Australia's 25 hottest restaurants
These eateries bring the sizzle to the Australian dining scene. Here's our guide to the best places to eat and drink around the country.
- June 2019
Whether you’re looking for somewhere to celebrate a special occasion, a good value casual family restaurant or simply want a cool place to have a drink with friends, here are the hottest places in Australia to eat and drink in right now.
With its laneway entrance, industrial fit-out and a natural-leaning wine list, Sunda opens in new window ticks every modern Melbourne restaurant box but it’s chef Khanh Nguyen’s South-East Asian food that’s the real star of this show. The roti with Vegemite curry gets top billing (deservedly) but there’s also a thrilling level of skill in dishes such as the parfait-like crab “otak otak” or a rock oyster with Tasmanian pepperleaf, curry oil and a coconut vinaigrette.
Lankan Filling Station, NSW
This eatery by maverick chef O Tama Carey celebrating Sri Lanka’s hoppers – a bowl-shaped savoury pancake with a doughy crumpet-like centre – is hopping for all the right reasons. With a laid-back, community canteen vibe, Lankan Filling Station opens in new window is the sort of place where mopping up a spicy sambol or prawn curry with a plain, egg or string hopper feels like the most natural thing to do. Don’t forget to try the sides and wash it all down with an on-tap rosé wine or sweet Sri Lankan coffee made with condensed milk.
Lulu La Delizia, WA
There are pasta bars and then there’s Lulu La Delizia opens in new window, an intimate trattoria where imaginative culinary combinations offer carb-loading of a higher order. Yet Perth’s “restaurant to beat” is about more than just eggs, flour and water. Savoury seafood doughnuts and thickly cut, gin-cured kingfish boom with flavour while warm service speaks to a commitment to hospitality.
It would be perfectly acceptable to come to this East End eatery for the atmosphere alone: it’s bustling, cool, energetic and fun. But the knockout menu is every inch as good as the vibe. Every dish at Africola opens in new window is a power-punch of flavour and aroma – whole flounder is doused in anchovy sauce, wood-oven cauliflower comes smothered in rich nutty tahini and an intense, expertly charred peri-peri chicken is a lesson in what peri-peri should be.
PM Eat & Drink, NT
Part of the hip Austin Lane precinct, PM Eat & Drink opens in new window is all golden timber, polished concrete and giant monochrome murals of sea creatures. The decor provides the perfect backdrop to the kind of food the cool crowd hanker for on a steamy evening – think small plates of fresh, mostly local, seafood (grilled or raw) and light vegetable dishes including luscious stracciatella cheese with roast tomatoes and crisp fried basil leaves, followed by a range of creamy and fruit-focused desserts.
Nu Nu, Queensland
Nothing says “holidays” like tucking into wok-fried mud crab while feeling the sand between your toes. Nu Nu opens in new window in Palm Cove marries the bounty of North Queensland’s waters and tablelands with lip-smacking Asian flavours. Celebrity chef Nick Holloway has designed an innovative menu that dances from crispy chook feet and reef bug schnitzel to a whole fried baby barramundi with Thai basil and tamarind caramel.
The Agrarian Kitchen Eatery, Tasmania
An offshoot of The Agrarian Kitchen Cooking School, this stunning light-filled restaurant opens in new window is set in an old asylum 35 minutes’ drive north-west of Hobart. Cult dishes include sourdough-battered potato cakes and anything featuring their house-made cheeses (it could be ricotta, burrata, stracciatella), while the drinks menu offers excellent local labels such Two Metre Tall beers or Meadowbank wines. Don’t miss the house-made charcuterie and country style cakes, tarts and slices full of seasonal fruits, also made in-house.
Fine dining venues
The dish that captivated the nation, the Masterchef-famous Snow Egg may have been boldly removed by Peter Gilmore from the menu of his signature restaurant, Quay opens in new window, but its replacement – the white coral – is no less worthy; a pillowy white chocolate mousse and mango ice cream combination, hidden beneath a frozen white chocolate ganache which emerges from a mist of liquid nitrogen. That’s not all that is new at this Sydney institution however. The whole menu, featuring rare and seasonal ingredients, has been given a makeover (think hand-harvested seafood and smoked pig jowl with black lip abalone), together with the décor, which maximises those epic views. Add flawless, knowledgeable service into the mix, and it makes for a truly celebratory experience.
Expect a slick dining experience from breakfast through to dinner at this hatted restaurant opens in new window in Launceston. Go for the omelette with slow cooked pork and kimchi early in the day or later enjoy a lush, long dinner starting with house baked bread and cultured butter then blacklip abalone, ponzu and black bean - Craig Will’s seasonally mindful menus can be enjoyed any time, but the chef’s daily lunch set menu, which clocks in at AUD $65, is a sure-fire winner. There’s plenty of Tasmanian drops on the award winning wine list.
It’s not easy getting a booking at Australia’s only entry on the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list but it’s worth the effort. Attica opens in new window chef Ben Shewry’s idiosyncratic Australiana-style fine dining menu sees a parade of dishes such as an ant-crusted lamington, a “Vegemite” scroll (surprise: it’s not Vegemite) and quite possibly possum sausages served off the courtyard barbecue. To drink? Choose Barolo, or go mocktail matching. At Attica, anything goes.
You’d expect the city’s best restaurant to impress, and that it does. Scottish-Italian chef Jock Zonfrillo’s innovative tasting menu at Orana opens in new window features hyper-local ingredients like Murray River cod, and Goolwa pipis and Port Lincoln squid, alongside native ingredients such as green ants, white aspen and wattleseed, served up in an intimate, understated dining room. Plating and presentation are a strong point, so keep Instagram at the ready.
Delicate, refined and detail-driven, a meal at Wasabi opens in new window, is culinary theatre performed through a Japanese lens, against the backdrop of the Noosa River. The menu celebrates local produce and hard-to-source ingredients such as Japanese varieties of plum, chilli and prickly ash from the restaurant’s own farm, in artful creations redolent of the surrounding region, plated on rough-hewn ceramics. While the Omakase menu is a degustation showstopper, the four-course Oshinagaki menu is a touch more casual at AUD $90.
For the whole family
Open seven nights a week. A child-friendly setting. The offer of BYO. Is it any wonder this cosy wood-fired pizzeria opens in new window is perpetually abuzz? Delicious pizza aside, juicy Abruzzo-style grilled lamb skewers and handmade pasta (spaghetti and meatballs, anyone?) further endear this suburban favourite to its fans.
Three Blue Ducks, NSW
Set on an 80-acre working farm, this sustainable dining experience includes a café, produce store and restaurant opens in new window with an environmentally-conscious menu. The children’s menu is thoughtfully conceived and kids are encouraged to run free here – which means parents can sit back and relax. If you fancy a picnic in the fields, pre-order a hamper of local cheeses, charcuterie, parfait and bread. They also have locations in Bronte, Roseberry and Brisbane.
Shark Fin Inn, Victoria
This convivial home of Cantonese feasting in Chinatown is a bona fide Melbourne institution. Daily yum cha is the big drawcard, with weekends witnessing multi-generational crowds clashing chopsticks over lazy-Susans as a battalion of waiters ferry dim sum around the room. From classic sesame prawn toast and spring rolls to the endless array of the perfectly pleated dumplings, it all adds up to an excellent meal at the Shark Fin Inn opens in new window.
Burleigh Pavilion, Queensland
Shake off the sand, rinse yourself under the showers and climb the stairs to the massive Burleigh Pavilion opens in new window, which houses a restaurant as well as a more casual terrace area. So close to Burleigh’s breakers you can feel the spray, the vibe here is casual-chic (expect a selfie show) and the pub grub is elevated into a produce-led menu to match the million dollar views – “French dip” steak sandwich, anyone? The AUD $10 kids menu will seal the deal for anyone eating out with the clan.
This inner Sydney restaurant opens in new window smashes out crowd-pleasing pizzas in a modern, sun-drenched setting but it’s the focaccia col formaggio di Recco (an obscure Ligurian specialty of baked cheesy bread) that will keep you coming back; it’s the only restaurant in Australia to serve it. Not only do they offer pint-sized versions of their pizzas and house-made pastas on the children’s menu, kids will love watching the pizzaiolo in action at the woodfired oven.
Smart yet great-value
Stokehouse Q, Queensland
There’s no finer address in Brisbane than River Quay, where Stokehouse Q opens in new window tickles the mangroves of the Brisbane River – it’s dining in chic, yet relaxed Queensland style. The food features hyper-local ingredients like Fraser Isle spanner crab with cornbread and lemon myrtle or miso-glazed barramundi belly, and you can finish on granny’s favourite dessert reimagined as “The Bombe”. A great value way to enjoy the restaurant is to book in for lunch and watch the CityCats criss-cross the river while you enjoy two courses and a glass of wine for AUD $39.
Spice Temple, NSW
The fruit of celebrity chef Neil Perry’s long-standing passion for Asian flavours, this moody subterranean restaurant in the Sydney CBD pays homage to regional Chinese cuisine with dishes like Guangxi-style crisp roast pork belly and steamed flathead, the Hangzhou way. Pull up a chair at the Spice Temple opens in new window’s bar to enjoy their excellent weekday lunch deal, which features a selection of dim sum and noodles for around AUD $15 each.
Rick Stein at Bannisters, NSW
Extending the celebrity chef’s famed passion for local seafood and produce, his Port Stephens venue opens in new window serves up dishes such as marinated Coffs Harbour yellowfin tuna bathed in passionfruit, chilli, lime and coriander, and Terrigal kingfish fillet served with clams, peas and asparagus. The Friday lunch deal gets you an entrée and main with a glass of wine for AUD $65 per person.
Atlas Dining, Victoria
It sounds like a recipe for disaster. Chef Charlie Carrington changes cuisine every four months at his South Yarra restaurant opens in new window, jumping from Vietnamese to Mexican, Israeli to Peruvian, faster than you can say “frequent flyer points”. But this culinary race around the world, showcasing the beauty of fire-based cooking and Carrington’s imagination, really works – especially when you factor in the five-course set menu for AUD $60.
Cool pubs and bars
Merivale’s restaurant at The Royal Bondi opens in new window is designed to transport you straight to Italy, where sharing a meal with family and friends is what life is all about. Embrace alfresco dining in the courtyard under an olive tree or dine inside at generously spaced tables – no awkward banging of chairs here. Dine on a balloon of woodfired bread served with herbed rockmelon antipasto, pappardelle with lamb ragu and a Neapolitan ice cream sandwich.
Poly opens in new window in Surry Hills is a wine bar first and restaurant second but the culinary offerings are wonderfully refined. Its centrepiece open kitchen is responsible for cooking up a short but generous, ever-changing snack menu – think slow-grilled enoki with potato dashi or blood-sausage pie. Order your poison from the 15-page organic and biodynamic wine, sake, cocktails and beer list. Then, match your share plates accordingly.
Carlton Wine Room, Victoria
A trio of industry heavyweights turned an ageing neighbourhood bar and bistro into the hottest ticket in town. This graceful multi-level corner Victorian is now the proud home of a 100-strong wine list that flexes through styles and regions like a gymnast and a menu of produce-driven mod-Oz share plates such as mussels with cucumber, agrodolce dressing and mint. The atmosphere at Carlton Wine Room opens in new window is as conducive to drinks and snacks as it is to a set-menu dinner.
Rochester Hotel, Victoria
This classic corner pub in the hipster heart of Fitzroy is decorated with rock’n’roll paraphernalia and boasts a leafy beer garden where the fundamentals of craft brews and live music are very much intact. The Rochey’s opens in new window secret weapon is chef Mischa Tropp, whose menu is inspired by his southern Indian heritage. Expect dishes such as eggplant achaar, Kerala fried chicken wings and fish thali to bring the punch.