From classic fine-dining and inventive dégustation experiences to edgy modern Australian cuisine and new takes on tacos, Brisbane’s food scene encapsulates all that is exciting, distinctive and enticing.
Cosy, compact and charming: the opposite, in fact, of that big bad wolf. Both the service and the setting are old-fashioned in a good way. Euro-inspired classical technique and beautiful local produce collide to produce honest, unpretentious fare like plump confit duck leg and sand crab risotto with crunchy garlic chips, crème fraîche and dill.
989 Stanley Street, East Brisbane
The dining experience at Urbane is reminiscent of contemporary, cutting-edge dégustations in internationally acclaimed restaurants. Co-owner and chef Alejandro Cancino came to Brisbane after stints at Michelin-starred restaurants such as Mugaritz in Spain.
181 Mary Street, Brisbane
Nothing quite captures the essence of Brisbane fine-dining more than Matt Moran’s Aria, with its sweeping river views, formal-yet-friendly service and dishes designed for the sub-tropics: think creamy burrata teamed with fresh watermelon, rock melon and macadamia nuts, or coal-grilled octopus with finely shaved jamón and crunchy cos lettuce.
Clever and quirky are two words that spring to mind to describe owner-chef Ryan Squires’s dégustation-only dining experience. It could be anywhere between 12 to 20-plus courses, and no two menus are alike. The likes of apple truffle strudel, wild buffalo jerky and porcini butter cake and hay cream make for a delicious dining adventure.
145 Eagle Street, Brisbane
This venue is now permanently closed.
How does a restaurant manage to stay at the top of its game for more than 20 years? Philip Johnson’s recipe for success is simple. Ignore fanciful fads that come and go and remain focused on quality ingredients, warm service and beautiful, unpretentious dishes. A great deal of care and attention goes into making it look so effortless.
100 Boundary Street, Brisbane
It hasn’t yet been open for a year, but Otto has quickly become Brisbane’s favourite contemporary Italian fine-diner. With prime river and Story Bridge views, it draws on the experience of the successful Sydney venue of the same name to offer a sense of occasion from start to finish.
480 Queen Street, Brisbane
It looks like a café, but it is so much more, with a deep respect for produce, boundless creativity and the kind of integrity that usually comes at a heftier price. Blood tacos may not be for everyone, but their bone-marrow filling paired with mushroom and native thyme packs a beautifully earthy, umami-rich punch for those who appreciate ingenuity.
77 Grey Street, South Brisbane
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Expect the unexpected. Chef Ben Williamson combines Middle Eastern and European ingredients and classical European techniques to create unique dishes such as silky centred lamb’s brains with a crisp, fragrant crust, paired with quail-blood morcilla and tahini yoghurt.
14/15 James Street, Fortitude Valley
As in the traditional enotecas of Italy, wine is every bit as important as the food. Poised waitstaff are as well versed in the Roman-inspired menu as they are in the wine list. The former includes dainty, little pan-fried gnocchi dumplings with pork and fennel sausage in a criminally rich parmesan cream with black truffle tapenade; the latter includes an astonishing array of naturally made wines from small Italian producers.
The Moreton Rubber Building, 10-12 Logan Road, Woolloongabba
It’s the hip, happening younger brother to Gerard’s Bistro, set in a beautiful 150-year-old terrace in the bustling heart of the Valley. Pop in for a cocktail and seriously good snacks, including the Lebanese taco with spiced goat and garlic yoghurt.
690 Ann Street, Fortitude Valley
Top image: Otto