We owe a lot of our culinary terms to the French. Chefs, sommeliers and maître d’s? All français. The same goes for the front- and back-of-house structures of modern restaurants, which originated in eighteenth-century Paris.

As for French food itself, it often springs to mind when picturing restaurants and dining. Almost every chef started off training in classical French cooking, and for good reason: Gallic gastronomic techniques are the cornerstone of modern cookery. Melbourne has no shortage of excellent French restaurants worth your time. From brasseries and bistros, to bastions of both haute and nouvelle cuisine, here’s our selection.

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Bar Margaux

Restaurant

Walk down the nondescript staircase and let your eyes adjust. There’s no natural light at this subterranean bistro – that’s why it’s so easy to lose track of time. The Wagyu cheeseburger here is the stuff of legend – and heart palpitations.

Basement 111 Lonsdale Street, Melbourne

Bistro Guillaume

Restaurant

French dining by renowned chef Guillaume Brahimi. The high culinary standard set by his now-closed bistro at the Sydney Opera House is in full effect here, but the setting is more casual. And while it’s not quite the river Seine, the Yarra is an idyllic backdrop for Brahimi’s nostalgic dishes.

Shop 7 Crown Complex 8 Whiteman, Southbank
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Chancery Lane

Restaurant

Scott Pickett's take on a mod-French brasserie brings old-world European elegance to a heritage-listed CBD building, with ritzy green marble, dramatic arched windows and candelabras throughout. Start with Sher Wagyu tartare, then move onto French-style gnocchi and finish with lemon curd meringue tart.

430 Little Collins Street, Melbourne
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Entrecote Prahran

Restaurant

After seven years in South Yarra, this well-loved brasserie has found a new home in Prahran. Alongside signature dishes are a roving caviar trolley, a raw seafood bar, a late-night supper menu and French-inspired cocktails from the brain behind Romeo Lane.

142-144 Greville Street, Prahran
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Smith St Bistrot

Restaurant

Scott Pickett returns to his roots at this sexy inner-city bistro. With its caviar service, playful spins on Gallic staples and a dining room that recalls Paris in the 1930s, this place is a spirited entry to the genre by one of Melbourne's best chefs.

300 Smith Street, Collingwood
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Bistro Gitan

Restaurant

Named after the French word for gypsy, Gitan has a menu that wanders a little like its namesake, allowing hints of Spanish and Italian influences into the modern French mix. It all comes together inside a classic Victorian-era building by a family of top Melbourne restaurateurs.

52 Toorak Road West, South Yarra

L'Hôtel Gitan

Restaurant

Restaurateur Jacques Reymond’s vision of a Melbourne pub. It's more about fostering the pop-in, pop-out approach, without abandoning the flair where it counts. The food leans slightly more towards France than at Bistro Gitan, but there’s a notable showing of Aussie talent on the wine list.

32 Commercial Road, Prahran

France Soir

Restaurant

A faithful rendition of the Parisian bistro experience. It’s seen plenty of action since it first opened in 1986, but even then it’s hard to imagine the cellar – stocked with more than 4000 French wines – ever running dry.

11 Toorak Road, South Yarra

Philippe

Restaurant

Victorian-bred steaks fired over Japanese coals. A rotisserie chicken so good it’s never left the menu. And a wine list that eschews quantity for quality. Chef-owner Philippe Mouchel’s signature is all over this basement bistro in more ways than one.

115-117 Collins Street, Melbourne
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Bon Ap' Petit Bistro

Restaurant

Bon Ap’ differs from most French places in town. While there are steak frites and French onion soup on the menu, you won't see any waistcoated staff here. It’s partway between a bar and a good neighbourhood eatery – one where you can drop in early for a croissant or later for drinks and house charcuterie.

193 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy

Noir

Restaurant

This low-key Richmond spot is helmed by a chef who's no stranger to a Michelin-starred kitchen. His menu deals in the kind of seafood-heavy fare you might find in a southern French bistro, backed by a concise list of new-wave European wines.

175 Swan Street, Richmond

Bar Savarin

Restaurant

Drop into this French bistro and bottle shop for fresh charcuterie plates, house-shucked oysters and varied mains, accompanied by a meticulously curated wine and cocktail list that rotates daily.

132 Keys Road, Cheltenham

Hemingway’s Wine Room

Bar

This lavish, split-down-the-centre space was designed with the spirit of 1920s Paris and New York in mind. Have a cheese trolley wheeled to your table, sip Ernest Hemingway-inspired cocktails, or settle in for a long lunch with free-flowing magnums.

150 Wellington Parade, East Melbourne