The Best Restaurants in Brisbane

For twenty years, people have been talking about how Brisbane’s restaurant scene is changing. It’s been a stop-start journey that has sometimes struggled to gain momentum. Right now, Brisbane’s hospitality scene is approaching the critical mass required to permanently establish itself as one of Australia’s great dining destinations. I’ve rounded up a short but selective list of the best restaurants in Brisbane. This is just the beginning!

I grew up in Brisbane and return to visit my family as often as possible. I’ve been working in hospitality marketing since I moved to Melbourne six years ago, and while I lived in New York City I led the PR & Marketing for a fine dining restaurant group. It was such an invaluable insight into what makes a restaurant truly tick, and the hard work which goes into making something truly special. As a result, I have very strong and precise opinions when it comes to restaurants!

PS. Every restaurant on this list is vegetarian friendly. I’m pescatarian but don’t usually do more than one seafood course, so am also looking for restaurants with plenty of delicious vegetarian options.

The Best Restaurants in Brisbane

Some old, some new, some cheap & cheerful and some are for a special occasion.

First: A hot take on Brisbane’s restaurant scene

Every time I return to Brisbane, I love trying one or two new restaurants that are getting lots of buzz. Brisbane’s restaurant scene is still growing, so sometimes I’ve been disappointed by restaurants that are copying concepts from elsewhere without enough attention to detail in the execution. Restaurants with an expensive, Instagram-friendly fit out can charge high prices for decent but forgettable food. Restaurateurs are challenged to find enough chefs, managers and floor staff with enough experience, as well as finding enough customers who will dine frequently enough to support them. It is undoubtedly harder to open a restaurant in Brisbane than it is in Sydney or Melbourne.

Recently, things have accelerated, and every time I return there are more and more restaurants opening that seem to be the real deal. Housing affordability compared to Sydney & Melbourne is driving young talent to Brisbane, with a huge pay off for the city’s creative industries. Sydney & Melbourne’s extended lockdowns accelerated this trend. It’s still disappointing yet not surprising when I look up a favourite restaurant or bar from my last visit and find it’s closed without explanation. I’m hoping this happens less and less, and not with any of the restaurants on this list!

I’m really excited about the future of Brisbane’s hospitality industry and supporting the visionary chefs, restaurateurs and teams making it happen.

Agnes, Fortitude Valley

Woodfired restaurant Agnes was Brisbane’s most anticipated restaurant opening of 2020. Housed in a heritage-listed former bacon factory, Agnes has long communal dining tables and an industrial chic atmosphere with an open kitchen. The entire menu is wood-fired, with no electricity or gas being used for cooking.

I had my birthday lunch at Agnes. I’d only recently left New York, where I lived in Nolita, a neighbourhood casually dusted with Michelin-star restaurants in the way that other neighbourhoods are dotted with cafes. It’s a tough act to follow! Agnes delivered.

You’d be forgiven for assuming a woodfired restaurant is no place for a pescatarian, but on the contrary I couldn’t have fit in everything I wanted to order! Nearly a year later, I’m still thinking about those woodfired carrots with smoked labne.

Agnes is by Executive Chef Ben Williamson and business partners Tyron Simon, BianchaMarchi& Frank Li. They’ve also got SameSame, which I dined at on a previous trip to Brisbane, which reminded me a lot of ChinChin in Melbourne. I’m excited the try the group’s newest restaurant, Bianca, next time I’m in Brisbane and hungry for Italian.

Three Blue Ducks, Brisbane City

Three Blue Ducks was founded by three Sydney surfers with initial locations in Bronte, Byron Bay and Rosebery. The group attracted chef Darren Robertson and Andy Allen as it continued to grow. Three Blue Ducks Brisbane is the group’s first city location, with an enviable spot inside the new W Hotel, complete with killer river views. I went for dinner here with David & his family and we’ve been reminiscing ever since! The produce-driven menu does the whole local, sustainable, veggie-forward thing, but manages to keep it feeling fresh. My favourite dishes were the heirloom tomatoes with stracciatella and pangrattato, the haloumi with beets and Spanish mackerel served under a mountain of fresh tomatoes.

Golden Hour at Three Blue Ducks

Greca, Howard Smith Wharves

Greek taverna Greca was an instant hit in Brisbane’s Howard Smith Wharves. Owner Jonathan Barthelmess hails from the Gold Coast, and Greca is his first project in Queensland. He made a name for himself in Sydney first, as so often is the way with Queensland-born hospitality stars, with his Greek restaurant The Apollo and Cho Cho San. Make sure you request an outdoor table so you can enjoy the views of the Brisbane river, Story Bridge and the city. The taramasalata, grilled calamari and chocolate metaxa pudding are unmissable!

Lefkas, West End

For a more casual, family-style Greek taverna, head to Lefkas in West End. Owners Angela & John Theoharis have been offering warm, generous hospitality and family-style Greek dining for more than 15 years, which is no easy feat anywhere, let alone in Brisbane! It’s one of my favourite spots to visit with my family, who also love Greek food, so we visited last time I was in Brisbane.

Ngon, Paddington

Ngon is a delightful new Vietnamese restaurant in Paddington, in Brisbane’s leafy inner west. Ngon is a cute and casual restaurant, using local produce to offer a fresh take on traditional Vietnamese recipes that have been handed down through the Nguyen family for generations. The menu has an extensive selection of small plates and large plates and excellent cocktails.

Brisbane restaurants I want to try

It would be remiss of me to write about the best restaurants in Brisbane and not mention the critically acclaimed and locally loved restaurants that have stood the test of time. I haven’t yet dined there myself, but I only hear good things about Gerard’s Bistro on James Street, 1889 Enoteca in Woolloongabba, E’cco Bistro in Newstead, Queensland’s most awarded French restaurant Montrachet.

Newer restaurants that have caught my eye include Joy,Restaurant Dan Arnold, Detour, Gauge and omakase restaurant Korean Butterfly, and all appear to match style with substance.

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