While the global pandemic may have slowed her exponential growth, Brisbane continues to step out of Sydney and Melbourne’s culinary shadow, reimagining dining in the city and the suburbs. With eateries opening across the city at an unfathomable rate and a resurgence of late-night dining options, Brisbane’s restaurant scene is all grown up.
Brisbane’s best restaurants are a heady mix of old and new; the ones that have a waitlist to get in to, and the ones you just can’t stop going back to; here’s where you should be eating in Brisbane right now.
South Brisbane The gist: Tucked directly under the old train bridges of Fish Lane, east Asian stunner, Southside, embodies the term ‘industrial chic’; it’s all high ceilings, polished concrete, Pan-Asian dining goodness – complete with dedicated noodle-making room. From the team behind Little Valley and Rick Shores, and with Donna Chang alumni heading up the kitchen, your tastebuds are in very good hands. The food: A Chinese, Singapore, Malaysian mash-up of the best east Asian dishes, Southside’s menu is the perfect merger of Pan-Asian dining cultures. Classical Chinese noodle and dim sum dishes share table space with spicy Singapore-style prawns and Malay char kway teow. The wine list is equally as worldly, boasting both boutique Australian and imported wines to pair with your truffle har gow and drunken Chinese pear and ginger scallops. The cost: The dim sum menu starts at $10, with mains setting you back approximately $40. You can’t beat the ‘feed me’ banquet from $69 pp, though. How to order: Bookings can be made online, and walk-ins are welcome.
Dockside The gist: The epitome of ‘immersive dining’, 70s fishing trawler-turned floating restaurant, The Prawnster, has moored permanently at Dockside, serving up the city’s freshest seafood. The food: Dishing up a daily catch of Moreton Bay bugs, oysters, king prawns and mud crabs (when in season), The Prawnster is maybe the most charming dining experience in the city. Floating on the Brisbane River and overlooking a leafy pocket of New Farm, owners Martin and Donna Brennan keep things simple; sourcing produce direct from the trawlers that cruise up and down the Queensland coast. Serving up platters ‘au natural’ for hungry patrons, the original 14-seater has proven so popular that business has expanded, welcoming the interconnecting Prawnster Jetty and Princess Prawnster to their little slice of Dockside. The cost: medium platters start at $25 and work up to $80 (which includes all the ocean’s bells and whistles). How to order: Book online and it’s BYO alcohol. You can also hit The Prawnster for takeaway; just hop aboard the jetty for prices and catch of the day.
Teneriffe The gist: Three Stokehouse alumni take on a contemporary spaghetti bar in the historic woolstores, bringing a touch of the Amalfi coast to the city fringes. The food: Siffredi’s concept is simple; to elevate the humble spaghetti dish with some of the Queensland region’s best local produce. Ever-changing, the menu features a handful of signature spaghetti dishes – think tiger prawns with charred spring onion and zucchini, confit duck ragu, and SA octopus with harissa and smoked macadamia – plus a few sides including fresh oysters, scallops, and delicate crostinis. The wine list is equally ‘elevated’ with some choice natural wines from across the country. The cost: side dishes and bites from $12, mains starting at $24. How to order: book online for dine-in inside and on the terrace only.
Fortitude Valley The gist: Moody Roman-style eatery down a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it Valley laneway slinging traditional Italian street food into the early hours. The food: The latest late-night venture from Sydney’s Salt Meat Cheese crew, Eterna’s charm extends beyond its hidden laneway location. The entire menu is an ode to traditional Roman-style dining; simple, rustic classics you’d find in any discerning Roman eatery. The menu is dotted with street-style dishes—supli, crostini, polpette, plus several charcuterie options—as well as iconic Roman pasta dishes like carbonara, cacio e pepe, and amatriciana. Imported Italian wines round out the whole experience, and we swear if you close your eyes, you could be in the Italian capital. Almost… The cost: antipasti and starters start at $10, pasta from $24 and mains from $27. How to order: reservations can be made online or by phone, takeout via Deliveroo.
Eagle Street Pier The gist: Eclectic 70’s style décor (designed by Brisbane interior icon, Anna Spiro)-meets downtown Bangkok in an ode to Thailand’s bright and beautiful cuisine, Naga Thai has nailed the perfect blend of high-end dining with the welcoming feel of your favourite casual eatery. The food: Moreton Bay Bug Pad Thai, flower dim sims, cocktails in koi fish-shaped glasses; like the décor, the food at Naga is big, bold, and full of contrasts. Head chef Suwisa Phoonsang brings her distinct vision and traditional family recipes to Naga, having previously worked the pans at The Barracks institution, Libertine. Classic Thai dishes feel fresh and new at Naga; the Mekhong Thai whiskey drunken noodles with marinated pork, crispy wok-fried whole barramundi, and the jasmine tea-soaked duck red curry especially icon-worthy. The cost: starters and sides range from $9-$30, while larger share plates come in around $35. How to order: bookings via the phone and online, with walk-ins welcome. Takeaway for pick up is also available.
West End The gist: A BYO neighbourhood pasta joint giving Brisbane’s top Italian kitchens a run for their money. The food: With the menu changing daily based on what’s available at market, owners Leila Amirparviz and Darcy Adam like to keep their iteration of Italian dining simple, classic, and packed with local produce. Expect Italian paragons like pillowy gnocchi with house pomodoro and parmigiana, burrata and salsa verde, deep stuffed agnolotti, and a decadent ‘tiramisu for two’ popping up occasionally. BYO your own vinyl with your vino for a personalised carb load; the house record player always open for a turn. The cost: $12-$15 for antipasti, $20-$25 for pasta dishes. How to order: Book online or walk-ins only.
South Brisbane The gist: One of the best authentic Vietnamese restaurants outside of Fortitude Valley and Sunnybank, hit Hello Please for spicy street food in its brand spanking new venue. The food: Having just undergone an enormous renovation, Hello Please 2:0 has retained its status as one of Brisbane’s favourite Vietnamese joints. But it wasn’t just the venue that got a glow up. Chef Jesse Stephens applied the same treatment to Hello Please’s menu, adding a host of new dishes as part of its reincarnation. The crispy chicken ribs survived, as did the BBQ chicken yellow curry, but are joined by new favourites like Thai green tartare, agedashi tofu and barramundi red curry. The cost: mains start from $20, with banquet options from $35. How to order: bookings can be made online with walk-ins welcome, delivery via Deliveroo.
Fortitude Valley The gist: Accessed via a Valley backstreet and next to a loading dock and multi-story car park, hôntô’s humble entrance belies a moody Japanese dining room complete with elegant raw bar and underground drinking den. It’s maybe the sexiest date night you’ll go on… The food: Encompassing a dedicated raw bar, main dining room plus a little bar called ÔÔ, hôntô’s sensory deprivation-style interiors provide the perfect backdrop for its modernist Japanese dishes. Split into Raw, Bites, and Bigger, the menu plays with both the art of Japanese fine dining and Japanese street dishes; oysters with yuzu nahm jim, whitefish ceviche with wasabi mayo, and lobster katsu sandos. In addition to local drops and a cheeky cocktail menu, a huge selection of rare Japanese whiskies and sake can be found on the top shelf of ÔÔ. The cost: Bites and Raw dishes start at $6, while mains range from $30-$40. Their chef’s banquet is $75pp – a great option for indecisive eaters. How to order: Bookings for the restaurant are essential, walk-ins welcome for the raw and cocktail bar.
Fortitude Valley The gist: Decorated Japanese-influenced chef’s table. Only more intimate. The food: The beauty of Joy is you never quite know what you’re going to get. Owner and head chef, Sarah, gives away just enough to pique the interests of diners everywhere; that the plates are small, there will be many of them, and that they’re (kind of sort of) Japanese by design. While a dining surprise at Joy has a month-long waiting list, two hats and rave reviews can’t be wrong. The cost: Joy’s current degustation-style menu is $150 per person. How to order: booking taken online only.
South Brisbane The gist: Making a strong case for curries and cocktails, Same Same’s contemporary Bangkok cuisine-meets modern Brisbane architecture is one of the city’s most anticipated restaurant openings. The food: When one of Brisbane’s best restaurants, LONgTIME, closed its doors in November 2019, loyal diners held their breath, waiting for its highly anticipated reincarnation, Same Same. Head chef Ben Bertei’s dishes are an explosion of fragrant flavours, but delicate in their execution. Dishes range from the more traditional—Angus beef cheek red curry and whole crispy fish with Thai basil and lime – to the more experimental – crispy chicken wings with chilli caramel and lemongrass and softshell crab bao roll. The cost: snacks start at $6 and mains range from $35-$50. Their chef selection starts at $65pp + matching wine flight. How to order: book online for restaurant dining or walk-ins at the bar.
Fortitude Valley The gist: Brisbane’s answer to a high-end steak and oyster bar, acclaimed restauranteur Simon Gloftis goes full service with white linen tablecloths, caviar, and martinis. The food: Toothfish, oysters served with champagne mignonette, lobster, caviar; if your hard-earned cash’s burning a hole in your wallet, SK will show you a good time. Executive chef Kelvin Andrews (of Gold Coast’s The Fish House, Hellenika, and Nineteen at The Star) has managed a delicate balancing act of glitzy showstoppers (oscietra caviar) and elevated comfort food (SK has an entire menu dedicated to potatoes), meaning you can be as extravagant, or simple, as you like. The cost: pasta dishes from $26, seafood platters from $60. World-famous, award-winning kiwami steak will set you back $200. How to order: Book online for restaurant dining, walk-ins welcome at the bar.
Fortitude Valley The gist: The crew behind hôntô and Same Same go for the hat trick; a modern Australian eatery fuelled by woodfired cooking – and a 1500 strong wine list. The food: Licked by flames and cooked over hot coals, Agnes’ niche dining experience gives a modern edge to share-style plates. Chef and co-owner Ben Williamson (of ex-Gerard’s Bistro fame) uses minimal intervention and an open flame at Agnes, allowing the best cuts and local produce take centre stage. Octopus, black lemon, almond and garlic shoots, dry age heritage pork with hazelnut cream and the signature dry-aged Angus sirloin are immediate modern classics, while the radishes with onion sour cream, honey and mushroom salt, and charred carrots with smoked labne will make you question why you haven’t gone veggo. The cost: Starters come in at $12-$30, with share plate mains starting at $50. Agnes also offer a set menu at $75pp. How to order: bookings are essential, but walk-ins are taken for the rooftop and wine cellar bars.
Fortitude Valley The gist: Happy Boy’s younger sibling tackles share plates from China and the Chinese diaspora, pairing dishes with small-batch drops. The food: Chinese snack food at its finest, it’s dumplings, buns, and skewers dominating Snack Man’s small plate menu. House specialties of Yan Su Ji crispy chicken wings, chao shou (mini wontons in chilli oil) and cha sui bao BBQ chicken buns are steamed or fried fresh to order, all washed down with the best small batch and natural wines from around the world. It’s an untraditional pairing, but it works, further expanding on owners Cameron and Jordan Votan’s passion for small-batch wines. The cost: Nothing over $12. How to order: Walk-ins only.
Fortitude Valley The gist: Another feather in restauranteur Simon Gloftis’ cap, Hellenika is touted as serving up some of the best authentic Greek dishes in the country. The food: A far cry from Yiayia’s casual taverna, this is grown-up Greek in all its marbled glory. Everything from the marble bar and floor tiles, to the elegant timber seating and European-style alfresco section overlooking the hotel’s pool oozes class. The menu is no different. Grilled saganaki with wedges of fresh lemon, plates of grilled SA octopus and veal dolmades, even the house ‘village’ bread and taramosalata dip feels authentic. Larger table dishes like the blue eye trevalla with caramelised onion and capers and Hellenika’s signature baked lamb. The cost: small plates and mezze range from $10 – $30, with mains and large plates will set you back $40 – $50 ($95 for their 1.2kg lamb – which is in limited quantities each service). How to order: bookings and walk-ins are taken for the restaurant, bar and terraced area, takeaway pick-up only.
South Bank The gist: This much-loved, two-hatted fine dining Italian recently upped sticks from its CBD postcode for river and city views in South Brisbane. Think white linen tablecloths, luxurious southern Italian classics, and award-winning wine list and killer service– an overachiever in the very best way. The food: Queensland’s diverse seasonal produce-meets Italy’s most famous dishes; it’s little wonder OTTO’s hats keep coming. While OTTO is anything but a neighbourhood trattoria, head chef Will Cowper’s vision of elegant, unfussy food lets the ingredients do the talking. Like any good Italian kitchen, the menu is split into five categories: assaggi, primi, pasta e risotto, secondi and, contorni. Dishes like the champagne lobster spaghettini with white wine, garlic, and chilli, followed by the Rangers Valley ‘OTOO Reserve’ steak with asparagus, mustard espuma and veal sauce may very well be the best meal you ever have the pleasure of eating. The cost: assaggi from $6, primi and pasta from $35, secondi from $50. How to order: bookings for indoor and terrace dining can be made online and over the phone, with walk-ins welcome.
Eagle Street Pier, CBD The gist: CBD Italian stalwart, Coppa Spuntino has resurfaced as an Amalfi-inspired dining room, breathing new life into a riverside dining precinct—and much-loved eatery. The food: Co-owners Bonnie Shearston and Tom Sanceau’s beloved Coppa Spuntino has upped sticks from its famous Creek Street location, breathing new life into what was thought to have been a COVID-19 dining industry casualty. Not so. With a change of scenery comes a new menu, too. Much of the original menu is present, including Coppa’s famous meatballs and handmade gnocchi, but the pizza has been swapped out for pasta, and larger, heartier plates like roast porchetta and Bistecca alla Fiorentina have landed, levelling up to dining destination status. The cost: antipasti sits around $20, with mains coming in at approx. $40. How to order: book online for lunch or dinner.
West End The gist: A back bar filled with rare tequilas and mescals and a menu more reflective of downtown Mexico City than Brisbane’s westside, this tiny taqueria—and self-proclaimed ‘agave cathedral’—gives the city the long-awaited authentic Mexican restaurant it deserves. The food: From the hand-pressed tortillas, house fermented tepache, and hot sauce made from bhuta, merkén and habanero chillies, everything is made in-house. Just seven ‘tacos and platos’ dishes (plus a handful of classic sides – think pico de gallo and mole madre) adorn the menu, featuring mouth-watering ingredients the likes of caramelised miso eggplant with queso fresco, salsa roja and jalapeño and king prawns with chipotle mayo, salsa verde, queso fresco, watermelon, radish, and raspberry. Wash it down with a suitably aged mezcal and helado (ice cream) of pecan, mezcal and toffee. The cost: tacos and platos from $14. How to order: reservations for indoor and outdoor seating online, takeaway (limited menu) available on Uber.
The best restaurants come steeped in tradition. Luckily Brisbane is in full supply of rustic pizzerias channelling Napoli-style dough and candle-lit trattorias, serving steaming bowls of ragu. Whether you want hearty and full-flavoured dishes or modern takes on Roman dining, there’s an Italian restaurant for every occasion.
Here’s where to find Brisbane’s best Italian feasts.
Fortitude Valley If you need to book a long lunch or simply want to indulge in a rich, comforting bowl of pasta, pull up a seat at Gemelli. This large Italian restaurant sits on the corner of James Street—one of Brisbane’s most popular shopping strips—and is the perfect pit stop to fuel up after a long morning of shopping. The menu boasts home-style family recipes and generous servings, including pasta served in bread bowls. We recommend the gnocchi al forno. The pillowy soft gnocchi is bathed in Napoli sauce, topped with buffalo mozzarella and cooked in a wood-fired oven. Don’t forget to pair it with a cocktail or glass of wine.
Fortitude Valley Next door to Gemelli is Bar Tano, the sister restaurant sharing the same la dolce vita approach to Italian food and drink. Stop in for a refreshing Aperol spritz, soak up a sunset, or stay after dark and let loose at a late-night disco. Bar Tano is reminiscent of taking an evening passeggiata through the cobbled pathways of Sicily, where bars and restaurants overflow with personality and exuberance. The food, which includes antipasti and salumi, is by Gemelli, so you know it’s going to be good. As for the bar, it’s charming and intoxicating. An afternoon at Bar Tano will transport you to Italy.
South Brisbane Otto’s signature bright outdoor furniture is hard to miss when you’re taking a stroll on the River Quay Green South Bank. The recently renovated restaurant commands riverfront views making it a destination, not just a restaurant. Most weekends, you will find it filled with locals and visitors, sharing pizzas and toasting cocktails. The menu is packed with homemade pasta and larger mains for sharing. However, the heavily awarded restaurant is best known for its Champagne lobster and bottarga spaghettini—a must-try.
Woolloongabba 1889 Enoteca is the kind of establishment where the servers are Italian, and the walls are exposed brick. Step in and be transported to Rome, with authentic Roman dishes laid out on white Bretagne dinner plates and hosts an extensive and lauded wine list. The pasta is all housemade and can be ordered as an entree or main. We suggest ordering the slow-cooked pork and beef ragu wrapped around pappardelle.
Fortitude Valley Are you looking for somewhere romantic for dinner? Bianca is a beautiful Italian restaurant with waiters flittering around a buzzy dining room. Despite its modern and slick decor, there’s nothing pretentious about the dining experience here. Curly graphics, monogrammed serving ware, and pops of colour keep it light and fun. As for the food, it’s a straightforward menu of snacks, entrees, house-made pasta dishes and a range of main courses. If you need something lighter, you can order from the antipasti section and dig into little creamy bags of burrata, mortadella, sardines, and marinated mushrooms.
Fortitude Valley This unassuming warehouse hides an exceptional 60-seat Italian restaurant serving up an innovative menu drawing on the family’s Italian-Australian roots. Think Moreton Bay Bug risotto, lamb ragu, local grilled fish with fennel, and yellowtail kingfish Crudo. The wine list draws from Australian winemakers and some tipples from Europe’s biggest regions.