Brisbane’s restaurant scene has rapidly matured in recent years, and diners are reaping the benefits. 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.
(PS. If you’re in town to eat your way through Brisbane’s best restaurants, we’ve got you covered for where to stay and a full week of activities while you’re here. For the first-timer, this guide will help you out).
OTTO conveys authenticity and vibrancy to the Brisbane dining scene, where the food is as delicious as the view. Head chef Will Cowper was inspired by the Amalfi Coast when he designed the menu. It offers a sleek, modern approach to Italian cuisine, that champions classic flavours executed simply.
Still, it’s the giddy location that might stick with you most. OTTO’s new riverfront location at South Bank dishes up a jaw-dropping outlook of the Brisbane river and CBD.
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. 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. This respect for history and tradition is felt keenly at Greca in their share-style menu, designed to feel like eating at home.
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 (like the fish in numbing Sichuan chilli broth) with surges of inspiration like the house fried rice with shredded duck. And with wine bar Snack Man next door just waiting for kick-ons, this is the perfect place to launch a night on the town — just be sure to book.
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.
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, only adds to the charm.
Olive & Angelo
With its spacious, leafy courtyard frontage brimming with delicate trees, budding fruit and colourful flowers, this charming Italian trattoria feels like an extension of the Brisbane City Botanic Gardens that lie just a stone’s throw from its central location on lower Edward St. Yet the space feels like you’ve stepped into a stylish and welcoming Italian home, too, with warm service and traditional recipes handmade by Angelo Leonforte and his team.
The classics are all there, made with local produce and authentic Italian ingredients: melt-in-your-mouth burrata; fried gnocchi with gorgonzola dolce and cavolo nero; pizzas from the huge woodfired oven; and Angelo’s signature tiramisu; all washed down with a selection of wine and spritzes. However there’s a modern touch, with vegans and non-drinkers looked after just as well: think show-stopping vegan beetroot pappardelle made from purple pasta, with beets, dukkah, coconut feta, black olive, rucola, and lemo; and one of Brisbane’s most impressive line-ups of mocktails created from alcohol-free spirit Seedlip.
Although equally gorgeous by day, evening dining at Olive & Angelo is made all the more magical thanks to the street’s thousands of twinkling lights illuminating the facades of the surrounding heritage buildings.
For five years, Brisbane institution LoNGTIME offered elevated Thai fusion that excited and delighted the entire city. When they pulled up stumps to move to a different location everyone was worried about what changes would be made and what would get lost in the move. With the opening of sAme sAme in the Calile Hotel precinct, it can be confirmed that, while the name and location changed, all of Longtime’s hallmarks of upscale Thai – fragrant curries, perfectly roasted meats, and vibrant authentic salads – have remained.
The whole operation is accompanied by a fabulous French-leaning wine list and delivered with the kind of Swiss-precision service usually reserved for fine diners. Make sure you preface dinner with a drink at Same Same’s upstairs tequila bar, LOS (Land of Smiles).
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 in a different direction, presenting one of the city’s best plant-based menus in a beautiful, heritage-listed former antique store in Woolloongabba.
Theirs is a progressive and inclusive dining experience, offering an almost entirely gluten-free menu branched into two sections: herbivore and omnivore. For the herbivorous, Dishes such as coal-roasted broccoli with miso, seaweed and quinoa, a Hawaiian curry built on sweet potato, and fossilised carrots with smoked almond prove that vegetarian food is anything but boring. Then for omnivores, it’s saltbush lamb, emu tartare and, yes, the trusty old KFD.
Sustainability is naturally a foundation block of Detour’s ethos, which is why all meats are sourced and prepared with the greatest respect and consideration.
Detour stays up relatively late for this part of town but book ahead if you’re heading along at peak time.
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 fashion in which it was delivered. Over the years, chef and owner Cordell Khory has just slightly shifted his specialty away from pizza and towards elevating homely mains such as veal saltimbocca and a duck ragu pappardelle. What results are elegant bistro dishes that taste like home.
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.
Decades after it first opened e’cco Bistro remains a massive local draw and a yardstick by which many other high-end Brisbane restaurants are measured. It’s certainly been quite a run for chef and owner, Philip Johnson, who has managed to keep e’cco at the cutting edge of contemporary Australian dining for all that time. Some immaculate new digs certainly helped their appeal when e’cco moved from their original CBD location to a brand new development in Newstead.
Johnson used this move 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 also includes The Terrace, a more casual eatery perfect for afternoon grazing and sundowners.
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 a nori pastry with spanner crab, or pork sirloin dished up with burnt apple and dashi butter sauce.
As far as olfactory experiences go, this is definitely a wild ride. Even their breakfast menu is a trip, with iconic staples like their seasonal sourdough waffle, or the black garlic bread that looks like chocolate cake and comes served with brown butter. Whatever they’re serving, this is where to sample the future of gastronomy.
You can have your experience matched to a series of wines, or opt for the shorter prix fixe option if you’re tying in a show at the nearby Queensland Performing Arts Centre (QPAC).
Parked on the podium of Rydges South Bank, Bacchus doubles as head chef Massimo Speroni’s 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 flashes of pumpkin and dried flowers. All bets are off.
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.
One of Brisbane’s most acclaimed young cooks, Josh Lopez, has come into his own after taking over operation suburban bistro The Wolfe.
Known for contemporary Australian dining, this unassuming hutch is an opportunity for guests to sample from Lopez’s unconventional repertoire. Absolutely nothing is off limits here, and having let go of culinary traditions, Lopez is only hindered by the bounds of imagination. The resulting spread can include things like cauliflower with fig, coffee, and crickets, or Spanish mackerel with candy melon and fennel.
Just a 10-minute cab ride from the city, the East Brisbane dining room is a cosy space to spend a couple of hours and a good way to get a taste of Brisbane’s rambling suburbs.
Tucked away in Bakery Lane in Fortitude Valley, this bolthole makes memorable experiences you won’t find easily elsewhere. With just 14 seats in the restaurant, Joy is a decidedly intimate experience. All dishes are prepared in full view by husband and wife team Tim and Sarah Scott, bringing guests closer to the process and merging front and back of house. This makes for a very different kind of dinner theatre, and that’s before you’ve had your first bite.
Their nightly degustations are constantly changing and responding to the seasonal availability of produce, ensuring diners have the best experience of the best ingredients. Being a passion project, every seating leads diners on a journey through flavour and providence.
Because of all the effort that goes into creating the Joy experience, they can only offer a limited number of seatings per night. Naturally, this mean Joy books out months in advance so make sure you secure your spot well ahead of your visit to Brisbane.