The dining scene in Brisbane is only getting better, but that doesn't mean you have to spend a fortune to enjoy it.
By Jac Taylor
The capital city of Queensland – known as Australia's Sunshine State – delivers al fresco dining, warm evenings and a sophisticated range of eateries. Even better news is that cheaper options, from hawker-style street food to clever takes on fast-food favourites, can keep your dining budget down while still offering some of Brisbane's best flavours.
This is fast food done by celebrity chef Neil Perry, and it's one of the cheapest ways to sample his famous food. Burger Project is all about provenance, with ingredients including Cape Grim beef from Tasmania (thought to be among the best grass-fed beef in the world). Your Aussie burger (with beetroot and special sauce) may come quickly, but with your first bite you'll learn that this is a world away from other fast food chains.
Can you eat celebrity chef food on a reasonable budget? In Brisbane you can. At the beautifully appointed Treasury Casino you'll find a selection of excellent eateries, including Fat Noodle, where Vietnamese-Australian chef Luke Nguyen offers his renowned 20-hour Fat Pho Noodles. Order your meal and enjoy it in the Treasury's grand dining room, where you dine under an extravagant hanging garden of more than 3,000 chopsticks.
The newest trend in Brisbane is its growing laneway culture, and the ongoing star of the trend is Red Hook. In line with the city's love affair with American-style bar food and beers, homesick visitors from the USA will love finding affordable Brooklyn cheeseburgers, Budweisers and Philly cheesesteaks, but Australian multiculturalism shines through with char sui pork tacos and karaage chicken. This slick venue’s best bargain is its famous one kilogram (13 ounces) of buffalo wings with blue cheese sauce. It's only available on Wednesdays.
It really is possible to have fresh, authentic Japanese cuisine at reasonable prices, as the many local fans of this cosy, bustling little eatery, Sushi Kotobuki, will attest. Choose from a range of donburi (rice bowls) and noodles, in addition to small plates of sushi and sashimi. The fusion sushi rolls are particularly popular, with items like the "spider roll" of soft-shell crab, crab meat and cucumber.
A wonderful mix of market stalls, street food eateries, fairy lights and a festive atmosphere, set in an atmospheric waterside disused shipping container terminal, the Eat Street Markets really are Brisbane at its fun, eclectic and affordable best. The small entry fee will buy you live entertainment and food from around the world, including Mexican quesadillas, Spanish paella, German sausages, Asian dumplings and fresh local seafood. The markets run every Friday and Saturday night, and Sunday lunchtimes in winter. Take a short ferry ride to the Northshore Hamilton terminal to view the city lights from the water and really make an evening of it.
If you're in the market for a late-night nibble, Heya Bar has you covered. Inspired by the street markets of south-east Asia, Heya Bar is one of Brisbane's more mysterious eateries, boasting puzzling doorways, secret rooms and hidden bars. Tuck into a feast of creative pan-Asian fare (think cheeseburger spring rolls and karaage cauliflower) with a cocktail or two on the side.
Some of Brisbane's most fashionable eateries don't even have a fixed address. The city's food trucks are where you'll find up-to-the-minute culinary trends delivered to happy crowds of locals. Choose from American-style burgers from the brightly-painted Mi Casa Food Truck, hearty bavarian fare from Kraut 'N About or the schnitzel with aioli from Pirate's Plate. You can find out each truck's daily location by following them on Facebook, or join locals in the know and jump on Brisbane's Food Trucks website.