These days, it’s not enough for a restaurant to have a deliciously creative menu, a talented kitchen crew and the freshest local produce money can buy. Though all that is important, it’s got to be paired with good looking interiors—and thankfully we were blessed with plenty of aesthetically pleasing new dining spaces across Australia and New Zealand this year.
Here are the most beautiful new restaurants that opened up across Australia and New Zealand in 2021 that you really need to scope out.
Just one of the fresh-faced venues we received this year from restauranteur Chris Lucas, Society is an opulent fine diner with a menu that leans towards the cuisine of the land of the rising sun. But while the menu is Japanese-inspired, the space feels very much tied to Melbourne. Architects Russell & George were briefed with creating a ‘deep connection to the city’. Like the diverse architecture in Melbourne, you’ll see this in the considered mix of art deco, mid-century, art nouveau and brutalism across the space. Keep an eye out for the Society Lounge bar, created from a single section of marble and with more than enough room for each and every martini on the list.
Spread across two levels, the highly anticipated Yakimono is a Tokyo-chic style diner, located at 80 Collins Street; right next door to Chris Lucas’ other opening, Society. Inspired by the atmosphere of Japan’s late-night Izakaya bars, the all-new diner has a fresh new look that combines contemporary Toyko with a splice of dystopian futurism. The neon-colourful space is edgy and it’s certainly not what you’d expect from its unassuming exterior on the street.
If you've been pining for a trip to France, let us introduce you to Bistrot 916, a charming neo-bistro and the newest venue from Daniel Pepperell. With a seafood-centric menu that delivers big on French bistro classics, not to mention a stellar French wine list, you might just overlook how drop dead gorgeous the space itself is. Complete with moody black brick walls, candy pink table cloths and a long leather lounge that stretches down one side of the venue, it’s effortlessly chic and the perfect spot for an intimate date night.
Dreamt up by Jeff Schroeter (Bistro Moncur, Bayswater Brasserie) and playwright-director Wendy Beckett, Beckett’s is the show stopping modern Australian eatery that has been built into the spot that once housed Sydney’s farm-to-table pioneer, Darling Mills. Hidden behind cast-iron gates, the semi-subterranean sandstone venue is already a little theatrical—though Beckett enlisted her own set designer to breathe extra charm into the space with lamplit tables, green leather banquettes, plush cocktail chairs, a velvet-lined colonnade, and a baby grand piano (which will be played nightly).
The new Indonesian-inspired Melrose landed on a rooftop in Bulimba earlier this year and has fast become one of our faves for sunset drinks. The fit out here was inspired by Bali’s luxe beach clubs and resorts, and you’ll certainly feel like you’re a world away from Oxford Street just outside. The venue might only be up a single flight of stairs, but a fully retractable roof means it has all the rooftop vibes—we highly recommend getting a booking for just before sunset, so you can get the full effect but still finish your meal under the stars.
The crew behind the Valley’s holy trinity of Same Same, Agnes and Honto have added yet another standout to their already much hyped restaurant repertoire, in the form of the peach-hued Italian stunner, Bianca, which landed just off James Street with terracotta interiors and tables booked out weeks in advance. You can always measure the greatness of an Italian restaurant by their pasta, and Bianca’s fresh, light and flavoursome pasta dishes are top tier, so don’t overdo it on the antipasti, no matter how appetising it all sounds.
WA was lucky enough to score its very own slice of Bali this year in the form of Will St, the brand new 120-person restaurant from Will Meyrick, the chef-owner behind Bali’s renowned Mama San and Sarong. Inspired by Meyrick’s extensive travels, the menu is loaded with delicious Asian share plates that showcase regional classics in a way that feels authentically in the here and now, with local ingredients and inspiration front and centre. The timeless interiors designed by Paul Lim of Mata Design Studios also pay respect to Australia—think earthy outback tones, sandstone walls and Blackbutt timber flooring as well as a porcelain tiled bar flecked with rust, topped off by a jaw-dropping arrangement of preserved native wildflowers suspended from the ceiling above.
Nestled in the newly created Electric Lane, Servo is the new all-day dining joint opened as part of the impressive Leederville redevelopment by FJM, the same people behind the State Buildings in Perth’s CBD. Wrapped in a mix of corrugated metal, terracotta-hued tiles and timber, the industrial-inspired space is made up of an interior dining hall with concrete floors, high ceilings and an eclectic mix of terrazzo topped and bright-faced tiled tables; and a lively outdoor Yard Bar topped with vibrant yellow umbrellas, picnic-style tables and festoon lighting.
Ever wanted to visit China to sink your teeth into their culinary delights? As COVID is putting a hold on that, we’ve found the next best thing—a new Chinese subterranean restaurant, Ghost Street, has landed in Britomart, bringing more than a little spice to the city. Offering an underground dining experience like no other, the space, (which is 130-years-old) is equally as intrinsic as the food, with its moody lighting, exposed brick, black cement tiles, and recycled timber tables, oh and don’t forget to check out the Chinese ghost stories painted on the walls.
Daphnes Bar Taverna
Like so many other destinations on our travel bucket list, Greece is currently off the cards... unless, that is, you pay a visit to Ponsonby—where new kid on the block, Daphnes Taverna is serving up a slice of the seaside nation's famously flavoursome cuisine, and doing a damn fine job of it. There's a distinct Greek-ness to the space, if we can call it that, but not in a contrived sense. You'll find no bolshie blue and white flourishes here, rather rustic concrete and exposed brick walls offset by funky European-style artwork, plenty of mood lighting and a super-sized table at the back of the restaurant that on the day of our visit, was decked out with candles and crockery, a la a true Greek gathering.
Now kick on to Australia and New Zealand's most beautiful new bars of 2021.
Image credit: Tom Blachford, Jude Cohen, David Li, Grace Elizabeth Smith, Shot By Thom, Wono Kim