Darwin’s hippest precincts are home to great eateries and great views.
By Jennifer Pinkerton
It’s hard to keep up with the crop of new eateries appearing in Darwin. It seems that not a month goes by without a freshly minted cafe, food van or restaurant popping up. A new generation of restaurateurs is leading this charge and reviving Darwin neighbourhoods with contemporary culinary experiences. Of course, the common thread in great Darwin dining is a laid-back vibe and outdoors location. Don your walking shoes, and with an empty stomach in tow, begin your eating tour in the city centre, move to nearby Parap and finish in the northern suburbs of Nightcliff and Rapid Creek.
Tropical Darwin's happening food scene
Scale the Inner City
There are hidden treasures hiding in the laneways of Darwin's city centre. Tiny but mighty, The Rabbit Hole is a hole-in-the-wall cafe with a hipster bent. Its menu – housed inside classic, illustrated children's books – includes "smashed avo" on toast (avo is an Australianism for "avocado", AUD$15) and house kimchi with softshell crab, iceberg lettuce and poached egg on sourdough (AUD$18). The baristas here are coffee artisans and pour a mean flat white (coffee with milk). The Pearl is a small fine-dining outfit tucked inside the Victoria Arcade Building on Darwin's Mall. You won't find this restaurant unless you go looking for it. In sumptuous surrounds – striped wallpaper, ornate mirrors, hanging plants and pearl-shaped pendant lights – choose a grain-fed Angus eye fillet steak (AUD$36), followed by a raspberry and pistachio brûlée tart (AUD$17.) A five minute walk away, you'll find PM Eat & Drink. With its art-splashed walls and share-table section, this restaurant has generated a lot of buzz and chances are you'll need to book to secure a seat. Diners share tapas plates artfully arranged with local produce such as Northern Territory jewfish (AUD$18), oxeye scad fish (AUD$18) or king prawns (AUD$19). Top off your meal with a fruity cocktail, such as the delectable dirty fig (AUD$19).
Plate up in Parap
A five minute drive from the city centre, the suburb of Parap is named after the call of the black cockatoo ("pa-raaaaap"), which explains why you'll see images of this magnificent feathered creature on signs around the area. Parap is known for its art galleries and as being one of the original hubs for Darwin's cafe scene. Follow the scent of lemongrass and laksa to Parap Markets. Open on Saturdays from 8am until 2pm, this is the spot to cool down with a mango, lime and coconut juice (AUD$6.50) from one of the many juice stalls. If it's food you're after, try a peanut-laced savoury pancake (AUD$11.50) from the Cambodian food stall or a buckwheat crepe with Mexican chilli beans, sour cream and tomato salsa from Ken’s Crepes (AUD$9.50). For perfectly brewed coffee head to Laneway. The cafe is decked out in fresh flowers, a long share table made from salvaged timber, a cabinet brimming with pastries and windows that look out to a bustling street corner. Order a Laneway infused strawberry, lime and basil soda (AUD$6.50) then munch on a waygu beef burger with cheddar cheese, pickles and seeded mustard mayo (AUD$16).
North to Nightliff and Rapid Creek
Eight minutes north of Parap, the artsy, bohemian northern suburbs of Nightcliff and Rapid Creek are noted for their exquisite waterfront locations and numerous food vans have popped up to take advantage of this alfresco eating opportunity. One of the best of this gang is Cucina Sotto Le Stelle, an open-air restaurant whose name translates to "kitchen under the stars". Chef Benjamin Matthews makes traditional woodfired pizzas while diners mingle at tables set beneath flame trees or sit on blankets picnic-style. For an option other than pizza, try Matthews' handmade parsley spaghetti with South Australian mussels (AUD$26). A few minutes away at Nightcliff village shops is Lucky Bat which has gained a solid local following thanks to its arty vibe, friendly service and tasty menu. Peruse the local paintings and T-shirt designs that line one wall of the cafe as you enjoy a lemon and orange blossom soda (AUD$7). Next, dip into the baba ghanoush, tomato, olive oil and parsley on toast (AUD$15), or try the spanakopita (AUD$17). For a happy ending, finish your culinary tour at Rapid Creek's Pour. Lovers of raw and baked treats and other healthy fare congregate here for richgooey brownies and organic coffee, as well as sandwiches (AUD$9.50-$12), smoothies (AUD$8.50) and a full range of teas (AUD$4.50). Pour has an understated industrial feel and its split-level space features a gift shop that stocks jewellery and homewares from a suite of Australian designers such as Dear Mabel and Cushionopoly.
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