The Most Romantic Restaurants Around Australia
Nel, Sydney, NSW1/16
Surry Hills’ bunker-like Nel knows how to ease diners into an atmospheric evening: a theatrical 11-course degustation that changes every 10 weeks, cosy leather booths and barely-there lighting. It’s all part of the performance, which comes into focus when flavours such as bunya nut, pork fat and barramundi are served in a tangle of dry ice and fashioned into any manner of shapes; past menu “concepts” have included edible candles, “footprints” and Santa beards.
Image credit: Josie Withers
Star of Greece, Port Willunga, SA2/16
Peering out over the bay of Port Willunga, this former seaman’s cottage has the kind of atmosphere that’s hard to manufacture. From the windows of the restaurant’s balcony, Gulf St Vincent’s lapping waves provide the eatery’s immersive soundtrack – and their contents form the backbone of its menu. To eat, there’s crispy local salt and pepper squid, King George whiting and gin-cured ocean trout, fresh from neighbouring Kangaroo Island.
Image credit: Kristoffer Paulsen
Brae, Birregurra, Vic3/16
Birregurra’s Brae entered food folklore back in 2013 and has since stayed on the tip of everyone’s tongue as a gourmet experience worth travelling for. An hour and a half southwest of Melbourne on a working organic farm (that guests can explore), the ever-changing menu highlights ingredients grown onsite and throughout the state, resulting in decadent dishes such as pork jowl grilled with smoked eel and beetroot braised with abalone and wattle.
Image credit: Adam Gibson
The Agrarian Kitchen, New Norfolk, Tas4/16
The reward for a winding 35-minute drive northwest from Hobart is the rustic fare of The Agrarian Kitchen. The group hall-feel of the wildly popular restaurant and cooking school belies its elegant food, all created with a back-to-basics approach that leans on traditional food preparation methods spanning smoking, fermenting and whole-animal butchery. The result? A hands-on culinary adventure capstoned by a relaxed lunch with your beloved.
Balthazar, Perth, WA5/16
Wine is at the heart of Perth CBD’s Balthazar, a stalwart bar-restaurant tucked within the thick sandstone walls of an Art Deco-era building. While it’s tempting to linger on the 100-bottle-strong list, there are plenty of other decisions for you and your paramour to make: namely, is it at possible to save room for dessert when bistro classics of duck liver parfait, beef tartare and duck breast proliferate the menu?
Berowra Waters Inn, Berowra, NSW6/16
Surrounded by the naked trunks of Angophora trees and ensconced in Eucalyptus, the creekside Berowra Waters Inn boasts a spectacular setting – and that’s only part of its charm. Stationed an hour north of Sydney’s CBD, the restaurant is housed in a reclaimed teahouse from the 1970s and stands quietly on a tributary of the Hawkesbury River that can only be accessed via water. A scenic boat ride with your beloved before an indulgent meal of kangaroo pastrami, Murray cod and native frozen nougat? Now that’s amore.
Image credit: Polperrowines
Vineyard Dining, Red Hill, Vic7/16
Bacchus would be right at home at Vineyard Dining, a restaurant at the intersection of good wine and good food found at the cellar door of the Mornington Peninsula’s Polperro. The eatery upholds the vineyard’s commitment to honouring the land, dishing up the spoils from seasonal harvests alongside exceptional wine in a tranquil country setting. Expect plates such as dry-aged Aylesbury duck with Davidson plum and Crystal Bay prawns matched with lemon aspen (a native citrus found in the forests of north Queensland).
Image credit: David Chatfield
Agnes, Brisbane, Qld8/16
No electricity. No gas. Just fire. These are the guiding principles for Agnes, a fancy Fortitude Valley eatery housed in a brick former warehouse. The wood-fired menu stretches across sourdough, Bangalow pork and smoked labneh (and back again), depending on the mood — and market spoils — of chef Ben Williamson. Spontaneity has never tasted so good.
Image credit: Voyages Indigenous Tourism
Tali Wiru, Yulara, NT9/16
Let the beauty of the outback set the scene at Tali Wiru, the country’s (arguably, the world’s) most incredible open-air dining experience. Here you’ll find toothfish, Wagyu beef fillet and King Brown mushrooms spiced up with native lemon aspen, paperbark and sea greens, all served against the backdrop of Uluru and its surrounding “beautiful dunes” of rust, for which the experience is named in the Anangu language.
Image credit: Judith Losh
Deer Duck Bistro, Brisbane, Qld10/16
You’ll forgive your partner (and yourself) for picking up the phone to snap pictures at Auchenflower’s Deer Duck Bistro. The modern-Australian-meets-European-bistro’s plates are pretty as a picture — adorned with everything from delicate edible flowers to red-veined sorrel leaves — and they taste as good as they look. For a short affair, opt for the five-course menu, or settle in for a longer evening with the ninc-course offering.
Image credit: The Boat House
The Boat House, Canberra, ACT11/16
This elegant Barton venue has witnessed many special celebrations since its inception in 1993. Perched on the edge of one of Lake Burley Griffin’s man-made curves, the restaurant’s lodge-like interiors of sandstone and corrugated iron are warm and inviting, as is the modern Australian menu, which gives hearty Aussie produce (Humpty Doo barramundi, Merimbula oysters) a refined finish.
Image credit: Valentina
Valentina, Merimbula, NSW12/16
The waterfront location of Sapphire Coast’s Valentina offers more than just a winning place to pull up a chair. Merimbula’s waters are rich with edible jewels, from fleshy abalone to creamy oysters, all of which are harnessed by this gem of a sophisticated sea shack. Other notable treats include truffle and squid ink salami and scallops garnished with beurre blanc and black pepper.
Image credit: Navi
Navi, Melbourne, Vic13/16
With space for just 25 diners, the challenge in securing a reservation only amps up the allure of Yarraville’s Navi. The rest of head chef Julian Hills’ winning formula comes from exceptional food — some of which is foraged across country Victoria — and a curated moody interior (the hand-made ceramics are also Hills’ work). The result is an intimate spot that plates up playful mod-Oz dishes such as sea bream with pickled magnolia and chicken skin as well as an umami-rich black garlic and salmon roe macaron confection.
Van Bone, Marion Bay, Tas14/16
A 45-minute drive east of Hobart in Marion’s Bay, Van Bone is an intimate diner that seats just 20 guests at a time. Sporting a pared-back design and earthy materials, a light hand is applied to both the eatery’s architecture as well as its menu. The latter is a celebration of lo-fi wines alongside seasonal ingredients (pine mushrooms; Angasi oysters; freshly-caught ocean perch) all cooked with fire and sourced from small-scale producers close by.
Image credit: Apoteca
Apoteca, Adelaide, SA15/16
You’d never know you’re in the heart of Hindley Street’s late-night scene once the door of Apoteca shuts behind you. Transporting diners from a pub-lined CBD street to a 19th-century apothecary-meets-bistro scene, the New York-style brasserie’s antique ambience oozes romance from the get-go, with heritage decor and diminutive tables over which hands can easily be clasped. The menu is made of elevated classic bistro dishes, from lamb and fennel drizzled with burnt harissa butter to kingfish ceviche and chicken liver and bacon pâté and the 30-page drinks list menu is just as indulgent, too.