If you’re not in Europe escaping the chill, you could instead bask in the glow of a good bargain when dining out. Melbourne restaurants and pubs are tackling the notoriously quiet winter months with all kinds of specials on food and drinks.
Monday might be pasta night, Tuesday brings deals on schnitzels and the bargains continue right through until Sunday, if you know where to look.
Seddon restaurant Superchido serves a Mexican menu that’s broader in reach than many others around town. But on Wednesdays, people come for tacos. Two tortillas loaded with pork, beer-battered barramundi or grilled veg are available for $10; desserts are the same price.
While it was initially a night targeted at locals, the restaurant now gets people traveling from all over Melbourne for the deal.
“It’s equivalent to the foot traffic we get on a Friday,” says chief marketing officer Beatrice Pineda.
Pineda says that business is steady throughout the week, but the Wednesday special provides a mid-week boost. “That alleviates the pressure on Friday and Saturday night trade.”
While Wednesday diners will mostly stick to the discounted items on the menu, they will often spend more on drinks.
Superchido, like other venues, has been offering these deals since the beginning of the year and say they haven’t noticed any change in their popularity in recent months, despite four consecutive interest rate rises and surging costs of essentials like fuel.
Specials like these could be helping to fuel continued growth in transactions on dining out and takeaway, which grew by 8.6 percent in the June quarter according to the latest ABS data.
Ripponlea Food and Wine has noticed that Friday and Saturday trade continues to be strong, with people ordering lots of cocktails. But on Wednesday and Thursday, diner spend per head is half what it is on weekends.
A long-running pasta and wine night for $40 each Wednesday helps keep tables full.
“Mid-week, you need to tap into value for money. Diners are not necessarily looking to spend $100 a head,” says director Lisa Slaughter.
Dining deals often become more common in winter, as venues compete against the pull of staying indoors.
Throughout August, restaurant booking platform The Fork has set up deals where venues offer set menus at $99, $79 or $49. In Victoria, 49 restaurants are participating, including big names like Turkish restaurant Tulum and Federation Square’s Taxi Kitchen.
“It’s a good way for venues to acquire new customers,” says head of marketing James Walmsley. “We know it’s expensive for venues to do their own marketing… but the most expensive thing for a restaurant is an empty table.”
As interest rate decisions catch up with consumers, some say they’re starting to pull back their discretionary spending, or plan to in the future. A third of those surveyed in July by restaurant booking platform SevenRooms said dining out would be the first budget item they’d cut.
That could mean more bargains are on the table for savvy diners in the coming months, even as warmer weather arrives.
Where to find dining deals every day of the week in Melbourne
Cheap drinks and snacks or $40 dinner, Henry Sugar
Monday night is legendary here for the inventive snacks (starting at $7), $10 negronis and $50 carafes of wine that can get your week off to a naughty start. Otherwise, do the two-course dinner for $40. 296-298 Rathdowne Street, Carlton North, henrysugar.com.au
$80 “beggars banquet”, Bar Margaux
That’s what they call this spread of oysters, steak tartare, fries and two glasses of Taittinger champagne. Head to this basement bar early (5pm-7pm) or late (10am-midnight), Wednesday to Saturday, to slum it in style. Basement, 111 Lonsdale Street, Melbourne, barmargaux.com.au
$10 tacos and desserts, Superchido
Get two tacos for $10, with three different fillings on offer: al pastor (pork), pescado (battered fish) or rajas (scorched pepper). Back it up with a $10 dessert: churros or chocolate cake with layers of sponge and custard. There’s also a happy hour before the food specials kick off. 82 Charles Street, Seddon, superchido.com.au
$12 burgers at Burger Surge
Normally costing between $19 and $13.50, the fillings on these loaded burgers are Indian in flavor: think butter chicken, fried chilli paneer and potato tikka. It’s a fun mash-up that gets even better with a discount (also available on Wednesdays). Locations in Elsternwick and Williamstown, burgershurger.com.au
Two-for-one drinks at Ripponlea Food and Wine
Relocate the home office to this bayside spot to make the most of its 3pm-5pm happy hour. Pay half for a couple of Asahis or Matilda Bay Original Ales or try a tap wine, including King Valley pinot grigio. 15 Glen Eira Road, Ripponlea, ripponleafoodandwine.com.au
Half-price barbecue at Welcome To Brunswick
What’s normally a $19 plate of smoked meat (or veg, if that’s your preference) is all yours for less than a tenner on Saturday afternoons (noon-4pm). Choose your hero, add sides like mac and cheese and bring it home with fluffy bread, pickles or some croquettes. 1 Frith Street, Brunswick, welcometobrunswick.com.au
$65 for three courses at Epocha
They call it a Sunday roast, but lunch here on Sunday is so much more. Kick off with shared entrees, perhaps whipped ricotta with bread, before moving on to swordfish with mandarin and sorrel. Then it’s the roast of the week with sides to match and duck-fat potatoes. Dessert is also included, so you’ll be rolling all the way home. 49 Rathdowne Street, Carlton, epoch.com.au
THROUGHOUT THE WEEK
$20 specials at Paradise Valley Hotel
There are four ways to get dinner for $20, starting with steak on Monday. Fans of burgers, parmas and curry are also catered for throughout the week, then on Sunday there’s a roast special at market price. 249 Belgrave-Gembrook Road, Clematis, paradisevalleyhotel.com
Kids eat free at Brunetti Classico
From Monday to Thursday, margherita pizza, gnocchi and more kids’ pizza and pasta are free, as long as one adult orders a main meal. Does getting dinner on the house mean the kids will want even more gelato afterwards? You bet. 380 Lygon Street, Carlton, brunetticlassico.com.au
$25 katsu sando and beer at Robata
Squishy white bread, crisp panko-crumbed chicken and lashings of Kewpie: this is how you do a sanga. With edamame for snacking and a refreshing Asahi, this is a lunchtime special that could have you skipping dinner. Talk about budget-friendly. 2 Exhibition Street, Melbourne, robata.com.au
$60 prix-fixe lunch and wine at Philippe
Those in the know sniff out the lunch deal at this French CBD favorite. From Tuesday to Friday, two courses – onion soup and confit duck, perhaps – plus a carafe of wine, are all yours for nearly half the normal bill. Basement, 115-117 Collins Street, Melbourne, philipperestaurant.com.au
Kids eat free at The Orrong Hotel
Make dinnertime easy (and cheap!) at this renovated south-side pub, where kids aged 12 and under eat on the house. Options include chicken schnitzel, spaghetti with Napoli sauce and more. The deal’s available Monday to Wednesday, 4pm to 6pm. 709 High Street, Armadale, orronghotel.com