Darwin adds a healthy dollop of spice and cheekiness to traditional gastronomy. Asian markets, hipster cafes and jovial Greek tavernas meet high-end restaurants, perfect for sampling wild ingredients such as banana prawns, crocodile and kangaroo. Here is our guide to the best places to eat in Darwin.
Best Asian Restaurants in Darwin
Whether you’re feasting on Sri Lankan string hoppers, pork-stuffed Thai chicken wings or a freshly made Vietnamese banh mi, you can tell that Darwin’s soul is in step with its closest neighbours.
Little Miss Korea
The hottest joint in Darwin is Little Miss Korea. Down a graffiti filled lane way the restaurant serves up the traditional Kimchi and Korean BBQ (think Bulgogi beef or Jaeyuk Gui Spiced Pork Belly) or just a more than ample a la carte. The wine list is small but well put together with the obligatory cocktails.
Mitchell St Mall
For authentic, budget-friendly Asian delights, make a beeline for the arcades around the Mitchell Street mall.
Rendezvous Cafe is one of the best places to try the city’s signature laksa soup – filled with sweetly roasted pork, thick noodles and a perky sambal chilli hit.
Talking pork, don’t miss Roast & Noodle 328 for cheap and cheerful Chinese barbecue and a mouth-watering prawn wonton soup.
Inside the Vic Arcade, Amma’s Kitchen is where locals get their midweek Sri Lankan curry and biryani fix. Be sure to try the kottu, a made-to-order hawker dish where chopped roti bread is mixed with meat, spices and vegetables.
If you love a bit of Vintnamese pho (and lets face it who doesn’t) then head to the waterfront and slurp down some of the finest rice noodles with raw beef at kitschy-cool Chow.
The Laksa House
Outside the city centre on the Stuart Hwy towards the airport, try The Laksa House for some scrumptious West Timorese food in the vibrant and fun atmosphere of a converted carpark (you may have to share a table).
Owner Amye Un’s lively personality is as much a highlight as the cuisine. Keep an eye out for the chicken shrines.
The pan-Asian restaurant Hanuman may be an established favourite, but it still cuts it with an enticing mix of Indian, Thai and Nyonya flavours. Cool down on its fabulous deck and tuck into the signature clay pot oysters presented in an earthenware holder and served with a vivid lemongrass and sweet basil sauce.
The Noodle House
The Noodle House opposite Hanuman is great for unfussy inexpensive quick and easy noodles.
If you like to mix spice with music, then head to Nirvana on a Tuesday evening. It’s jam night where plenty of talented Darwin musicians pick up a sax’ or play impromptu drum sets. Fantastic cocktails – try the whisky sour – and Thai/Malay/Indian food is consistently flavoursome too.
Best Greek restaurants in Darwin
Darwin has a strong Greek heritage and you can indulge in home-style mezedes, juicy meats, grilled seafood and mama’s syrupy sweets on the deck at Yots, overlooking Cullen Bay Marina.
Manoli’s Greek Taverna
In the centre of town at Manoli’s Greek Taverna the whole Papathomas family can be found in the kitchen or on the restaurant floor, refilling glasses of ouzo and throwing down fried saganaki and flavoursome dips to the sounds of live bouzouki.
Their homemade warm custard-filled bougatsa is worth saving room for.
Best cafe’s and brunch in Darwin
Once it was hard to find a Darwin cafe that didn’t serve its coffee in a mug. Those days are long gone. Whether you’re after a slow brew, pour-over or a quick ristretto, you barely need to work up a sweat sorting out your caffeine fix (and that’s saying something in steamy Darwin).
De La Plage
Darwin’s latest cafe might also boast its best views.
Housed in a disused surf club storeroom, De la Plage occupies a grassy expanse that overlooks Casuarina Coastal Reserve, 25 minutes north of the CBD.
Run by Belgian and Australian-Turkish duo, Claire Pirau and Sevan Guzel, the café’s menu is inspired by the ladies’ respective heritages. Belgian treats include brown sugar and lime crêpes, while a decadent fig and dark chocolate baklava is among the Turkish offerings.
AT favourites comprise the chia seed porridge with Greek yoghurt and fresh fruit, as well as a refreshing watermelon salad.
Four Birds in the historic Star Village Arcade is a perennial favourite, with its great coffee, simple bagels and laid-back courtyard vibe.
Across the mall, The Pearl is a tiny black-and-white bar-cum-restaurant known for its fabulous Saturday brunch where you can nibble on gin-cured ocean trout and poached lobster rolls.
Laneway Specialty Coffee
A little farther away in suburban Parap, snag a spot at the communal table at Laneway Specialty Coffee for excellent Campos Coffee and slick cafe fare.
Alley Cats Patisserie
Nothing speaks inner-city cred like access to seriously grown-up coffee. Newbie Alley Cats Patisserie (Mitchell Street) pours a cultured cup of your choice and purveys yummy in-house puff pastries and a-maz-ing sour dough.
Best upmarket restaurants in Darwin
Pee Wee’s at the Point
With its sweeping views across Fannie Bay to Darwin, tables on the water’s edge under native fig trees, and innovative Top End favourites, Pee Wee’s at the Point is the ideal place to make the most of the balmy, tropical weather.
Appealing dishes such as kangaroo carpaccio, pearl meat and crocodile wrapped in betel leaf celebrate Territory produce.
An equally charming night out can be had at Char, an upmarket surf-and-turf restaurant in historic Admiralty House.
The beef (including 300-day grain-fed Wagyu rump) and local barramundi (beer battered with truffled crushed peas and shoestring fries) are the stars of the menu, but it’s hard to resist a mojito under the lantern-lit trees.
For the best crispy barramundi in Darwin drop in on Wharf 1 at the waterfront.
Magnificent views of the harbour are matched with a selection of cured and raw plates (think carpaccio, cured salmon, charcuterie plates and tartare) and grilled meats or small share plates.
Casual dining in Darwin
The most laid back capital in Australia does casual dining better than most. The iconic Mindil Beach Markets are just the tip of the iceberg. Most locals can be found on a picnic blanket on the Nightcliff cliff on a Sunday chowing down on a mic of food van and BYO dinner and drinks.
Nightcliff Foreshore’s food truck scene
Twenty minutes north of the CBD in artsy hub Nightcliff, a ‘village walk’ of new-breed food trucks has popped up alongside the suburb’s milky-blue ocean fringe.
Beginning at the Nightcliff Pool carpark, roll over to Jetty & the Fish (Friday to Sunday). This pint-sized red van, owned by young guns Kate Jellis and Grant Dwyer, serves NT threadfin salmon, as well as southern Mexican -inspired fish tacos with spicy white sauce, cabbage and coriander.
Further north lies Teardrop Coffee (Monday to Saturday), a pop-up blue-and-white vintage van with the pick of early morning locations: a stand-up paddle boarder’s section of beach, set right by the Aralia Street and Casuarina Drive intersection.
Here, owner Imogen Gough brews java beside a scattering of milk crates and a lush strip of lawn. By night, just around the bend at the Seabreeze carpark (Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays), you’ll find the jewel in the foreshore’s food truck crown.
Cucina Sotto Le Stelle translates from Italian to ‘kitchen under the stars’. In his mobile restaurant’s chef Benjamin Matthews wood-fires traditional pizzas, while diners share long, communal tables set beneath illuminated flame trees.
Try the risotto with NT squid ink, garlic and blue swimmer crab. But do take note that the menu here shifts with the seasons, so while you may not always find your favourite, you can be assured the freshest produce Matthews can get his hands on.
For a unencumbered beverage and an unobstructed outlook over a classic Top End sunset, many Darwinites will rightfully recommend Darwin Ski Club . Grab a table on the manicured lawns, choose your fave bottled beer and watch the boats bob up and down in Fannie Bay, the palm trees reminding you that, hey, you’re in the tropics now. The bistro food here is also on the rise.
Open Air Cinema
The open-air Deckchair Cinema (July to September) has very little chance of being interrupted by rain and screens an intelligent array of films seven nights a week (on the Darwin Waterfront). There’s a licensed bar and decent aisna food to help you enjoy the show (no BYO) with double-session marathons for the buffs.
Off the wall – Lola’s Pergola
Lola’s Pergola is a cabaret and carnival-themed restaurant and bar in the harbour-side precinct of Cullen Bay.
It is the sister bar to Monte’s Lounge, an Alice Springs staple with a cracker of an outdoor area and more atmosphere than you’ll find at a footy grand final.
Lola’s serves up another NT newbie, too, a draught beer from local Darwin label One Mile Brewery. Cheekily, the beer’s name is drawn from the knock-off time for public servants: 4:21.