12 Queensland restaurants that will blow your mind
There are good restaurants, and then there are the restaurants worth flying for.
Ones that make you dream of certain dishes for years to come. Ones with a three-month waiting list for a Saturday night booking. And the ones under the helm of Australia’s most exciting and innovate chefs.
If you’re a bona fide foodie on a mission to try all of the best restaurants Queensland has to offer, this list is for you.
The Fish House, Burleigh Heads, Gold Coast
There’s a good reason why we’ve espoused the virtues of The Fish House before. And the twice-daily delivery of fresh fish, enviable Burleigh Heads location, and sophisticated wine list are just a few of the reasons why it was again awarded two chefs hats in the 2017 Queensland Good Food Guide.
For the best chance of menu sampling, order the Chef’s Selection ($90 per person), which may see you slurping live dry opened Sydney Rock Oysters, supping simple lemony fish soup, spooning red claw yabby risotto and signing off with Patagonian Toothfish.
Rick Shores, Burleigh Heads, Gold Coast
Named “One of the most likeable restaurants to open anywhere in the past 12 months in Australia” in The Australian‘s Hot 50 Restaurant Awards 2016, Rick Shores is so close to the water it’s literally lapped by the waves.
But with a culinary team drawn from the kitchens of some of Australia’s top South-East Asian restaurants (Spirit House, LONgTIME, Longrain), the food here almost outshines the view.
Take your time with the menu and enjoy inventive bar snacks like lamb belly bao, with kimchi peas and fried egg mayo and ‘Ricks’ fried bug roll, with gem lettuce and sriracha, through to ocean trout tartare and king prawn yellow curry.
There’s something to be said for leaving the decisions to the experts and that’s exactly what happens in the kitchen daily at Brisbane riverside restaurant, Esquire, awarded three chefs hats in the 2017 Queensland Good Food Guide.
The degustation menu changes daily depending on what produce is available and what direction chef Angus Baker (who took out Young Chef of the Year) wishes to take that particular day, ranging from 12-25 items per menu with a sliding cost scale.
Strap yourself in for the journey, and order the matching wines if you desire, because this isn’t just a meal, it’s an all-encompassing experience that lingers in the mind for years afterwards.
If you love champagne living on a beer budget, a 5-7 course prix fixe lunch is also offered Tuesday to Friday.
Crowned the number one restaurant in Queensland for 2017 by Gourmet Traveller, chic dining darling Urbane has long been one of Brisbane‘s best-kept secrets.
It’s an interesting formula for success: open only two nights per week, a vegan chef, and degustation-only menu. But, oh how it works.
The five or eight-course omnivore or herbivore menus take diners on a journey from the interesting (blue potato, cashew, macadamia) to the intriguing (tomato, pickled walnut) with ingredients changing depending on seasonal availability.
Urbane also raised the bar from a consistent two chefs hats to three in the 2017 Queensland Good Food Guide.
Gauge, South Brisbane
Well before Gauge was named Restaurant of the Year in the 2017 Queensland Good Food Guide, we knew it was something special.
Though it looks more cafe than fine dining establishment, and brunch is indeed a huge drawcard here, the food being lovingly plated up at Gauge – the sister venue of Teneriffe’s hip Sourced Grocer and South Brisbane bar Maker – is nothing but five star.
Ordering off the dinner menu will have you sampling the daring blood taco or kangaroo tartare, or keeping things fresh, clean and healthy with the likes of silken almond tofu with eggplant and caper leaf, and slow-cooked lamb neck with warrigal greens.
Otto Ristorante, Brisbane
Winner of Best New Restuarant in the Good Food Guide, Otto Ristorante is the first Queensland locale for the company behind Sydney’s renowned Quay and Bennelong restaurants. Which means to say that it’s good. Very good.
Overlooking Brisbane’s Story Bridge, the Southern Italian menu has been designed with the Queensland climate in mind and executes all your favourites, ilke fritto misto, prosciutto e fichi, and house-made pasta with finesse. The gnocchi with braised rabbit and gremolata had us at first sight.
Gerard’s Bistro, Brisbane
Tucked away in a lane off Fortitude Valley’s James Street, Gerard’s Bistro has all the right ingredients for a memorable night out.
Head Chef, 2017 Queensland Good Food Guide Chef of the Year Ben Williamson, takes his cue from his sabbaticals across southern Europe, the Middle East and northern Africa.
The generous menu stretches from Noosa spanner crab with watermelon, rosewater and piquillo pepper; and smoked lamb sweetbreads with mushroom and white garlic, almond and buttermilk; through to suckling pig with Jerusalem artichoke, fossilised pear, walnut and sheep’s yoghurt.
And we have to admit, we’re more than a little intrigued by the dessert of charred eggplant sorbet, tahini crumb, cacao and Arabic coffee!
Stokehouse Q, South Bank, Brisbane
Making the grade in The Australian‘s Hot 50 Restaurants list for 2016, Stokehouse Q is another southerner migrated north, perched pretty on the banks of the Brisbane River at South Bank’s River Quay precinct.
Inspired by the Mediterranean, the menu here showcases the best in local produce – the Queensland spanner crab, squid ink linguine, chilli, lemon, cultured butter a standout in the starters.
Drink in the view and a long, lazy afternoon over the likes of grilled Coral Coast barramundi fish and chips; New England lamb, borlotti bean salad, native parsley, quince, black pudding; and leave room for fig leaf ice-cream served with whipped buffalo yoghurt, orange meringue and almond biscuit.
The Long Apron, Montville, Sunshine Coast
Hotel restaurants don’t always hit the mark but The Long Apron at Spicers Clovelly is not your average hotel restaurant.
When the hotel is actually a boutique homestead in the gorgeous Sunshine Coast Hinterland and the restaurant is the type of place you’d book months in advance for that special occasion lunch or dinner, when the two combine, it’s magical.
Head chef Cameron Matthews has long been lauded for the depth of creativity in his modern French menu – offered via five courses or a tasting menu, with or without matching wines.
The Australian restaurant reviewer John Lethlean put it best when he said Matthews “is someone who thinks deeply about the textural elements of his dishes, of which there are many. Grains, charcoal dusts, wafers, gels, creams and curds all interlace with vegetables and proteins in an impressive manner. A mature and creative manner too. There’s real originality here and most of it works.”
Wasabi, Noosa, Sunshine Coast
When you feel like taking a trip to Japan for the evening, but want to feel the tatami under your feet with views of the Noosa River at the same time, Wasabi knows how to deliver on all accounts.
Heralded as the Hottest QLD Restuarant in The Australian‘s Hot 50 Restaurants list, the most outstanding achievement here, however, is the hyper-local sourcing of ingredients. Namely from the restaurant’s own farm where rare Japanese ingredients are grown and the highlighting of lesser-known local seafood.
It doesn’t stop there, though, with irrigation coming from their own spring, and compost created from the restaurant’s vegetable peelings and offcuts.
With that kind of forward-thinking expertise, we find it best to hand over the reins for the omakase five or seven-course menu – aka let the chef decide.
Indulge Cafe, Bundaberg
There’s a simple ethos at Indulge Cafe in Bundaberg: “We know where it came from and how it was made”.
It’s part of the reason why the humble Bundy cafe has won the Queensland Good Food Guide‘s People’s Choice award for the second year in a row.
The other part is the undeniably outstanding use of fresh, local produce and giving the growers the kudos they deserve.
On the menu, you’ll notice the spotlight thrown onto the likes of Pratt’s peak of the season beetroots on garlic-rubbed sourdough toast, goats cheese, Munduberra winter pecan crush and Bills rocket; or Tu’s local Taiwanese steamed tiger prawn and pork dumplings.
Open for breakfast and lunch, every dish has a story here and the owners of Indulge are more than happy to share.
Nu Nu, Palm Cove, Tropical North Queensland
If you want to know what Tropical North Queensland tastes like on a plate, make a beeline for chef Nick Holloway’s Nu Nu (you may have seen him on MasterChef in 2015).
Nestled nicely on the paperbark tree-lined esplanade of Palm Cove, with cracking views out over the Coral Sea and Double Island, this is fine dining with its tie not only loosened, but left at the back of the wardrobe.
A four-course or seven-course tasting menu is available and is perfect for those who can’t possibly choose between cinnamon roast Victorian lamb with caramelised yoghurt, pumpkin custard, branch, leaf, seed and oil; and wok fried north Queensland mud crab, chilli tamarind, sweet pork, market greens, jasmine rice and ginger broth. (You understand the dilemma, no?)
Don’t want to drive home? Stay the night at one of these hot new hotels.