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.
Longtime may have dished up their last curry, but Same Same is here to become your new destination for drool-worthy Thai feeds. Landing in Ada Lane next to The Calile, Same Same is essentially Longtime supplanted into a sleek new venue. Combining atmosphere by the bucket load with your favourite modern Thai dishes, Same Same captures the flavours we know and love, but with serious attitude. Our picks? The soft shell crab baos, roasted pork belly pad see ew and THAT twice cooked lamb shank massaman curry.
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.
Rogue Bistro is a bit of a secret gem. Well-known (and often visited) by their regulars and fans, it's not so familiar to those who don't usually frequent the industrial streets of Newstead—but we think it should be. Their six-course degustation menu is one of the most creative but drool-worthy dining experiences you'll have in Brisbane, and changes monthly so you have to keep going back. Trust us, we know from personal experience—you will want to return.
Things might have changed a little Gauge since they opened back in 2015, but you can rest assured that their black garlic bread will never leave the menu. These days, it's an add-on to their inventive dinner menu, with a six-course degustation that changes at the whims of the chefs. Any Brisbane foodie worth their salt should definitely have eaten here by now.
You'd have to have been living under a rock if you hadn't heard of Agnes—but actually getting a booking at Brisbane's favourite new restaurant is another matter. If you manage to nab a table though (book well in advance), you'll be treated to a feast cooked entirely over fire, from snacks like the scarlett prawn doughnuts to heartier feeds like smoked lamb neck with ancho mole, garlic yoghurt and flatbread. Be sure to take dessert up on the rooftop terrace—not that the moody, industrial restaurant isn't easy on the eyes.
South Bank coming soon
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. They're in the process of moving to South Bank right now, but you can bet they'll be just as good as ever when they re-open.
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 owner and chef, Sarah Scott, and bartender Maddie Smith . 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.
There is a reason we keep going back to Walter's Steakhouse for their signature porterhouse steak—and it's not just the fact that the steak could make a grown man cry with happiness. It's everything, from the gorgeous old world lounge bar where you can enjoy a cocktail before your feed to the luxe but cosy Anna Spiro-designed interiors, and of course, the indulgent sides like mashed potato so laden with butter you'll be asking for seconds.
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: Same Same, Donna Chang, Agnes, Grace Elizabeth Images