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A date with design: a guide to romance in Melbourne

A date with design: a guide to romance in Melbourne


It’s a well-known fact that in order for Cupid to work his magic, it helps to set the scene. Sure, a vase of flowers is a nice touch, but bring your date somewhere with a touch of bespoke designer glamour and it’s guaranteed to impress.

From old-school classic to cutting-edge modern, this is where ADR will be spending Valentines Day this year.

Grossi Florentino Upstairs


Image courtesy Broadsheet, photography by Josie Withers.


Featuring dark wood tables and beautiful Italian marble, the lavishly opulent restaurant Grossi Florentino Upstairs is the perfect setting for a romantic Valentine’s night out.

The Melbourne fine-dining institution has a long and rich history, delivering great food and impeccable service to generations of artists, rock stars, and socialites since 1928.  It now rests in the capable hands of celebrity owner Guy Grossi, who took over the reigns in 1999.

In 2013, the restaurant underwent an extensive makeover by architects Mill Gorman, of salumi bar Ombra fame.  The menu was also overhauled to make it “unshackled and modern, free of inhibitions”, says Grossi.

Image courtesy Grossi Florentino

Image courtesy Grossi Florentino


A new private dining room was added, and the famous mural room was lovingly refurbished.  Nine original murals by Australian artist Napier Waller were restored to their former glory with the help of the University of Melbourne’s centre for cultural materials conservation.  The murals depict scenes of grand renaissance life in Florence, and they bring a feeling of the old-world classical to the space.

The sense of quality and luxury pervades in the tall leather upholstered chairs and the intricate ceiling plaster work by Picton Hopkins.

Softly lit light fixtures hang delicately over each table, restored from original hand-forged wrought iron work designed by Emilio Gavotto.


Vue de Monde

vuedemonde lead

Photography by Dianna Snape


Sitting atop the iconic Rialto Tower in Melbourne is the Vue de Monde, a classical French style restaurant that has recently shifted its direction to focus on the theatrical, and the dedication of dining as an experience.

The fine-dining restaurant is owned by chef Shannon Bennett, boasting 360 degree views of the city, from Docklands to the Dandenongs.

The $10 million dollar fit out by Elenberg Fraser is sleek with a modern Australian twist.  It reflects on Australia’s history, from Melbourne’s glory days during the gold rush and other cultural icons including the outback dunny.

The design goes beyond the clichés of Australian tourism to connect with Melbourne’s local natural environment, the river estuary.


Photography by Dianna Snape


A monolithic bar greets the visitor at the entrance, crafted from locally sourced black basalt.  The top has been polished to mirror shine, mimicking a billabong surface.  The wet areas continue this estuarine theme, where a giant steel wash basin forms a black pool of water, and a waterfall gushes from the ceiling.

In the dining area, the stunning Ross Didier chairs have been covered in fluffy kangaroo skin and fur, while the tables are covered in leather fitted by Captains of Industry.  A whimsical glass installation by Michaela Dwyer looks like clouds floating from above, evoking nostalgic happy memories.




Photography by Peter Clarke


After dinner, head to the ultra-hip Adriano Zumbo Patisserie in South Yarra for delectable confections served with a side of cutting-edge interior design.

While perusing the selection of Zumbo’s signature zonuts based on the New York cronuts, macarons, cakes, and savoury delights, visitors can immerse themselves in the amazing retail space designed as a homage to Zumbo’s unique and innovative offerings.

Mirrored panels adorn the walls, while pink neon lights bounce off the gleaming silver ceiling.  Opulent pink couches were hand cast to look like gooey, oozing confections.


Photography by Peter Clarke


The patisserie, designed by Elenberg Fraser, was based on Zumbo’s own food creation process, where he uses old techniques infused with new techniques.

The unexpectedly pillow-like wall panels, which give the impression of inflated candy wrappers, were inspired by the pressed tin ceiling spotted in traditional Parisian patisseries.  Form in clear polycarbonate, the architects gave them a handmade look by heating each piece for different periods of time, hence varying their sizes.  Aluminium vapour was then applied to achieve the mirror finish.  The pastry cabinets were sourced from France.

Elenberg Fraser’s eclectic design won the 2014 Retail Design award at the Australian Interior Design Awards and was shortlisted at last year’s IDEA Awards.

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