March 13, 2023
18 mins Read
There is an array of Australian eateries 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.
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Pinky Ji is the next-gen spice girl. It’s the sassier younger sister of the Daughter In Law brand so beloved in Melbourne, Adelaide and Byron Bay.
The space delivers a neon-lit thunderbolt of fun and decadence to Sydney’s York Street. The ceiling is festooned with marigolds and the walls feature framed images of flamboyant Bollywood stars. The venue pays homage to chef Jessi Singh’s Punjabi roots and veers from street snacks to curries.
25 Martin Place is now one of the hottest tickets in town. Japanese restaurant Kazan Dining adds to the roster of great restaurants in this pumping precinct. The name pays homage to the emperor who was both a peacemaker and an artist. It’s also a nod to the Japanese word for volcano, the latter providing the inspiration for the restaurant’s central design feature.
Two of the must-order dishes on the menu are the nasu dengaku, eggplant cooked in the signature sweet, sticky dengaku glaze, and the plump little parcels of agadeshi tofu, which deserve special mention for boasting a Botticelli-like wobble.
Flave executive chef Scott Findlay trained under Gordon Ramsay before working as a private chef to Sir Paul McCartney, Rihanna, Madonna and Elton John. The new eatery, which has a focus on wholefoods and plant-based options, attracts Bondi hipsters in their droves for dishes such as the cauliflower steak burger or bountiful Roasty Reds bowl. Flave is powered by renewable energy, and has made conscious decisions about everything from its suppliers to its packaging and fit-out (tabletops are made from recycled plastic).
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.
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.
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.
Although it opened its doors in 2018, Institut Polaire remains every bit as relevant in 2023. The owners of the restaurant, Louise Radman and Nav Singh settled in Tassie in 2012 where they established Domaine Simha Wines. While Nav drew on his winemaking experience in Burgundy and Bordeaux to establish Domaine Simha Wines, Louise turned her attention to producing micro-batch spirits.
And if small-batch spirits distillery Süd Polaire is a nod to Tassie’s location as the gateway to South Pole, Institute Polaire is a celebration of that cold-climate terroir and the influence it has over the wines and spirits it produces. The restaurant doubles as a cellar door and the marble interiors are as cool as the sparkles glinting off the glacial-cut pendants hanging from the ceiling. Also super cool are the bespoke squares of ice that may well have been carved off a glacier in Antarctica and garnished with sprigs of baby’s breath.
You can also see the magic happen in this intimate pocket-sized space as Gabriela Macedo plates up dishes from the seasonal set menu such as toast with whipped bottarga and salmon roe and spanner crab, fennel, apple and finger lime. Choose a seat at the bar or settle in for the seasonal set menu which includes standouts such as the Cape Grim eye fillet with pink eye potato and black garlic. The restaurant, which feels more Helsinki than Hobart, is a firm favourite with well-heeled locals and visitors alike. And while it may be inspired by the coldest, driest, windiest place on Earth, this dinky little wine bar, restaurant and cellar door is warm and welcoming. An exceptional experience on all fronts.
A swanky new wine bar named Pastel has added a splash of colour to the suburb of North Adelaide, albeit in soft, delicate shades. Peer into Pastel and you’ll find diners framed by a row of round windows sitting in the moodily lit space, which is warm and welcoming with nutmeg and tobacco tones.
Kick back in the beautiful courtyard to enjoy beer-battered flathead and crunchy potatoes paired with a glass of wine from the 130-strong list.
Chef Scott Huggins has reduced waste at Magill Estate Kitchen by up to 80 per cent with a waste-management plan that sees offcuts and food scraps used for chook feed sent directly to the supplier. He has also designed a dedicated composting and recycling program that is embedded into the business. Visitors to the sister restaurant of Magill Estate Restaurant, located eight kilometres from Adelaide at Penfolds Magill Estate, will be supporting independent producers by default when they order dishes such as chargrilled Port Lincoln sardines or the freshly foraged mushroom with pear and celeriac remoulade, d’affinois from the brunch menu. Finish your experience with a visit to the cellar door at Penfolds, a member of Sustainable Winegrowing Australia.
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.
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.
The mission driving this cosy 20-seater Melbourne bar is twofold: to minimise waste and focus on ferments using food that has been rescued from restaurants and markets. You will feel a bit more virtuous when you dine in at the sustainable small bar on Little Collins Street on a menu that utilises scraps and surpluses and perfectly imperfect produce. Go with your gut and order the kangaroo with fermented natives.
Farro means ‘spelt’ in Italian and adopting the ancient grain as the Melbourne pizzeria’s signature product is, says co-owner Nicolas D’Anna, “not a trend, but a return to tradition”. Farro opened its fourth Melbourne venue in Hawthorn in June and D’Anna says the new hospitality venture will use organic spelt flour as its signature product because “it’s better for the gut and better for the planet”. Chef Hugo Dief also adheres to the 72-hour slow fermentation process in order to facilitate healthy digestion.
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.
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.
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.
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. Accept the recommendation for a glass of Italian sparkling to accompany 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.
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.
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.
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.
Agostini’s @ East Hotel
Agostini’s is one of many compelling reasons to visit Canberra. Opened a decade ago, the restaurant has all the charm of an Italian gathering. It’s raucous, family friendly and lots of fun. The eatery is named in honour of the Agostini family who gifted Canberra with the East Hotel a decade ago. It serves up traditional takes on classic Italian cuisine using the very best local and imported ingredients.
Riding pillion passenger to the main dining room is Il Camino, which means ‘fireplace’ in Italian, and winks back to the all-enveloping warmth of the restaurant. The latest addition to Agostini’s was designed by Kelly Ross of Kelly Ross Designs and can be booked out for private functions. It’s also used as somewhat of a sidecar space for customers to spill into from the main dining room.
While waiting for your table, head to Joe’s Bar, one of the top places in the ACT for a tipple. Also earning rave reviews is Agostini’s at Lark Hill Winery, a pop-up that has become permanent due to it proving so enormously popular. Sip on top drops from Lark Hill while choosing from a concise menu of Agostini’s greatest hits.
Additional updates written by Emily Murphy
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A must try is Stefeno’s Restaurant MILDURA
Will surely try these amazing restaurants! Check out Osso Steak and Ribs, they have the best steaks and ribs. Highly recommended!