Australia may be known as the Land Down Under, but it’s certainly not an underdog when it comes to fine dining. Cuisine in Australia draws from European, Asian, and indigenous influences, and flavors from all these cultures are reflected in the versatility and variety of the restaurants on this list. They span the country, from Western Australia to the Australian Capital Territory. Among them is an establishment in Canberra with its very own urban farm, an Argentinean-inspired restaurant in Sydney where the food evokes the pampas, and a Cantonese place in Melbourne that has become a community staple. Celebrity chefs like Ben Shewry and Neil Perry make appearances, but so do lesser-knowns, toiling in smaller kitchens and gaining recognition mostly through the pleased comments of their customers.
We started the process of narrowing down of list of Australia’s finest dining establishments by looking at existing rankings, like those of Gourmet Traveller and TripAdvisor. We then asked for additional recommendations from an assortment of culinary experts, ending up with a shortlist of more 70 eateries. We narrowed these down to 25 by surveying members of The Daily Meal Council, a select group of Australian food writers and editors, and our own well-traveled editorial staff.
We’re excited to announce The Daily Meal’s first-ever roundup of the 25 best restaurants in Australia. Read on for the list, and to find out which establishment earned the number-one spot.
Leeuwin Estate / Facebook
This restaurant is part of Leeuwin Estate, a family-owned winery in Western Australia’s Margaret River district. In 1972, no less an authority than Napa Valley winemaker Robert Mondavi identified the site as having great potential for vineyards, and Leeuwin has since become one of the most dependable producers of high-quality Australian wine. The winery restaurant, featuring chef Dany Angove's "simple, luxe food" makes good use of local and regional products, from simply fresh-shucked oysters to Shark Bay cuttlefish with ginger and green papaya, venison carpaccio with juniper salt, and marron (giant saltwater crayfish) with pork belly and stone fruit.
Sage Dining Rooms / Facebook
A little over five miles from Sage Restaurant in Canberra is the eatery’s own Sage Farm, meant to highlight the importance of urban farming and food sustainability for the surrounding community. The farm grows organic herbs and vegetables, hosts sheep and cattle, and is soon to be home to rare breeds of pigs and native fish. Sage Restaurant’s dinner menu includes specialties like tiger prawns with gem lettuce and dill and chicken breast with calamari, eggplant, and lemongrass.
Restaurant Orana / Facebook
This upscale modern restaurant is tasting-menu only, and ordering food and wine for dinner Tuesday to Saturday will set guests back $295AUS ($213) per person. Menu highlights include charred kangaroo with beets, grasses, and wild garlic and shorthorn beef with native green currants, smoked potato, and leek. The restaurant’s wine list is so extensive that it’s divided into chapters.
Pei Modern / Facebook
Founder Mark Best was an electrician in Western Australia’s gold mines before starting work in the culinary field when he was 25. After studying in France and the U.K., Best opened Pei Modern in 2012 with the intent to feature seasonal produce grown locally (there is now a second location in Sydney). On the menu are hand-selected signature oysters, smoked and cured ocean trout with brioche and lemon butter, and ricotta dumplings with zucchini flowers and pine nuts.
This restaurant in far northern Queensland claims to be Palm Cove’s only beachfront eatery. Enjoy views of the Coral Sea while trying menu items like wok-fried north Queensland mud crab served with jasmine rice and ginger broth, Sichuan eggplant with yellow bean sauce and sesame, and butter-poached prawns with candied bacon and apple. Don’t forget to save room for dessert — one option is rainforest honeycomb, yogurt marshmallow, lemon semolina cake, and salted caramel ice cream.
Long Chim Perth / Facebook
This restaurant is an outpost of chef David Thompson’s successful Thai street food restaurant in Singapore. Its Thai name roughly translates to “come and taste." Many menu items are meant to be shared family-style, as with gap kao — assorted dishes served with rice — while the aaharn jarn dtiaw section of the menu is mostly made up of individual noodle dishes. Long Chim’s wine list features carefully selected regional and global wines to match the menu.
The Town Mouse is a neighborhood restaurant that strives to be the kind of place everyone wishes would open around the corner. It celebrates friendship, community, and the everyday — though there are no actual mice in the venue, the website notes. Featured on the menu are dishes like roast cauliflower with almond and broad bean miso; sea bream with sour mushroom, charred leek, horseradish, and butter lettuce; and chicken breast with grilled peas, turnip, and sesame.
Monster kitchen and bar / Facebook
On the ground floor of Canberra’s Hotel Hotel is Monster Kitchen and Bar, a venue open from 6:30 a.m. to 1:00 a.m. specializing in seasonal local produce. Try ordering breakfast items like house-made crumpets with honey from a Hotel Hotel hive or pork belly with fried egg, green mango, and chile jam. Shared plates available from noon to 10 p.m. include eggplant with smoked goat’s curd, bonito flakes, and sesame; licorice-cured duck breast with smoked beets, sorrel, and hazelnut; and asparagus with miso butter, soft egg, and furikake seasoning.
Grossi Florentino / Facebook
This split-level restaurant features different menus for upstairs, the grill, and the cellar bar. Dine amongst Renaissance-style murals on menu options like ravioli all’uovo, with egg yolk, smoked ricotta, amaretti, and aged balsamic; Fraser Isle spanner crab with avocado and radish; and Sommerlad chicken with polenta cream and peas. For dessert, save room for a chocolate soufflé with grains of paradise ice cream.
Porteño Sydney / Facebook
Argentinian restaurant Porteño is run by chef–owners Ben Milgate and Elvis Abrahanowicz, whose mission is authenticity. Abrahanowicz’s father, Adan, who’s been barbecuing since he was young, prepares meats in front of guests on a traditional parilla, or barbecue, and asado, or pit of fire. Menu items are meant to be shared, Argentinian-style, and include beef empanadas, barbequed octopus with preserved beets and yogurt, grilled corn with butter and Manchego cheese; and of course plenty of meat, from house-made chorizo to eight-hour woodfired lamb, with several cuts of steak along the way.
Mr. Wong / Facebook
Modern Cantonese restaurant Mr. Wong, with its seating capacity of 240, is one of the larger restaurants in northern Sydney, but its colonial furnishings, like chairs framed with bamboo, weathered brick walls displaying large murals, and sets of gold fans adorning the wall make it an intimate space. Options include dim sum, as well as fried rice with pork and prawn, salt and pepper lamb cutlets with fennel and cumin, and salt and pepper calamari.
Yelp / Mem R
An indoor garden growing Tasmanian plants for use in dishes, a 10-ton Scotch oven large enough to hold a small cow, and a singular location between a former Hobart newspaper office and a car park make Franklin unique. Chef David Moyle, who’s from Victoria, cooks in the center of the eatery with his team in a completely exposed kitchen. The menu changes daily. The website advises that reservations are essential, but visitors can try their luck at walking in.
Ester Restaurant & Bar / Facebook
Ester’s modern interior is offset by painted brick and high arches. The restaurant offers lunch, dinner, and drinks, with a menu featuring items like beef tartare with oyster and mustard leaf, cauliflower with almond sauce and mint, and roast duck with burnt honey sauce. For dessert, try a salted caramel semifreddo or a licorice tart.
Movida Melbourne / Facebook
MoVida is a bustling Melbourne tapas bar (there is a newer Sydney location), with a menu of superb specialties both traditional and contemporary. Try the caballa ahumada, house cold-smoked Spanish mackerel with pine nut gazpacho sorbet; the patatas bravas, fried potatoes with spicy tomato and mayonnaise; or the cecina, air-dried wagyu with poached organic egg and truffle foam. Consider finishing off the meal with churros and rich drinking chocolate.
Rockpool Est. 1989 / Facebook
At his famous Rockpool, chef Neil Perry, who owns other restaurants in Sydney and in Melbourne, has been experimenting with Asian-accented modern Australian cuisine for over 25 years, and the restaurant remains a standard-bearer for the country's fine dining scene. On the menu? Look for things like lobster congee with almond tofu and star anise peanuts; honey and spelt bread with konbu butter and fresh ricotta; and char siu-roasted partridge with shiitake, leeks, and pea flowers.
Flower Drum / Facebook
This Cantonese restaurant, opened in 1975 in Melbourne’s Chinatown, has earned a reputation over the years as serving some of the country's best Chinese food. Today, operating under the guidance of executive chef Anthony Liu, it offers a long menu of specialties both familiar and otherwise, from turnip in sweet soy, seafood soup dumpling, and wild barramundi noodles to steamed coral trout with spring onions and cilantro, braised claypot lamb brisket, and classic Peking duck.
Sepia Restaurant / Facebook
In 2009, the partnership between two high-profile members of the Sydney food community — chef Martin Benn and seafood wholesaler George Costi — came to fruition in the form of Sepia. The restaurant, with its lounge-like atmosphere featuring side-by-side sofa seating, offers five- and nine-course tasting menus, which clock in at $170AUS ($122) and $200AUS ($144) per person respectively. The food is contemporary, with Asian inspirations (yellowfin tuna sashimi with jamón ibérico cream and pork cracklings, wagyu beef with mushrooms, and the like), and the cooking is precise and superb.
David Chang's first restaurant outside New York City, Momofuku Seiōbo, has been a hit in Sydney, a city where Asian-inflected cuisines are commonplace but where Chang's unique culinary sensibility stands out anyway. Barbados-born executive chef Paul Carmichael decides upon a frequently changing tasting menu that costs $185AUS ($133) per person; critics rave about such fare as john dory with burnt apple and ajwain seeds, jerked Kurobuta pork chop, and habanero-vbrined chicken breast fried in chickpea flour.
Cumulus Inc. / Facebook
Since 2008, this eatery in Flinders Lane, Melbourne’s fashion and art district, has offered chef Andrew McConnell’s culinary creations. The à la carte breakfast menu features items like oysters, zucchini flower, and smoked mozzarella, a kitchen charcuterie selection, and ricotta dumplings with zucchini and pine nut. Lunch and dinner are meant to be shared; options include salads, freshly-shucked oysters, and roast lamb shoulder.
Coda / Facebook
Coda prides itself on a relaxed attitude together with high quality, which means the restaurant can serve equally well as a venue for an anniversary dinner or a pre-football game lunch. The menu’s cuisine can be described as modern Asian with options like yellow-fin tuna served with an apple salad and pine nuts, eggplant and tofu lettuce delight with garlic and black vinegar, and roasted yellow duck curry.
Yelp / Jonny S
A serious restaurant that might, at first glance, be mistaken for a California beach town burger joint, Sean's Panaroma is small, super-casual (as befits its location across the street from legendary Bondi Beach), and very good. The menu is arrayed on a handful of individual blackboard panels hung from the ceiling. The descriptions are brief and to the point (kingfish/ finger limes/salmon roe; rabbit/olives/toast; mango/passionfruit/ginger). Many of the vegetables served come from proprietor Sean Moran's own farm; other foods are sourced from top local producers or distributors. The food, like the atmosphere, has a California freshness about it. Corn soup with chorizo and miniature clams, homemade pasta with zucchini and zucchini blossoms, and roast chook (chicken) with farm-grown carrots and spinach are typical of the fare here — nothing fancy, everything delicious.
Firedoor / Facebook
We first encountered Lennox Hastie in the Basque mountains where he was the number-two to Bittor Arguinzoniz at his celebrated Etxebarri, where just about everything is cooked over house-made charcoal on grills Arguinzoniz designed and built himself. Hastie has taken the concept back to his native Australia and given it his own twists. Everything is cooked over or in front of a live fire here, on fuel that includes not only familiar woods like apple, cherry, chestnut, orange, olive, and pecan, but also old oak wine barrels, grapevines, native species such as ironbark and mallee root, and even hay — not wood, exactly, but flammable and offering a vanilla-like flavor Hastie thinks works especially well with mackerel, sweetbreads, and snails. The menu changes daily but is likely to include everything from wood-fired bread to grilled berries with gingerbread ice cream. Also on offer will be all manner of seafood (king prawns, squid, John Dory, and more) but also such things as Ranger's Valley wagyu beef rib, skewered duck hearts, and even grilled salad leaves. Hastie's partners in Firedoor are the group that also owns Quay (see No. 1) and several other top Sydney eateries, and the place is run with their usual acuity.
Billy Kwong / Facebook
Kylie Kwong, a third-generation Australian of Chinese descent, opened Billy Kwong — the Billy was noted Sydney restaurateur and food writer Bill Granger, who is no longer involved — 15 years ago. Last year, she moved it from the original modest storefront to a beautiful new space, slightly larger and more dramatically decorated but still comfortably casual. The mostly Cantonese-inspired cooking makes full use of Australia's bounty, from ocean trout, Pacific prawns, spanner crab, and blue-claw yabbies (a kind of crayfish) to warrigal greens (also called New Zealand spinach), saltbush leaves, and wild bush tomatoes. Also not to be missed is the red-braised caramelized wallaby tail (and the lunchtime special of crispy wallaby cakes with plum sauce). More conventional preparations, including steamed mini pork buns, steamed silken tofu, and crispy-skin duck, are simply superb. Billy Kwong is a true Australian original.
Yelp / Matt L
New Zealand-born chef Ben Shewry signed on as chef at this elegant restaurant, with its dark-walled dining room and opulent place settings, in 2005, and quickly made a name for himself as one of the most creative and energetic chefs in Australia. In January of this year, he bought 100 percent ownership of the place from proprietors Helen and David Maccora, and, if anything, has upped the creative ante. The restaurant — which upscale Australian food magazine Gourmet Traveller dubbed its restaurant of the year for 2015 — offers diners one extended tasting menu nightly, at $220AUS ($158), or the opportunity to sit in on a test of new ideas at the chef's table every Tuesday evening, for $140AUS ($100). The frequently evolving fare is unmistakably Australian, including modern takes on traditional specialties ("Gazza's lamb pie"); imaginative use of indigenous foods like salted red kangaroo with bunya bunya (Australian pine) kernels or wattleseed bread; and such daunting but delicious creations as a pikelet (a kind of pancake) made with wallaby blood. This is food you will encounter nowhere else on earth — not even elsewhere in Australia.
Yelp / Caroline A
Peter Gilmore, the chef-proprietor of this dazzling restaurant overlooking Sydney Harbour, has said that his culinary style "celebrates being a cook in Australia" and "embraces nature's diversity and seeks to achieve a sense of balance and purity through produce, technique, texture, flavor, and composition." That's an ambitious undertaking, but Gilmore goes even further than most of his peers in sourcing his country's finest raw materials and combining them in ways that dramatize textural differences, contrasting colors, and rich counterpoints of flavor. Such dishes as his raw Tasmanian striped trumpeter (a big, meaty fish) with smoked oyster cream and sea vegetables; slow-braised quail with cracklings, millet porridge, and smoked quail juice; Blackmore wagyu beef with black lentil miso, black garlic, and hen of the woods mushrooms; and green pears with coconut, vanilla, and the tropical fruit called feijoa are transporting in their magical blend of complexity and straightforward goodness. The 2016 Sydney Morning Herald Good Food Guide wrote that "Quay still sets the benchmark for some of the most exquisite and articulate food in Australia," and we couldn't agree more.