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Diners seated within the main dining room of Society, fitted out with crystal chandeliers and grey-toned furnishings.
Photograph: Adrian Lander

Time Out Food & Drink Awards 2022: Best Fine Dining Restaurant

These are the nominees for Best Fine Dining Restaurant in the Time Out Melbourne Food & Drink Awards 2022

By Time Out in partnership with Tyro
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Make no mistake: the fine dining gods have been smiling on Melbourne this year. We’ve had plenty of reasons to dress up for dinner and treat ourselves to something special, at just the time a bit of indulgence was needed most.

But on this turn around the sun, the gods have a few tricks up their sleeves. The very notion of “fine dining” has slipped its moorings, resulting in a very different beast to the classical notions of starched white linen, stiff formality and best manners.

Sure, you can still go full glam at Grill Americano or Gimlet, two CBD newcomers where the excellent crowd-watching is all part of the fun and the menus, fit-out and sheer attitude will whisk you to yesteryear Paris and New York. Chris Lucas’ glamazon Society fits the bill, too. Perhaps the top hat or tiara will be a little OTT, but they’re all places begging you to dress to Impress.

But beyond those age-old certainties of caviar, Champagne and Instagram, we have Ben Shewry’s Attica remaining the benchmark for envelope-pushing food interrogating the very notion of “Australian” cuisine. There’s also the long-awaited arrival of Nomad, which has deformalised the dinner but kept up the flame-grilled excellence and produce-driven perfection. In the red corner, the hallowed beauty of Warabi showcases the meticulous Japanese art of omakase. And what would people a century ago have made of a place called Enter Via Laundry, where the barrier between chef and guests is whittled down to a mere nub?

So what is fine dining? That, friends, will have as many answers as there are diners in this crazy, topsy-turvy dining age. We can’t mandate the type of cuisine, the setting, the size or the price. Yet we can say with happy certainty that all our fine dining nominees deliver an experience.

Here are the nominees for Best Wine Bar.
Here are the nominees for Best Innovation.
Here are the nominees for Best Regional Restaurant.

Want more? Click here to view all the nominees in the Time Out Food & Drink Awards 2022.

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And the nominees are...

  • Restaurants
  • Modern Australian
  • Ripponlea
  • price 4 of 4

Back in 2018, the little Ripponlea restaurant that could rose to a surprise #20 entry on the much-debated (and occasionally controversial) World’s 50 Best Restaurants list. It overtook Brae’s entry the year before at #44 and set Attica firmly in the minds of the international jetset. Ben Shewry’s experimental and unflinchingly Australian ten-course degustation has since tumbled out of the top 50, this year not even making the cut in the top 100. So what does this all mean for one of the most loved and well-known restaurants in the country? Does it still live up to its original hype years later, in 2022? Emphatically, yes.

  • Restaurants
  • Indian
  • Princes Hill

Spoiler alert: You don’t enter via laundry anymore. The success of Helly Raichura’s tiny at-home Box Hill restaurant has precipitated her move to more “serious” Carlton North digs, although the laneway entrance retains the enticing air of mystery (as does finding out the actual address only after booking). But while the location has changed, the brief of one of Melbourne’s most singular degustations remains the same: to explain and explore the food of her Indian heritage. The lengthy meal (expect 20-plus dishes) changes its focus seasonally. Right now, it’s a deep dive into the cuisine of Bengal, often flirting with Australian native ingredients and always carrying a story.

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  • Restaurants
  • Bars
  • Melbourne
  • price 3 of 4

There’s something in the air at Gimlet. A sense of anticipation and unadulterated enjoyment; a palpable celebration that the 2020s can deliver something so wonderfully and glitzily 1920s (pre-crash, of course). Walk into the glamorously retooled Art Deco beauty Cavendish House on the corner of Russell and Flinders Lane and you’re whisked to another era, when people dressed for dinner and seafood arrived on silver platters. There are twinkling chandeliers and horseshoe-shaped booths, rippled glass and winking brass – and bless the amphitheatre-like tiered seating for making it easy to spy on the media-influencer-politico-celebutant faces flocking here like moths to a flame.

  • Restaurants
  • Italian
  • Melbourne

First impressions count, and Grill Americano delivers plenty of good ones. Chris Lucas’ latest restaurant distils a retro-glam brief into a squelchingly expensive fit-out of terrazzo floors and royal blue leather seats, a sweeping white marble bar lit by individual deco-ish lamps and the sultry backdrop of ink-blue walls. Gosh, it’s nice. Add a soundtrack that will whisk you straight to the Amalfi Coast in the company of Dickie Greenleaf and it’s almost impossible to resist.

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  • Restaurants
  • Richmond
  • price 3 of 4

Exquisite dishes notwithstanding, Minamishima is a masterclass experience in excellent service and meticulous attention to detail. As we turn from one dish to the next, the table is meticulously constructed around us with different ceramic saucers and implements taking centre stage. Everything is elegant and artful, right down to the zigzagged wet towel for us to dampen our hands with between sushi eating. A convivial quality is present in waitstaff. Minamishima’s genuine warmth and affection for what they do is matched by the sushi, the best we’ve had in Melbourne. 

  • Restaurants
  • Melbourne

Flinders Lane houses a veritable who’s who of popular dining locations. Because of this, it could be considered inevitable that when Sydney’s Nomad – a high-flying, one-hatted restaurant – moved South it was destined to end up here. But as natural as this might seem, Nomad’s journey to Melbourne has been anything but easy. Importing a restaurant to a new city is already a mammoth task, chuck in a global pandemic with state border closures and your task is looking next to impossible. Thankfully, owners Al and Rebecca Yazbeck, along with executive Nomad chef Jacqui Challinor, aren't ones to shy away from a challenge. 

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  • Restaurants
  • Melbourne

You don’t give your fancy new restaurant a marquee name like Society without raising expectations. Accessorised with a top-end city location at the so-schmancy-it-hurts 80 Collins development, Chris Lucas’ new darling is a bold assertion for the ye olde verities of occasion dining. There’s a chance diners of a certain age will be reminded of Rockpool in its heyday. Society’s looks owe a debt to the eternal design Esperanto that could have been plucked from New York, Paris or Milan – the dark, clubbish, testosterone-drenched good taste of it all, with the addition here of enormous satellite-esque chandeliers popping against the muted room. The menu’s à la carte free-for-all might also raise some connections in the hippocampus.

  • Restaurants
  • Japanese
  • Melbourne
  • price 3 of 4

Going by the omakase craze taking Melbourne and Sydney by storm, there are plenty of diners willing to pay big bucks to witness a chef pursue perfection. Think of it as an ultra-boutique Japanese banquet running headlong into performance art and theatre. Omakase is a showcase of skill and showmanship, although Warabi deformalises the experience with an emphasis on chef-diner interactions. The cross-counter chat proves a welcome pressure valve to those gathered in the serene, timber-lined cocoon lording it above Collins Street – at least before the sake has its chance to do some mood-loosening of its own. 

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