Gastronomy with a cheeky twist is easy to find in this city where Asian markets, hipster cafes and jovial Greek tavernas meet high-end restaurants, perfect for sampling wild ingredients such as banana prawns, crocodile and kangaroo.
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.
For authentic, budget-friendly Asian delights, make a beeline for the arcades around the Mitchell Street mall. The recently reopened 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.
While the tasty Vietnamese street food at kitschy-cool Chow remains on point
– a waterfront lunch of pho, banh mi or salt and pepper squid is recommended
– Darwin’s hippest new hang is Little Miss Korea.
At this industrial-style, graffitied space you can barbecue bulgogi beef and pork belly on your tabletop grill at night (it pays to be careful after a couple of the superb dry martinis!), and fill up on bowls of bibimbap during the day.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
This feature was created by Australian Traveller and supported by Tourism NT