We love a good rooftop and a pub will always earn an extra special place in our heart if it’s got a great beer garden – so it’s agreed by almost everyone – dining in the sunshine is always a good idea. With that in mind, we scoured the city for the best terraces, balconies, rooftops and gardens, where you can enjoy an alfresco snack and a brew or two. Then, when it comes to getting the cheque, you can pay in confidence knowing these venues welcome American Express.
The aptly named Fitzroy Beer Garden has a leafy courtyard out the back in which you can kick back with cocktail jugs and craft beers. There are colourful lanterns, sprouting bamboo shrubs, paper parasols and hanging ferns, which make it feel like a little boozy oasis in the center of Fitzroy. Sunday sessions switch between techno, house party Pleasure in the Garden and chilled acoustic performances, while throughout the week you’ll find food specials like $10 burgers and $5 jaffles.
Barbecue, beers, bourbon and fairy lights: This Collingwood smokehouse has everything you need for a star-gazing session. Out the back is an AstroTurfed courtyard, dotted with twinkling lights, while back inside you can order up a pan-Southern storm. A pair of hand-built smokers render big hunks of pork shoulder, smoky lamb ribs and brisket into soft, juicy piles of protein, which come served in the half pound with pickles.
Bar Liberty might well be Melbourne’s best wine bar, and it gets better – they also have a low key courtyard bar that is only open during the summer months, called Drinkwell. It’s only got room for 40 people but you can reserve a spot if you have eight or more pals coming, so gather your wine-loving crew for an alfresco afternoon of very good wine, beers on tap, cocktails and snacks from the Eatwell menu up on the wall, which favours falafel, sourdough flatbreads, and salads.
The exterior of this Hawthorn East mainstay has a commanding, fortress-like presence along the skyline as you approach via its namesake road. Inside the Auburn, however, you’re greeted with a clean warmth like an upmarket country pub come to town. The front bar is given a touch of class, thanks to an elegant connecting wine room, which carries over into the immaculately presented beer garden. Enjoy sun-soaked beers and steaks under sprawling white umbrellas.
This kitsch, cutesy rooftop promises a raucous garden party in the heart of the city. Decked out with AstroTurf, parasols and pastel-pretty timber furniture, this sky-high hub has long been a favourite for summer sessions that kick off in the afternoon and end after midnight. Order one of their famous poached chicken sandwiches and share a jug of the Madame's Fruity Double D Cups, which switches Maidenii vermouth in place of Pimms for a twist on the classic punch, making for slightly less sweet mix.
Head up the grandiose staircase to this sun soaked rooftop and plonk yourself down on a bright cushion. Here you can snack on super fresh tacos, crisp quesadillas filled with juicy shredded pork and chipotle mayo corn cobs while drinking icy mugs of Mexican soaked-rice drink horchata under yellow striped umbrellas.
This massive outdoor eatery and beer garden sandwiched between two Melbourne icons (the Yarra River and Flinders Street Station) stretches for 120 metres along the river bank and is officially Melbourne’s longest bar. Plant eaters can enjoy a hearty crumbed mushroom and haloumi burger with tomato relish and crinkle cut chips while carnivores can get their fix by ordering a juicy double cheeseburger.
This Bourke St hotel is home to one of city’s biggest rooftops. There’s handicapped access and amazing views over Parliament for unparalleled sunny day drinking. While you’re taking in the views, try a meatball loaded pizza, a Southern fried chicken burger or neat thai crab cakes, which come with a zippy coriander and chilli aioli.
Downstairs from Stokehouse is the restaurant’s newly reno’d beach club style spot, Pontoon. Melbourne isn’t exactly spoilt for choice when it comes to beach front dining, so this spot is your best bet. Jazzed-up finger food includes the Moroccan-style lamb cigars with a labne dipping sauce rich; crisp pastry rafts bearing a compelling little cargo of sardines, pickled shallot and harissa; and the smoked chicken ribs, slathered in a pimento-driven sauce. Add in views of the entire beach and bay, wooden decking, DJs on the weekend and fruity cocktails and you got a summer destination.
Saké is Rockpool Dining Group's contemporary Japanese restaurant where teriyaki burger balls and sake bombs rule. It’s a harmony of polished concrete and honey-hued woods, draped with stretches of embroidered kimono fabrics and lit in part by a cherry tree blooming with fairy light blossoms. Sitting inside or out on the alfresco terrace, you’ve got a view of the river, which is a nice backdrop for enjoying a cool shochu on a balmy summer’s eve.