Five of a kind: date-night restaurants
Cafe Amalia in Armadale.
IT HAS all the right ingredients: the tranquil setting on tree-lined Rose Street; the intimacy of banquette seating wedged within the privacy of the front window's alcove; and, most importantly, a French menu with all the romance that implies. Formerly at France-Soir, owner Christian Janko has created an atmosphere of quiet elegance, providing the setting for food that is enticingly simple. Think wine by the glass from the thoughtfully selected list matched with a first-class charcuterie platter. French cheeses are superb and the sweet treats make for the ideal end to your night.
Cafe Amalia, 1D Rose Street, Armadale, 9822 7753; Mon-Wed 7am-4pm, Thur-Fri 7am-9pm, Sat 7am-5pm; cafeamalia.com.au.
OS KITCHEN AND WINE BAR
OS Kitchen and Wine Bar. Photo: Ken Irwin
FINDING a romantic suburban local can be tricky, but the folks in Hampton have struck the date-night jackpot. Welcome to Os Kitchen and Wine Bar, where bentwood chairs evoke a Parisian bistro just as the menu gives the nod to Italy. Capretto alla Romana is a rich offering of baby goat served with surprisingly light fried polenta gnocchi, while fresh pastas subscribe to the less-is-more Italian ethos. Dinner here is about revelling in a state of pampered relaxation.
Os Kitchen and Wine Bar, 531 Hampton Street, Hampton, 9533 1922; Tues noon-3pm, Wed-Sat noon-3pm, 6pm-late; oskitchenandwinebar.com.au.
THERE are times when dark and moody feed the beast of passion far more effectively than softness and light. For those times, there is Pinotta, with low lighting and burgundy wood and an ambience conducive to quiet conversation. Chef and owner Andy Logue, formerly of The Italian in the city, has given the space a French-inspired fit-out. House-made pastas might include squid ink linguine with chilli-kissed blue swimmer crab, while a classic dish of lamb cutlets is Italian simplicity at its best. The cosier front room works best for intimate dates, with candlelight and starched linen tablecloths.
Pinotta, 32 Best Street, Fitzroy North, 9481 3393; Wed-Fri noon-3pm, 6pm-late, Sat-Sun 9.30am-late; pinotta.com.
Pinotta. Photo: Eddie Jim
IT IS no coincidence Greek culture lays claim to one of the world's most recognisable goddesses of love in Aphrodite. Nor is it unknown that maternal love is writ large in the lives of its citizens. Philhellene combines the best of both, establishing a comfortably intimate space where familial recipes are cooked with pride. Tthe focus here is on provincial Greek cuisine with Cypriot and Middle Eastern influences. Indulge in beautifully simple, classic chargrilled seafood, perhaps dory or octopus, and the tactile pleasure of baked figs in cognac. Or put yourselves in expert hands and try the banquet with a raki or two.
Philhellene, 551-553 Mount Alexander Road, Moonee Ponds, 9370 3303; Sat-Wed 5.30pm-late; Thur-Fri noon-3pm, 5.30pm-late; philhellene.com.au.
CARLTON WINE ROOM
SERIOUS romance calls for serious props: soft music, flattering lighting and a space in which you're happy to linger. You will find all at the Carlton Wine Room, as well as a menu rich with texture and contrast. Start with an antipasto board that provides a more complex take on standard offerings: crumbed pig's ear strips and a lime-soaked Jerusalem artichoke salad. Mains range from confit pork to poached ricotta gnocchi and weighty steaks. Or take the "feed me" option and use time saved on menu perusal for conversation. Escape the bustle of the front room for the peace of the upstairs hideaway.
Carlton Wine Room, 172-174 Faraday Street, Carlton, 9347 2626; Mon-Wed 5pm-late, Thur-Sat noon-late; thecarltonwineroom.com.au.