Like the cherished koala, the noble Milton Mango, or Frank Walker from National Tiles (you can hear him right now, can’t you?), some Australian names are destined to rise into the realm of legends.
We may not have Sydney’s Harbour Bridge, or Adelaide’s primo access to wine, but by god, Brisbane, we can feast.
Fair warning: like a fourteen-course degustation, we could go on for hours, so let’s skip the small talk. These twelve are the best restaurants in Brisbane right now.
Don’t let the name fool you: the flavours simmering over at Little Valley are nothing short of colossal. And coming from the brains behind Rick Shores, are we really surprised? Little Valley is a nod to Brisbane’s unapologetic yum cha obsession (no, we do not need an intervention). From post-work dim sum with plates of crispy truffle and potato spring rolls, prawn har gow and fresh oysters to fiercer flavours of lamb belly, whole salt and pepper baby snapper, and smoked garlic bread with shaved truffle, these guys are pulling out all the stops. Pair it with a killer wine list, for one hell of a night out.
From the talk around town, you might be forgiven for thinking Gerard was just a really popular guy in Brisbane’s inner circle. Really, you’re not wrong. Any city-sider worth their salt has heard whispers of Gerard’s Bistro, and with new Executive Chef Adam Wolfers at the helm, the Middle Eastern bistro is leading foodies into their densest fever dreams. Take a foray through their smoked cabbage skewers with miso drizzle, crispy malawach pastry with smoked labne and dukkah and grilled broccolini with goats curd.
Ever stepped down Fish Lane of an evening and come face-to-face with a hefty queue? It’s happened to us a while—but you’re always happy to wait for these Italian feeds. Tables at Julius Pizzeria are piled high with towers of fresh, wood-fired pizzas (think truffles, pancetta and gorgonzola), bowlfuls of pappardelle pasta in a duck and tomato ragu and the more-often-than-is-acceptable Aperol Spritz over lunch.
Pack your chopstick A-game for a skip down George Street, where the old heritage listed bank has been completely transformed. In its place, you’ll find Donna Chang, a sprawling pink dining room lit with chandeliers, marble tables and perfectly symmetrical round booths for big groups—or just loosening your belt. They caught our attention with Seinfield-inspired fortune cookies, but they reeled us in with fresh rock lobsters, crispy duck, and passionfruit custard buns. Oof.
All roads lead to Rome, but the wildest ravioli cravings lead straight to OTTO. Here, top notch Australian wines go best with a pared-back menu of fresh, seasonal Italian flair. Superstars from their Sydney lineup—tender blue swimmer crab ravioli and pan fried gnocchi with sweet pork shoulder—are doled out as diners drink in the views (and more than a few aperitifs) from one of Brisbane's best restaurants.
Three Blue Ducks
Like the answer to our hangriest prayers, Three Blue Ducks left its Byron Bay nest and flew north for the winter in 2018—only come summer, it never left. The newest incarnation (roosting on the third floor of W Brisbane) is the first of its kind in sunny Queensland, and hot damn they are pulling. It. Off. Perched right by the Brisbane riverside, it’s hard to feel too upset about missing the road trip to Byron. Sprawling views? Tick. Fresh, produce-driven menu? Tick. Famous spanner crab scramble? Tick, tick, tick.
Occupying a tiny corner tennancy in Bakery Lane, Joy Restaurant has just 10 seats, all of them overlooking the action being carried out in the kitchen by owners and chefs, Tim and Sarah Scott. So how good can a restaurant that seats just 10 people be? Well they're booked out three months in advance, so we'd say pretty damn good. There's no menu to order off, instead diners choose either the short or long degustation then sit back and make friends with your neighbour while you await the exquisite feast.
After shutting its doors on the Spring Hill O.G., Happy Boy’s brief disappearance turned out to be a blessing in disguise. The new Valley digs boast more space, more craft beer and more of what, it turns out, makes Brisbane happy: authentic, regional Chinese cuisine. Close your eyes under the East Street fairy lights, clink those wine glasses, and dig into share plates of crispy roast duck, prawn and pork wontons in chilli broth and mountains of their famous fried rice. Happy days.
Let’s face it: after 22 years on Boundary Street, we’d probably be looking for a change, too. After book-ending their stint in the CBD, the hatted e’cco bistro shimmied down the river to Newstead’s Skyring Terrace, and took their freshly baked choc chip cookies with them. Here, you’ll pore over plates of grilled market fish in a zesty orange jus, fresh risotto topped with chilli, fennel and Moreton Bay bugs and a wagyu sirloin that echoes no other.
If there’s one name that deserves a ranking, we can’t go past Queensland’s Restaurant of the Year. If we’re being honest, though, it’s not about the awards. Like the oh-so-addictive dolmades spilling from Hellenika’s kitchen, it’s the beauty inside that has us entranced. Within the gorgeous Calile Hotel, this poolside haven is dishing out spades of spanakopita, slow-cooked lamb and zucchini chips you won’t want to share.
If ever there was a spread worthy of a well-considered detour, it would be at this well named joint. At Detour, the experience is just as much artistic expression as it is dining. Clever, careful flavours will have you perched on seat’s edge, with a hard focus on ingredients as unique as the experience. The iconic Kentucky Fried Duck (you might recognize it from chef Damon’s days at Public) is a superstar, here, buddied up with jalapeno corn bread and sour cream, but really, you’re spoilt for choice. From a delicate emu tartare with burnt shallot, chili and egg yolk, to carefully fossilized carrots, the whole meal is an adventurous experience.
Tucked through a secret door behind The Wickham, LONgTIME’s younger sibling is turning heads like nobody’s business. The dark, moody Hôntô is undoubtedly the black sheep of the family, but dimly lit tables hide none of the splendour escaping this contemporary Japanese kitchen. Find love at first bite over fresh, raw tuna inside savoury drumstick cones, shumai dumplings in a delicate ramen broth, and BBQ miso pork belly plated with fluffy steamed buns.
Still hungry? Once you've slept off your food coma from the best restaurants in Brisbane, find the best breakfasts here.
Image credit: Grace Elizabeth Images (Little Valley), Donna Chang, Pony Dining