Photo Dump: 4 Melbourne creatives show us their perfect date nights


Full of little acts of love. 

If there’s one thing I j’adore about social media at the moment, it’s the photo dump. It reminds me of how Instagram used to be. The format lets creativity reign over vanity – a visual moodboard of images caught ‘in the moment’, with only the occasional selfie. And while there is a tendency for users to regurgitate each other’s images (it is Instagram, after all), I quite like seeing photos of flowers and sunshine and drinks at bars. It beats overly edited selfies and faux white teeth. 

For more inspiration from our favourite local creators, head to our Fashion section.

One of my favourite parts about the photo dump is that it serves as a consistent source of inspiration. I find new bars and dinner spots, discover new ways of styling my existing wardrobe, and am encouraged to go outside my comfort zone. Rather than ordering a panini for the umpteenth Friday night in a row, I might plan a cute candlelit dinner for my partner or invite my sister out for a drink. It seems that, unlike the majority of social media, the photo dump actually makes me a more thoughtful person and more likely to show little acts of love. 

Right now, we’re steering closer to February 14. It’s as good a date as any to show our loved ones (including ourselves) how much we care about them, and a date when most of us could use a little inspiration for these little acts of love. Hungry for inspiration, this led us to ask four of our favourite local creators to each create a photo dump of their perfect date night, be it with a partner a friend or all by themselves. 

The idea was inspired by Pandora, who is this season calling on its global community to practise those everyday small gestures that make a big impact. It’s these moments that we remember and treasure forever, and its the best way to show love this Valentine’s Day. 

The highlight of the brand’s Valentine’s collection this year is a specially designed functional padlock charm that, sweetly, can be opened by its partnering key charm. It’s designed as a symbol of capturing and locking those special memories and moments spent together, so you can keep them close to you. Browse through each date night in the gallery above, then head to Pandora to start planning your own little acts of love here. 

Who: Content creator and model, Mon Barton
Date night spent with: Her girlfriends

In typical me fashion, I decided to ditch conventional romance and take my girlfriends out for a date! I have a boyfriend whom I love sharing romance with, but I love my friends too, and sometimes you just can’t beat a good giggle over a few bottles of wine, right? Because we all live beachside, makeup, heels and an ironed outfit is a rare sighting between us girls, so date night is always our chance to dust ourselves off and dress to impress (each other). We started off at my place for a few homemade cocktails and a quick spruce up of the lippy then we headed for our 7pm booking at The Kyn, Torquay. 

The night began with lots of compliments between us and as the night progressed, plenty of other little acts of love followed. Whenever someone’s wine glass looked empty, one of us would top it up before they could even say ‘more’. When we got to the end of a dish, instead of fighting over the last bite, someone would generously offer it to someone else. We ate and drank our way through both food and wine menus, and wriggled our way back to the outdoor seating once our two-hour sitting was over. 

The night was only just starting for us. We opened up discussions about family, love, friends and business. Us girls always know the way to our individual vulnerabilities and continue to make space for it, no matter how many wines deep we are. We ordered dessert (one of the best parfaits I’ve ever experienced) and then headed back to my place for a few more cocktails. 

There’s something so honest and loving about sharing romance with your friends and allowing that space – that’s usually dedicated to intimate relationships – of thoughtfulness and elevation to surround a different kind of love.

Who: Sister Studios founder, Emma Cutri
Date night spent with: Her boyfriend

My date night was with my boyfriend, Jed. I picked him up and we decided to keep it local and went to this cute little Japanese bar called Chotto Motto in Collingwood. It has yummy food and drinks and is packed with Japanese collectibles and games. We had both had a bananas week of work, so it was really fun to get dressed up and spend some quality time together out on the town.

Chotto Motto is a sensory overload, with things to look at everywhere you turn, we always love coming here. We had cocktails and my favourite yellowfin tuna dish, and loads of other yummy things. After dinner, we walked down to Piccolina for a stracciatella gelato and an after-dinner stroll. It was such a balmy night to end a stinking hot day. The streets were busy, which was so lovely to see after the last two years of Melbourne feeling like a ghost town.

Date nights are so fun to share little acts of love – I love getting dressed up and hitting the town! Sharing food is my love language, so for me, ordering together and watching each other’s reactions while we enjoy it is the best. Holding hands and smiling at each other across the table is always fun too.

Who: Journalist and content producer, Ruby Staley
Date night spent with: Her housemate

Pre-house mate date, I strolled around Carlton to my favourite food stores Gertrude Grocer and Morning Market for some picnic goodies. Burrata, baguette, watermelon, San Pellegrino, passionfruit, Basque cheesecake, hydrangeas, all the essentials. At the end of the day and post-closing our laptops, Ella (my housemate) and I walked across the road to Carlton Gardens and set up our little picnic near the iconic Exhibition Building. 

We both had an extremely busy day with work – super chaotic – but as soon as we sat down, the stress left our bodies. We felt instantly calmer. Whether it was due to being outside in the glorious afternoon sun, in the stunning gardens or in each other’s company, who knows, but it was bliss! I whipped my disposable camera out to snap a quick pic of the set-up before we settled in for the afternoon. 

We poured ourselves a glass from our cute little Hey Tomorrow cask of rosé. This is pretty typical of us but also the perfect way to end a long day, sipping wine and enjoying each other’s company in the gardens. We relaxed under the sun and chatted to each other about our hectic days. We both work from home but some days we practically block each other out because we’re so busy, today being one of those days. After a debrief, we cracked open Trent Dalton’s new book which is all about real love stories. It was so sweet and wholesome just hearing about other people’s love while spending some quality time with each other. 

At our house, we often show little acts of love to each other through affirmations and encouragement. Ella is my biggest cheerleader, and I am hers, and I’m lucky enough to feel that love and support on the daily. We brought out Flex Mami’s iconic conversation cards to ask each other some of life’s big questions, like ‘If there was one reason for living, what do you think it is?’

There’s nothing more special than friend love (in my opinion anyway). Ella and I have been friends for going on 10 years and I’m so lucky to have her in my life. Food-wise, we ate Burrata. Nothing compares. I fried up some cherry tomatoes with Ella’s homemade chilli oil (thanks Jess Nguyen for the recipe) and poured it over a gorgeous ball of burrata. We devoured it with a fresh sourdough baguette which was *chef’s kiss*.

Our date was only made more magical with some sparkly additions from Pandora. We finished off such a lovely night at the Moonlight Cinemas tucked away in the Botanical Gardens. Although neither of us is a huge Marvel fan, we went and watched the new Spider-Man, thirsted over Tom Holland, ate plenty of popcorn and ice cream and drank more of our delish wine. We had what some would say was a perfect evening.

Who: XxFlos founder, Kayla Moon
Date night spent with: Her partner

Every good date is not dissimilar to a culinary recipe. Each component has to support the taste and salt the experience. For me, being a hopeless atmospheric and a self-proclaimed romantic, I am most fond of curating a scene. Most scenes crave a cinematic environment and today we find ourselves in outback Victoria under a blistering mid-January sun.

It’s my birthday and I swear I’ve never seen a sky so blue. We are lazing about, barely dressed, in a remote tiny home. The landscape is host to an abundant vineyard nestled into wiry gumtrees and golden short grass. After our second sweet and strong coffee for the day, 1.09pm calls for our first departure from our temporary home into an exploration of a nearby waterfall. Swimming holes are one of my favourite things to do on a date, preferably as the prelude. They’re an absolute must for an early afternoon ingredient.

We sit under the shade of the native branches as our bums get hot from the river stones, wet hair dripping on our shoulders. The option of a swim, a walk, comfortable silence, observations of nature and sun-kissed conversation. Once our bones are good and oiled from eucalyptus and fresh water, we take a drive, tune into a fitting soundtrack and let the nature push past us. The recipe thickens as our surroundings become a grey and green blur. We’re adding another delicious component to the perfect cinematic date recipe. A good ol’ fashion country drive.

It’s time to scrub up ahead of a booked meal at the ritzy part of the local pub. Jeans, a nice shirt, hair done, rings on, nana’s pearls too – this should be the perfect fit for the town of Avoca. As Daylight Savings gets ready for its final two hours of sunlight, we take our place at the restaurant. We’re sunned, watered, ready to be fed. We order whatever we want, drinks aplenty, sparkling (not still) and extra fries. You know the drill. We could sit here for hours grazing.

You can see the sky change from here, it’s open and cracking into some kind of bloody wonderful. A change of day is another must-have ingredient for me. I like the experience of different moods, a new fit, some new lighting – part two. A delicious recipe: a swimming hole, a drive in the country and a meal at a local pub. I’ll write it down for you so you can make it next time you entertain.

Browse the Pandora Valentine’s collection and plan your own little acts of love here. 

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