Melbourne International Arts Festival is the highlight of the October social calendar. From October 2 to 20, the city buzzes with a boundary-pushing program of events and experiences spanning music, visual art, theatre, dance and circus. Now you can add food to the list too with 21 top Melbourne venues teaming up with Time Out to offer Melbourne Festival ticket holders special dining offers.
This year, each participating venue is offering something a little different to the discerning Festival diner. From budget set menus to sweet discounts on your bill, it's well worth seeing just what deals the presentation of any Festival ticket. Validity subject to venue terms and conditions.
Explore the full Festival program and start planning your night out.
Festival Feasts eateries and bars
Special offer: $29 lunch menu
From the same team that brought you San Telmo comes Asado – a chic southbank restaurant with an open fire pit and a three-metre bespoke charcoal parrilla grill. Meats and seafood cooked on these fiery hearths make up the backbone of the Argentinian and Spanish leaning menu, where they're complemented by cured meats, gourmet imported tinned anchovies and other pintxos-style bites. All of which you'll sample on Asado's $29 'El Rapido' menu for Melbourne Festival. The express menu features pinxtos, grilled meat and sides plus an alfajor (South American sandwich cookie) to take away.
Special offer: $30 meal and drink
Curving around the southern side of Arts Centre Melbourne, the Barre is a restaurant and bar that harnesses the energy of the performance spaces, with some unexpected twists along the way. It's a bright, sleek space that incorporates timber floorboards salvaged during the redevelopment of Hamer Hall and converted into parquetry. With such an enviable location, it's no wonder the Barre is taking part in Melbourne Festival Feasts, offering ticket holders a $30 soy and honey-glazed chicken kebab with salad and fries plus a glass of wine or beer.
Special offer: 20 per cent off food
A collection of stuffed exotic animals might adorn the walls here but the Carlton Club definitely isn't a venue for children. The flamboyantly decorated venue has a primo location (it's right on Bourke Street) and three levels of psychedelic bars. The food doesn't deviate far from your standard pub grub, which is exactly what you want if you're having a couple of bevvies. During Melbourne International Arts Festival, Carlton Club are giving ticket holders 20 per cent off their food bill.
Special offer: $50 feast
Cookie is the little black dress of bars. It’s a place we sometimes forget among all the glitzy new Places To Be Right Now, but every time we come back to this playful, manically busy joint, located a puffy stair climb halfway up Curtin House, we never know why we’ve been away – it’s an old faithful that never fails to deliver. Hop onboard Cookie's 'International Express Flight' menu during Melbourne Festival to score dumplings, a wok-tossed dish, a salad and a beer or wine for $50.
Special offer: $30 spanner crab spaghettini & wine
Located on the terrace at Hamer Hall, Fatto has welcomed many a hungry pre- or post-theatre goer. The restaurant offers simple Italian dishes for lunch and dinner alongside spectacular views of the Yarra River. Load up on salumi and cheese or go straight for a bowl of Fatto's zesty spanner crab spaghettini – which, coincidentally, you can get with a glass of wine for $30 during Melbourne International Arts Festival.
Special offer: $25 main plus drink
The CBD’s Garden State Hotel is huge. Four levels surround a central atrium that lets natural light permeate from above, and also leads down to the basement cocktail bar. Black steel, greenery and an aquarium’s worth of glass give the whole place a greenhouse atmosphere. To score your special Melbourne Festival Feasts deal you'll have to head to the hotel's Garden Grill where you can get any main with a house wine, beer or soft drink for $25.
Special offer: $30 entrée and mains selection; $50 three-course selection
It's quite the venue that can effortlessly slide from workday lunches to elegant dinners and still muster the energy for cocktails and late-night dancing. Modern Vietnamese restaurant the George on Collins, speaheaded by MasterChef star Khanh Ong, manages the daily transformation with aplomb. During Melbourne International Arts Festival the venue is offering a $30 selection of the George's favourite dishes including entrée and mains, and a $50 selection of favourite dishes including entrees, mains and desserts.
Special offer: $30 and $50 feasts
Melbourne meets Munich at this Bavarian bier hall. It's here where you can find a bank of taps dedicated to the sweet, syrupy trappist beers of Europe that you don't know how to pronounce. They've got 30 taps and a pretty big bottle range backing it up as well as all of Germany's greatest beer-soaking hits including whole sausage platters and schnitzels. The good times keep rolling during Melbourne Festival with Hophaus offering a $30 bretzel, burger, fries and glass of Heineken (or house wine) combo. Or opt for the $50 feast and where you'll trade the burger for barramundi or a veal schnitty.
Special offer: $35 pasta and wine
This Flinders Lane trattoria was formerly best known for its tipples, but it has also become a destination for carby pasta goodness. They also serve carby pizza goodness and a selection of antipasti dishes so elegant it would make your nonna weep. Load up pre-show with Lello's $35 Melbourne Festival deal which includes any pasta dish plus a glass of red or white wine.
Special offer: $50 four dishes and a drink
Lucy Liu's entrance is nothing if not dramatic, with a luminous, neon-red tunnel giving way to a room of vertical wooden slats and shiny concrete. Every sense is slammed with bright lights, hologram menus, house beats and dishes that deliver jolts from sugar, salt and chilli like a series of special effects explosions. Try for chef-selected dishes (plus a glass of wine or beer) for $50 during Melbourne Festival.
Special offer: $30 mystery feast
Magic Mountain Saloon features plenty of neon, white marble, staff as friendly as a pack of Golden Retrievers (with better drinks-carrying skills) and a fiery, no-punches-pulled approach to Thai cookery. It’s as much a bar as a restaurant – with an ouch-inducing 3am closing time and a fully fledged drinks listed filled with zingy cocktails and Spritzes. Try one for yourself – during Melbourne Festival, Magic Mountain is serving $30 mystery feasts including a Spritz of your choice.
Special offer: $15 Frank Sinatra cocktail
Is it a bar? Is it a nightclub? The city's suits come to Ms Collins after work for pan-Asian snacks (we're talking soft-shell crab sliders, tofu and shiitake gyoza and peri peri chicken bao) and beers, but often you'll find the same crowd still there late at night as the venue transforms into a glowing, neon nightclub. That of course means cocktails, including the Frank Sinatra – a mix of whiskey, marmalade, mint and orange blossom water. And if you've got Melbourne Festival tickets you can get it for $15 (it's usually $20).
Special offer: $50 four dishes and a drink
Pilgrim’s all-day menu puts local and Australian produce front and centre, with dishes like wallaby carpaccio, gin and finger lime cured kingfish and toasties made with locally sourced meat and cheese. There are a few high tables for two, but it’s mostly communal seating, with city dwellers happily parked next to rosy-faced tourists. For $50 per person, Pilgrim are offering Melbourne International Arts Festival guests three small shared plates and a dessert off the regular menu plus a drink (schooner of beer, glass of wine or soft drink).
Special offer: $50 feast
Red Spice Road was one of the first South East Asian eateries to take a leaf out of the communal 'hawker' dining style that is taking over Melbourne. On the menu you'll find influences from Thai, Cambodian, Burmese and Vietnamese cuisines, all shook up with a modern Australian spin. Dining here is fuss free and authentic, which is no doubt why the restaurant is still so popular ten years on. Sample a stack of their tasty dishes with the $50 Melbourne Festival Feasts menu (it even includes dessert).
Special offer: $50 lunch and $60 dinner banquets
This casual eatery takes a modern approach to Asian street food classics, with a skew towards Thai and Vietnamese flavours. The owners encourage diners to eat with their hands, which makes sense given a menu featuring mini banh mi, betel leaves and steamed pork buns. The lunch ($50) and dinner ($60) Melbourne Festival Feasts banquets for two contain a selection of the tasty dishes as well as a glass of wine for each guest.
Special offer: $30 lunch or $50 dinner
Rice Paper Sister focuses on share dishes made from local ingredients inspired by food from Bali to Bangkok. Round off your meal with cocktails that reflect the South East Asian influences throughout the meal, like the Vietnamese Espresso Martini and the fresh coriander-infused Mojito. Grab a $30 lunch or a $50 dinner (both with a cheeky glass of wine) during Melbourne Festival.
Special offer: $30 meal and drink combo
Dubbed an "urban beer garden hideaway", Riverland is situated on the banks of the Yarra in the historic Federation Wharf vaults, making it an ideal starting point for a voyage into the night (or into Melbourne Festival). The venue leans into its outdoor location by opening up to the sun in summer, and laying out the heaters in winter. During the Festival, Riverland will sort you out for lunch or dinner with $30 for any On Your Own meal off the regular menu plus a select glass of red, white or sparkling wine or pint of Colonial Pale Ale.
Special offer: $50 Express Festival Menu
Founded in 2011, Argentinian fine dining institution San Telmo ignited Melbourne’s passion for South American cuisine, introducing a rich culinary culture and transporting guests to the cobblestone streets of the eponymous Buenos Aires barrio. For Melbourne International Arts Festival, San Telmo is offering an express menu for $50pp (minimum two poeople) including an empanada, housemade chorizo, dry-aged, pasture-fed rump steak, seasonal leaves and an Argnetine cookie filled with dulce de leche.
Special offer: $30 lunch and $50 dinner banquet
Chinese cuisine, bonza location, and fluffy pork buns fashioned to look like little pigs are the cornerstones of Secret Kitchen’s appeal. The restaurant claims it has the biggest live seafood aquarium in all of Australia, and we have no reason to doubt it, given it’s a $700,000 investment that’s as long as three dinner tables end-to-end. Whether you're seeing a matinee or evening show, the kitchen has got you covered with a Melbourne International Arts Festival Feast lunch menu ($30) or dinner menu ($50). And yes, both options include an adorable steamed piggy bun.
Special offer: 25 per cent discount
No relation! This café has one of the top spots in the city, slap bang in the middle of Federation Square. It makes the café perfectly suited for after-work or pre-show drinks. The all-day menu includes extensive share plates, gourmet takes on classic sandwiches and modern Australian mains (oh, and brekky until 3pm). During Melbourne International Arts Festival, ticket holders all get a hefty 25 per cent off their bill – meaning more money for more Festival shows. Limit one voucher per table per person; not in conjunction with any other Time Out Fed Square promotion or free coffee vouchers. Discount valued up to $30 max per table.
Special offer: 20 per cent discount
It's no secret that Melbourne does bars damn well. We've had a wave of award-winning, high-end cocktail bars and wine bars flogging fancy natural wines, but this Melbourne laneway bar takes things down a gear with a more grungy vibe. Whitehart is a two-storey venue made of shipping containers that's built on a converted car park – it's the sort of place you take your out-of-town friends to for a #Melbournemoment. Take them there before or after a Melbourne Festival show and your tickets will get you 20 per cent off tap beers and selected wines and spirits.