Whether a romantic fling, an anniversary celebration, or something in between, Melbourne’s north is filled with things to do for pairs.
If you dig through Melbourne’s multicultural food history, Mario Viganò (1888–1966) is one of the most prominent names you’ll uncover. Farm Vigano [10 Bushmans Way, South Morang] was his outpost on the north side of the city, and even 50 years after his death the Italian food make for a truly special and intimate evening. Often referred to as one of the most Italian experiences in Melbourne, a meal at Farm Vigano is designed to be shared, laughed over, and enjoyed with aplomb.
Love film? That’s ‘film’, not ‘movies’. Head to Thornbury Picture House [802 High Street, Thornbury], where you’ll uncover indie and other Hollywood gems playing at this nostalgic cinema in the heart of High Street. It’s a small cinema (57 seats), built on the site of one of Melbourne’s first drive-through petrol stations. The bar is intimate and stocked with locally-made alcohol and sweet treats, perfect even if you’re only looking for a tipple.
Looking for a romantic weekend getaway in the most picturesque setting? Ditch the interstate travel and head another 15 minutes past Melbourne Airport to the indulgent Marnong Estate [2335 Mickleham Road, Mickleham]. Stop by the cellar door for tastings of the Marnong Estate wine range, or reserve a table at the onsite Bankvale Run arguably the finest restaurant in Melbourne’s north-west suburbs.
On an otherwise nondescript section of suburban thoroughfare, you’ll find the sweet icy treats of Miinot Gelato [71 Melville Road, Pascoe Vale South]. It’s a curious surprise to see a snaking queue of gelato lovers line the footpath on a warm day. One taste, though, and you’ll understand why. Vegan and gluten-free options are available, and if you’re feeling super greedy (and why shouldn’t you?), pick up a tub to take home to share later.
Take one gorgeous bluestone building, add a menu loaded with Mediterranean delights and you have the perfect place to reconnect with a loved one. Pay Bluestone Cafe Restaurant [286a Epping Road, Wollert] a visit and try the scialatielli pasta (made with pecorino and basil) with calamari, mussels, scallops and more, or make a morning of it with its big breakfast or a simple organic spelt porridge.
Looking for a way to keep active and spend some quality time with your partner without committing to high-intensity exercise? Goonawarra Golf Club [2 Francis Boulevard, Sunbury] is always welcoming new golfers and new members to its ranks, even if you have no idea of the difference between a 3-wood and a 3-iron. The bistro is a popular retreat on a Friday afternoon, after a day working your way around the course with your significant other.
What better way to start the weekend than with an evening together enjoying barefoot bowls and a sausage sizzle? With drinks on offer at excellent prices, Preston Reservoir Bowls Club [75 Leamington Street, Reservoir] is a perfect destination for a double date. With three large bowling greens there is plenty of room to spread out, and if you can’t make it for its Friday night session, head along over the weekend and hire a barbecue while you’re at it!
It doesn’t need to be the height of summer to make the most of Hume City Council’s leisure centres. Splash Aqua Park and Leisure Centre [60 Central Park Avenue, Craigieburn] is the pick of the bunch, with brand-spanking new facilities. There’s also Broadmeadows and Sunbury Aquatic and Leisure Centres [41–85 Tanderrum Way, Broadmeadows & 20 Ligar Street, Sunbury]. All three centres offer group classes, various pools for a frolic or a few laps, and personal training sessions to keep you and your partner in tip-top shape.
When dusk turns to night, then night turns to late night, where do you go? Bar Romantica [52–54 Lygon Street, Brunswick East], that’s where. With its super-late licence and kitchen hours, no matter where your evening has taken you, there’s more fun and deliciousness to be had in this long-time Lygon Street favourite. Sink into a martini or make your selection from the stocked wall behind the bar, then order a Pizza Romantica (the house passata is to die for) or try the fan favourite, Kangaroo tartare with fermented chilli.
For more than 30 years Gertrude Contemporary [21–31 High Street, Preston] has championed the best and brightest artistic talent from Melbourne and Australia. It’s the city’s leading centre for contemporary art and ideas, offering a space where artists can take risks and immerse themselves in their work. After relocating from Fitzroy in 2017, visitors can view major exhibitions by local artists and collectives, just a couple of blocks from train and tram stops. Make a date of it and get a unique taste of what is on the cutting edge of contemporary art of Australia’s cultural capital with your special person.
Jalapeno burger for breakfast? Berry-topped pancakes for lunch? At Thirtyfold [11 Gorge Road, South Morang], the all-day menu means anything goes. Great coffee and awesome smoothies round out your dining experience for two (although if your staycation away from the kids doesn’t work out, there are plenty of options for them as well). Want a surefire tip? Try the smashed pumpkin. With whipped feta, crispy kale, pomegranate, dukkah and hazelnut hummus to go along with two perfectly poached eggs, it’s not only the most delicious way to start the day, but one of the healthiest.
Lygon Street has been the lifeblood of northern Melbourne for generations, so it’s only natural that eventually a destination would open up where you, the punter, can partake in wine production – from stomping to bottling and, of course, sampling. With a membership at Noisy Ritual [249 Lygon Street, Brunswick East] — a winery-turned-wine bar-turned cellar door in the heart of Brunswick —that’s what you can get. Of course, if you’d prefer to simply make the most of premium vino blended from wineries around Victoria, then spend an evening tasting its range together. Then leave with a bottle or six for the cellar back home.