Often sophisticated but never stuffy, these restaurants take the work out of business dining.
Reviews by Jo Cook
The Glass House
This bar at the end of the floating Brooke Street Pier is out to impress with an expansive view of the Derwent River and Sullivans Cove, small share plates inspired by Tasmanian produce and an architectural display of bottles behind the stunning copper-topped bar. Kiwi chef Sam Gasson is serving up the likes of Pacific oysters from Pitt Water in the Coal River Valley (natural, kimchi or housemade ponzu and seaweed butter), crisp onigiri with zucchini, pickled mushroom and white miso aïoli, and confit ocean trout with nori, apple, fennel and oyster emulsion. Sweet tooths will love the apple brioche cake with caramel, almond dacquoise and apple sorbet.
Main Deck, Brooke Street Pier, Hobart; 0437 245 540
￼Franklin, voted by chefs as Tasmania’s top restaurant, is a lesson in understatement. Co-owner Ben Lindell and co-founder and executive chef David Moyle have opted for a simple and natural Scandinavian feel with polished concrete, animal skins, beautiful timbers and an open kitchen that centres on a Scotch oven. Talented chef Jess Muir helps guide the team to turn out everything from wood-roasted abalone with kelp and dried oyster to cider-poached and wood-roasted pork neck. The wine list features a mix of Australian, European and natural wines and the desserts are unforgettable. The steamed almond cake with apple miso will help to seal the deal.
30 Argyle Street, Hobart; (03) 6234 3375
New South Wales
Reviews by Anthony Huckstep
￼One of the new wave of refined casual restaurants in the belly of Sydney’s CBD, this subterranean ode to Spain and the Mediterranean is already a business-lunch hub. And for good reason. Beyond the brass-rail bar are two dining rooms: one with views into the open kitchen, the other beneath a marble staircase. Think leather banquettes, polished concrete floors and dark-brown furniture. It’s smart and sophisticated but it’s okay to loosen the tie, too. Chef and co-owner Nathan Sasi (ex-Nomad) is making everything from scratch, including bread, cheese and cured meats, for the ultimate share plate menu. Pickled guindilla peppers add punch to housemade mortadella. Chickory, silverbeet and fetta squeeze between layers of crisp brik pastry. Slow-roasted lamb shoulder leans on pumpkin and chickpeas.
4 Ash Street, Sydney; (02) 9221 6444
￼Neil Perry’s influences on our culinary landscape are almost immeasurable. News of the original Rockpool Est. 1989 changing its make-up and donning the moniker Eleven Bridge raised a few eyebrows but the result has Rockpool and Perry class stamped all over it. It’s dark and sultry and a serious international restaurant in every sense, from the polished panache of front of house to the extraordinary wine list and food that’s as breathtaking as it is respectful of provenance. Importantly, too, it’s just downright delicious. Crustacean butter lays a platform for Moreton Bay bug and strozzapreti. Hand-picked mud crab arrives lathered in duck-egg mayonnaise. Partridge steamed in bread partners with turnips. And the date dart (circa 1984) reminds us why the classics survive any trend. Eleven Bridge is the business.
11 Bridge Street, Sydney; (02) 9252 1888
￼There are few more blissful dining experiences than a long, languid lunch overlooking the glistening ripples that kiss Woolloomooloo wharf. All you have to do is sit back and let one of the country’s most reliable Italian restaurants take care of business. A swell of white bucket seats sidles up to rows of white tablecloths, giving diners glimpses of the bobbing boats and a unique perspective of the city’s skyline. The menu of classic combinations is given a deft touch and contemporary spin without losing the umami essence. There’s John Dory crudo with blood orange; gnocchi with braised oxtail and green olives; strozzapreti with king prawns and chilli; Berkshire pork cutlet with pumpkin; and a charred slab of Wagyu chuck with smoked potato. Timeless, consistent and arguably Sydney’s best alfresco offering. ￼ottoristorante.com.au
Area 8, 6 Cowper Wharf Road, Woolloomooloo; (02) 9368 7488
￼￼Australian Capital Territory
Reviews by Lucy Barbour
For years, Ottoman has been a magnet for deal-striking suits, powerful politicians and journalists hungry for stories and succulent lamb shish kebab. Ambient blue, white and timber décor gives this Canberra institution a formal feel, while lush green gardens and outdoor water features exude tranquillity and calm. There’s a strong commitment to honest, traditional cuisine and simple pleasures such as silky baba ganoush with fresh, fluffy bread are irresistibly good. Complexity triumphs in vine leaves wrapped around a delicate combination of Atlantic salmon and shiitake mushrooms with red wine sauce, while sticky, sweet baklava is the perfect excuse to linger longer. Wind down with a refreshing Turkish beer as the afternoon sun streams through the windows.
9 Broughton Street, Barton; (02) 6273 6111
￼Swoon while you savour a Sicilian limoncello cocktail with rosemary, vanilla and pineapple at Parlour. This stylish drink is just a taste of the offerings prepared behind a square bar in the centre of this classy lounge-style space. Patrons perch on vintage cushioned chairs at antique round tables, engrossed in conversation while grazing on tender fried squid and robust lamb ragù. In spring, spill out onto the sunlit deck and sample tapas such as fried anchovies or bocadillos (Spanish sandwiches) filled with Wagyu beef and Manchego cheese. Then sip a local botrytis pinot gris and treat yourself to fresh ricotta doughnuts with decadent chocolate sauce and toasted almonds.
16 Kendall Lane, NewActon; (02) 6257 7325
Reviews by Max Veenhuyzen
Balthazar’s clubby Art Deco dining room has a long history of entertaining Perth’s business set and new part-owners Dan Morris and Emma Ferguson have zero intention of changing the script. That doesn’t mean the couple haven’t introduced a little of themselves to the Balthazar experience, of course. Quirky lo-fi wines from small producers bring new energy to the drinks side of things, while youthful new chef Skye Faithfull has injected similar brio to the menu. Raw lamb plus duck egg, harissa and housemade sour cream make for one of the city’s more exciting tartare riffs, just as marron and unctuous pork belly is a fun take on surf and turf. The bottle-lined private room is perfect for entertaining VIPs.
6 The Esplanade, Perth; (08) 9421 1206
￼This bar-slash-eating-house is a popular destination for the white-collar crowd and not just on account of its address on the Terrace. While the booming bar and cosy enoteca attract their share of worker bees, an equal number of guests descend Lalla Rookh’s staircase to revel in the city’s best Italian food. Creamy stracciatella cheese and quick-pickled butter beans accented with horseradish is typically inventive, while the straighter likes of hearty bistecca and benchmark pasta deliver big-time on the comfort front. Hosting a large party? The recently introduced banquet option is perfect for larger groups. Need to impress some gourmands? The chef’s tasting menu (Il Capo) and daily seasonal specials are the answer; match with something from the celebrated cellar to really make an impression.
Lower Ground, 77 St Georges Terrace, Perth; (08) 9325 7077
Reviews by Sam McCue
Rorkes Beer Wine Food
Surely nothing says “important business” as loudly as a restaurant in a former bank. Well, Rorkes is a pub now but if you ignore the pokies tucked into one corner, it’s all class with its Art Deco fit-out in soft gold and pale teal. There’s also a moody private dining room in what used to be the vault, comfy booths with individual pay-as-you-go beer taps and outdoor tables, too. The brief menu plays it relatively safe with salads, steak and fish, including barramundi in the form of carpaccio or croquettes. The sirloin and the seafood spaghetti are also good choices. And when business has been dealt with, repair to the rooftop terrace for a cocktail and maybe a snack from the bar menu. Win-win.
22 Smith Street, Darwin; (08) 8942 1000
Reviews by Larissa Dubecki
￼If Isabella Rossellini owned a restaurant, it would look a lot like Cecconi’s: aesthetically well-mannered without having to shout about it. A reliable city stager that sings from the posh-Italian songbook, Cecconi’s is the kind of place that makes you feel good – and we’re not just talking about the wine list (a sexy, sinuous Italian thing), the service (ditto) or the comfortable spacing between the linen-clad tables. Run by the legendary Bortolotto family using produce from their Victorian farm, it nails the business-crowd brief with a confident menu of value-added Italian-ness: pancetta-wrapped quail with vincotto, excellent calamari fritti that arrives with salsa verde and aïoli or slow-cooked Wagyu brisket with puréed white beans and red wine jus.
61 Flinders Lane, Melbourne; (03) 8663 0500
￼Grossi Florentino Grill
￼Anchoring the ground floor of the Grossi family’s chic Italian empire, the Grill is a boisterous business hangout where bonhomie and bistecca rule the day. A recently installed Josper wood-burning oven and grill has taken the restaurant, which is about 60 years old, in a more resolutely Tuscan direction, with meaty good times to be had. There’s a host of steaks with punchy add-ons, naturally, but also a pinkly perfect White Rocks veal chop with grilled witlof and a squeeze of charred lemon; and wild barramundi cooked in the oven with Tasmanian mussels, farro and tomatoes to richly smoky effect. Nor should the suit brigade ignore the pasta for which Guy Grossi is justifiably renowned, including silken ribbons of pappardelle tangling with a duck and porcini ragù (although, in this case, it’s probably best to rethink the white shirt).
80 Bourke Street, Melbourne; (03) 9662 1811
Cutler & Co.
￼Andrew McConnell subtitles his flagship “a Fitzroy dining room and bar”, which seems to undersell the situation somewhat, considering it has the sleekest good looks and most consistently winning charm of all the city’s dining hotspots. Fine dining without the pretension, Cutler & Co. hits the mark on many fronts, including an epic wine list and staff who sashay with warm professionalism. The menu sparkles, whether it’s going for honest, rustic grunt (an Ortiz anchovy on toast) or on-trend originality (spanner crab and soft polenta in chicken broth). You can get down to brass tacks with a mighty 1.1-kilogram dry-aged Angus rib eye with shaved cabbage and fennel salad. Pop into McConnell’s next-door wine bar, Marion, for a deal-closing nightcap.
55-57 Gertrude Street, Fitzroy; (03) 9419 4888
Reviews by Nigel Hopkins
￼Chianti has the experienced demeanour of a favourite trattoria but with a sophisticated edge. It ticks all the boxes: great service, a wine list of breadth and depth and traditional Northern Italian dishes given a contemporary touch by longstanding chef Toby Gush. Start with tonno crudo (a tartare of cured bluefin tuna) or a salad of smoked free-range goose breast with candied walnuts before tucking into the signature slow-cooked Adelaide Hills rabbit with pancetta, port and sage. Steaks are top quality – try the 600-gram grass-fed T-bone, sourced direct from an Adelaide Hills farm. Chianti also has two very private dining rooms upstairs, accessed by a side entrance.
160 Hutt Street, Adelaide; (08) 8232 7955
￼Jasmin is known for its extraordinary cricket bat collection and its exemplary North Indian dishes. Its splendid dining room of glossy mahogany tables and low lights – and its discreet basement location – has helped make it a favourite of captains of industry and politicians. Matriarch Mrs Singh keeps an eagle eye on details such as the spicing, as evidenced by her outstanding beef vindaloo and even fierier chicken tindaloo. Watch for daily specials such as pan-fried garfish dusted with masala spices. Side dishes and breads are unfailingly good and the wine list is the best of any Indian restaurant in town. Less well-known is that Jasmin has an even more tucked-away private dining room behind the main restaurant.￼
31 Hindmarsh Square, Adelaide; (08) 8223 7837
Reviews by Morag Kobez
When it comes to closing that all-important deal, The Euro has your back. Its classy, contemporary interior lends an air of formality to proceedings without being stuffy. Service is attentive yet unobtrusive and the unpretentious menu has something to keep everyone happy. Bond over shared starters, including impeccable housemade chorizo with freshly baked bread or crunchy little flash-fried Gold Coast prawns with chipotle sauce. Follow that up with classic combinations such as lamb rump with potato fondant, watercress purée and fennel; pan-roasted barramundi; or gnocchi with Parmesan and rosemary sauce. Desserts will put everyone in an agreeable frame of mind, whether it’s the vanilla cheesecake with peppered shortbread, olive oil sponge and fresh raspberries or the chocolate and beetroot brownie with raspberry ganache and dirty chai ice-cream.
181 Mary Street, Brisbane; (07) 3229 3686
￼If it’s a celebration or you want to keep things lighthearted, this convivial Parisian-style steakhouse ensures the conversation flows. The former illegal casino/brothel at the centre of the 1980s Fitzgerald Inquiry has been tastefully tarted up to include generous red-leather booths that will accommodate a team lunch. There are no painful deliberations over the menu; it’s steak frites all round so just choose a sauce (café de Paris, béarnaise or green peppercorn and cognac) and you’re done. French bread comes out first then a delicious green salad, followed by a generous serve of seared grass-fed steak and French fries. Vegetarians and pescetarians are also catered for. The grime may be gone but the political and underworld luminaries of the day are immortalised in framed portraits along the length of one wall. ￼lesbubbles.com.au
144 Wickham Street, Fortitude Valley; (07) 3251 6500