Musical lovers who've ever skipped along London's Shaftesbury Ave on a post-show high looking for somewhere to keep the theatre buzz going know they'll find a host of dining and drinking options nearby. It's the same on Broadway's 42nd Street in midtown Manhattan.
And now Melbourne has another jewel in its crown as the cultural capital of Australia with the officially designated East End Theatre District. A zone of six major theatres, restaurants and late-night bars – with new venues opening all the time – this mid-city square lures audiences who don't want the fun to end when the curtain comes down.
Bordered by Lonsdale, Swanston, Flinders and Springs Streets, the East End captures Her Majesty's, the Athenaeum, The Regent, The Forum, the Princess and the Comedy Theatres.
Timed with the premiere of smash Broadway hit, Come From Away, here's how we trod the boards on our drama-and-dining visit to Melbourne's East End.
THE HOTEL, QT MELBOURNE
Perfectly located on Russell Street, the five-star boutique hotel is walking distance from all six stages and keeps the theatrics going with its costumed door staff and look-at-me approach to interior styling. (Think ceramic rabbits in the shower and experimental theatre-style voice-overs in the lifts). Guests get star treatment when it comes to entry to the popular rooftop bar – we sailed past lines of locals waiting in the foyer on our Friday night visit. Funky and fun in everything from menus to room details. And a stroll from all the great bars and theatres you will want to visit.
133 Russell Street, see qthotelsandresorts.com/melbourne
THE PRE-MATINEE LUNCH, DI STASIO CITTA
A design-driven space showcasing video installations, modern art and fine Italian food, Di Stasio offers pre-theatre diners a mix of elegant tradition and modern thinking. A giant piece of public artwork on the outside of the building is the signal that you've arrived, while a tunnel-style entrance guides diners into the industrial gallery-cum-restaurant.
Italian-themed music wafts and a video by indigenous artist Reko Rennie plays behind the bar, while the suited and charming maître d' serves a range of delectable fare we talk about for the rest of the weekend.
45 Spring Street, see distasio.com.au/citta
THE FAST PRE-SHOW DINNER, FEDERICI BISTRO
We dine in Federici Bistro located inside the freshly facelifted Princess Theatre where Harry Potter and The Cursed Child has been bewitching full houses since it opened earlier this year.
The restaurant, named after an actor who died onstage in 1888, is buzzing with theatre-goers dining in the break between the two-act play, and is so Euro-pretty its easy to make-believe you're in Paris.
Cocktails, champagne and speedy service – and the opportunity to mingle and chat with fellow audience members – make it the perfect spot to refuel without breaking the spell.
163 Spring Street, see federici.com.au
THE PRE-SHOW EVENING DRINKS, BOMBA
In keeping with Melbourne's penchant for hidden bars, unmarked entries and pop-up laneway diners, guests reach rooftop Bomba from lifts in a nondescript office foyer. Five floors up however, you can channel your inner diva and make an entrance through draped velvet curtains that separate the lift doors and bar proper.
Discover a tapas-menu, 30 bottled beers, cocktails and a treetops-meets-twinkling skyscraper city vista. Five minutes from the Comedy Theatre, perfect for pre or post-show drinks.
103 Lonsdale Street, see bombabar.com.au
THE SHOW, COME FROM AWAY, THE COMEDY THEATRE
Less razzle-dazzle than a traditional musical theatre, more captivating characters singing across two hours of fast and furious story telling. Watch each character play multiple people and marvel at how seamless choreography with chairs changes the set from a bar, to a hanger to a plane and back again.
Showcasing the little-known story of the townsfolk of Gander, Canada, who welcomed 38 plane-loads of passengers to their tiny town on the morning of September 11 as US airspace shut down after the twin towers collapsed. Unlikely topic, yet enthralling entertainment. Currently scheduled to run until Sunday, October 13.
240 Exhibition Street, see comefromaway.com.au
THE POST-SHOW SUPPER, BAR MARGAUX
Melbourne's latest entrant into the wee-hour world, Bar Margaux is all the talk among the theatre set as the new French bistro opens until 5am.
Serving an array of French comfort food and bistro classics such as Croque Monsieur, steak tartare, frites and a selection of charcuterie plus champagne and cocktails, Bar Margaux also has a late night menu perfect for post show patrons.
Basement, 111 Lonsdale Street, see barmargaux.com.au
Angie Kelly was a guest of Visit Victoria.
WHERE THE STARS GO
Sean Rees-Wemyss, Albus Potter in Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
"I often find myself at Butcher's Diner after shows. I don't eat meat or dairy, and despite its name, they have great options for vegetarians and vegans. They're open 24 hours, which is a major bonus for our schedule. For me, no bar will ever beat Lane's Edge. Everything about it is awesome – it's warm, well priced and incredibly cozy."
Sarah Morrison, Janice the Reporter in Come From Away
"If I just want a snack Bomba has great options and I love the rooftop feel. If it's a bigger meal then either Butcher's Diner, which has amazing burgers, Bodega for Mexican or Pellegrini's for pasta. My favourite spaces for a post-show beverage are intimate, have comfy seating and the music isn't too loud. Siglo, 1806 and City Wine Shop are regular haunts. Self Preservation also ticks most of these boxes and does really good chocolate drinks too."
Tom Wren, Draco Malfoy in Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
"After part one of the show, I'll head to Pelligrinis, where I'll have a quick plate of pasta with two slices of bread, washed down with a granita followed by a double espresso, and I'm good to go for part two! For post-show drinks, Arlechin for a quiet cocktail and catch up or the Imperial Hotel for a pint and to watch the last quarter of the footy."