Get in touch with your ‘Melbourne’ side at this year’s music, arts, and performance event, RISING. Illuminating the streets from May 26 – June 6 2021, RISING: Melbourne is one for the gram; sense-awakening, thought-provoking, and just the excuse we all needed for dinner and drinks.
Experience RISING: Melbourne by stepping out into one of the five festival districts. From the Arts District to the Satellite District and those in between. Whether you’re vibing Japanese, Vietnamese, or Italian to start or finish your night, we have an option for you. Take a short stroll to or from the festival to dinner and drinks, or drinks and dinner, when you choose from our curated list of restaurant and bar pairings near RISING: Melbourne.
Dinner: Hochi Mama
After getting lost in the Chinatown district at RISING: Melbourne, find your way up the theatre end of Little Bourke and gravitate toward the neon lights for some fine feasting at Hochi Mama.
From the enchanting graffitied backdrop to Mama’s Pad Thai, this joint has its own unique flavour. A little street, a little funky, with a touch of glam. Even the food has swag. Dishes are fiery, zingy and dynamic. Think Saigon roots thrown into a melting pot of Asia with no rules.
Ask us, and we’d say their trademark ‘Feed Me Now’ dining experience is where it’s at. Indulge in an assortment of smaller, larger, and side plates for $39.50 pp for dinner. For larger groups (6 or more) turn your attention to the ‘Favourite’s Banquet’ and entrust the house to curate your menu for $59.50 pp#. Pair with shamelessly kitsch cocktails such as Tokyo Drift or Lycheezy, and you’re good to go.
Only a stone’s throw away from dinner in RISING: Melbourne’s Chinatown district, take a walk down the rabbit hole and up a winding staircase into StoryVille: a fable inspired establishment with a chilled out atmosphere and a theatrical cocktail, or rather, potions list. Harry Potter, Belle and Alice are all invited to the party, so expect glitter, smoke, fairy floss, roses and teapots; expect the unexpected.
Brick laid, rainbow lit and vine draped, with magic-like mushrooms sprouting out of the ceiling, we’re not sure if this is a cocktail bar or a dreamlike wonderland. What we do know is that you have to see it to believe it.
Dinner: Trattoria Emilia
Tucked away down a cobblestone alley you’ll find authentic and refined Italian cuisine in a romantic setting. Perfect for a casual bite or a long meal with a slow bottle of wine, Trattoria Emilia offers a seasonal menu with a focus on produce. Crowd favourites include Tortelloni Emiliani and salumi misti with gnocco fritto and tigelle served with mortadella mousse.
Dinner is a 3 course dining experience at $75 pp. Or instead, let the experienced hands of head chefs Luca and Francesco guide you through a 5 course degustation menu designed to match your drinks of choice ($85 pp)#. A la carte is also on offer on Wednesday nights and for lunches.
While Trattoria Emilia is near all of RISING: Melbourne’s Midtown excitement, you’ll somehow feel like you’re twirling pasta and sipping chianti in the quiet streets of Italy.
Drinks: Nick and Nora’s
Cocktails and champagne are just down the road at the swanky Nick and Nora’s. Reminiscent of post-prohibition times, this decor is lavish, decadent and elegant. Think golden light, stainless glass and art deco detail. The beers are crafty, the oysters are buttery, and the feels, classy.
As for the cocktails, we’re spoilt for choice. Get lost in the menu, but also grab the bartender’s recommendation – they know their stuff. From the creme de la creme service, to the Cremeux D’Argental cheese, Nick and Nora’s is just the soiree we’re looking for.
An evening in The Arts District calls for dinner and a teppanyaki show at Miyako: authentic, creative and seasonal Japanese cuisine looking out over Southgate. Here’s where Wagyu Scotch Fillets, King Prawns and Japanese mushrooms fly.
If flaming grills, butcher cleaver theatrics and catching your food aren’t your thing, enter the a la carte zone where the tempura batter is light, the meat is marbled and the Crème Brûlée is flavoured sesame. Eat among traditional decor in the dining hall, sip sake over the Yarra on the balcony, witness your chefs in action at the sushi and sashimi bar, or step through paper sliding doors to a VIP tatami room. Miyako is a ‘choose your own’ adventure that lives up to its culinary reputation.
Drinks: Waterslide Bar
Slide a couple of doors down the south side of the river for a night cap with a view. Old meets new is what to expect at Waterslide Bar. Colourful drinks invented to turn heads shake alongside your classics, done right. Meanwhile waiters in crisp whites and buttoned down vests serve against a backdrop of red couches, black and white photography, and blackboard specials.
Pick your poison from a worldly cocktail menu, crack open a craft beer, or get lost in their whisky files – served neat, mixed or on Waterslide Bar-engraved rocks. This place definitely has a nostalgic yet polished swank about it worth swinging by for.
Dinner: Chocolate Buddha
Sushi meets ramen bar meets izakaya. Chocolate Buddha is a Japanese cuisine dream come true. Boasting loads of variety, the menu is not quite fusion but not quite traditional either, erring on the modern side with a few welcome surprises (we see you Korean Fried Chicken).
Casual and elegant, Chocolate Buddha feeds big appetites at big tables around an even bigger sushi train. Plates are simple, colourful, and as grammable as they are delectable. Special mention to the Buddha’s Fire inside out roll (jalapeno bringing the heat) and Shake Ramen.
On to dessert, which is nothing short of kawaii. With an ice cream trio of azuki bean, charcoal coconut and green tea, the rest is history.
Drinks: Riverland Bar
The conversation isn’t over, so don’t go far. A 4 minute walk and down some steps will find you looking out onto the river and sipping cold beers at Riverland Bar. This is our little urban oasis, tucked away beneath the heart of the action but hustling and bustling still the same.
It’s the kind of beer garden that sparks a second (or third) wind in your evening. It’s also the kind that doesn’t shy away from an aperol spritz and can serve up a mean pizza. Showing their guests a good time, Riverland Bar offers 2 hours of bottomless pizza and spritz – Aperol, Davidson plum, Campari and blood orange, you name it. Tunes pumping, heaters blaring, a slice of pepperoni pizza in one hand and a glass of bubbles in the other. You’re all set.
When the bread has a dedicated section on the menu, we know we’ve found ourselves in the right Italian eatery. Walk, talk and ‘wow’ up an appetite in the Satellite district at RISING: Melbourne then wander nearby to one of Lygon Street’s OG eateries, Donnini’s.
Across the road from its original 1952 establishment, Donnini’s has still got it. This is award-winning, home cooked Italian cuisine in a ‘make yourself at home’ kind of setting; Generous service and generous serves; handmade pasta recipes handed down from generations. A word of advice: leave room for the Tiramisu that tastes ‘just like mama used to make’.
Drinks: The Carlton Wine Room
Just a breath from Lygon, make your way to The Carlton Wine Room where you’ll be met with a wall of ever-changing wines and a waiter who knows what you want before you do.
Pull up a stool at the 19th-century-esque bar, share a bottle of their best in the dining room, or gather around the communal table. Then sit back in your bentwood stool and let the friendly neighbourhood staff recommend away. This place is cosy, yet sophisticated; classic, but chic.
And if dinner at Donnini’s wasn’t on the agenda, then you’re in the right wine room. Their seasonal menu sings share plates. Must-trys include: Stracciatella, pickled mushrooms, chive oil, potato focaccia and the Abrolhos Island scallop tostada, spring onion, yuzu kosho.
These are just a few restaurant and bar pairings near RISING: Melbourne, but there are a whole lot more you can find on OpenTable. Add dinner and drinks to your night of art, music, and performance before it’s too late.
*OpenTable is in no way affiliated with the RISING: MELBOURNE festival. The organiser of the event is the Melbourne International Festival of the Arts.
^Before heading to the festival, please remember to check local government COVID-19 guidance.
#All guests of a reservation must participate in order to redeem the “Feed me Now” dining experience. Minimum of 2 and maximum of 5 guests required for the $39.50 experience; and 6 or more guests required for $59.50 experience.
#All diners are required to order either the $75 or $85 dining experience for dinner from Thursday to Saturday.