From fine dining to Asian barbecue to top spots for bar bites – there’s always something new and exciting happening in the Australian hospitality sector.
This year, the hospitality industry has welcomed an array of new and noteworthy ventures that range from reimagined restaurants to brand-new places to drink and dine. Here’s our pick of the best restaurants to try around Australia right now.
New South Wales
Il Pontile is a little slice of Italy in an iconic Sydney location. Il Pontile translates to ‘the pier’ and the location and menu reflect fourth-generation Italian restaurateur and chef Mario Percuoco’s love for Naples. Start with a glass of prosecco and fresh oysters and proceed to pepata di cozze forte (steamed mussels with chilli oil), before moving on to linguine al cartoccio (seafood linguine baked in a parcel). Enjoy wines by the glass from a list that traverses Italy (plus Australia and France). The pared-back space is divided by arched doorways and spills onto an outdoor dining area.
Chef Peter Conistis is one of the pioneers of Grecian cuisine in Australia and is best-known for Alpha. The word ploos means sails in Greek, a high-five to the Sydney Opera House on the other side of Circular Quay. And while Ploos, housed within the historic Campbell Stores building, pulls the crowds for those views, it’s the food inspired by the Aegean Islands that makes lovers of regional Greek cuisine return.
Sit inside the sandstone space, which is richly textured in teak and leather, or outside on the open-air terrace where you’ll feel like you’re at your yaya’s birthday party. Plump for the menu of pikilia (little plates) which includes nissiotiki salad and dolmades yiaprakia.
Mammoni is a term ascribed to Italian men who still live at home with their mammas. And mammoni looking to cut the apron ties might be more motivated to do so if they had access to chef Jason Duncan’s cooking. Let’s be clear: Bar Mammoni is a bar, but Duncan’s food (pizzetta, whipped ricotta and arancini) is as much of a draw. It’s the fourth House Made Hospitality venue and is located in a loved-up laneway at the back of the heritage-laden Hinchcliff House, which is also home to fine diner, Lana, farm-to-table eatery, Grana, and subterranean bar, Apollonia, all of which exist as sonnets to the City of Sydney.
Gowings Bar and Grill
Acclaimed chef Sean Connolly has taken over the direction of the revamped Gowings, at QT Sydney, a much-loved city locale where art, photography, music, fashion and food get in the mosh pit with spectacular effect. The reimagined restaurant was inspired by New York City’s Little Italy: it’s a little bit punk, a little bit rock ‘n’ roll and the kind of place where American actor Al Pacino, English punk rock band, the Sex Pistols, and Australian fashion designer Jenny Kee would quite happily share a table and clash cutlery over the whopping 1.4kg bistecca alla Fiorentina.
Viand is an archaic word that describes an assortment of foods. And that’s exactly what’s on offer at Viand, chef Annita Potter’s first restaurant, located in a charming 1930s building on Crown St, in Sydney’s Woolloomooloo. Potter worked as an executive chef for David Thompson at nahm in London and later at Aaharn, in Hong Kong, earning the restaurant its first Michelin star in 2019. Expect top-notch Thai dishes such as jungle curry king prawns at the handsome restaurant which, with its red velvet curtains and kitchen clad in a mosaic of red tiles, has the feel of a Bangkok film set.
Thirty Three Degrees
Sydney rock oysters grow naturally along 1500 kilometres of NSW’s coastline, centred around the latitude of 33 degrees. That’s the inspiration for East 33 and Thirty Three Degrees restaurant, a Scandi-style space designed to showcase and celebrate the provenance of Sydney Rock Oysters. Board the Oyster Catcher punt and travel along the pristine waterways of Wallis Lake, in the twin towns of Forster Tuncurry, before heading back to Thirty Three Degrees for oysters and the swordfish schnitzel.
St. Alma is housed in a historical bank building in Freshwater on Sydney’s northern beaches. While the little sibling to Alma in Avalon is sleek and modern, with earthy tones throughout, the chefs have used their Crayola crayons when it comes to the pops of colour on the plate.
Co-owners Jack Leary and executive chef Tim Christensen were inspired to open a second Mexican-inspired eatery after their travels down the country’s East Coast. Standouts include the agave short ribs, and the whole deboned snapper served on banana leaf.
Luke Mangan has reinvigorated Luke’s Kitchen at the all-new Kimpton Sydney, which opened its doors in early 2022. Located on the ground floor of the heritage-listed 1930s Art Deco hotel that housed the former Sydney Water Board Offices, the restaurant, like its chef, has personality plus. This beautifully rebooted restaurant is now the go-to spot for a bottomless brunch, a casual lunch or a romantic dinner. Hardcore foodies should book Cellar By Luke, a convivial wining and dining experience with the chef.
Innovative Italian food is the order of the day at Civico 47, the new restaurant that has taken over the iconic terrace that housed Sydney institution Lucio’s for 40 years. The light-filled dining space led by executive chef Matteo Zamboni (Ormeggio, Pilu at Freshwater, Jonah’s) has a distinctly Mediterranean feel with a serious menu that is full of standouts. Highlights include the house-made focaccina with Cutrera selezione evoo, carpaccio with rocket, macadamia, vincotto and brussel sprouts and mafalde with king prawn, bok choy and tomato. Civico means ‘house number’ in Italian and the experience of dining here feels like you’re at a hopping house party in Milan.
ELE by Federico and Karl
The Star, Pyrmont
Earth, fire, air and water are the elements that inspired ELE, the new restaurant set to take over the famed Momfuku Seiobo space at The Star. The restaurant, a collab between head chefs Federico Zanellato (Lumi Bar and Dining) and Karl Firla (Oscillate Wildly, Est. Marque) is a Venn diagram of sections – a bar, dining room and chef’s table. Start at the bar with a welcome cocktail and snack such as sourdough crumpet with smoked cod brandade, before moving onto the dining room for dry-aged Murray cod with native coastal greens. There’s a focus on Australian native ingredients and a side serve of visual and sound experiences.
Turning your back to Bondi Beach seems a bit of an anomaly. But it’s worth it when you land at Blackwood Bondi, the second outpost from Daniel Sorridimi, Rob Lechowicz and Paul Pisani, the team behind Blackwood Pantry in Cronulla. The restaurant, all sage greens and terracotta, was designed by Richard Stanisich, who was responsible for the stunning interiors of Sepia. And with Michelin-trained chef Rob Lechowicz leading the kitchen, this will serve as a popular fixture in the colourful touristy neighbourhood. The stage is set: call your Bondi tribe and get stuck into dishes such as sweet potato and carrot fritters or crumbed veal cotoletta.
Kid Kyoto is not exactly the new kid on the block. But this fave izakaya in Sydney’s CBD did a spectacular pirouette mid-pandemic, reinventing the eatery into a more refined and elegant offering. Kid Kyoto made a name for itself as a grungy, dark drinking and eating den. Nirvana and Faith No More are still on the playlist but gone are the heavy dark curtains, which has made the eatery tucked down a cobblestoned laneway feel more approachable.
There’s also a new menu from head chef Rhys Watson-Lamb (China Lane, Mr Wong, Tomislav, Bentley) with signature watermelon sashimi and pork belly yakitori. Leave it to the Kid Kyoto team and order the Trust Us menu. It remains one of the best restaurants to try around Australia right now.
Massimo Mele is a Taswegian who is fiercely proud of his Italian heritage, so much so that his new restaurant, Peppina, at the newly developed Marriott Hotel, The Tasman, a Luxury Collection Hotel, is named in honour of his beloved nonna. Mele leans deep into the Italian way of feasting at Peppina, with a changing, seasonal menu that celebrates Tassie produce and producers. The 190-seat restaurant is located at the end of the heritage wing of the hotel, which dates back to 1847, and is flooded with light from a glittering glass ceiling overhead. Take your time over the ‘Tutti A Tavola’ menu.
Australian Capital Territory
A custom-made offset smoker and two-tier konro yakitori grill take pride of place at Wilma, a sophisticated new space in the heart of Canberra’s CBD that winks to Wilma Flintstone, the animated character from The Flintstones who also cooks over fire. The menu at the progressive Asian BBQ restaurant was curated by Brendan Hill (ex-Sydney’s Aria and 12-Micron) and spans small plates and share-friendly Asian-Australian favourites such as roasted duck and char sui pork along with the signature Wilma sausage sandwich. The two-storey eatery, all glossy dark woods, brass and leather banquette seating, also has a shiny new sister bar, The Pearl, slinging out Asian-inspired cocktails.
Wakefield’s Bar & Wine Room
Edgar’s is an Ainslie institution that has expanded to include the charming Wakefield’s Bar & Wine Room and The Inn. The interior of The Inn, designed by Capezio Copeland, is all hard industrial edges softened by a vintage feel and anchored by a vast walk-in wine room with a range of nooks to sit and sip. Wander upstairs to the warm and inviting Wakefield’s, all retro artworks and oversized wicker lampshades, to get a taste of the Canberra Wine District. You’ll find chef Steven Jacomos (ex-St Crispin, and qualia) here trumpeting about the region’s best seasonal produce. The Inn, Wakefield’s and Dough Boy are all under the umbrella of Edgar’s, making this one of Canberra’s best places to eat, drink and socialise.
Oh hey, Tippy Tay. Look at you there sitting pretty on Flinders Lane. Step through the colourful tiled archway into this statement space in the Garden State Hotel festooned with bunting and flowers and you will be tossed into a Mediterranean salad made up of the Amalfi Coast, Calabria and Naples. Order ‘last night’s lasagne’ because, let’s face it, it’s always better the next day, and enjoy it alongside a 1.5-litre novelty Negroni fountain that arrives at your table after pressing a buzzer. Yippy yai yah to the Tippy Tay desserts that arrive via a retro airline trolley.
Warabi at W Melbourne
Warabi, named after the Saitama Prefecture in Japan, is a new omakase (set menu) restaurant at W Melbourne where the meal is created ‘kappo’ style, meaning the chefs ‘cut and cook’ to order. The Flinders Lane restaurant is sleek and minimalist, all low lighting and muted colour palettes, with a back-lit marbled onyx wall and artwork by tattooist Timothy Dywelska softening the space. Guests dining at the L-shaped bar will appreciate Jun Oya’s knife-wielding skills while slicing wagyu or sashimi to drape over rice, just so.
Smith St Bistrot
What’s that? You are moving to Collingwood, you know no one and you want to find your tribe? Well, we reckon you should start a book club on Facebook, and then gently suggest Smith St Bistrot as the venue so you can make friends while tucking into the smoked ham hock and pea soup or crumbed King George whiting at this killer Collingwood bistro that has taken over the old Saint Crispin site. No need to thank us. It’s all good. But best support the Pies (the Collingwood Football Club) otherwise you will be outed as an outsider.
New Orleans called and it wants its vibe back. The Continental Sorrento is one of Australia’s hottest new restaurants with rooms. Located on Victoria’s idyllic Mornington Peninsula coastline, with sweeping views of Port Phillip Bay, the precinct includes Audrey’s, Barlow, The Conti, Atrium, Coppin’s Lounge and Pool Deck. But it’s Audrey’s that has caught our eye in this instance: the restaurant honours executive chef Scott Pickett’s grandmother, who inspired him to cook. Wear your best Hollywood hair to this elegant eatery to feast on exceptional Peninsula produce matched with exemplary wines.
City of Melbourne
Pray to the Benjamin Button gods before you start day drinking at HER BAR, a daytime cocktail bar with a French-inspired menu that attracts gorgeous glamazons partial to an arvo aperitivo. If you haven’t figured out how to age backwards, at least put on some red lippy or a jaunty hat before you hit this Parisian-style bar, as it’s full of super stylish next-gen fems who appreciate a bar named after a preposition to refer to a female.
Walk-ins are welcome, but only if you have a bit of swag. Conceptualised by HQ Group, HER is a new four-storey playground in Lonsdale St, Melbourne.
Leigh Street Luggage
Leigh Street Luggage comes with a lot of baggage. The new owners of Leigh Street Luggage in Adelaide kept the name and reimagined the space as a Mediterranean-inspired bar that features some of the curios and knick-knacks collected by former owner Julie Barnes, who sold travel gear from the South Australian premises for four decades. The sepia-toned photographs, vintage posters, and leather suitcases all capture the essence of craftsmanship from a bygone era, something that co-owner Shahin Chegini is passionate about.
HNLY is named in honour of its location above Adelaide’s Henley Square down by the jetty. The beach-chic space, formerly apartments, is on the upper level of a building that once housed apartments and that homely feel remains. The owners are not new to the restaurant scene and Angela Papas, of Diaspora Kouzina, Peter Louca, of Louca’s Seafood and George Kasimatis of Georges on Waymouth have given the community exactly what they need: an elegant eatery with a focus on South Australia’s incredible seafood. Come for the beach, stay for the Spencer Gulf prawns and Southern Rock lobster.
Lost Phoenix Farm
Leave your big-city stresses behind and pack some Smackos for your dog ahead of your visit to the Lost Phoenix Farm, located six minutes from Victor Harbour and about an hour’s drive from Adelaide’s CBD, in the Fleurieu Peninsula. The farm is both pet-friendly and family-friendly and restaurateur and chef Will Doak (ex-Fugazzi and Orso) has handed over the reins to head chef Bridget Corver who pairs dishes such as overnight lamb and whipped buffalo ricotta with the dramatic strains of Pavarotti. Perfetto.
Hanky Panky Lounge
So you’ve flown to Darwin with that bloke you met on Bumble and you want to impress him by taking him to the city’s newest drinking den? Don’t stress. We’ve got you. Head to the Hanky Panky Lounge, named after a classic cocktail created by Ada Coleman, the head bartender at the American Bar at the Savoy Hotel in London in the early 20th century. The list of bar bites is short and sweet. We recommend the parmesan fries with truffle oil and sea salt to go with your Sparkling Jungle Bird cocktail – you are in the tropics, after all.
My name is Su. How do you do? The Star Gold Coast has put on a bit of red lippy with Uncle Su, an upmarket Cantonese eatery that revolves around a red palette and includes bespoke lanterns, a golden money tree and soaring wooden screens. Whether lounging on one of the curved banquettes or pausing for a power lunch of yum cha, you will enjoy classic dishes such as Peking duck all composed with meticulous attention to detail by executive chef Song Yao Su. Seafood is the main draw, but Uncle Su’s Peking duck is off the charts.
Rubi Red Kitchen + Bar
Melbourne restaurateur and chef Michael Lambie (Taxi Kitchen, The Smith and Lucy Liu in Melbourne) has opened Rubi Red Kitchen + Bar in Queensland and the Gold Coast is all the better for it. The two-storey restaurant is located at Mermaid Beach and she’s a beauty, modelled on a fictional muse by the name of Rubi Red who has a passion for great food, cocktails and travel. If you were to conjure up a character to befit the restaurant, you’d find her kitted out, like the bar and kitchen, in flamingo pinks and reds. Go for soft-shelled crab jianbing, or ginger king prawn dumplings.
Siblings PJ Cianci and Jarrod Kyle grew up washing dishes at their family restaurant Edgewater, a Gold Coast institution. But now the brothers have branched out on their own with the aptly named Siblings in Kirra Pavilion. For 23 years, the heritage building housed a Pizza Hut franchise. As well as closing a door on that chapter – it was the final dine-in Pizza Hut in Australia – the brothers have realised the potential of the waterfront setting. While the Space Cubed Design Studio interior – all salmon pinks and mint greens – nods to 1950s beach clubs in Miami, it is also quintessentially Kirra, located near to iconic surf break, Kirra Point. Expect sea breezes over share plates of fish tacos and chargrilled king prawns.
The dining room at Bask has all the warmth you might feel when lunching at your best friend’s house in the country. The intimate venue, conceptualised by chef Jack Madden and his interior designer partner Jess Coolican, encapsulates Eumundi’s village vibe.
Bask is housed on the terrace of a sun-splashed cottage that was once an old bakery and the idea here is to taste, savour and linger over dishes such as saffron and orange-roasted Moyer Valley chicken, celeriac puree and cress or roasted heirloom beets, with goat’s cheese and a Pedro Ximinez reduction. Expect exceptional service from front-of-house manager Sarah Smith, whose knowledge of the food and menu is next level. Nearby Popina Eumundi and boutique hotel, HOLA, are also feathers in Eumundi’s cap.
Casa is one of Hawthorn’s hot new spots and it offers quadruple the amount of fun: it’s part bottlo, part restaurant, part bar and part Pin-spiring 60s’-style showroom. Like most places in Perth, this is a pretentious urbanite-free zone, with the focus more on rounding up great food and wine minus the wankery, making it one of the best restaurants to try around Australia. Expect Mexican and Italian-inspired food that reflects chef Paul Bentley’s interest in these cuisines with a range of top drops, from organic to biodynamic to old and new world wines. This is the place to dine out if you want to make new discoveries. Order the lobster salad and seafood ceviche and a glass of frizzante.
If you’re unsure what the focus at Nieuw Ruin, take a look around at the wine bottles occupying every spare bit of shelving. The team behind Foxtrot Unicorn, known around the land for its cheese toasties, has delivered a Fremantle fave in the form of Nieuw Ruin, which has a focus on wines you’re unlikely to find anywhere else. It can be daunting to make a choice when you have a 300-strong wine list, but the friendly staff are happy to make suggestions. Go for that reco of a glass of Italian sparkling followed by a divinely dry pinot gris from New Zealand, while tucking into small plates such as garfish rollmops and crisps with tarama and smoked trout caviar. Go boldly into the warm, inviting bar billed as a place for good food, cocktails and weird wine.