Going out to a restaurant is about more than just the food and service. This guide is for the times when company and conversation are the most important part of the meal. These places have the sorts of dining rooms where you don’t have to strain your voice to be heard, where the background music isn’t actually foreground music and you don’t have to lean in to hear what someone’s trying to say to you. But just because they’re quieter than average doesn’t mean they’re compromising on atmosphere.

These are some of the best places to talk (and eat) in Melbourne. They’re worth keeping in mind next time the parents are in town, or you want to settle in with someone for a well-overdue catch-up.

Lesa

You can hear it the second you ascend the dark internal staircase; Lesa isn’t the same restaurant as Embla, its bubbly downstairs counterpart. Actually, it doesn’t sound (or act) like most contemporary restaurants in Melbourne. The room is relatively quiet and the playlist is more likely to be inoffensive jazz than Notorious B.I.G. The menu is fixed: four courses, with three choices at each step. Apart from bread and salad, nothing is shared.

Level 1 122 Russell Street, Melbourne

Navi

Typically, it’s living room lights that shine through the curtains on sleepy Gamon Street. From behind one gauzy grey set, though, comes the glow of Navi. Chef Julian Hill combines rigorous European technique with native ingredients. The 25-seat dining room is quiet and intimate – but far from stuffy.

83B Gamon Street, Yarraville

Ides

It’s a small, 36-seater; dimly lit, with widely spaced, grey-leather-topped tables. The quiet, grey-carpeted room contrasts starkly with the energetic and inventive food chef Peter Gunn plates up.

92 Smith Street, Collingwood

Oster

Even as the dining room fills up, the volume – from tables and speakers – stays down.

76-78 Bridge Road, Richmond

Florentino

The grand dining room cites the Renaissance era, with dark wood tables, tall leather upholstered chairs, black marble and large murals plastered across the walls. It’s a Melbourne institution, and the effortless food and service make it the perfect place to focus on conversation.

80 Bourke Street, Melbourne

Etta

Etta isn't necessarily quiet. It's quite a tightly-packed 80-seat dining room. But there's the good kind of noise here, which isn't a problem. You won't hear loud music punching through your eardrums while you're trying to talk – just the sound of other tables having a good time.

60 Lygon Street, Brunswick East

Park Street Pasta & Wine

The dining room here is small, but it's not packed with tables. Even when Park Street is at capacity, there'll be a sense of privacy at the table. All the pasta is made in-house every day, and the menu changes every two weeks.

268 Park Street, South Melbourne

Donovans

Although it’s usually pretty busy, it's always pretty easy to have a conversation here. That's thanks in part to the furnishing: carpets and couches throughout insulate the room and quieten things.

40 Jacka Boulevard, St Kilda

Dinner by Heston

The distance between tables here is vast, discouraging rubbernecking or eavesdropping on fellow guests. There is no music. In short, there is very little to distract from the food and company in front of you.

Level 3 8 Whiteman Street, Southbank

Minamishima

This intimate, 40-seat restaurant is the first solo outing for talented Japanese sushi master, Koichi Minamishima. Whether you're at the long bar, in a private dining room or in the elegantly understated, low-lit dining room, this is one of the best (and quietest) dining experiences Melbourne has to offer.

4 Lord Street, Richmond

Scopri

Nicholson Street's a very noisy road, but inside Scopri, none of that comes through. It's a warm restaurant dedicated to the Italian region of Piemonte. It's an oddly-shaped dining room, but that's actually a strength. All of the nooks and crannies cut noise out and make conversation at your table much easier.

191 Nicholson Street, Carlton

Bottega

This Italian restaurant is part of a strip of restaurants on a busy part of Bourke Street. Inside, it's full of energy, and noisy from conversation, not music. If you're in a group, grab one of the booths. They're private, and they're in a quieter part of the dining room.

74 Bourke Street, Melbourne

Rockpool Bar & Grill

The Melbourne outpost of Neil Perry's popular steakhouse chain has long been a favourite for business lunches and dinners alike. It's no wonder why. It's softly lit, and tables are set far apart from one another for intimacy and privacy. You won't feel like you're being eavesdropped on here.

8 Whiteman Street, Crown Complex, Southbank

Noir

A quiet and sleek modern European restaurant in Richmond.

175 Swan Street , Richmond
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