Bon Appétit: Melbourne’s French Food Scene Is Best Showcased at These Six Restaurants

The history of French cuisine in Melbourne gained momentum in the mid-20th century when a wave of immigration brought skilled chefs and culinary enthusiasts from France to Australia. These individuals infused Melbourne’s culinary landscape with the artistry and sophistication synonymous with French cooking. As a result, the city saw the emergence of the first French-inspired establishments, laying the foundation for what would become a thriving French restaurant scene.

Over the years, the French restaurant scene evolved to incorporate not only traditional French culinary techniques but also global influences that reflect the city’s multicultural identity. Chefs often draw inspiration from various international cuisines, creating a fusion that marries classic French flavours with innovative twists, which is what you’ll find today.

With that said, here’s our edit of the French restaurants you don’t want to miss in Melbourne.

best french restaurants melbourne
Photo: Patricia Sofra

France Soir, South Yarra

Is there anywhere more iconic than France Soir? We don’t think so. Since 1986, tables and chairs have been filled almost every night. This iconic brasserie has unique character locals are all too familiar with and visitors come to love. It’s where celebrations unfold with oysters and champagne, and waiters expertly navigate between tables, seamlessly calling orders in French. It’s busy and loud, but the food is unmatched. The steak tartare is a must-order, and while we’re at it, the crème brûlée or crêpes Suzette is non-negotiable.

best french restaurants melbourne
Photo: Jamie Alexander

Reine and La Rue, CBD

New on Melbourne’s culinary scene, Reine, a Nomad Group venture, invites diners into the opulent Cathedral Room of the former Melbourne Stock Exchange. The grandeur of stained glass windows, Gothic vaulted ceilings, and limestone walls set the stage for a French-inspired menu crafted by Executive Chef Jacqui Challinor. Dishes like lobster cocktails, duck-neck sausage cassoulet, and grilled meats from an ironbark-burning grill fly out of the kitchen. The 700-strong wine list, spanning Australia, France, and America, is overwhelming, but the sommeliers floating around are more than willing to help you choose a tipple for your palate.

best french restaurants melbourne
Photo: Bar Margaux

Bar Margaux, CBD

Look for an unassuming door labelled “MGX,” and step into a New York-inspired French Bistro, with plenty of classic French fare on offer. Before you ask, there is escargot and a decadent burger, that has topped many best burger lists. Traditional desserts like fromage and soufflé du jour add a sweet finale. The most popular time to visit is 10 pm to midnight for the Golden Hour supper menu, which includes deals on food and cocktails.

best french restaurants melbourne
Photo: Smith St Bistro

Smith St Bistro, Collingwood

Scott Pickett’s Smith St Bistrot is a well-known neighbourhood spot. The 1930s Parisian charm spills out of the interior, adorned with moss-covered exposed brick, antique mirrors, and gothic chandeliers. The bar serves classic Parisian cocktails and an extensive French and local wine list. The food adds playful twists to French classics like vol-au-vent d’escargot and oeufs mayonnaise, while desserts, including champagne sorbet and raspberry souffle, provide a sweet denouement.

best french restaurants melbourne
Photo: Bistro Guillaume

Bistro Guillaume, Southbank

When it comes to French classics, Bistro Guillaume is a household fixture. Helmed by none other than chef Guillaume Brahimi, you can expect the best of Paris, in Southbank. Brahimi’s Parisian-influenced menu features staples like steak frites, escargot, and Roquefort cheese soufflé. Embracing a casual, unpretentious atmosphere, the bistro opts for naked tables and serve-yourself wine. However, for something more decadent, explore the multi-course set menu and a curated wine list showcasing French and Australian selections. We should also mention it’s inside the Crown.

best french restaurants melbourne
Photo: Bistro Gitan

Bistro Gitan, South Yarra

True to its name, Bistro Gitan, meaning “Gypsy” in French, embraces a menu that meanders through modern French cuisine with hints of Spanish and Italian influences.  The wine list offers a bit of everything, from Spain to New Zealand — available by the glass, pichet, carafe, or bottle.

Related: The Holy Trinity: 6 Melbourne Wine Bars With Sublime Food, Ambience and Drinks

Related: 7 Bottomless Brunches in Melbourne For $80pp or Less

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