The Best French Restaurants in Melbourne

Updated 5 days ago

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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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  • 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.

  • Follow the black-and-white striped awning to find this smart French bistro. Enjoy signature dishes that the team has mastered over 20 years: French onion soup; escargots served in a buttery garlicky sauce; boeuf bourguignon; and crème brûlée.

  • Gothic vaulted ceilings, stained windows and solid granite columns define this grand brasserie, in the former Melbourne Stock Exchange. Order freshly-shucked oysters from the raw bar, top-grade beef and cheese from the roving trolley.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

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

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

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  • Scott Pickett's take on a modern French brasserie brings old-world European elegance to a heritage CBD building – with ritzy green marble, dramatic arched windows and candelabras throughout. Start with caviar atop buckwheat blinis, then move onto Parisian gnocchi and premium beef from the grill.

  • A petite, dimly lit wine bar serving classic French bistro fare, like sweet and savoury tartes tatin, crème brûlée and coq au vin with a twist.

  • This softly lit French restaurant serves up bistro classics with a contemporary twist. Start with crowd-favourite seared scallops, then move on to tender boeuf bourguignon and finish with tarte tatin. Or push the boat out with top-tier French brandy.

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  • A dependable brasserie serving French classics with modern flourishes to the suited and booted. As you’d expect, wine appears at every turn, from backlit cabinets and a wall of champagne bottles to bar shelves that stretch towards the lofty ceiling.

  • This sunny corner spot service bistro classics and tartines – the French-style open sandwiches. Come for a fancy crab tartine or satisfying steak frites. Plus, a provedore where you can stock up on fancy staples.

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  • Striped awnings and wicker chairs give this corner spot big Parisian vibes. But it’s not strictly French. Alongside bistro favourites find sophisticated European dishes (and classically French desserts).

  • This is top Sydney chef Luke Mangan’s love letter to French cuisine. Enjoy New Zealand salmon cold-smoked in-house and a Calvados-soaked apple tarte tatin alongside a French-inspired cocktail list with eight Martinis.