to their business if there’s no objection from neighbours. “Every single neighbour and trader was amazing,” says Estelle owner-chef Scott Pickett. “The church has given wonderful support.” Pickett had walked past the building every day for years and hardly looked twice at it. Now, the large stained-glass window and masonry are the backdrop to catch-ups, celebrations and dates for Estelle diners. Talk about ambience.

Estelle, 243-245 High St, Northcote. Tues-Thurs 5.30pm-8.45pm, Fri-Sun noon-3pm, 5.30pm-8.45pm. theestelle.com.au

Lamaro’s

Wide and leafy Cecil Street was practically begging for more street-side dining – and Lamaro’s has delivered in spades. The marquee they’ve dubbed the Birdcage is under cover, with windows and fairy lights that make you feel like you’re part of the streetscape. Throw in Geoff Lindsay’s cooking (whether you go pub classics or Dandelion hits) and a tempting Coravin list and this could be South Melbourne’s hottest address this summer.

273-279 Cecil St, South Melbourne. Daily, noon-midnight. lamaroshotel.com.au,

Layla

Drop a pin on Bond Street in the CBD, because Shane Delia and his crew have just unveiled something very special. Layla occupies the street outside Maha, offering aperitivo, brunch and everything in between under a sturdy marquee that’s inspired by Delia’s travels through the Mediterranean. The focus will be on snacks and banquets that deliver the flavours Delia is known for, whether that means lamb kibbeh, arak-pickled cucumbers or kataifi-wrapped halloumi. A weekend brunch will offer plenty of mezze, with roaming waiters and an extensive Champagne menu.

Bond St, Melbourne. Wed-Fri 5pm-9.30pm, Sat-Sun 9.30am-9.30pm. laylabar.com.au

Bar Americano

A cocktail at Bar Americano has always been a singular experience. The no-seats thing, the incredible drinks, the improbable size of the place. Lockdown has taken a few of those Americano signatures and turned them upside down – or should that be inside out? There are now 32 seats occupying the alleyway that is Presgrave Place. “Remember when it was forbidden to take your drink beyond the premises?” says owner Matthew Bax. “Now it's mandatory.” If it means more Americano in our lives, we’re all for it.

20 Presgrave Pl, Melbourne. Tues-Wed 4pm-7pm, Thurs 4pm-8pm, Fri-Sat 3pm-9pm. baramericano.com

Prince Hotel outdoor dining

Moroccan Soup Bar

The laneway that runs next to the new incarnation of this local favourite is one of the best spots to pull up a seat in the inner north right now. Colour, music and food cooked with love are all there in spades, as Moroccan Soup Bar settles into its new digs further up St Georges Road. For those who have ever been turned away because the restaurant was full, we reckon this could be the best time to try your luck.

316 St Georges Rd, Fitzroy North. Tues-Sun, 5pm-9pm. moroccansoupbar.com.au

Grossi

The restaurants of the Florentino building have enhanced their presence at the Paris end of Bourke Street with a sizeable parklet edged with greenery and flowers, and filled with happy diners enjoying dishes from Grossi’s Cellar Bar. Grey planter boxes create just enough privacy while the plane trees of Bourke Street offer plenty of shade. It’s always been drink and dine out on the path when visiting the Grossi empire – now that’s doubly so.

80 Bourke St, Melbourne, Mon-Sat, 7.30am-late. florentino.com.au

Arbory Afloat

It would be remiss of us to overlook the OG of exceptional outdoor drinking and dining in Melbourne. The annual Yarra pop-up next to Arbory Bar, Arbory Afloat has worn many guises in its five-year run, from French Riviera hangout to Miami beach club. This year, the theme is “Australian Beach House”, which means fish and chips, lamb cutlets and more nostalgic snacks on the loungers. It’s big, but bookings are recommended.

1 Flinders Walk, Melbourne. Daily 11.30am-11pm. arboryafloat.com.au

King & Godfree outdoor dining

King & Godfree

The corner occupied by one of Melbourne’s favourite Italian grocers is even busier than usual right now, with the generous pavement and a parklet filled with extra tables for those keen to get a piece of the King & Godfree action. And with Spritzes and salumi, veal cotoletta, and lunch-time hot porchetta rolls to choose from, who can blame them?

293-297 Lygon St, Carlton. Daily 11am-9pm. kingandgodfree.com

St Ali

There’s no chance of missing St Ali on a wander through South Melbourne right now. The laneway behind Coventry Street has been taken over by a striking open-air set-up complete with geometric-tiled floors, bentwood chairs and sleek concrete planters. Oh, and did we mention the city views?

12-18 Yarra Pl, South Melbourne. Mon-Sun 7am-5pm. Café reserved for those ordering food; coffee only is available at the St Ali General Store (same address). stali.com.au

Hazel

On the map it might not look like much, but Ramsden Place, the paved alleyway next to Hazel that juts off Flinders Lane, is being put to great use by the team, who are serving the full menu and drinks list at tables that look straight down Hosier Lane to Federation Square. Plus, the space is mainly reserved for walk-ins, offering diners a much-needed option for spontaneous socialising in the city.

164 Flinders La, Melbourne. Wed-Thurs 5pm-10pm, Fri-Sat noon-10pm. hazelrestaurant.com.au

St Ali outdoor dining

Gerald’s Bar

Missing your annual trip to a tropical resort? Head to Gerald’s. Yep, the Carlton North wine bar you associate with moody lighting, quirky bric-a-brac and excellent vinyl has gone for a Don the Beachcomber vibe with its parklet, adding colourful parasols, blonde wood and greenery to the street. We’re pretty sure the menu remains a tiki-free zone but you can always try your luck.

386 Rathdowne St, Carlton North, geraldsbar.com.au

Dandelion

Cha ca-style snapper, crab with coconut, chilli and lime, and caramelised pork hock - the food of Dandelion is practically begging to be eaten outside. Lucky, then, that the restaurant has added a handsome parklet with timber decking and barriers, sturdy carved wood stools and potted plants. Plus it’s open for walk-ins and reservations. Get into it.

133 Ormond Rd, Elwood, Tues-Thurs 5pm-8.45pm, Fri-Sat noon-8.45pm, dandelion.ws.

Bar Carolina outdoor dining

Noisy Ritual

Laneway dining is no longer just a thing to do in the CBD. Brunswick East winery and bar Noisy Ritual has co-opted the laneway behind the building, where it’s offering set menus for lunch and dinner, snacks for those just after a glass or two, and plenty of shade and warmth, depending on Melbourne’s forecast. In short: book now.

249 Lygon St, Brunswick East. Fri 6.30pm-9pm, Sat 1pm-9pm, Sun 1pm-4pm, noisyritual.com.au

Bar Carolina

The smell of a charcoal grill fired up, adding smoky flavour to skewers of meat, is what summer days are made of. Bar Carolina is ticking that box, taking full advantage of Melbourne’s new outdoor dining permits with an arrosti bar each weekend on the pavement outside the Toorak Road restaurant. The line-up of skewers changes week to week, and Spritzes, Negronis and Peroni Reds sweeten the deal.

44 Toorak Rd, South Yarra. Arrosti bar open Sat and Sun from 2pm. barcarolina.com.au

By Emma Breheny