"Culinary adventures… there’s nothing quite like discovering Queensland bite by bite"
If you think you know what to expect when it comes to dining in Queensland, think again. You’ll find seriously edgy bistros and cafes championing local ingredients, casual dining along with sophisticated food choices, friendly wait staff with efficient service, all bundled with exceptional local and regional flavours.
The warm, welcoming weather, blue skies and relaxed living that is the Queensland lifestyle is echoed by its dining scene. Here are the top picks from across the state.
A good chef will tell you that it’s the quality of the produce, as much as their excellent and innovative cooking techniques, that make a dish shine. With easy access to much of Australia’s best, many Queensland chefs let their ingredients do the talking.
“Local produce is central to everything that we do,” says Nick Holloway, chef and owner of Nu Nu Restaurant, Palm Cove.“Not only does it mean our food is fresher and in season, but we benefit by building close relationships with our suppliers. Using local produce gives our cuisine a time and a place geographically.”
Where to get it
- Drawing from Bundaberg’s glorious food bowl, Indulge chef and owner Amanda Hinds packs powerful flavours onto the plate from the daily harvest that appears at her back door.
- Taking growing your own one step further, The Waterline Restaurant at Keppel Bay Marina farms its Banana Station cattle for restaurant consumption.
- Chef Cameron Matthews creates culinary masterpieces with produce grown in the Sunshine Coast hinterland and on site at the highly regarded The Long Apron in scenic Montville.
- Fresh and local is the focus on the sharing menu at Coast, Hervey Bay.
Try a Queensland icon
Generations of Queenslanders can’t be wrong, and when a dish has stood the test of time on a restaurant menu, it’s for good reason. Which are the meals restaurateurs don’t dare take off their list?
Where to get it
- Bev Rusky’s beef and shiraz pie at Spring Creek Mountain Cafe, Killarney, has been on the menu for 11 years, and her guests keep saying it’s the best pie they have ever eaten.
- Salt and native pepper leaf prawn and crocodile has been packing a flavour punch at Craig Squire’s Ochre Restaurant in Cairns for 20 years.
- The granddaddy of them all is Il Centro’s sand crab lasagne, a rich dish boosted with sea urchin roe in the creamy sauce. It’s been on the menu of this Brisbane CBD restaurant for 23 years.
Straight from the sea
Blessed with an expansive coastline dotted with local fisheries and a strong fishing fleet, there are plenty of local flavours to tempt seafood lovers. Try Mooloolaba king prawns by the bucket or sweet Hervey Bay scallops, taste the clean ocean water in Stradbroke Island oysters or indulge in mud, sand or spanner crabs.
Rebecca Clark of Fish D’vine in Airlie Beach says her restaurant buys what is required each day directly from local registered fishermen, then fillets in-house for your dinner plate.
Where to get it
- You can still taste the ocean in the seafood served at The Fish House, Burleigh Heads, which made Gourmet Traveller’s 2014 Top 100 restaurants list.
- At Grunske’s by the River, Bundaberg, watch the boats unload their catch while dining on freshly cooked fish and chips. Next door is one of the state’s largest retail seafood outlets.
- The Spit at Mooloolaba is where the trawlers come in and the fish and chips go out. Dine at the Mooloolaba Fish Market or take your dinner to the beach for a total seaside experience.
- Up to 14 species of fish feature on the daily menu at Jellyfish Restaurant, Brisbane, and all are cooked and served in a way that highlights the best of the species.
- Look for the freshly shucked oysters and crisp, tender salt and pepper calamari stands at Brisbane’s Eat Street Markets.
- When only sustainable will do, Swampdog Fish and Chips in South Brisbane has it covered.
- Feast on beer-battered, line-caught, local Spanish Mackerel at On the Inlet in Port Douglas.
Breakfast – you beauty!
In Queensland, breakfast is not just the first meal, it’s a celebration of the start of another glorious day. Gather with friends or family around large or small tables and enjoy sensational sausages at 2013 My Kitchen Rules winners’ EAT at Dan & Steph’s in Hervey Bay, or an Asian chicken omelette at Australia’s “best breakfast restaurant” (a title awarded in 2014 at the Savour Australia Restaurant & Catering awards), South Townsville’s Jam Corner. In Brisbane, try The Gunshop Cafe, Shouk Cafe, Comfort At My Table, Anouk or Pearl Cafe.
Where to get it
- If a Nutella or salted-caramel and pretzel cookie donut doesn’t do it, then maybe the dippy eggs at The Paddock Bakery at Miami will.
- Part café, part retro museum, The Velo Project at Mooloolaba offers organic ham and eggs and has a cold cabinet filled with local produce to purchase.
- Arguably the best dining view in Noosa, grab a coffee and muffin from the cart outside Sails Restaurant every morning and eat on the beach.
- Try a sunflower rye bagel or a salted-caramel donut with an artisan coffee at Ground Up Espresso Bar, Toowoomba.
- A favourite with Airlie Beach locals, relaxed Fat Frog Beach Cafe at Cannonvale has a water outlook, quirky tea cosies and food you’ll remember for all the right reasons.
- Discover an unusual coffee sensation, Kopi Luwak (cat poo coffee), at Herveys Range Heritage Tea Rooms. Made from beans passed through the digestive system of the Asian palm civet, it sells for $50 a cup.
- The Chocolate Cottage and Cafe in Highfields has blueberry banoffee pancakes with butterscotch sauce and ice cream, all topped with toasted coconut.
Words: Kerry Heaney.