13 of the absolute best food experiences in Queensland
If your stomach rules the roost when it comes to holiday decision-making, you want to ensure you have the crème de la crème of best food options when you touch down in a new destination.
We’re not talking Insta-trendy fads, but longstanding favourites worth travelling for. From meat pies that had Hugh Jackman returning day after day to a lasagne that’s been on the menu for almost 30 years, these are must-eat dishes for every foodie.
Start your appetites!
What started as a humble ramen joint has blossomed into four Japanese restaurants across Brisbane with the flagship sitting in the 480 Queen St building (you’ll also find Taro’s in South Brisbane, Ascot, and Taro’s Express on Edward St in the CBD).
The star of this show, of course, is Taro Akimoto’s addictive tonkotsu broth, made from sweet Bangalow pork bones. You’ll also find sukemen, shio, shoyu and miso varieties alongside a list of izakaya-style snacks, sakes, shōchū and Japanese beers.
Number 75 on Delicious‘ magazines Delicious 100 list, they say the shoyu pork ramen is a must-try although “Akimoto’s chicken karaage is arguably the best in town”. Extra bonus: Taro’s also dishes out gluten-free and vegan ramens proving there is a food god.
Sand crab lasagne at Il Centro
Nothing says Queensland like sand crabs and sunshine. At Brisbane institution, Il Centro, they’ve perfected the balance between the delicate sweetness of the crab and a creamy crustacean-infused sauce. They’ve also been turning out the lip-smacking dish for 26 years, having been a star of the menu since the restaurant opened in 1992.
It’s so good, they sell around 350 plates of the Lasagna alla Granseola every week.
Bug roll, Rick Shores
To make an appearance at Rick Shores, even if only for a cocktail, and not stay for a bug roll would be almost sacrilege, given the cult adoration and Sriracha-heightened perfectness of these bundles of brioche magic.
Inside, crispy chunks of bug meat in a tempura style batter are paired with gem lettuce, kaffir-lim laced mayo and just the right kick of chilli.
Number 1 in the Delicious 100 list and in the Top 100 in the Gourmet Traveller Australian Restaurant Guide, this hot spot in Burleigh Heads has just re-opened after some minor renovations, with even more expansive views over the ocean than before.
Whole crispy fish at Spirit House
No matter how many times you order the whole crispy fish from Spirit House, each new bite is a revelation. The premise is simple: take the fish of the day (many times, barramundi), fry the skin crisp, and smother it in chilli tamarind sauce. It’s not pretty, but it doesn’t have to be.
Hidden away in the Sunshine Coast town of Yandina, amongst five acres of tropical gardens and set around a tranquil pond, a meal here should be experienced by everyone at least once in their lives.
SOUTHERN QUEENSLAND COUNTRY
Apple pie from Suttons
There was a time when you could visit the farm to pick your own apples, but the business beast took over and they now use their entire orchard for the shed shop and cafe.
A word to the wise: Split a serve of the apple pie, served with spiced cider-laced vanilla ice-cream, between two. Suttons also serve individual gluten-free apple pies.
Curried camel pie from Birdsville Bakery
Can a pie be worth the 1580km drive across the belly of Australia? You betcha. In fact, the notoriety of Birdsville’s curried camel pie is partly what led a savvy businessman to buy the local bakery for $1.2 million in 2016.
Just how popular are they? Around 12,000 pies are sold during the infamous Birdsville Races every year.
Peach Blossoms from Merino Bakery in Longreach
There’re just some bakery treats that are good enough to withstand the trials and tribulation of faddish cruffins, injectable donuts and the cupcake mania of 2005, and a lot of it’s got to do with the men and women behind the baking trays.
In Longreach, the Merino Bakery is famous for its (incidentally, totally Insta-worthy) Peach Blossoms – millennial pink lamington halves sandwiched together with cream. They’re so good, rumour has it one tray sold for $90 at an auction one time.
SOUTHERN GREAT BARRIER REEF
Macadamia ice-cream from Mammino’s in Childers
The problem with food trends is too often than not, the roar deafens out the reality and you’re left with a substandard experience and a “I was here” photo or review, just for the sake of it.
But upon wrapping your lips around the creamy macadamia ice-cream, hand-churned onsite at Mammino in Childers, 54km south-west of Bundaberg, you’ll realise this sweet treat is worth every click of the speedo to get there.
The business changed hands in 2017 but original owners, Anthony and Teena Mammino developed the iconic ice-cream with a recipe from Teena’s grandmother and macadamias grown on their farm.
Hervey Bay scallops at COAST, Hervey Bay
If you’re going to try this town’s namesake seafood, you need to go straight to the top and order a plate of grilled Hervey Bay scallops, artfully arranged on a plate of black pebbles, at COAST restaurant.
Smothered with just the right amount of coriander butter and sprinkled with hazelnut crumb, this is a dish you’ll dream about for years to come.
Mango sorbet from The Big Mango in Bowen
It’s not hard to know if you’re in the right spot when it comes to your hunt for one of Queensland’s most iconic (and healthy!) treats.
If they’re good enough for Hugh Jackman, they’re good enough for us! One of the best pit-stops in Bowen, north of Airlie Beach, Jochheim’s line-up of tasty pastries attracted the star while the cast of Australia were based in Bowen for filming back in 2007. (Fun fact: Owner Merle Jochheim can be credited with hooking Baz Luhrmann in during his location scouting, as she regaled him with the history of Bowen thinking he was just another customer.)
Order a Hunky Jackman Beef Pie or if you’re stopping by on a Thursday, they also do a creamy prawn pie with locally-caught seafood.
Tropical North Queensland
Crocodile cheesecake at Silky Oaks Lodge
Lyrics may warn to “never smile at a crocodile” but in the treehouse restaurant of Silky Oaks Lodge, hovering above the Mossman River, the tables are turned with a brain-twisting, smile-inducing savoury crocodile cheesecake.
The crocodile and tarragon cheesecake with smoked barramundi, pickled papaya and chutney and herb salad is friendlier than you think, tasting more like chicken with the texture of a soufflé.
Flames of the Forest
We’ve got a thing for eating our coat of arms in Oz, but if you’re going to go native, Flames of the Forest is one of the best spots to do it.
Transported to a secret rainforest location underneath a canopy of fairy lights and crystal curtains, you won’t quickly forget the Aboriginal Cultural experience or its signature dish: Lemon myrtle infused kangaroo loin on a bed of wild rocket and toasted macadamia nuts garnished with homemade fig chutney.
Hungry for more? Maybe you’ll discover the next iconic dish at one of these food festivals!