Too long between trips to Perth? Planning a Darwin getaway later this year, or just heading to Brisbane for the weekend? The Good Food Guide has you covered for up-to-date intel on where to eat and drink.
There has been a lot of restaurant movement in Australia’s capitals over the past three years, and the below excerpts from the Guide (on sale in newsagents) have been selected to capture the pulse of dining in each city – and the regions – right now.
Babi guling (roasted suckling pig with sambals and fresh herbs) at Aru, Melbourne. Photo: Kristoffer Paulsen
Warmed by the flames of an open kitchen, Khanh Nguyen’s Aru is a new benchmark for Melbourne dining. Must-orders include a Bunnings-inspired duck sausage sanga on sticky bao-like bread, and the banh mi en croute, a kaleidoscope of Vietnamese flavours prepared in French style. But really, every dish is a classic in the making.
268 Little Collins Street, Melbourne, aru.net.au
This intimate and energetic space is both a neighbourhood restaurant and a destination, making Etta a poster child for Melbourne dining, thanks to owner Hannah Green’s cheery hospitality and chef Rosheen Kaul’s menu, which combines inspiration from her varied heritage with modern Australian sensibilities.
60 Lygon Street, Brunswick East, ettadining.com.au
Cocktails at Gimlet in Melbourne. Photo: Jo McGann
Gimlet at Cavendish House
How could you visit Andrew McConnell’s all-day beauty and not treat yourself to its namesake cocktail, a chilly coupe of gin, moscato, citrus and Geraldton wax? Despite a menu that goes long on indulgence (caviar, lobster, hulking steaks), you can also drop into the bar for snacks and soak up the glittering atmosphere.
33 Russell Street, Melbourne, gimlet.melbourne
Jeow isn’t so much a Laotian restaurant as a Laotian-inspired Australian restaurant, which gives it the freedom to be exactly what it wants to be. It’s a neighbourhood restaurant you could visit weekly, perhaps for a bowl of khao piak sen, a deeply comforting cockerel and tapioca noodle soup prepared by one of Melbourne’s most exciting chefs, Thi Le.
338 Bridge Road, Richmond, jeow.net.au
Serai in Melbourne’s CBD has an airy, industrial appeal. Photo: Supplied
Tucked down a city laneway, Serai’s bustling dining room has an airy, industrial appeal. Chef Ross Magnaye’s ambition to marry modern Australian with the food of his Filipino heritage is profoundly personal, forging new paths for contemporary cooking.
7 Racing Club Lane, Melbourne, seraikitchen.com.au
OUT OF TOWN
Brigitte Hafner’s wood-fired oven and grill adds a lick of flame and smoke across the ever-changing set menu at Red Hill star Tedesca Osteria. In Birregurra, the hushed, immaculate farmhouse-set dining at Brae remains one of Australia’s great bucket-list experiences, while Beechworth’s Japanese-influenced Provenance provides salve for the soul over 18 small dishes. Geelong is worthy of a full weekend away to take in Igni, Bistro Plume and La Cachette, and – if you fancy a half-hour drive south – billabong views and Tobin Kent’s refined cooking at Moonah.
Sake bar and listening room Ante in Newtown. Photo: Supplied
This love letter to Japan’s listening bars from sake importer Matt Young and chef Jemma Whiteman is a meditative escape from the outside world. Be spirited away by every element, from the 2500-strong vinyl collection to the exquisite ceramics and bespoke glassware. It’s an education in junmai sake and the fine art of food and drink pairing.
146 King Street, Newtown, ante.bar
Fire-driven restaurant Kiln on the 18th floor of Sydney’s Ace Hotel. Photo: Jennifer Soo
Former ACME chef Mitch Orr has returned to the spotlight at this wood-fired restaurant on the 18th floor of Surry Hills’ new cooler-than-cool Ace Hotel. Ingredients sweep Japan, Korea and Italy across a menu of share plates and one stunning alfonsino crudo with peach and tomato jelly.
47-53 Wentworth Avenue, Sydney, kilnsydney.com
Neil Perry oversees a roster of the country’s best produce, wood-fired, roasted and dressed to become the most delicious version of itself. Go big on seafood such as grilled King George whiting shiny with hojiblanca olive oil, and tuna tartare turbocharged by gochujang.
30-36 Bay Street, Double Bay, margaretdoublebay.com
Baked tiger prawns with vermicelli at Porkfat. Photo: Jennifer Soo
Owner-chef Narin “Jack” Kulasai grew up in central Thailand and uses pork fat where other kitchens use commercial cooking oil. It creates a delicious foundation to layer clean, fresh flavours, and snow-white coral trout steamed with pork fat possesses rave-worthy roundness and complexity.
33 Ultimo Road, Haymarket, porkfat.com.au
Chef Phil Wood has fine-tuned a menu that reads almost like a throwback to Modern Australian but rejigged for today. Note, for example, the green curry vinaigrette taking a dish of lamb backstrap in a Thai direction. Tablecloths are white; the glasses, Maison Balzac; the carpet, plush. Dining with charm and comfort at the centre.
92 Hargrave Street, Paddington, ursulas.com.au
Pipit in Pottsville. Photo: Supplied
OUT OF TOWN
A journey south of Sydney might start with Illawarra plum-glazed quail at native ingredient-championing Bangalay Dining (Shoalhaven Heads) before moving on to the French wine bar vibes of Chez Dominique (Moruya), The Quarterdeck (Narooma) for ceviche in the sun and, finally, Valentina in Merimbula for a lobster cocktail to rule them all.
You could also spend a week in Byron Bay and barely touch the sides of the thriving Northern Rivers food scene. Essential visits include Murwillumbah’s Spanish-accented Bistro Livi, Byron’s Raes on Wategos and hot natural-wine haunt Bar Heather, chef Matt Stone’s You Beauty in Bangalow, and two-hatted Pipit – sleepy Pottsville’s answer to Noma.
Southern rock lobster, garlic brown butter and capers at Arkhe, Adelaide. Photo: Duy Dash
by Daniela Frangos
Adelaide’s hottest new spot lit up the scene last year with its flame-licked menu, off-piste wines and stunning design. Try hash browns ferrying creme fraiche and caviar before digging into ocean-jacket cheeks and lardo on sourdough, and a show-stopping duck liver tartlet.
127 The Parade, Norwood, arkhe.com.au
Chef Max Sharrad’s CV includes heavy-hitters Noma and L’Enclume. Wife Laura was dubbed MasterChef’s pasta queen. Together, they bring big flavours and finesse to Fugazzi, an Italo-American study in marble and leather. Anything pasta is a must. And don’t miss the gnocco fritto with whipped ricotta and honey or the signature mortadella and salami finger sando with mayo, pickled shallot and pecorino.
27 Leigh Street, Adelaide, fugazzi.com.au
Press Food & Wine
It’s all change at this institution, which reopened in April with new owners and a new direction. The addition of a curvaceous marble bar has created a more intimate setting in the ground-floor dining room, where Tom Tilbury serves choux au craquelin filled with silky chicken-liver parfait, and ruddy beef strips in oyster sauce alongside an impressive wine list.
40 Waymouth Street, Adelaide, pressfoodandwine.com.au
Justin James uses Adelaide’s lush botanic garden as both a pantry and playground in which to create a peerless dining experience. Set aside at least four hours to journey through 20 dishes, such as Murray cod steamed in paperbark with garum butter, and kangaroo barely cooked over binchotan charcoal.
Plane Tree Drive, Adelaide, restaurantbotanic.com.au
The Scenic Hotel
A short drive out of the city in Norton Summit, this reinvigorated pub sits atop a hill with cracking views. Watch the sun dip while you sip low-intervention wines and scoff creative takes on pub classics – think ‘roo schnitzel, roast chook, and a playful steak tartare served in a Smith’s Chips packet.
Old Norton Summit Road, Norton Summit, Adelaide Hills, thescenichotel.com.au
Smart-casual restaurant The Summertown Aristologist in the Adelaide Hills. Photo: Josie Withers
OUT OF TOWN
Yes, the wine regions are worth a visit, bolstered by smart-casual restaurants such as The Summertown Aristologist in the Adelaide Hills. At McLaren Vale’s new Muni, Taiwanese expats Mug Chen and Chia Wu serve carefully considered delights such as daikon cake with squid garum and XO alongside an impressive list of lo-fi wines and sake. As for the Barossa, Hentley Farm is our pick of the winery restaurants, and FermentAsian might have the best selection of back-vintage bottles in the country.
Agnes restaurant in Fortitude Valley. Photo: Supplied
by Fiona Donnelly
There’s more to Agnes than meets the eye – a leafy hidden rooftop terrace and one of Brisbane’s best bars, for starters. Expect complexity in every bite – for example, beef tartare with smoky arabushi flakes might arrive with pepper jam and sourdough toasts.
22 Agnes Street, Fortitude Valley, Brisbane, agnesrestaurant.com.au
A weather-beaten worker’s cottage is home to one of Brisbane’s most exciting new openings, Bar Francine. On humid nights the intimate, pescatarian wine bar spills out onto the terrace, where tables brim with playful, European-led share plates and glasses of Aussie-made natural wine. Leave your order to chef Brad Cooper (ex-Florence): the tasting menu is just $49.
29A Vulture Street, West End, 0477 121 744, barfrancine.com
Tightly focused venture Essa in Brisbane. Photo: Supplied
There’s finesse and fire-power in spades at this tightly focused venture just off buzzy James Street. House ‘nduja arrives honey-sweetened to swipe over grilled sourdough, and rich XO sauce, crafted from charcuterie off-cuts, amps up an heirloom tomato salad.
181 Robertson Street, Fortitude Valley, essa.restaurant
Tasty reinventions of Middle Eastern dishes are the name of the game at this ever-evolving Brisbane stayer. Medieval condiment murri, for example, could be a surprise boost to wagyu kibbeh nayeh served on a crisp sunflower base, and wood-fired bagels arrive with banadurah harrah, a Lebanese salsa topped with zaatar.
Gerard’s Lane, 14-15 James Street, Fortitude Valley, gerardsbistro.com.au
Rothwell’s Bar & Grill
When wine importer and restaurateur Dan Clark (1889 Enoteca) teamed up with Aria Brisbane’s former head chef Ben Russell, diner expectations soared. The pair’s homage to old-school dining delivers all that you’d expect – from giant glittering chandeliers to bracing martinis and seafood platters. Frock up.
235 Edward Street, Brisbane, rothwellsbrisbane.com.au
Restaurant Labart delivers flavour-forward dishes at Burleigh Heads. Photo: Supplied
OUT OF TOWN
Burleigh Heads’ Restaurant Labart delivers flavour-forward dishes built on produce harvested from the Gold Coast hinterland and ocean – think grilled king prawns in molten garlic prawn butter with tiny capers, or wagyu carpaccio with rapini and a tonnato sauce. Sister wine bar Paloma recently opened nearby too, serving simpler food and the same nature-friendly wines. A little further south, chef Nick Stanton’s Bar Evelyn draws in Coolangatta locals with its laid-back Italo-Oz vibes, fresh wines, pizza and pickled mussels. If Noosa is on the cards, Lucio’s Marina is a must for a long lunch of local prawns and spanner crab tagliolini. Follow it with bar snacks and natural wine at Theo’s Social Club, or pizza and excellent cocktails at El Capitano.
A Dubbonet cocktail at Bar Rochford in Canberra. Photo: Jamila Toderas
You’ll find whatever kind of night you’re looking for at this elegant upstairs wine bar, cocktail destination and restaurant. Small plates such as lobster vols-au-vent and intricately layered potato galette with steak tartare are ideal for riding shotgun with a drink or kicking off an intimate dinner. A landmark in its element.
Level 1, 65 London Circuit, Canberra, barrochford.com
The menu changes daily at Onzieme. Photo: Ashley St George
Owner-chef Louis Couttoupes has created a relaxed tribute to the new-wave bistros of Paris. The menu changes daily, often based on what suppliers (or even regulars) drop in. A glut of feijoas might see raw prawns cured in sea salt, lime and feijoa juice, while silky chicken-liver parfait might be blanketed with tangy apple puree.
Shop 5, 39 Kennedy Street, Kingston, onzieme.com.au
This airy 30-seater is flying high in Ainslie, where chef Malcolm Hanslow’s seven-course menu meets an all-Australian drinks list crafted by owners Ross McQuinn and Dash Rumble. High-impact dishes zig-zag with punchy flavours, from the first yoghurt pita pocket stuffed with romesco to the last Jerusalem artichoke ice-cream. In January, the Pilot team opened Such and Such too, a fun-loving joint featuring share plates such as whole flathead with “just enough tartare”.
Ainslie Shops, Wakefield Gardens, Ainslie, pilotrestaurant.com
Trout with lardo at Rebel Rebel in Canberra. Photo: Rohan Thomson
A David Bowie portrait watches over diners, and the cocktail list features a Life on Mars. But Rebel Rebel is no Ziggy Stardust-themed diner. Instead, Sean McConnell caters for all tastes. Cacao pops are the go at breakfast, while lunches and dinners might feature cannoli filled with parmesan custard or sand whiting in a buttery sauce of capers and garlic.
21-23 Marcus Clarke Street, Canberra, rebelrebeldining.com.au
This slick dining room has a no-rules soundtrack and a menu to match. Chefs AK Ramakrishna and Noora Heiska pluck ideas from across the globe, which they reshape into big-flavoured fusion dishes such as a betel leaf-wrapped som tum salad of green papaya and confit prawn.
16 Iluka Street, Narrabundah, xo-restaurant.com.au
by Katherine Scott
Darwin’s Air Raid Arcade has a new contender for best caffeine hit, with Padre beans, pour-overs, batch brews and precision espressos. Owners Melani Hermanus and Reed Alanes plan to expand the baked goods offering to introduce food such as a beef rendang bagel and crispy pork lechon bowl, embracing their Indonesian and Filipino roots.
Shop 2, 35 Cavenagh Street, Darwin City
Fresh-fruit daiquiris and spice-laced stir-fries personify this kitsch favourite where diners dive into rich seafood claypots under fairy lights. Chow picked up the 2021 Golden Bowl trophy, considered the Oscars of Darwin’s laksa scene, so you know the flavours are going to hit just right.
Shops D1 & D2, 19 Kitchener Drive, Darwin City, chowdarwin.com.au
Ella by Minoli
Minoli de Silva’s debut restaurant is one of Darwin’s most talked-about. A from-scratch approach at the modern Sri Lankan diner means chutneys are updated with the seasons, while the signature curry-leaf cured salmon pops with a finger lime and coconut dressing.
20 West Lane, Darwin City, ellabyminoli.au
Thai, Indian and Nonya dishes make happy bedfellows at Hanuman. Photo: Supplied
It’s been more than three decades since chef Jimmy Shu brought his style of cuisine to the Territory. Thai, Indian and Nonya dishes make happy bedfellows, underpinned by fresh-roasted spice mixes and stunning produce. Oysters partner with a lemongrass and ginger dressing, and red duck curry sings with makrut lime, lychee and pineapple.
93 Mitchell Street, Darwin City, hanuman.com.au
Little Miss Korea
This Korean barbecue joint from Seoul-born chef Chung Jae Lee is simply delicious, good fun. Grab a cocktail in the adjoining bar before a set menu with banchan (side dishes) to boot. Jae Lee’s cooking honours both the traditional (bibimbap) and the non-traditional (coconut beef cheeks), and fried-chicken devotees aren’t forgotten either.
Austin Lane, Darwin City, littlemisskorea.com
OUT OF TOWN
Views don’t get much more iconic than Uluru set against a canvas of scorched orange and electric pink. This sunset for the ages is accompanied by champagne and canapes at Tali Wiru, now in its 10th year and serving a four-course menu. Popular dishes include pork belly with green-ant-infused fennel, and beetroot mousse with fermented Davidson plum.
Ayers Rock Resort, 175 Yulara Drive, Yulara, ayersrockresort.com.au
Hobart restaurant Dier Makr runs just five sittings a week. Photo: Supplied
by Nola James and Callan Boys
While natural wine bar Lucinda is all French-ish bar snacks, a verbal by-the-glass list and walk-ins only, sibling venue Dier Makr runs just five sittings a week, dedicated to organic and wild-caught produce. On its tasting menu, you might find confit gummy shark on lion’s mane mushrooms, or rare-seared duck on a savoury porridge made from whisky grain.
123 Collins Street, Hobart, diermakr.com
Spaghetti, green olive, marjoram from Fico in Hobart Photo: Supplied
Competition for bookings at this 40-seat mod Italian-Tasmanian restaurant runs hot. The 12-course degustation is strong on carbs and proteins: think venison tortellone or cacio e pepe risotto. If there’s a better way to spend $170 on a meal in Hobart, we’re yet to hear of it.
151 Macquarie Street, Hobart, ficofico.net
Southern rock lobster cocktail at Institut Polaire, Hobart. Photo: Supplied
Polaire is not strictly a seafood restaurant, but it’s the place to go if you want to experience wonderful hospitality and the best of the Southern Ocean. Batons of brioche topped with whipped bottarga, perhaps, or poached hapuka doused in beurre blanc.
Shop 1, 7 Murray Street, Hobart, institutpolaire.com.au
Sonny’s wine bar has been the hottest spot for vinyl records, snacks and limoncello for the past four years. In 2022, the same team opened neighbourhood restaurant Ogee, and it’s a friendly little place remixing the best bits of bistro-style European dining. White asparagus with mussel veloute? Snapper dressed up with gooseberries and endive? Yes please.
374 Murray Street, North Hobart, ogeehobart.com.au
Chefs Lachlan Colwill and Sophie Pope are serving some of the most graceful and quietly thrilling food in Australia right now, over a set menu lasting at least three hours. There could be local sashimi with preserved magnolia; there might be gently torched ocean perch with shiso and fermented peach. There are only a dozen counter seats, so book well in advance.
4/160 Elizabeth Street, Hobart, omotenashihobart.com
Copa di testa (pig’s head terrine) with salted cumquats at The Agrarian Kitchen. Photo: Peter Mathew
OUT OF TOWN
Agrarian Kitchen is a half-hour drive north of Hobart and the light-filled eatery should be on the must-visit list for anyone fond of hyperlocal produce, fermentation and cooking over fire. Newcomer Van Bone is also big on wood-fired food, and the handsome Marion Bay restaurant serves up to 14 courses such as roast duck, and grilled jalapenos with five-year-old cider vinegar.
Further north in Swansea at The Waterloo, former MoVida chef Zac Green works with nearby producers to create dishes of extraordinary comfort such as braised rabbit, crayfish spaghetti, and eccles cakes with whisky ice-cream. The eternally cosy Stillwater, meanwhile, is a fine reason to visit Launceston indeed.
by Max Veenhuyzen
This wine and cocktail stronghold promotes mischief of a higher order. Like the far-reaching drinks list, emerging talent Sofika Boulton draws influence from all over, whether she’s slinging scotch duck eggs made with merguez-spiced lamb or dreaming up spiced tofu curry puffs.
515 Beaufort Street, Highgate, barrogue.com.au
Octopus al pastor toast! Squid ink chitarra with sea urchin butter! Flank steak with a pitch-perfect sauce au poivre! Europe meets Mexico meets Japan meets a fastidious commitment to organic winemaking at this cousin of Beaufort Street’s rollicking Si Paradiso.
399 Oxford Street, Mount Hawthorn, casa-casa-casa.com
Saffron and squid ink linguine, Eyre Peninsula clams, tomato and basil at Lulu La Delizia. Photo: Jessica Ferguson
Lulu La Delizia
In six short years, Ivana and Joel Valvasori-Pereza’s lively osteria has established itself as one of Perth’s essential dining experiences. Come for the heady spice and robust flavours of Italy’s north-east (housemade bigoli with anchovies and sweet onions, perhaps); stay for the dining room’s electric atmosphere and a potent drinks menu studded with temptation.
Shop 5, 97 Rokeby Road, Subiaco, lululadelizia.com.au
Balinese restaurateur Will Meyrick’s Will St. in Perth. Photo: Thom Mood
High-profile Balinese restaurateur Will Meyrick, of Mamasan and Sarong fame, transplants his high-definition Asian cooking to Perth with pleasing results. The nihari goat curry is wonderfully tender; char siu-style pork hock has flavour for days; and the cocktails and wines have been chosen to play nice with spice.
228 Carr Place, Leederville, willstreetperth.com
Wines of While
The argument: wine bars boast some of WA’s most vital cooking. The proof: the earthy plates served at this pioneering natural wine hotspot. Those legendary white beans are still here but they’re now joined by compositions such as devilled duck livers with fresh horseradish, sheaths of witlof cradling brawn, and oxtail and bone marrow pie.
458 William Street, Perth, winesofwhile.com
OUT OF TOWN
Who’d have thought the best place to eat in the Swan Valley would be at a distillery restaurant? Old Young’s Kitchen is full of surprises, not least the assured way Rohan Park deploys native flavours in his food. Margaret River continues to boast plenty of winery lunch options, but no other property makes the most of its hometown advantage quite like Arimia. Working with estate honey, pork, trout and vegetables, Evan Hayter creates thrilling tasting menus that capture the taste and time of a special, unspoiled part of Australia. Closer to Perth, Madalena’s is a breezy Fremantle hangout offering deftly handled seafood (we’re looking at you, amaebi prawn ceviche with avocado and longan) and lo-fi wines.
The Good Food Guide 2023 magazine is on sale for $9.95 at newsagents and thestore.com.au