Here are the 15 best restaurants in Brisbane right now
Brisbane’s restaurant scene is in rude health right now. A wave of inner-city residential development has seeded brand new precincts that are attracting both seasoned local operators and southern restaurateurs looking to establish an outpost in the Queensland capital.
Those venues join a market that’s already rich in variety, ranging from cutting edge riverside fine diners to rambunctious modern takes on the suburban Chinese restaurant. Here are the best restaurants in Brisbane to check out on your next visit.
Otto arrived in town in 2016, the Fink Group transposing its hugely popular Sydney Italian restaurant to some highfalutin digs in the Brisbane CBD. This is a more discreet effort than its southern sister, head chef Will Cowper using the Amalfi Coast as inspiration for a menu that’s better in tune with Queensland’s warmer climate.
Still, it’s the giddy location that might stick with you most. Otto’s fourth-floor riverside terrace dishing up jaw-dropping views of the Story Bridge.
Where: 4/480 Queen Street, Brisbane
PS. Find out where head chef Will Cowper dines when off-duty in Brisbane here.
Celebrated Sydney chef Jonathan Barthelmess arrived in Brisbane in late 2018 to open Greca, a free-wheeling 210-seat taverna-inspired eatery that sets authentic Greek eats to winsome riverside views of the city. The food here is fresh and flavoursome, with much of the meat and seafood cooked over charcoal and wood-fired grills.
However, it’s Barthelmess’s more decadent creations that you’ll often hear spoken about afterwards: a saganaki cheese fried with honey and oregano; and the “katoumari”, a smashed filo and semolina cream dessert inspired by Barthelmess’s ancestral home in Greece.
Where: Howard Smith Wharf, 3/5 Boundary Street, Brisbane (all you need to know about this hot new address here)
The reasons for Happy Boy’s relentless popularity are straightforward: fragrant regional Chinese food matched to an always evolving selection of small-producer Australian wines. The classy, understated premises at the northern end of Fortitude Valley go well too. Also, it’s very, very cheap.
While people flock for the prices they leave with an appreciation for a menu that mixes in dashes of authenticity, from quail eggs fried with salt and pepper to a modernised take on red braised pork belly, which can be hard to come by in the Queensland capital. The perfect place to launch a night on the town — just be sure to book.
Where: East Street, Fortitude Valley
For years Brisbane’s go-to French restaurant, Montrachet may have migrated to the classy new King Street precinct in late 2017 but it managed to take with it much of the heritage-listed charm of the Paddington original (not to mention recreate the comptoir and scarlet leather seats).
Chef and co-owner Shannon Kellam’s menu now packs a touch more sophistication appropriate for the new digs but is still rooted in classics cooked to perfection — think escargots en cocotte, a beautifully stocked seafood bouillabaisse, and eye fillet steak dished up with hand-cut frites. C’est magnifique, indeed.
Where: Shop 1/30 King Street, Bowen Hills
In its early years a bit of a local secret for the bright young things who buzz around the James Street precinct, Gerard’s Bistro has since become a treasured Brisbane go-to for modern Middle Eastern cuisine. You can try coal-roasted octopus with green almonds and tomato; fried cauliflower with ras el hanout and tahini; and whole-smoked eggplant dished up with turmeric, mint and kishk yoghurt.
The food is backed by a generous wine list that leans towards crisper varietals, all the better for washing down the opulence. The venue itself, within the handsome Richards and Spence-designed Gerard’s Lane (also encompassing the excellent Gerard’s Bar), only adds to the charm.
Where: 14/15 James Street, Fortitude Valley
There are no bookings at Longtime. You just need to arrive and stick it out with a few drinks in the restaurant’s hidden laneway entrance (or go for a wander and wait for a phone call). On a weekend the wait can drag a little but the payoff is always worth it — this is Brisbane’s best Thai restaurant, chef Ben Bertei dealing in fragrant turmeric lobster curries, perfectly roasted meats and vibrant, authentic salads.
It’s accompanied by a fabulous French-leaning wine list and delivered with the kind of Swiss-precision service usually reserved for fine diners. The same but also very different is Longtime’s newer, younger sister venue, Honto — find its fabulous low-light mod-Japanese hiding in a grungy Valley backstreet.
Where: 610 Ann Street, Fortitude Valley
Chef Damon Amos originally made a name for himself at well-regarded CBD diner Public via the attention-grabbing Kentucky Fried Duck, or KFD as its commonly known. For his own restaurant, he’s gone a different direction, presenting one of the city’s best plant-based menus in a beautiful, heritage-listed former antique store in Woolloongabba.
Dishes such as coal-roasted broccoli with miso and quinoa, a Hawaiian curry built on sweet potato, and fossilised carrots with smoked almond prove that vegetarian food is anything but boring. There’s also an omnivore section featuring gunpowder wagyu, emu tartare and, yes, the trusty old KFD. Detour stays up relatively late for this part of town but book ahead if you’re heading along at peak time.
Where: 11 Logan Road, Woolloongabba
Urbane has long been one of the city’s favourite fine diners but in more recent years has also become a standard bearer for highly-evolved vegetarian food. The restaurant’s five and seven-course degustation menus are so imaginative they get even the most ardent carnivores giving them a run.
The wine list is enormous, the atmosphere never stuffy and the service efficient and friendly. The one trick with Urbane? It’s open just three nights a week, so plan your visit well in advance.
Where: 181 Mary St, Brisbane
PS. If you’re in town to eat your way through Brisbane’s best restaurants we’ve got you covered for accommodation and a week full of fun while you are here. For the first-timer, this guide will help you out.
Beccofino was a quiet game changer when it opened in Teneriffe in 2004 — a fabulous, casual Italian eatery where the focus fell squarely on the authentic food and the effortless attraente fashion in which it was delivered. Chef Cordell Khory’s specialty has shifted just slightly over the years away from the rosse and bianche pizza towards elevated takes on homely mains such as veal saltimbocca and a duck ragu parpadelle so popular locals chucked a collective fit when he tried to take it off the menu.
If you find yourself south of the river, visit Julius Pizzeria, Beccofino’s sister venue, which moves to a similar beat late into the night.
Where: 10 Vernon Terrace, Teneriffe
E’cco Bistro remains a massive local draw 24 years after it first opened and a yardstick by which many other high-end Brisbane restaurants are measured. Some immaculate new digs have certainly helped the appeal: last year chef and owner Philip Johnson moved E’cco across town to a brand new development in Newstead.
He and head chef Gert Pretorius used it as an opportunity to reorient the kitchen around a South American parrilla-style grill over which they now fire much of the menu’s protein. The new spot includes The Terrace, a more casual eatery perfect for afternoon grazing.
Where: 63 Skyring Terrace, Newstead
PS. Find out where Philip Johnson eats in Brisbane when he’s off-duty here.
Heritage buildings are hard to find in Brisbane so just sitting in 1889 Enoteca is a treat. The old 1890s-era Moreton Rubber headquarters is now a brick, wood and marble-lined tribute to Roman cooking. Enoteca recently celebrated 10 years in business; over that time it’s become a touch more casual but also more authentic, the floor these days run by a bunch of imported pros.
They’re serving up a mains menu of elevated Italian food and exceptional pasta such as a thick-cut pappardelle and the restaurant’s now iconic pork and fennel sausage gnocchi. The vino is exceptional too, the list anchored by natural drops sourced from centuries old wineries on the Italian peninsula.
Where: 10-12 Logan Road, Woolloongabba
An understated cafe during the day, by night Gauge turns down the lights to peddle one of the city’s most acclaimed degustation menus. It changes regularly depending on what’s in season but you might try nori pastry with almond, capsicum, wakame and finished with a mandarin kosho; or pork sirloin dished up with black sesame, pumpkin, kombu and sour onion.
This is the experience you want — matched to a series of wines, brandy and sherry — but a shorter prix fixe option exists if you’re tying in a show at the nearby Queensland Performing Arts Centre (QPAC).
Where: 77 Grey Street, South Brisbane
It may be Matt Moran’s name above the door but the food at Aria Brisbane feels like it leans just as much on the expertise of head chef Ben Russell given how closely the restaurant works with local farmers and producers.
This is perhaps Brisbane’s plushest fine diner, locals ticking off special occasions with dishes such as spanner crab and bonito served with corn and avocado, and szechuan-seasoned roasted pigeon with red cabbage. The wine list is an award winner and the views across the river to die for. For one-off Brisbane dining experiences, it’s hard to beat.
Where: 1 Eagle Street, Brisbane
Parked on the podium of Rydges South Bank, Bacchus doubles as head chef Massimo Speroni’s gastronomic playground. The Italian-born Speroni deals in a rarefied cuisine that has its origins in the Mediterranean but ranges far and wide for its inspiration.
Champagne lobster is finished at the table with a vibrant green fresh pea foam; while local quail leg and foie gras looks like impressionism on a plate with its flashes of pumpkin and dried flowers. Sommelier Andrew Giblin’s enormous wine list, with its significant Coravin selection, is just as inspired. Bacchus is a hotel restaurant, but not as you know it.
Where: Glenelg Street and Grey Street, South Brisbane
Josh Lopez has been a chef without a kitchen for much of the past 18 months. Now, though, one of Brisbane’s most acclaimed young cooks has returned with his own restaurant, taking over The Wolfe.
Lopez’s repertoire includes dishes such as veal served with mushroom and lillypilly; and six-score Cabassi A3 Wagyu plated up with brassica, beetroot and blueberries. The East Brisbane dining room is a cosy space to spend a couple of hours — just a 10-minute cab ride from the city, it’s a good way of getting a taste of Brisbane’s rambling suburbs. (PS. Here’s a guide to exploring those Brissy ‘burbs we prepared earlier.)
Where: 989 Stanley Street East, East Brisbane