Over recent years Brisbane has really come into its own, transforming from a culinary backwater to a city full-to-the-brim with inventive dining options. Making regular appearances in the likes of the Good Food and Gourmet Traveller, Brisbane is a now an official foodie destination.
Ticking all the cuisine boxes, there isn’t much you can’t find in Brisbane from German to Polish, French to Nepalese, and every Asian country represented across the board. The city capitalises on its local flavours, showcasing modern Australian and pan-Asian fare with an emphasis on seafood and quality local produce.
You’ll find dining concentrations in the CBD, with arguably the most popular spot being Riverside. Fortitude Valley, New Farm, Newstead, Teneriffe, South Bank, Woolloongabba and West End all boast a range of dining options with many a cultural slathering.
The suburbs don’t disappoint with fine dining in Toowong, Ascot, Rosalie and Indooroopilly to name just a few hot spots. For fresh seafood and casual fish and chips, a drive to Manly, Redcliffe or Sandgate can be every bit rewarding as it is scenic.
Our top picks
145 Eagle Street, City
Award-winning chef Ryan Squires has been dazzling diners since this Pier precinct restaurant opened in 2011 and the accolades keep coming. You can push the boat out with the extraordinary, formal Esquire degustation (around $140 – changes daily) or opt for the informal Esq. a la carte. Either way you are in for wonderful flavours that match the ambience. Chinchilla Murray cod with garlic lemon parsley, anyone?
R2 River Quay, South Bank
This French-inspired riverside restaurant and bar is doing its utmost to win the popularity challenge posed by a host of first-class venues in the South Bank precinct. Head chef Sam Lonsdale weaves his magic in a great space in an equally great location with superb views. Opt for the bar menu or full a la carte with delights such as the truffled tagliatelle or the local seafood-packed bouillabaisse.
Brisbane food highlights
You don’t need to go far in Brisbane to find yourself a good burger. Be it a fancy 100% full-blood beef cheeseburger from Miss Kay's, a Brooklyn Cheeseburger with secret sauce from Red Hook, or a BB Classic from Ben’s Burgers. The list goes on, and new contenders are vying for the best beef-bun-pickle ratio in town as we speak.
Coffee, ice cold
Two years ago you couldn’t walk into a cafe and Brisbane and ask for a ‘cold brew’, let alone a pour-over or anything out of the ordinary. You had your work cut out for you just getting a good flat white!
Nowadays, quality coffee abounds from Brisbane, along with a host of local roasters bringing quality beans to the city. For a fine cold brew, head to Reverends Fine Coffee in the Valley, Felix Espresso in the City or Blackstar Coffee in West End. Other stand outs for a quality coffee include Strauss, Campos Coffee, Bunker, Pourboy Espresso and Gramercy.
Sure, Brisbane Laneways aren’t as prevalent or iconic as Melbourne’s, but they are offering up a certain kind of individuality and allure to Brisbane. On Spencer Lane off Margaret Street, check out The Laneway, sister bar to Hatted restaurant Urbane, for award-winning cocktails with an emphasis on green – all the garnishes here are from the bar’s own sustainable herb garden.
Tucked off the Queen Street Mall you’ll find Burnett Lane, home to Felix: a great spot for a healthy, organic lunch with a homebrewed elderflower soft drink. Next door, hit up Super Whatnot for something harder, or Survey Co. for a contemporary meal with European influence. Looking for a coffee and a quiet spot for contemplation? Look no further than Brew.
Gresham Lane shines with one of Brisbane’s little-kept secrets: The Gresham, a nationally acclaimed bar housed in an old bank. Saddle up to the bar and experience old fashioned quality service and flair. Next door at Red Hook, indulge in quality American Fare in a casual outdoor dining setting.
Winn Lane in the Fortitude Valley is home to the aforementioned Ben’s Burgers, along with a host of speciality stores from fashion to books and magazines. A stone’s throw away and you can find an array of dining and drinking options in M&A Laneway between Ann and Mclachlan Streets.
Bakery Lane, also in Fortitude Valley, is still something of a local secret, filled with delicious lunch spots like Kiosk and a dedicated dessert shop at I Heart Brownies. Froot Loop milkshake, anyone?
If you’re looking for craft beer, look no further than Newstead and Teneriffe and the conveniently walkable, ‘Golden Triangle’ of craft beer. Tippler’s Tap, Newstead Brewery and Green Beacon Brewing all offer enough hops to make any beer lover succumb to the powers of the craft.
Savour and sample slowly like a good wine, and you’ll make it through the beer marathon without getting lost in ‘beer Bermuda’.
Casual dining with a difference
With the city’s laidback attitude comes its laid-back approach to dining. While thongs (pluggers or flip-flops) are still frowned upon, there are plenty of relaxed dining options with the culinary tick of approval. Brisbane contends with the best when it comes to modern food with flair.
43 Alfred Street, Fortitude Valley
Inspired by the hawker markets of Singapore, street carts in Bangkok and the izakayas of Tokyo, the one-trend folk behind Alfred and Constance spawned their neighbour Kwan Brothers. Open seven days a week for lunch and dinner, with its bar open until late, Kwan Brothers is certainly offering Brisbane a taste of city life in a bustling Asian metropolis. Tuck into pork bao sliders, kaffir lime chicken salad, pineapple fried rice or crispy pork belly with pickled watermelon and sweet ginger.
14/15 James Street, Fortitude Valley
Inspired by the flavours of southern Europe, the Middle East and northern Africa, Gerard’s head chef Ben Williamson, brings a special culinary experience to Brisbane. Expect something different, from Holmbrae duck breast with kohlrabi; and roasted turnip with Iranian pistachio; to suckling pig with roasted plum. For dessert? Savour a serving of pistachio, rose, barberry nougat or charred eggplant sorbet. Gerard’s Bistro provides a relaxed yet refined dining option, open for dinner seven nights, lunch Tuesday to Sunday and breakfast Saturday and Sunday only.
Enjoying the finer things
You could dine exclusively at Hatted restauants in Brisbane for at least a week before having to make a repeat appearance. With plenty of fine dining options spread across the city and out to the suburbs, take your palate on a culinary tour around the globe, right here in Brisbane. Reservations recommended to avoid disappointment.
Sidon Street, South Bank
Over on South Bank sits the breezy, open-plan, relaxed yet fine dining affair of Stokehouse. For entree, sample Moreton Bay Bugs; if you’re in the mood for pasta, spanner crab cannelloni is guaranteed to impress. For mains, there’s the roasted Tamborine goat with black pudding, or the grilled beef sourced from Australia's top producers. The signature bombe makes the dessert list.
224 Given Terrace, Paddington
Step inside Montrachet and you’ll feel as though you’ve been transported to the middle of Paris. Brisbane’s finest French restaurant offers up the most divine food in a charming setting, channelling old-world France from an old-fashioned converted shop front in Paddington. The degustation menu is hard to beat. French cheeses and wines will transport you to the Rhone Valley, without leaving Given Terrace.
Eat like a local
Breakfast Creek Hotel
2 Kingsford Smith Drive, Breakfast Creek
The Brekky Creek, as it is known to Queenslanders, is a Brisbane institution and high on the list of “must do” recommendations to city visitors. This grand, family-friendly pub dates back to 1889 and is famous for its premium-quality flame-grilled steaks. There are five bars, a tropical beer garden and garden steakhouse. Open seven days.
194 Wickham Street, Fortitude Valley
This unpretentious family restaurant in the Chinatown precinct has had a dedicated following among Brisbane locals for more than 30 years. The fact the place bursts at the seams most weekends speaks volumes about the food – and the prices. The noodle soups, steam boats and DIY fun rolls are a particular treat. Open seven days.
33 Caxton Street, Brisbane
If you love your seafood, don’t miss this multi-award-winning Brisbane favourite that has been catering to the city since 1953. From humble beginnings as a fish and chip shop, Gambaro’s is now a combination seafood restaurant, hotel, bar and recently opened steak house. Signature seafood dishes include Queensland mud crab, crayfish, and Moreton Bay bugs.
Updated April 15, 2016