Human beings are happiest at the table
when they are very young, very much in
love or very alone.

M. F. K. Fisher

Whether you agree with all - or none - of M. F. K. Fisher’s views, eating solo in restaurants is one of those things - like paying tax and realising that Santa isn’t going to visit forever - that all grown-ups eventually have to confront.

These days business often takes people to different cities, where they know few people, for days at a time. Relocations and international job swaps are also much more common. And, let’s face it, there are only so many lonely takeaways and TV dinners that a person can face.

So, unsurprisingly, solo dining is on the increase - and not just the fast food kind. The restaurant reservations site ‘Dimmi’ recently reported an 83 per cent rise in one-person bookings, measured over the last financial year. This was nearly double the increase in business overall. With so many people doing it, solo dining is losing its stigma.

But, if you still feel rather self-conscious and just a little embarrassed when the waiter asks, “will anyone be joining you?,” here are some great tips about how to turn drinking and dining solo into a treat rather than a chore.

General tips
for eating
& drinking
alone

1

Do a bit of
research

Search the Internet for places that are good for singles (we’ve got it covered for Melbourne – keep reading). Or better still, recce a few places. Walk past the evening before to see if they look like the kind of places you'd feel comfortable.

2

Make a booking

Most restaurants are used to solo diners these days and usually seat them near the bar, or pass, where space is tightest. These are actually fun places to watch dishes fly out of the kitchen and cocktails being mixed.

3

Think about dining
early

Between 6pm and 7.30pm is often a quieter time in bars and restaurants and means you won’t be surrounded by couples and large tables having riotously fun evenings.

4

The bar is not just
for drinks

It’s perfect for singles to dine too. Places are automatically set ‘just for one’ and the staff are usually chatty too.

5

Take a book, magazine or crossword

You may not even look at it but it will be reassuring to know that you have something if you feel self-conscious at any point. Beware of reading from your phone, or checking it incessantly, though. People are bound to think you’ve been stood up.

6

Go for the type food you really fancy

Treat yourself. If your partner hates sushi and you really love it, this is your chance to indulge for days in a row.

Melbourne’s best places to dine
and drink alone

The good news is that solo diners in Melbourne have a huge advantage - the city itself. With its fabulous range of eating and drinking options, it’s practically a sin not to eat out as often as you possibly can, even if you are on your own.

You might even find somewhere you like so much that you become a regular, meet new friends, and become a ‘not so solo’ after all. Here are our choices for the best Melbourne has to offer those going it alone.

Bar di Stasio

31 Fitzroy Street, St Kilda
Visit Site

Sitting within the wonderful Café Di Stasio, the long marble bar of this St Kilda institution could have been made for lone diners. They get to share the intimacy of this lovely restaurant whilst enjoying the more relaxed vibe of its busy counter area. Expect exciting Italian delights like ‘gnocchi in a wild boar ragu’ and lamb chops (which can be bought singly) with Chianti relish.

Belle's Hot Chicken

150-156 Gertrude St, Fitzroy
Visit Site

This is one place where you’ll be glad it’s only you! A glance at the long line of those waiting for tables-for-twos-or-fours tells you all you need to know about this Southern-style diner’s popularity. Take a seat at the counter and enjoy ‘fried oysters with pickled fennel’ or chicken drumsticks with ‘Mississippi Comeback’ sauce. Trust us, you will be going back.

The Catfish

30 Gertrude Street, Fitzroy
Visit Site

This welcoming little local bar has great live music, craft beers and Sparrow’s Philly Cheesesteaks. There’s even a pool table in case you feel like challenging a stranger to a match – the perfect way to make new friends.

Cure Bar and Eatery

164 Rathdowne Street, Carlton
Visit Site

You’ll never feel awkward perched on a stool in this cosy bar, which offers mezze-style dishes and freshly cured meats. It has a great range of speciality whiskies too.

Chin Chin

125 Flinders Lane
Visit Site

This cavern of a place is always heaving, but solos might be able to nab a seat at the bar. If you’re feeling adventurous after the delicious Kingfish sashimi and crispy barramundi, you can always make your way to the ‘GoGo’ bar downstairs.

City Grill Room

535 Little Lonsdale Street
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Steak restaurants always rate high in the popularity stakes amongst single diners and this grillroom is a classic. Set along one of the city’s iconic laneways, premium Australian meats are custom cooked on a char grill. There’s a strong South African influence too, with dishes like ‘Grilled Boerewor with Sweet Chilli Sauce’ also on offer.

City Wine Shop

159 Spring Street
Visit Site

There’s definitely a French feel to this cute, wooden-floored bistro, which serves exceptionally good wines from all over the world. Many are sold by the glass, so it’s perfect for solos that appreciate something more interesting than a glass of ‘the house’. The frequently changing menu is chalked on a blackboard on the wall and includes small dishes like ‘pork crackling with remoulade’ and ‘charcuterie with rillettes and terrine’.

Cumulus Up

45 Flinders Lane
Visit Site

Ideal for solos who enjoy a Negroni or glass of wine with their meal after work, this funky, bustling bar has a long communal table that, rest assured, will be seating many just like you. Expect unfussy but delicious European-style food like ‘burrata, confit tomato and fried bread’ and ‘confit duck leg, parsnip and sauce Bourguignon’.

Flower Drum

17 Market Lane
Visit Site

This delightful Cantonese restaurant, which has been in operation since 1975, still has a ‘family run’ feel and a loyal, regular clientele who enjoy its offerings of traditional dishes, including a nightly dim sum menu. Snatch one of the small tables along the dining rooms’ long walls and enjoy watching the waiting staff come and go with steaming bowls of ‘mud crab, spinach and egg white soup’ and ‘crispy egg noodles with shredded pork, bean shoots and peas’.

Gerald’s Bar

386 Rathdowne Street,
Carlton North
Visit Site

This delightful neighbourhood establishment is one for lively solo diners rather than those trying to get some work or reading done. It has a great vibe and, chances are, you won’t be alone for long. It’s that kind of place. The long bar is lined with bottles of every kind of spirit known to man and woman. The staff mix a mean cocktail, as well as serving a great range of wines by the glass. The food is hearty and comes in generous portions, including dishes such as Jamaican jerk chicken, grilled fish and Caprese salad.

Hammer and Tong

Rear 412 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy
Visit Site

This rustic restaurant with zinc tabletops and industrial-style lighting is usually rammed. If you’re looking for somewhere with a buzzy feel that offers modern dishes like ‘seared scallops with yuzu mayo, chilli and black bean dressing’ or ‘seared Bendigo lamb rump with pea, lettuce and eucalyptus’, then Hammer and Tong is the place for you. In fact, it’s usually so busy that someone might ask if you mind sharing your table and you’ll be solo no longer.

Huxtable

135 Smith Street, Fitzroy
Visit Site

This funky restaurant, all brick-exposed walls and leather ‘Mad Men’ style chairs, could be made for those who want to eat alone, but sociably. There are lots of little nooks, a bar that hugs the kitchen area and even wooden benches for outdoor dining. The food is Korean-inspired, with dishes including ‘chickpea falafel with tomato kasundi’ and ‘beef rendang spring roll with sticky chilli sauce’.

Il Bacaro

168-170 Little Collins Street
Visit Site

Another fabulous Italian restaurant, with a long, curved bar that could be (and indeed might be) made for solos wanting a glass of delicious soave and a comforting plate of ‘spaghetti with Moreton Bay bugs, “olio visadi”, garlic, chilli and rocket’.

Joe's Shoe Store

233 High Street, Northcote
Visit Site

Crafted from a former – yes you guessed it – shoe store, this cool bar with polished concrete floors and reclaimed furniture has plenty to offer the lone drinker, including great beer and up to 20 wines by the glass. There are a number of stools facing the busy street and even more at the counter. If the weather’s good, don’t miss the dinky courtyard at the rear.

The Last Jar

616 Elizabeth Street
Visit Site

There’s a lot more on offer at this Irish bar and restaurant than merely Guinness (although they have that too). Solos should pull up a stool in its traditional bar area and enjoy a dish from the stunning menu. At a first glance, it looks like standard pub-grub fare of battered sausages and bacon and cheese sandwiches, but, on closer inspection, you’ll see that the ‘Last Jar’ team makes everything from scratch including churning the butter, baking the bread, smoking the bacon and making the sausages. Special.

LongPlay

318 St Georges Road, North Fitzroy
Visit Site

With a hip 1960’s-style bar serving cocktails and tapas at the front and an art house cinema at the back, this venue really can fill the whole evening for someone on their own.

Minamishima

4 Lord Street, Richmond
Visit Site

You won’t need any further entertainment in the sushi bar section of this great restaurant. Watch the grand master Koichi Minamishima craft nigiri delights from Australia’s finest seafood, plus some imported from Tokyo’s Tsukiji Fish Market.

Mister Jennings

142 Bridge Rd, Richmond
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With a blonde-wood bar and lots of small tables, Mister Jennings is perfect for dining alone and doing a bit of people watching. It offers smart food in a casual setting with ‘blue swimmer crab with gazpacho-like salmorejo’ and classic steaks on the menu.

MoVida

1 Hosier Lane
Visit Site

This ‘Bar de Tapas’ is truly your chance to visit Spain without leaving Melbourne. Solos can pull up a stool at its long (and very well stocked) bar and enjoy a beer and a ‘jamón croquette’ or slide into a booth for a substantial meal of ‘slowly braised beef cheek with cauliflower puree’.

Script Bar & Bistro

140 Southbank Boulevard
Visit Site

Situated in the heart of Melbourne's arts precinct at Southbank, you’re guaranteed to be amongst solo theatre reviewers and luvvies drinking and dining ‘pre-show’. If you’re hungry, head to the Script’s Bistro for a relaxed meal of ‘pork sausage orecchiette’ or ‘thyme-roasted chicken breast with caramelised leek, minted peas and crispy potatoes’. There’s a great wine list too.

Shanghai Street

146 Little Bourke Street
Visit Site

This cheap-ish, fast-turnover, communal-tabled restaurant is the closest you’ll get to Chinese street food in the city. Everyone will be too engaged in noodle-slurping to notice you’re on you’re own – and chances are many of them are too. It’s the perfect place for dumplings, buns, rice dishes and much, much more.

Spice Temple

Crown Complex, Southbank
Visit Site

With its ‘moody’ (think nightclub-dark) lighting, nobody is going to see, let alone care, that you are on your own. This modern Chinese restaurant offers a huge range of starters, handmade noodles and ‘live from the tank’ seafood dishes.

Supernormal

180 Finders Lane
Visit Site

You can hardly move for bar seats and communal tables in Supernormal, so solo diners should have no fear. Instead concentrate on its pan-Asian delights which features a ‘raw bar menu’ plus seafood, meat and a range of dumpling and bao dishes.

Taxi Dining Room

The Transport Hotel,
Federation Square
Visit Site

Forget about taking a companion to this restaurant, just let the 180-degree view of the Central Business District, Yarra River and Arts Precinct do the talking. Once you’ve taken it all in, settle down to enjoy the Asian-inspired menu, which includes ‘Szechuan duck with hot Vietnamese mint salad and fresh lime’ and ‘sake washed tuna with a soy bean pesto and white radish salad’.

Victoria Brooks

115-117 Collins Street
Visit Site

There’s something understatedly stylish about both the dining room and bar of Victoria Brooks, located in the basement of a 19th century building. You’ll find plenty of room at the marble counter to enjoy inspired but classic dishes like ‘lamb with kale, celeriac, walnuts and navet’ or ‘porterhouse, artichoke, sweet bread and jus Bordelaise.’

So, if you’re alone in Melbourne, facing the prospect of phoning for a pizza for the third night in a row, why not take advantage of the fabulous drinking and dining options right on your doorstep? You might even be surprised by how much you enjoy flying solo.

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