Top End dining is a bit like Darwin itself: eclectic, multicultural and ever evolving. We’ve chosen our nine favourite restaurants in town, covering all bases – among them are the obligatory steakhouse, a Thai/Indian institution and a Parisian-style bistro.
Beneath an old elevated house by the sea, Char Restaurant is where Darwin’s powerbrokers dine. The steak-and-seafood-focused menu includes the standout numus of pickled local fish and scallops with lime and coconut cream (a popular dish in the Northern Territory). Sexy little sides and an extensive wine list seal the deal.
Corner of The Esplanade and Knuckey Street, Darwin; (08) 8981 4544
The Pearl Darwin
Pretty as a picture with its striped wallpaper and ornate mirrors, The Pearl is worth seeking out for elegant cocktails and Frenchified Australian food. À la carte and prix fixe menus offer the likes of trout rillettes and lobster tortellini with scallops on cauliflower purée.
Shop 9, The Vic Complex, 27 Smith Street, Darwin; 0435 821 648
Pee Wee’s at the Point
Pee Wee’s offers a special dining experience: tables at the water’s edge facing the lights of the city and dishes such as kangaroo carpaccio and nut-crusted wild-caught barramundi. Time your booking to catch the sun setting over the sea – at about 6.30pm to 7pm depending on the season.
Lot 5775, Alec Fong Lim Drive, East Point Reserve, Darwin; (08) 8981 6868
Darwin’s first tapas restaurant, Moorish Café still has it. There’s always a tagine of the day, as well as 30-plus excellent tapas dishes. Sample grilled local eggplant with pomegranate and yoghurt; Berber-spiced kangaroo with tomato jam; or pumpkin and fetta salad with basil and pine nuts.
37 Knuckey Street, Darwin; (08) 8981 0010
Chow is a ton of fun. Choose between the air-conditioned dining room or the palm-fringed outdoor space and order up a taste of tropical Asia: maybe Vietnamese pho, Malaysian laksa, chilli-salt chicken wings or a dish to share. After dinner, enjoy a cocktail, a whole fresh coconut or an icy, fruity slushie.
Shops D1 and D2, 19 Kitchener Drive, Darwin; (08) 8941 7625
SEE ALSO: Hit the Darwin Market Scene
PM Eat & Drink
This tiny restaurant has one big idea: fresh seafood and other produce, simply but beautifully cooked. At PM Eat & Drink you’ll find share plates of local calamari, prawns and vegetables, grilled in the open kitchen and served pronto. Choose between the 6.30pm or 8.30pm sitting when you book for dinner.
1/56 Smith Street, Darwin; (08) 8941 3925
Thai and Indian dishes marry happily at Hanuman. The signature oysters with zingy chilli sauce might be followed by spiced lamb cutlets or creamy curry of local barramundi. Though there’s plenty of seating, including outside on the timber deck, Hanuman is almost always busy so it’s worth booking.
93 Mitchell Street, Darwin; (08) 8941 3500
Manoli’s Greek Taverna
When Darwin’s Greek families aren’t sharing their backyard souvlaki, they’re often eating at Manoli’s, where they know there’s tasty meat and plenty of it – not to mention excellent grilled eggplant and zucchini with skordalia and tzatziki. Bouzouki music on Friday and Saturday nights is the clincher.
Shop 4, 64 Smith Street, Darwin; (08) 8981 9120
Memories of India
The presence of local Indian families dining at Memories of India speaks of the authenticity of dishes such as rich goat curry, chicken tikka masala and dal with spinach. And the cafeteria-style tabletops and crockery signal that the food is truly the focus. Better yet, it’s BYO and the service is speedy.
Shop 5, 2 Sabine Road, Millner; (08) 8948 0800