When the evening is no longer young but you have an appetite for kicking on, these late-night dining spots will satisfy every craving.
Lovers of fine cheese unite – there’s now a late-night fromage den where big beats drop, cocktails are shaken and stirred and damn decent Italian food is pumped out, too. If you’re one to howl at the moon and you know your buffalo mozzarella from your stinky blues, Big Poppa’s is the place for you. Downstairs is dimly lit and designed for late-night arm-bending and snacks, while upstairs a mostly Italian offering has a solid backing of hip-hop over the airwaves. Start with an ensemble of cured meats and the creamy delights of stracciatella with ’nduja and dried tomato. Hand-cut pappardelle comes lathered in a rich lamb ragù, while a burnt carrot purée underpins a satisfyingly large pork loin. And make sure you leave room for sampling a few choices from one of the longest cheese lists in Sydney.
96 Oxford Street, Darlinghurst; 0499 052 201
Sydney is Australia’s Thai-food capital and Chat Thai has a lot to do with that. Now with multiple sites (it’s also in Manly and Randwick, plus Westfield, The Galeries and Circular Quay in the CBD), this temptress has been satisfying late-night revellers for almost 30 years with arguably the best Thai in town. The restaurant dishes up a supper menu that’s as spicy as it is sating and the space hums with the sound of happy diners. The menu is massive. Start with tender pork grilled on skewers and fried fishcakes with pickled cucumber relish. Dried prawns and peanuts add depth to a sharp green papaya salad, while a spicy nahm jim prik sauce is spot-on with grilled squid. They have an A-grade pad Thai and the green and massaman curries are hard to resist but the sour orange and tamarind king prawn curry with omelette is a must.
20 Campbell Street, Haymarket;￼ (02) 9211 1808
A late-night pit stop for generations of Sydneysiders, Golden Century sees a swag of celebrities and the city’s best chefs grabbing a chair to quell their Chinese crush here in the wee hours. Yep, this two-level, 400-seat Cantonese seafood restaurant is as busy after midnight as it is at a more civilised dinnertime. Sure, the service can feel robotic but it’s supremely efficient and the energy in the room is intoxicating. Bring a group, join the queue and spin the lazy Susan jam-packed with a selection from the live tank and a few signatures. Start with pickled cucumber with garlic sauce and wok-fried snow crab with garlic butter on egg noodles. Plunge the depths of a Mongolian lamb hotpot then brace yourself for the must-order: live pipis tossed in XO sauce and served on a bed of crisp vermicelli.
￼393-399 Sussex Street, Sydney; (02) 9212 3901
Welcome to The Mayfair, the restaurant that proves Melbourne now likes to dine until the grown-up hour of 1am. Channelling the louche sophistication of a New York supper club in the Rat Pack era, there’s live jazz winning the crowd over, plus circular booths and a delightful abundance of starched white linen, crystal glassware and floral bouquets. Few are able to resist the charms of the crab crumpet with lightly curried seafood bejewelled with salmon roe and sprigs of dill. The menu is so Gallic, it’s practically twirling its moustache, skipping from steak tartare to duck liver parfait and – yes – a dollop of real caviar. Arrive after 10.30pm to be rewarded with the supper menu of rabbit terrine, sea urchin roe and crème fraîche on brioche or just plain steak frites – all best enjoyed with an expertly made Martini.
Sofitel Forecourt, 45 Collins Street, Melbourne;￼ (03) 9654 8545
Image: Kristoffer Paulsen
When Melbourne restaurant svengali Con Christopoulos makes a new move, the city takes notice. And the latest memo from his desk is this: 24-hour dining is now a thing. Taking over a skinny shopfront at the top of Bourke Street, just around the corner from his European and City Wine Shop-focused empire, Butchers Diner is an experiment in meat. The glassed-in room at the back is the scene of butchery as performance art while the encyclopaedic menu takes the American diner as its starting point, with brilliantly frills-free burgers and a Coney Island chilli dog, winding up somewhere over Asia with deep-fried tofu on a roll with Thai vermicelli slaw. It’s geographically diverse but unified thematically by the pursuit of comfort. In the witching hour, few things make more sense than housemade dim sims or classic Greek pork skewers. Just add hot chips.
10 Bourke Street, Melbourne;￼ (03) 9639 7324
The “midnight spaghetti” here has already become a classic: a twirl of al dente pasta drenched in a punchy puttanesca-like sauce busy with the salty brilliance of capers and sweet basil leaves. You can eat it at midnight (if you take such things literally) while mentally blessing the Grossi family for realising the jewel they had on their hands in their back-alley wine cellar. Now reimagined as a cork-ceilinged bolthole with a cocktail program set to wow and a menu to soak up its sins, Arlechin keeps the good vibes coming with the straight-up charms of a bolognese jaffle or a smoky eel parfait under a hat of Marsala jelly rubbing shoulders with cheffy outbreaks such as saffron risoni dabbed with bone marrow and pangrattato. That’s the thing about Arlechin. They call it a bar; we call it a place to graze happily until wicked o’clock.
Mornane Place, Melbourne
Monster Kitchen and Bar
Its appeal starts with one of the funkiest websites around and extends to gasp-worthy décor and food that’s constantly reinvented. From the imposing Jenga-like staircase to gleeful artworks, Monster is a feast for the eyes as much as the palate. Kick off with the Pink Blizzard cocktail, a lemony mix of allspice dram, vodka and Cointreau, then choose dainty fried quail with blistering Sriracha sauce from the bar menu. International flavours abound on the share plates and Monster dares to tackle them all. Palmers Island mulloway is given a Japanese makeover on a bed of squishy fresh seaweed, cucumber and black sesame with a pop of rosy radish and peppery nasturtium leaves. Pulled lamb croons with Middle Eastern flavours, hidden under a tent of fried vine leaves, wafer-thin crisp brik and pomegranate seeds.
25 Edinburgh Avenue, Canberra; (02) 6287 6287
The Harrington brothers’ latest venture is a vibrant, playful, Hawaiian-themed addition to their stable (Sage and Akiba make up the troika). It’s hard to resist lobster lollipops – yes, that’s succulent crustacean on a stick with a creamy sesame mayo – matched with the citrusy Snozberry Bramble cocktail. Splash out on a bottle of 2005 Perrier-Jouët Belle Époque Rosé then sink into the cushioned azure and emerald banquettes for the molasses-glazed smoked beef rib. Fancy a late-night snack? You can order food until 11pm so choose the Tuna Dynamite poke bowl from the bar menu. With pickled watermelon, wasabi pea crumble and a spark of chilli, it’s as colourful as the décor. Say aloha to the key lime pie before you leave or head upstairs to the lively Tiki Bar, open on Friday and Saturday nights.
1 Genge Street, Canberra; (02) 6171 2092
The Palace Supper Club￼ ￼
It’s hard to imagine now but getting something decent to eat in Brisbane after 8pm used to be a struggle. The Palace offers late-night fare in, as the name suggests, delightfully regal surroundings. Art Deco-inspired chandeliers and plush velvet armchairs set a glamorous scene in the vast dining room and the food follows suit. The menu covers all bases, whether you fancy spanner crab tortellini with lobster, chive and peas, a Stanbroke Diamantina rib fillet or simply some beautiful oysters and caviar. There are myriad options for a nightcap, including aged Macallan single malt (hand-cut ice optional) or classic cocktails such as the Brandy Alexander. And if cigars are your guilty pleasure, it’s one of the few places in town where you can indulge, in the comfort of a spacious outdoor lounge overlooking Chinatown Mall. The Palace keeps things highbrow, no matter what the hour.
12 Duncan Street, Fortitude Valley;￼ (07) 3608 2087
Seymour’s Cocktails & Oysters
￼When the hubbub of Caxton Street gets too much, step through the red velvet curtains into this welcoming, moodily lit, New Orleans-inspired den for killer cocktails, tasty morsels and live jazz on Sundays. Settle into a cosy booth and order some oysters. There are usually a couple of varieties on offer, served with a classic mignonette, or go all out and add a drop or two of peaty 10-year-old Laphroaig single malt from the cutest little bottle you ever did see. Whether you opt for a more substantial dish like the Creole crab boil with crusty bread or a handful of smaller dishes such as beef or trout tartare, don’t miss the crab cigar – crisp-fried golden pastry gives way to a filling of fresh crab combined with Kewpie mayonnaise, golden shallots, capers and Old Bay Seasoning.
17 Caxton Street, Petrie Terrace; (07) 3369 0555
￼With your eye on the stunning views across the Derwent River, skip past the poker machines to this oasis, the sister of Sandy Bay’s established Me Wah. Sate your late-night hunger with comforting jiao zi (pan-fried pork dumplings with black vinegar) or scallop shao mai (steamed scallop and pork with bamboo and salmon roe). For something a bit more filling, check out the beef cheek cannelloni with cucumber, peanuts and chilli sesame oil or the Shanghai-style duck with dark soy and Asian spices – both best enjoyed with Moo Brew Pilsner or Stargazer Tasmania Riesling from the Coal River Valley. Feeling sweet? The desserts include ice-cream katsu with peanut mousse, caramelised banana and chocolate sauce. ￼
Wrest Point Casino, 410 Sandy Bay Road, Sandy Bay; (03) 6225 7888
Image: Samuel Shelley
￼Bypass the teeming downstairs bar and follow the glowing neon noodle up to this broad, beautifully restored balcony restaurant. After 11pm, “midnight spaghetti” is all you’ll get but what a sublime and delicious pasta dish it is, packed with chilli, anchovies, garlic and parsley – guaranteed to see you through the night. Earlier, there’s much more on offer, such as pappardelle with beef cheek ragù or a properly made carbonara (no cream, capisce?). Don’t want pasta? Then try the Goolwa cockles in wine and garlic or lamb chops with king prawns and asparagus. Terrific vegetarian dishes include a fat burrata sitting on pan-roasted broccoli and cauliflower. Midnight Spaghetti is generous, noisy and so buzzy that you’ll want to stay up even later. The short wine list is just as enticing.
196 Grenfell Street, Adelaide; (08) 7123 6125
East Taste Café
It’s cutthroat competition for late-night diners in Gouger Street’s Chinatown but East Taste goes latest of all, just shading the iconic Ying Chow across the road. There’s debate, too, about which has the best food but over the past 15 years, owner-chef Michael Vuong has built a strong following not only for his stir-fried broad beans, bean curd and Chinese chutney – a staple in these parts – but also for his signature salt-and-pepper eggplant. Other top dishes include the crisp shallot pancakes and the slow-cooked pork belly with green pepper sauce. Unusually in this strip of late-night eats, the lighting is soft and the service levels welcoming. Expect to bump into hungry hospitality workers when they knock off from nearby restaurants.
119 Gouger Street, Adelaide; (08) 8231 0268
You could be at this late-night Northbridge address because you have a thing for American honky-tonks – unpretentious, well-worn neighbourhood bars that are often awash with ephemera. Perhaps you’ve got a deep appreciation for country music and hope to catch the evening’s performance (every Friday and Saturday). Or maybe you just dived a little too enthusiastically into the wine list at dinner and your body is demanding fat and salt before heading home. Alabama Song’s menu of American-diner comfort food might be short but the kitchen makes each dish count, from crisp and juicy fried chicken, sold by the quarter, half or whole bird, to excellent burgers (cheese, chicken or chickpea). It’s just what you need to fast-track your morning-after recovery – assuming, of course, that you steer clear of the bar’s awesome stockpile of whiskies and beers.
Upstairs, 232 William Street, Northbridge
When Alfred Cook laid the foundations for this popular roadside diner in 1946, the English immigrant was selling burgers and soup from a small caravan nearby. Almost three-quarters of a century later and his legacy of hearty eating – the burgers and steak sandwiches come in an array of permutations and skipping the legendary pea and ham soup would be unthinkable – remains strong. Although the business’s current owners have opened a dining room in a disused train carriage, the best seats remain around the open fireplace, where your fellow late-night revellers gather for warmth and animated chat. While Alfred’s probably isn’t on the way home for most visitors and locals, your 20-minute drive from the city centre will end with a free side of local food history.
Corner of Meadow and James streets, Guildford;￼ (08) 9377 1378 ￼