Dier Makr, Hobart, Tasmania © Osborne Images
The 10 Best Modern Australian Restaurants
Get a taste for modern Australian cuisine at these ten lauded restaurants.
By Lindy Alexander
In Australia, you’ll discover a vibrant and contemporary food scene. From modern takes on under-utilised native ingredients to an emphasis on ultra-fresh seasonal produce and dishes based around Indigenous Australian seasons, these celebrated restaurants offer unforgettable Aussie dining experiences.
From having my mind expanded by the global cooking cultures of our staff, to the recent harvest of hundreds of Murnong (Yam daisy) after two years in Ripponlea soil; we’ve made some incredible discoveries – if only the walls could talk.
What makes this restaurant unique: If you’re after a delicious insight into modern Australia on a plate, head to Attica. A regular on the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list, this degustation-only restaurant in the south Melbourne suburb of Ripponlea is renowned for New Zealand-born chef Ben Shewry’s contemporary use of native ingredients (think: sticky wattle and pearl meat dumpling, and emu liver pâté) and inventive takes on familiar Australian flavours like Vegemite.
What they are known for: A lamington (sponge cake dipped in chocolate sauce and desiccated coconut) coated in spicy black ants.
What makes this restaurant unique: With sweeping views of the Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge from its elevated harbourside perch, Quay is a feast for your eyes and your tastebuds. Many local farmers, producers and artisans cultivate produce exclusively for executive chef Peter Gilmore’s innovative nature-inspired cuisine, which has been picking up top awards for nearly 20 years.
What they are known for: The combination of native marron (a type of crayfish), “treebark”, koji and palm heart is as unique as it is delicious.
What makes this restaurant unique: Diverse African flavours meet Australian produce at Africola – a central Adelaide restaurant where the bold dishes match the décor. If you love spice, you’ll lap up the flavour-bombs delivered by the likes of the zingy peri-peri sauce made by South African-born head chef Duncan Welgemoed’s mother, and the zhoug, a piquant Yemeni herb dressing.
What they are known for: The Goolwa pipis with house-fermented chilli served in a delicious broth, which is best mopped up with chunks of fluffy white bread.
Magill Estate, Adelaide Hills
Our aim is to constantly be inventive, drawing influences from season, flavour, aroma, wine and texture. We have a conceptual approach to cooking, which reflects on travels and exchanges of ideas.
What makes this restaurant unique: Nestled in the Adelaide Hills, a 15-minute drive east of South Australia’s capital, is Penfolds Magill Estate Restaurant, a heritage-listed winery and award-winning restaurant. Great care is taken to pair the seasonal dishes (served as part of three- and seven-course menus) with wine from the restaurant’s cellar, which holds a collection of Penfolds wines dating back to 1951.
What they are known for: If Wagyu beef from Mayura Station in the state’s southeast is on the menu, you’re in for a treat.
Rick Shores, Gold Coast
What makes this restaurant unique: The ocean is so close you can almost touch it at Rick Shores. It’s no wonder, then, that the seafood (with a pan-Asian twist) is so fresh at this casual fine-diner in the hip Gold Coast suburb of Burleigh Heads. Dishes here are best shared over a crisp glass of wine from Rick Shores’ ever-changing, award-winning drinks list as you watch surfers carve up the waves outside through the floor-to-ceiling windows.
What they are known for: The Moreton Bay bug (like lobster) roll with Sriracha, mayonnaise and lettuce, is arguably the most famous dish on the coast.
What makes this restaurant unique: The menu at Detour in the south Brisbane suburb of Woolloongabba is perfect for sharing with friends with differing dietary requirements, as half the dishes on the menu are plant-based and all are gluten-free. This is an innovative restaurant where the emphasis is on local, seasonal and sustainable produce. This carries through to the wine list which showcases small, biodynamic and organic Australian producers.
What they are known for: If you’re not a fan of carrots, that may change after tasting the “fossilised carrots” with chia, dukkah and cashew nut.
Dier Makr, Hobart
What makes this restaurant unique: Using a collection of hot plates and small portable grills, chefs at cosy Dier Makr in central Hobart create exceptional, low-intervention dishes centred around seasonal Australian ingredients, such as beetroot and barramundi. The degustation menu is the ideal way to sample your way through the menu of small but perfectly balanced dishes.
What they are known for: The tomatillo tart with kingfish brandade is a refreshingly modern take on the French classic (brandade is an appetiser typically made from pureed salt cod, potatoes, garlic and olive oil).
The most exciting challenge of working with native ingredients is respecting their delicate seasonality, but the rewards are endless, allowing you to forge your own techniques without boundaries.
What makes this restaurant unique: Most people are familiar with the concept of eating seasonally, but Wildflower in central Perth’s historic heart doesn’t just follow the four seasons, but the six seasons of the local Indigenous Noongar calendar. Djeran (April-May) is the time for fish, seeds and bulbs, whereas Kambarang (October-November) sees yams and gilgie (freshwater crayfish) appear on the menu. With stunning views across the Swan River and the city from its setting in the rooftop space of boutique hotel COMO The Treasury, Wildflower is the ultimate spot for a long lunch.
What they are known for: The Manjimup rainbow trout with brown butter, heirloom carrot and lemon aspen dashi – it’s melt-in-your-mouth good.
What makes this restaurant unique: The kitchen at Firedoor in Sydney’s inner-east has no gas or electricity; instead the chefs use wood-fired ovens, grills and a wood-burning hearth to create the fire-licked dishes that change daily – opt for a counter seat to watch the action. The in-season organic vegetables and ethical meat are sourced from farms on the Hawkesbury River and small-holdings throughout New South Wales.
What they are known for: The Coffs Harbour Spanish mackerel with charred cos and baby fennel is a particular standout.
What makes this restaurant unique: The distance the produce served at Brae travels isn’t measured in kilometres or miles, but in metres and feet. The extensive kitchen garden at this multi award-winning restaurant and working farm in Birregurra, 130 kilometres (81 miles) southwest of Melbourne, provides the seasonal vegetables, fruits, nuts, olives, honey and grains used in the ever-changing set menu – be sure to check out the garden before or after enjoying your multi-course feast.
What they are known for: Have you ever tried a smoked eel doughnut? Here’s your chance.