Let me set you an all too familiar dating scenario. You want to go and check out the ‘it’ restaurant or cafe in town and impress the pants (pun intended) off your date. It may have a no reservations policy or you’ve left your reservation too late but you try and get a spot there anyways. You show up to the restaurant and you see a swarm of punters outside waiting for a table. Thinking that you can still salvage this you head inside only to be told there is a 2 hour waiting list just to be put on the waiting list. Your date looks at you and says “What now?”
We’ve all been in that situation before so I’m hoping to give you a Dating Plan B.
Chin Chin Plan B
First up I have to start with Chin Chin. They have had waiting lists every day since they opened. There are obviously tricks to get you in there. It’s fairly simple, get there early or get there late. Don’t show up at 7pm hoping to waltz straight into a table. But never fear, your Plan B option to Chin Chin is just around the corner.
Well it’s more up the road and around the corner, at Tonka, Melbourne’s coolest new Indian restaurant. Nestled at the end of Duckboard Place under the illuminated sign, the talented people at Tonka have been quietly going about their business for just over a year now. The vibe is slightly more refined and minimalist than Chin Chin’s Vietnamese speaking toilets but the staff are top notch and (unlike Chin Chin) it’s a safe bet your date probably hasn’t been there.
The food here is nothing like your local Indian curry joint, with genuinely modern Indian food designed to share (excellent for flirting) and Tonka’s simple menu does make ordering much easier as it’s only on 3 small pages. Normally the restaurant will be booked, but their bar is huge and is often the best perch as you can watch both cocktail barmen and chefs work their craft. And yes don’t forget their cocktails, they are a knockout.
Longrain Plan B
Another ‘No Bookings Policy’ restaurant is Longrain, a place I’ve failed to score a table at on many occasions. Longrain is situated at the top end of China Town so there are more than enough Plan B options, however only a few meters away is a newish dumpling restaurant that will easily become the new ‘it’ restaurant in Melbourne.
Ruyi is not dark and loud like Longrain, it’s more of a sophisticated Chinese restaurant. Not white linen tables cloths kind of sophisticated, more like a beautiful fit out with care taken on almost every part of the design, right down to the ceramic bowls. Ruyi is your modern dumpling restaurant and you will taste the difference in their xiao long bao (I like to call them dumpling water bombs). Everything about this place is smooth and they do it all without trying to be cool. So if you find yourself out in the cold of Longrain just walk 10 meters down Liverpool Street and you’ll find a perfect Plan B. But be quick as this place will soon be everyone’s Plan A.
Richmond Breakfast Plan B
Now for a morning breakfast date and let’s face it, 99% of the time you walk into a cafe with no booking. And most of the time you are almost certainly waiting at least 20 minutes. The Mecca of breakfast cafes has to be Richmond and I have horrible memories of more than one occasion driving around Richmond looking for a cafe that didn’t have 30 people waiting outside. So if you find yourself on the 45 minute waiting list at Top Paddock, Friends of Mine or Pillar of Salt I’ve got a great Plan B option only a block away from all three.
Touchwood is an absolutely huge cafe near the corner of Bridge and Burnley. The place just keeps on going as you walk through the restaurant and out the back to the (sometimes) sunny deck. As food bloggers and breakfast lovers flock to Top Paddock and co for the must-have Melbourne breakfast, Touchwood are offering locals a clever and tasty breakfast menu all coupled with a mean coffee bean. And although she is a big cafe, she is still very sexy. As the name suggests there is plenty of wood and this is all enhanced by long white brick walls. Richmond is full of great cafes, but with greatness comes long waiting times; however with their whooping space maybe Touchwood can buck the trend. Your date will not only be impressed with your choice, they will applaud you for your local knowledge.
- Tonka – 20 Duckboard Place, Melbourne
- Ruyi – 16 Liverpool Street, Melbourne
- Touchwood – 480 Bridge Road, Richmond