It’s easy to overlook Brisbane's CBD restaurants when you’re planning a dinner out. Our city has a wealth of burgeoning suburbs and blink-and-you'll-miss-it local eateries, so often it can seem easier to avoid the city when you don't know where to dine. But that would be remiss.
While Brisbane continues to grow and evolve, we are spoilt with incredible new openings on the regular. But there are a handful of restaurants that have been around for years, still doing some of the best grub in the country.
From fine dining to casual eateries, these are 15 of the best restaurants in the Brisbane CBD.
It may be named for the world’s first petrol-powered vehicle, patented by none other than Karl Benz himself back in 1885, but Motorwagen isn’t just a venue for motoring enthusiasts. This sleek, contemporary restaurant—with its striking industrial chic fitout—has Chef Callum Rogers in the kitchen, whose dedication to taking local, seasonal ingredients and giving them a creative spin will have you coming back for lunch or dinner on the weekly. And while there’s plenty of innovative fare to be had (hot tip: start with the Sunshine Coast tomatoes and ricotta), you can still get a seriously good serve of fish and chips if that’s what you really feel like.
Walter’s Steakhouse combines sophisticated service with a New York steakhouse-style menu. Decked out with a classy and timeless fit-out that has restored Old Mineral House to its former glory, it's the closest thing to NYC steak this side of the Atlantic. The cuts are aged in house, the sides are almost as good as the steaks and the entrees to start off with include a slab of thick cut bacon (yep, just bacon)—what more could you want in a meat temple?
For Thai food with a distinctly different feel, Phat Boy is the cool new addition to Brisbane Quarter, and it's the place to go for a flavoursome Asian feed. Tuck into DIY san choi bow or slow cooked beef rib and sweet potato massaman curry, or go all out and try the Kung Tung, a spicy chilli seafood feast flung straight onto the table in front of you. Don't wear white.
Trading out of a Heritage-listed, neo-classical building on George Street, the harmony between modernity and antiquity defines Donna Chang. The menu sees ancient Cantonese cuisine and Sichuan flavours executed with modern techniques, and the resultant feast makes for an ultra-modern fine dining experience.
Brisbane Asian-fusion restaurant, Madame Wu boasts stunning river views and a menu that celebrates the best of Queensland produce, and the best of Asian cuisine. An epic cellar, cracking cocktail list, private dining rooms, and one heck of a view of the Story Bridge make Madame Wu a no-brainer for post-work drinks and an indulgent feed.
For exquisite Mediterranean cuisine with a modern Australian twist, set your sights on the second floor of the CBD’s Brisbane Quarter. There you’ll find Persone, an Italian restaurant with stunning panoramic views of the riverfront and the city skyline. But of course, you aren’t there just for the view—it’s good food you’re after, and boy, does Persone deliver. Oysters, scallop crudo and painted crayfish will satisfy those with a taste for seafood, with the crumbed veal cutlet and one-kilogram T-bone being the other standout dishes on the menu. Is it dinner time yet?
EAGLE STREET PIER
Yes, it's true—COPPA is back with a new location, new menu and a whole new look in Eagle Street Pier. Though the fresh and airy coastal-inspired interiors might be new, you’ll still find all your old favourites on the menu, like that kale, mushroom and walnut gnocchi, alongside newbies like Fraser Island crab linguine. And the best part? The new and improved bar, where you’ll find frozen sips like their slushie versions of prosecco and negroni.
Eagle Street Pier
What’s the only thing better than Japanese food? Japanese with a view. Sister venue to the Sydney Saké, this is the place to feast delicate sashimi, pan seared gyoza and decadent soy braised pork belly, all from the unrivalled riverfront location of Saké Restaurant & Bar. As you can tell from their menu, Saké brings a unique spin to tried and tested Japanese flavours, so you’re guaranteed an incredible meal unlike anything you’ve had before. End the night with a scoop of green tea ice cream and you’ll be booking flights to Japan as soon as the borders open.
Boom Boom Izakaya
Right underneath luxe Chinese restaurant Donna Chang’s in the CBD, Boom Boom Izakaya is a dark, sumptuous venue housed in the heritage building’s original underground bank vault. On the menu you can expect to find a lengthy list of Japanese-inspired bites designed to be ordered in bulk and shared with the group on offer. Think miso-glazed toothfish yakitori with bonito mayo, barramundi katsu bao burgers, wild scampi with scampi caviar gunkan, fried silken tofu and wood-roasted cauliflower. Oh, and make sure you order something from the stellar cocktail list too.
Rico Bar & Dining
Eagle St Pier
Get your Spanish fix with a trip to Rico Bar & Dining, a fairly new riverside spot dishing up delicious feeds. We’re talking plates of paella and calamari, croquettas and empanadas—not to mention jugs of sangria to wash it all down with. But it gets even better: from Monday to Thursday, 3pm–5pm, Rico serves up fresh, juicy oysters for just $2.50 a pop. Just in case you needed an excuse to leave work early.
If your Insta feed is in dire need of some luxe dining vibes, book yourself in for a meal at Alchemy. Overlooking the Brisbane River and the Storey Bridge, you’re in for some stunning shots of the city, all while indulging in an incredible meal inspired by the flavours of Italy. With a focus on wholesome, fresh and seasonal produce, you can expect meals like braised goat penne, beetroot risotto, and petto di pollo to grace your plate. Sounds delizioso, if you ask us.
Eagle Street Pier
Sitting high up on the second level at Eagle Street Pier, ensuring stellar views of the Story Bridge and Brisbane River, Naga Thai's playful 60s and 70s interiors were crafted by none other than iconic Brisbane designer Anna Spiro. The creative Thai menu is just as fun and funky, featuring the likes of massaman beef milk buns, spicy pork and jasmine rice balls, fish dumpling green curry, chilli pork belly stir fry and marinated pork loin drunken noodles with a dash of Thai whiskey. Do we even need to mention that there's also a smashable list of cocktails?
Combining Italian cuisine with waterfront views and superb seafood, it’s not hard to see why Massimo is quickly establishing itself as one of the Riverside Centre's most popular foodie destinations. Their reputable selection of house-made pasta includes sand crab and prawn tagliolini, pappardelle al ragu and baby stuffed squid with a tomato crustacean sauce. If that doesn’t set your mouth watering (we’re only judging you a little), you can’t go wrong with Italian family favourites like osso bucco, veal cotoletta, porchetta and chicken in prosciutto. Grab your famiglia and your best stretchy pants—you’ll need them.
Greenglass is the definition of a hidden gem. Perched atop George Street, behind a hole-in-the-wall doorway, next to a topless bar, we’ll forgive you for walking past Greenglass a million times without realising it even existed. Don’t be discouraged by the entrance either, the anonymous stairs and eerie space leads to a seriously breath-taking, light-filled space, and an even better menu. Inspired by the tastes of France, the menu is affordable yet fancy.
Take a long lunch and sidle on down to Jumbo Thai for some of the fanciest Thai food in the city. It’s hard enough to choose from the list of starters, but don’t fill up too fast, you'll want to save room for dishes like banana prawns and roasted cashews, or even the crispy pork belly and vegetables. If you’d prefer curry, the massaman lamb shank curry is a winner, and then comes the best part: dessert. Caramelised Thai egg custard pudding, chocolate-coated banana fritters, lemongrass panna cotta—the list goes on. Honestly, you’ll have to eat here five nights a week just to try it all.
Prefer a liquid dinner? Head for one of the Brisbane CBD's best bars.
Image credit: Motorwagen, Donna Chang, Grace Elizabeth Images