It's no secret that Australia has experienced a culinary boom recently. Homegrown talents have travelled the globe, worked in some of the world's most impressive kitchens and returned home, armed with next-level skills and inspiration. To enjoy the very best of Australia's dining, book yourselves a table at these spectacular restaurants.
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With possibly the best perch in Sydney Harbour, Quay enjoys views of the Bridge and the Opera House. Happily, the menu matches the setting – chef Peter Gilmore’s food is all about elegant harmony and contrast (see the fan shell razor clam with shaved shiitake, smoked pig jowl and sea cucumber crackling for a case in point). Each plate is a work of art, and while the snow egg is justly famous, we think the oloroso caramel dessert wins hands down.
Franklin, is cool, fun and a bit of a show, with its open kitchen bang in the middle of proceedings. It’s a prime example of how Tasmania has reinvented itself as a foodie destination. A talented whizz at the helm, Analiese Gregory focuses her skills around a 10-tonne Scotch oven. Seafood is a big draw, from fresh oysters to calamari dumplings and firm, fleshy slices of raw tuna. Organic wines make a welcome appearance and Gregory even makes her own cheese. Swoon!
Young American Danielle Alvarez brings her Californian tastes to the freshest New South Wales produce, conjuring up a delightful hybrid of light, flavoursome cuisine that smacks of the Mediterranean. Centre-stage, literally, is her open kitchen, which creates both buzz and spectacle. A wood oven and open hearth transform fresh capsicum, tomatoes and eggplant, and allow Alvarez to demonstrateher considerable skill with meat. It seems Australia suits Alvarez – let’s hope Sydney can hang on to her.
Glaswegian Jock Zonfrillo sought out Aboriginal guides to learned about Australia’s native produce. His restaurant Orana is an ode to the land: kangaroo with gubinge (green plum), grasses and wild garlic; Coorong mulloway with native honey and green ants. Take a journey through 18 courses and set aside the whole evening for this mystery tour.
Occupying what was once the franking room of the Perth General Post Office, Post’s main dining room has a light, shearing-shed aesthetic offset with a slender olive tree reaching for the roof. Styling itself as a ‘neo-bistro’ with a Parisian influence, Post’s menu is guided by the seasons. Stand-out dishes include the raw kingfish, persimmon and finger lime with buttermilk vinaigrette, and Dorper lamb with zucchini, black olive and smoked tomato. Smart and delicious.
Flower Drum, Melbourne
What began as a humble Cantonese joint has blossomed into a restaurant with an international reputation. Allow the skilled waiters to guide your choices – you might just score an off-menu dish of wild barramundi noodles, a secret you will forever relish. Expect note-perfect meals and affable service at this institution.
Vue de Monde, Melbourne
Shamelessly showy, Vue de Monde on the 55th floor of Melbourne’s Rialto Tower offers 360-degree views, a spectacular city light show and a churny tummy if you look down. Chef Shannon Bennett has a reputation for classical cooking with a scientific approach, combining ingredients such as beach herbs, white chocolate, smoked eel and caviar, using an array of techniques from piping and brewing to blow-torching. Try the 15-course menu that includes rusty wire oysters with lemon myrtle, and turnips with fresh milk curd and emu.
Acclaimed restaurant Brae reveals chef Dan Hunter’s passion for the wild and unusual. Hunter wields a wood-fired oven and bespoke charcoal grill to create dishes like saltbush lamb with mayonnaise, tuna, tarragon and fennel. His oyster ice-cream is pretty ‘wow’ too.
At number 32 on the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list, Attica is technically the best in Australia. It sits among gum trees and its own kitchen garden in a low-key Melbourne suburb, where Kiwi chef Ben Shewry creates an emotional dining experience, seducing diners with his clever flavour combinations. Expect to see everything from bush plants and herbs to wallaby and emu on the menu. Shewry is also big on foraging, finding ingenious uses for his haul.
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In Barangaroo, the city’s newest foodie district, Cirrus focuses on fresh, sustainably caught seafood with a side of harbour views. Besides oysters by the dozen and caviar by the spoonful, feast on marron (crayfish) with finger-lime pearls, popping ice plant and tomato oil; Queensland mud crab with green garlic and tarragon; and grilled yabbies with padron peppers and yoghurt.
The Wolfe, Brisbane
Paul McGivern’s elegant East Brisbane bistro offers a concise but interesting parade of artful plates. Blue mackerel comes with green tomato, sea parsley and caperberry; Japanese pumpkin risotto with broad bean, hazelnut and nasturtium; sovereign lamb with sheep’s milk, haggis and spearmint. A lovely courtyard sits hidden to the rear, while inside the atmosphere is pitch-perfect. The Wolfe deserves your attention.
An Englishman with a Scottish name who fell in love with fire in Spain is at the helm of this unusual restaurant. Everything at Firedoor is cooked over a flame – no gas rings, no electric ovens, just fire, smoke and embers. Think seared albacore tuna, juicy marbled steaks and grilled pipis – all infused with the subtle flavour of smoke.
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