Chic Anna Spiro-designed interiors. Widescreen waterfront views. Confident, original dishes. From every angle, Arc has arrived in peak form. Located at the quieter end of a bustling wharf precinct, this glam eye catcher is a two-fold treat, boasting a sibling wine bar that's just as appealing as the conservatory-style dining space. Well-organised floor staff are engaging, and there's much to discuss. There's the textural drinks offer from sommelier Ian Trinkle's smart list, and Alanna Sapwell's menu offers its own swag of talking points. House-cured goose prosciutto, for instance, savoury slices of which might come draped across pleats of persimmon on fresh curd encircled by fig leaf oil. Or a fillet of rosy jobfish with crisp, glass-like skin and milky flesh accompanied by buttered corn dotted with star-shaped slices of winged bean. Pork terrine, made with hock and head meat and served at room temperature to magnify its flavour, is embellished with dried heart shavings, peach chutney and a curve of salty, vinegary potato chips. Surprises flow into dessert, too, where the Melba cake, a glorious slice of peach icing, raspberry jelly and pale sponge covered in finger lime sprinkles, knocks it out of the park.
5 Boundary St, Howard Smith Wharves, Brisbane, Qld, arcdining.com.au
Brisbane boasts a clutch of great French eateries, but none are quite like Restaurant Dan Arnold. There's no steak frites or Édith Piaf. Rather, Arnold applies French techniques to local ingredients, capturing a precise style of fine dining that was meant to be long gone by now. The lack of pageantry starts with a minimalist fit-out of greys, floating floorboards and modern timber furniture. Such understatement keeps the focus on the food, and it's needed to keep up with the rotating set menus and their accompanying phalanx of amuse-bouches, petits fours and optional cheese courses. As for what you order, caramel-like eggplant confit with lamb breast and tomato dressing is brought into focus by a brush of ras el hanout, and slow-roasted Brisbane Valley quail with black garlic purée and young leeks refuses to overcomplicate such fabulous produce. Let the staff match the food from a thoughtfully compiled list of Australian and French wines and watch as a three-course menu expands into seven artfully presented mini courses. Fine dining is alive, and better value than ever apparently.
10/959 Ann St, Fortitude Valley, Qld, restaurantdanarnold.com
You wouldn't expect to hike a well-trodden path at somewhere called Detour, and chef patron Damon Amos (nickname D – D-tour, get it?) certainly enjoys veering off the straight and narrow. Half the menu is plant-based, one wagyu dish is seasoned with actual gunpowder, and uncommon inclusions like black ants might arrive garnishing the salmon poached in masterstock. Emu tartare is less outré – the hand-cut flank is dark and sweet, packing heat from a sprinkling of habanero salt, sharply accessorised with charry-edged banana shallots and blobs of cured egg yolk topped with dill. Vegan options – savoury king brown mushrooms with creamy chestnut pâté, sage and sunflower seed crackers, say, or miso-pepped coal-roasted broccoli, scattered with a crisp rubble of quinoa and split peas – encourage thorough exploration of a fun, almost all-Australian wine list favouring smaller producers. Service is enthusiastic, and Amos may even appear with a dish or two – perhaps almond-studded raspberry and yuzu aquafaba meringue, frozen in liquid nitrogen and finished with basil-seed jelly. Interiors here are nicely detailed, too; a bespoke mix of refined rustic and industrial chic. Well-trodden? Not by a long shot. An adventurous diversion? Absolutely.
11 Logan Rd, Woolloongabba, Brisbane, Qld, detourrestaurant.com.au
With almost 25 years of practice, E'cco has a knack of making it all look easy. It's an achievement hard-won by the graft of chef-patron Philip Johnson and front-of-house whiz Mary Randles. The couple's move last year to inner-city Newstead has delivered luxe marble, blond timber and concrete surrounds, but that's not the reason twice-nightly sittings are still required a quarter century on. That's down to unpretentious service, an on-trend wine list that covers all bases, and the kitchen's simple yet elevated Euro-leaning seasonal fare. Rannoch quail, a bistro classic, arrives hot and juicy. It's neatly quartered over sunshine-yellow corn purée scattered with peas and nubs of fried cotechino sausage. Skilfully made tortellini packed with prawn meat benefit from a lively ginger and lemongrass broth poured at the table, while rich Angus short rib is reined in by lightly soused baby leeks, creamy potato purée and wedges of celeriac. The likes of a baked custard tart with burnt orange syrup, pistachio halva and sharp yoghurt sorbet prove why desserts remain a drawcard. And not a tweezer in sight.
63 Skyring Tce, Newstead, Qld, eccobistro.com.au
Gauge started life as a dynamic daytime destination, then morphed into an ambitious restaurant space for four nights of the week. Now the tables have turned. The elegant café fit-out remains, but brunches and lunches have been sidelined to weekends and its status as Brisbane's poster boy for big-flavoured, inventive and intricate dining has been cemented. Staff continue to overdeliver, ditto the clipped and mainly Australian drinks list, which tilts towards the lesser-known with juicy amber wines at its heart. Snacks are stellar – freeform chicken-skin crackers with anchovy cream or fluffy sebago loaded into a crisp potato shell and topped with potent malt vinegar cream and a savoury snow of cured egg yolk. There's a briny theme to many dishes. Mussel cream with yuzu ties together an elegant tangle of cuttlefish and kohlrabi noodles, while Spanish mackerel fillets, lightly salt-encrusted and blush-centred, are served over diced celeriac with roasted hazelnuts. Bright orange tobiko crowns a lamb tartare dotted with pale scallop, finger lime and tarragon, keeping interest levels piqued. Desserts are refined; consider the poached pear with a dulce de leche-style caramel ricotta and celeriac ice-cream. By any measure of volume for creativity and skill, this Gauge is dialled for maximum impact.
77 Grey St. South Brisbane, Brisbane, Qld, gaugebrisbane.com.au
This striking Modernist-inspired destination, just off modish James Street, is one of Australia's smartest interpreters of Middle Eastern cooking, and the recent arrival of Sydney chef Adam Wolfers (Ételek, Yellow) will serve only to elevate this reputation. Wolfers' début menu is a masterclass on stepping into hallowed kitchen turf with confidence. Take the snacks, for example: rock oysters veiled in spiced brown butter, or koftas reimagined as finely minced, beautifully spiced kangaroo patties moulded around a bone, with tangy fermented tahini and chilli oil for dipping. Kataifi is presented as golden-crisp strings of potato, a nest-like topping for a creamy blend of sunflower seeds and chickpeas. And Gerard's signature lamb tartare? The richly flavoured backstrap dice now conceals a piquant base of garlic spiked yoghurt– add dollops of both to a tortilla-like celeriac "flatbread", load up with ribbons of pickled fennel and smile. More heft? Try the beef intercostals bolstered by basturma spices and potent toum. Friendly service is rounded out by sommelier Dalia Katia Leo, who is as well-versed as her list's wide-ranging scope. Mandarin curd, black cardamom ice-cream and sesame crumble delivers an aptly nuanced finish.
14/15 James St, Fortitude Valley, Brisbane, Qld, gerardsbistro.com.au
QAGOMA is often regarded as having the world's best broad collection of art from Asia and the Pacific, so its restaurant has quite the reputation to support. Entering through the contemporary art gallery's lofty foyer adds to a sense of occasion, even if the restaurant itself is relatively modest (its few embellishments include an enormous Choi Jeong Hwa light sculpture and custom-made dining chairs). That keeps the focus squarely on the food and, thankfully, it's up to the scrutiny. Thinly sliced Mooloolaba cuttlefish with fennel on a bed of beurre noisette malto is both delicate and refined, while toothfish goes the other way, a boldly flavoured fillet matched with leek, wasabi and potato terrine seasoned with vinegar – a dressed-up fish and chips of sorts. Charming if occasionally uneven service shines best when explaining this gastronomy, as well as recommending a wine list that leans hard into Queensland drops. Stick around for a burnt white chocolate and pimento parfait with mandarin – a dessert that will stick with you, and seal your decision for a return visit.
Gallery of Modern Art, Stanley Pl, South Bank, Brisbane, Qld, qagoma.qld.gov.au
There's been change aplenty for Hellenika fans over the past two years. The $2.4 million reinvention of the restaurant's Gold Coast digs. And the glitzy second home at Brisbane's swanky Calile Hotel – all rose marble, white brick arches, sharp lines and, of course, those switched-on staff in their designer pink blazers. But the instant that first bowl of taramasalata lands, creamy bright and bursting with fish roe flavour, it's clear owner Simon Gloftis still sweats the small stuff. If this is home-style Greek, it's from a home using a precision lens. Silverbeet dolmades are crammed with comfort in the form of veal mince and swollen rice grains. Coal-grilled King George whiting is served off the bone, its skin sporting the right ratio of char, with simply oil, lemon and oregano to help it soar. Lamb shoulder accompanied by dill yoghurt and with spuds doused in roasting juices, meanwhile, will demolish plans for dessert. Perhaps a small pause first, and a pour of vinsanto from Santorini off a well-built drinks list that rewards the adventurous. Then, a lemon syrup-drizzled bougatsa, halva ice-cream and watermelon. Unnecessary, yes, but just as polished as the rest of the package.
The Calile Hotel, 48 James St, Fortitude Valley Qld, hellenika.com.au/
This 10-seat chef's table affair is as tiny and uplifting as its name. There's nothing extraneous – just two chef-owners (who live above the shop) cooking their hearts out in a galley-style kitchen, sharing Joy with diners as they plate up before them, tweezers and tongs in hand. It's an intensely personal experience heightened by the immediacy of the style of service. Oven-fresh corn chawanmushi comes to the comptoir topped with crisp-fried quinoa seasoned with pale shreds of scallop floss, petals of lacto-fermented pumpkin for zing and smoked salmon roe. Venison tartare is sheathed in a translucent skin of fermented celeriac, its meatiness offset by roasted sesame and a trio of garlic garnishes – flowers, black fermented and lightly bitter golden chips. A snappy drinks list favours the artisanal, which tallies with the ethos here, with the likes of Ephemera's negroamaro and brown-rice sake on pour. Mont Blanc is remastered for dessert and topped with gold leaf, with malted roast artichoke caramel in place of chestnut, and a layered base of salted crème Chantilly and savoiardi. Unalloyed Joy sparked.
Bakery Lane, Shop 7, 694 Ann St, Fortitude Valley, Qld, joyrestaurant.com.au
Having blown across the border from Sydney three years ago, Otto has since become an integral part of Brisbane's Italian dining scene. It's easy to see why. There are those views across the river towards the Story Bridge. An impeccable fit-out finished with mesmerising woven ceiling fans. The Amalfi Coast-inspired menus. Otto would be the ultimate occasion restaurant if it weren't so uncomplicated and approachable. Friendly, restrained and well-trained floor staff help. They can talk you through a stunning pumpkin and ricotta-filled cappellacci entrée heightened by red claw yabbies, muscatel and sage. Or into a wood-fired mahi-mahi special served with Goolwa pipis in a lively garlic, eschalot and fennel sauce. For dessert, the tip-off is a buffalo yoghurt gelato encased in white chocolate and mascarpone mousse, strawberries and baby lemon balm – the whole thing a fragrant revelation. Go large if you must with a bottle from a brilliant collection of Italian wines, but charting the meal using the considered clutch of Coravin pours is perhaps the more sensible option. Nothing Otto does is particularly cheap, but when it's this good it hardly matters.
Level 4, 480 Queen St, Brisbane, Qld, ottoristorante.com.au
When Stokehouse Q sparked up in 2011, it was viewed locally as a northern branch office for its more sophisticated Melbourne sibling. Eight years on, the glamour spot has flourished. It's now a bona fide Brisbane institution – somewhere to bring visitors to show off not just commanding rivers-edge city views but also a local, elegant take on contemporary fare. Catch the fleeting sunset with a flute in hand (cue a broad-ranging drinks list with a stash of vintage and small-grower sparkling wines) and nab a plate of crudo, perhaps riberry gin-cured slivers of black kingfish finished with desert lime dust and oil. Or opt for simplicity – garfish and triple-cooked chips, pimped with seaweed salt. Amaebi prawns are a neat addition to squid-ink spaghetti, slicked with fermented chilli and cultured butter. And barramundi belly shines topped with sea purslane and supported by garnet-hued Davidson's plum oil and seaweed dashi. Floor staff may fade during hectic periods, but the Jenga-like tiles of a refined Neapolitan dessert – a base square of chocolate mousse topped with rosella sorbet and offset by vanilla semifreddo – will leave you totally stoked.
Sidon St, South Bank, Brisbane, Qld, stokehouseq.com.au/
Josue Lopez may have departed the city for his first solo project, but there's nothing suburban about his menu – it displays the same artful flair that secured him much acclaim at GOMA. Native ingredients remain front and centre, not least in an emblematic match-up of seared kangaroo loin and hand-cut emu tartare in a wattle-evoking composition featuring wattleseed, purslane and pumpkin acacia. The cranberry-clove notes of lilly pilly add a sharp local edge to a veal tartare-like offering, with king brown mushroom purée alongside. Wattleseed reappears at dessert, this time in a cacao-dusted, lightly coffee-flavoured yoghurt studded with brittle chunks of chocolate, macadamia and rosella. Lopez's wife Krystal oversees the friendly service (and painted the impressive canvasses adorning the VJ walls of this lovely Queenslander). If the painted cray dish is on, dressed up with scallop foam, tender octopus and glass-like potato shards, nab it. Drinks are in tune with the "local not parochial" motif, mainly Australian within the appealing by-the-glass selection, backed by a swag of Champagne.
989 Stanley St, East Brisbane, Brisbane, Qld, thewolfeeastbrisbane.com.au