Ready to eat your way around Brisbane? We asked a chef and a critic to serve up their list of the best restaurants around town, perfect for any occasion.
The chef: Jason Margaritis, head chef at Brisbane hotspot Donna Chang
The critic: Matt Shea, Qantas magazine’s Queensland restaurant reviewer
The best restaurant for a taste of the Brisbane vibe
JM Greca at Howard Smith Wharves is fantastic for great Queensland produce cooked simply and packed with flavour. The relaxed service and river views top off the whole experience and you can’t leave without ordering the saganaki.
MS Chinese restaurant Happy Boy in the Valley is run by young brothers Cam and Jordie Votan. It has this highly evolved take on a traditional suburban Chinese restaurant menu and a terrific small-producer-driven wine list. On weekends it’s packed with a young crowd who bring an energy that really captures the city.
The best restaurant for fine dining
JM Otto on Queen Street is a worthy recipient of its two chef’s hats. Will Cowper’s food paired with the city’s best service is fine dining to a tee. My picks are the lobster spaghettini
and Will’s version of vitello tonnato. When truffles are in season, don’t miss the gelato al tartufo.
MS I can’t go past Bacchus. It’s in a really unassuming spot in the Rydges hotel in South Brisbane but chef Massimo Speroni has made it a food destination. The combination of artful Italian cuisine, fantastic service and a standout wine list makes it one of my top picks.
The best restaurant for a late-night dining
JM I wish there were more late-night dining spots in Brisbane – something I miss, being from Melbourne. Funny Funny Korean Restaurant & Bar in Burnett Lane is always a hit; the bottles of Hite are cold and the fried chicken hits the spot after a long service. It also helps that Death & Taxes is right next door for a nightcap.
MS The chicken burgers at Lucky Egg Fried Chicken can’t be missed. It’s right in the heart of Fortitude Valley and is open until 2am or 3am on weekends – but don’t expect there to be any less of a wait at that time. They’re popular for a reason and totally worth it.
The best restaurant for a casual lunch
JM I know I’m biased but Donna Chang in the CBD, of course! Enjoy beautifully handmade dim sum and an icy-cold glass of riesling before finishing with a cheeky scoop of deep-fried caramel ice-cream.
MS Taro’s Ramen has four outlets and serves easily the best ramen in Brisbane, in my opinion.
The traditional tonkotsu broth is what it’s known for. Owner Taro Akimoto uses Bangalow pork from just near Byron Bay and pressure-cooks it to get the strongest flavour.
The best-kept secret restaurant
JM I’m not sure if it’s much of a secret anymore but Bar Alto at the Brisbane Powerhouse in New Farm does some of the city’s freshest pasta. Plus, ordering a pot of the mussels in tomato, white wine and chilli served with crusty bread is one of the best ways to spend a Sunday.
MS Head out of the CBD for some of the best Vietnamese food going. Suburbs like Inala and Darra are where I’d zero in and my pick is Pho An (Shop 9, 45-57 Skylark Street, Inala; 0404 388 109). It’s pretty new and has a menu that basically only serves pho and Vietnamese fried chicken. I’m obsessed with pho broth and I think this one is clean-tasting and not overly rich – a big win for me.
JM I’m still trying to figure that out. I recently dined at Joy in Fortitude Valley where they served a dish of confit squid, zucchini and fragrant herbs that was iconic for me.
MS Definitely the Kentucky-fried duck (K.F.D) created by Damon Amos and currently served at his spot, Detour in Woolloongabba. It’s based on a recipe his mum used to make when he was small and he’s now turned it into his most famous dish. It’s crisp-fried and uses quite meaty parts of the bird, yet it isn’t super heavy.
The best restaurant for views
JM Blackbird Bar & Grill on Eagle Street is a staple, with delicious food and unbeatable views of the Brisbane River and Story Bridge. It has some of the best steaks in town and fantastic Queensland seafood. What I love most about Blackbird is the vast array of options, meaning you need to make repeat visits to try everything.
MS Bar Alto at Brisbane Powerhouse is a great restaurant looking out over New Farm and the Brisbane River. It has a buzzy vibe and a lovely peaceful deck that you can sit out on with a plate of Italian food and watch Brisbanites go about their lives.