I hate to use the C word in November but Christmas is coming upon us fast. It’s a crazy time of year with so many catch ups on. Whether through sheer bossiness or my inherent control freak I usually find myself somehow coordinating a few of these occasions. This leads to my annual search for Melbourne’s best private dining rooms.
If you’re planning a Christmas get together for a medium size group of people it’s hard to beat a private dining room. It shouts “special occasion” and also means you won’t get daggers from fellow diners for your animated conversations post one too many Christmas beverages. The problem is that a lot of private dining rooms have a set menu and a minimum spend so you need to take these into account when attempting to put together the ultimate Christmas catch up.
To save you doing the ring around and email here’s my research for this year. I’ve only looked at places where the food and drinks are top notch. Let me know if there are any more venues that should be on my radar:
I love the location of Pastuso, down one of Melbourne’s coolest alleyways, and the party feel to the place. Championing the underrated cuisine of Peru there’s lots of ceviche and even “tiger’s milk” on the menu. Read my full review of the restaurant here.
Details: Pastuso, 19 ACDC Lane Melbourne (Ph 03 9662 4556)
Room size: 16 or 32.
Set menu: $70 a head
Minimum spend: From $1000.
2. Garden State Hotel
Just opened this year Garden State Hotel is the amazing multi level pub/bar/restaurant from the team behind Prahran Hotel and The Terminus. This behmoth of a venue holds nearly 1000 people but for more intimate groups there are private rooms hidden away. The Balcony Dining room seats up to 20 people with a set menu which begins at $80 a person for five courses including dishes like sea bream, Western Plains pork and chocolate mousse.
Details: Garden State Hotel,
Room size: 20
Set menu: $80 for five courses.
Minimum spend: Yes. Varies according to date.
3. Mr Ottorino
Where the charming Commoner restaurant used to be Mr Ottorino is all about comforting, rustic Sicilian food. The little rabbit warren of rooms above the restaurant are perfect for group dinners. The menu here really works well here for groups – think big platters of pasta and slow roasted meats. The set menu includes a pot of cafeteria style coffee and tiny biscuits like the sort your Italian Nonna might have made if you had one.
Details: Mr Ottorino, 122 Johnson Street, Fitzroy (Ph 03 9415 6876)
Room size: 10 people or 20 people.
Set menu: $55 a person for five home style sharing dishes.
Minimum spend: None
I’ve been to a few dinners in Entrecote’s private dining rooms (including one I organised) and each time has been fabulous. Entrecote is Jason Jones’ homage to the famous French bistro chain. Just like the Parisian original the dish to order here is the steak frites but don’t worry they do cater for vegetarians as well if you have a group with dietary requirements (which is always the way). Read my full review of the restaurant here. Special shout out to the truly beautiful upstairs dining rooms with their brightly painted walls.
Details: Entrecote, 131-133 Domain Rd South Yarra, VIC 3141 (Ph 03 9804 5468)
Room size: 8-14 or 35 people.
Set menu: From $75 a person.
Minimum spend: From $1300.
5. Casa Ciuccio
As if the downstairs restaurant at Casa Ciuccio is not fabulous enough then the upstairs private room even manages to outshine it. Light filled and beautifully decorated there’s enough room for a sit down dinner for 24. There’s a great set menu featuring Casa Ciuccio’s coal pit roasted meat and I spent a brilliant long lunch there celebrating my friend Jo’s hens day.
Details: Casa Ciuccio, 15 Gertrude Street Fitzroy 3065 (Ph 03 8488 8150).
Room size: Up to 40.
Set menu: From $45 a person.
Minimum spend: Yes. Varies according to time of year.
6. Union Dining
Union Dining is another of my favourite places for a group dinner. I’ve been to a few different events here – one in the beautiful rooftop courtyard and I organised my sister’s hens day dinner in the large private room. Chef Nicky Reimer is seriously talented and I love her emphasis on fresh, seasonal produce. Read my full review of Union Dining here.
Details: Union Dining, 270 Swan St, Richmond (Ph 03 9428 2988).
Room size: Up to 64. Can include 24 seated on one large table.
Set menu: From $65 a person.
7. Ricky and Pinky
Andrew McConnell has revamped the restaurant part of the Builders Arms Hotel and made it into a Chinese diner with sharing dishes which are great for group dinners. I’ve been with friends and there’s drunken chicken, pippis straight from the tank and a special of a “lamb pancake party” to share. The private dining room upstairs looks out over the tree tops of Gertrude Street. There’s a record player and vinyl collection to use.
Details: Ricky and Pinky, 211 Gertrude Street, Fitzroy (Ph 03 9417 7700)
Room size: Up to 18.
Set menu: $75 a head.
Minimum spend: From $1,500.
8. Saint Crispin
One of my favourite Melbourne restaurants has the most perfect upstairs dining room in its bar, the Thomas Olive. Entry is up the steepest staircase you have ever climbed after you have passed through the busy corridor leading to the kitchen which only adds to the adventure. The set menu includes Saint Crispin’s delicious “snap, crackle and pop” wafers. I’ve been to a private dinner for a vodka brand here and a hen’s dinner for a friend and both were brilliant. Plus a meal in the downstairs restaurant is always a treat: read my full review here.
Details: Saint Crispin, 300 Smith Street, Collingwood (Ph 93419 2002)
Room size: 10 people or 32 people.
Set menu: From $75 per person.
Minimum spend: From $2,400 for dinner.