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Cheap Dining Tips for Melbourne

Home > Melbourne > Nightlife | Frugal Friday | Food and Wine | Bars | Restaurants
Published July 12th 2012
Let's be honest; we all want the good life. We want to have our cake and eat it too. The problem is that Australia (and Melbourne especially) now has one of the highest costs of living worldwide. Being fabulous is becoming increasingly difficult. But The Thrifty Minx is here to tell you - it's not impossible!

Fear not friends, for I am about to share with you my secrets to enjoying champagne tastes on a beer budget, wining and dining style.

cheap dining melbourne
Photo from Wikipedia

Allow me first to state the obvious: Australia is undergoing a foodies frenzy, and I for one am guilty of joining the craze. Whether it be because of Masterchef, Top Chef, MKR, or the rise of the celebrity chef (heellllloooo Manu!), we're all becoming increasingly aware of what constitutes a good bite. The problem? Most of the top restaurants will charge around $40 a main for this pleasure. But I have a solution, and it is three-fold.

1) Restaurant.com

Meet Restaurant.com, my new favourite website.

The concept is thus: you book to eat at some of Melbourne's (and Sydney, and Brisbane's) best restaurants at off-peak times, and save 30% on the bill - the whole bill and nothing but the bill.

An $8 fee is payable to the site every time you make a booking, but you can save hundreds in the process. I was astounded to see restaurants such as Papa Goose and No 35 listed when I logged on, and even happier when the latter had a table available for Saturday night.

High above Melboure, my partner and I enjoyed the view of millions of twinkling lights spread as far as the eye can see and we sipped cocktails, nibbed ceviche and gobbled seafood main courses. The bill at the end came to just over $110 for two cocktails, two glassess of wine, entrees and mains.

Bookings can be made for up to 6 people but don't forget that officially your bookings are for 'off-peak' times, so not all restaurants will be available on a Friday or Saturday night. If you have your heart set on a weekend, you could try the following:

2) Group Buying Websites

As surely as the celebrity chef has risen, so has the popularity of the Group Buying Website.

The idea is thus: businesses advertise their wares through a conduit (provider) at a certain discounted rate (up to 80% off in some cases), on the proviso that a certain number of people must purchase the deal before it become active.

I've eaten at restaurants such as Mezzo, Bluestone, and Embrasse, and dozens of lesser-know establishments, on deals such as these and saved hundreds in the process. You get a discounted meal and the restaurant gets new customers walking through the door - its a win/win sitiuation.

There's a million (or it seems that way) of these group buying sites in Australia now, but for my money I'd recommend Spreets, Scoopon, LivingSocial and Deals.com as some of the better providers.

Just remember, all restaurants (like all group buying sites) are not created equal. Just because a deal offers 90% off doesn't mean you should snap it up. Read the fine-print first and make sure you understand what you're paying for. There may be certain restrictions on when you can use it, and it will almost certainly have an expiry date, so be sure you can use it in the time required.

3) Happy Hour

Last but not least, keep your eye on the sites like The Happiest Hour and Deadline.com for happy hour details and weekly specials that could save you a buck or two at the last minute.

Who says you can't have champagne tastes on a beer budget?
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Why? Indulge your high class tastes without the high class price
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