An aria calls for a stand-out soloist – but there are no histrionic prime donne here. In its tenth year, Brisbane's premier riverfront fine-diner presents as a harmonious group performance, from deft floor staff to the polished interior with its panoramic curve of glass. All up, it's an agreeably adult affair, which includes Danny's excellent sourdough, petit fours, an amuse-bouche, pre-dessert and boozy canelés to take home. An epic wine list pays homage to the world's top regions yet features a Granite Belt offering by the glass. The double-cheese stracciatella di bufala entrée is richer than many regulars, but its parmesan oil dressing is balanced by sweet peas and shaved fennel. From the grill section, Rangers Valley chuck tail arrives with a tangle of watercress and lemon – pristinely perfect. Desserts are applauseworthy, too, perhaps, a refreshing mango and raspberry confection.
Eagle St Pier, 181 Mary St, Brisbane, ariarestaurant.com
It's nearly a decade since Urbane revealed its minimalist look, but the polished gallery-like setting remains crisp. So to the technique-driven dishes, now being conjured by a fresh team following the departure of Alejandro Cancino. Herbivore options have lost dazzle with the changing of the guard, but an array of intriguing snacks kick off with tumblers of intense tomato water. It's big-night-out territory, with service to match and a hefty wine list poised to empty the wallet. Precisely cooked scampi might be wrapped in crisp angel hair pastry, say, atop a rich bisque brightened by lemon and ponzu, while lamb tagine is presented as a pastry-encased square with fruity couscous. Mixing the fresh and the familiar, toasted chestnut and tonka bean snow complements green apple sorbet, jolting senses back to reality. Smart petit fours ensure your landing remains smooth.
181 Mary St, Brisbane, urbanerestaurant.com
Gauge takes full advantage of the connection between our stellar café culture and the searing ambition of modern Australian cooking. Open daily for breakfast and lunch and four nights a week for dinner, this timber minimalist space across the street from the Queensland Museum slips easily between avocado toast and innovative multicourse meals. At brunch, Coffin Bay oysters come sluiced with fermented rhubarb juice and diced golden shallots, and brioche toast is topped with pork Bolognese, cabbage and a fried egg. At night, things get serious. It's here that you're privy to wildly creative dégustation dishes such as raw squid with XO sauce and horseradish, or roast duck with fermented turnip and chamomile. Wine pairings, chosen from the mostly Australian list, are deeply considered, and you're unlikely to find staff anywhere more thoughtful or committed.
77 Grey St, South Brisbane, gaugebrisbane.com.au
Brisbane's flagship French destination is now bigger, brighter and better. A relocation has added grandeur, without diluting Montrachet's Old World ambience. Aged timber flooring, gilt-framed mirrors and marble-topped comptoir is now bordered by a glassed-in cellar, as befits a list loaded with namesake chardonnay and Grands Crus. Never short on ambition, the kitchen team soars while service standards have also stepped up. Gallic classics are en pointe; an assertive onion soup arrives topped with rich, salty-sweet Gruyère toasts, while steak frites come with a sharply dressed salad, bronzed frites and a flawless fillet. Then, there's coral trout brightened by a citrus butter brioche sauce. Ethereal apricot soufflé displays all the finesse you'd expect. And yes, the crème brûlée is a cracker.
1/30 King St, Bowen Hills, montrachet.com.au
It seems apt to begin your modern Middle Eastern journey with a little spice. Gerard's smoked harissa Margarita will do the trick – a preview of what the team has coming your way in this artfully designed space with its subtle nods to the Levant. Each plate will compete to be more charismatic and intriguing than the last, with bold flavours uniting in harmony. The snap and pop of burghul cracker topped with Paroo kangaroo and indigo-hued scampi caviar is the perfect beginning, followed by the likes of the earthy, rich caramelised blood cake paired with pickled daikon, toum, cured egg yolk and shaved bottarga. More delicate, lightly poached hapuka should not be overlooked; its lingering chilli warmth offset by caramelised tahini and the salty crunch of sea succulents. The only thing you won't want to share is dessert – sorrel ice-cream beneath a porcini meringue.
14/15 James St, Fortitude Valley gerardsbistro.com.au
6. E'cco Bistro
E'cco's glamorous Newstead digs – all flatteringly lit marble, stone and blonde timber – perfectly fit the new grown-up incarnation of this mod-Australian bistro. The kitchen's parrilla grill adds spark to the produce-focused menu. Bronzed cauliflower arrives with deep-fried sage and a rich cheese sauce, spiked with anchovy, golden almonds and raisins. A pretty scallop and scampi ceviche garners zing from grapefruit and ginger, while pink peppercorns release a flavour hit. Braised short rib is served off the bone and partners smoked artichoke purée brightened with pickled shiitake mushrooms. The wine list balances emerging makers and Old World cred, and friendly professionalism typifies service. And dessert? Proof is in the pudding: strawberry and raspberry cheesecake nods to Eton mess, while kaffir lime-laced coconut sorbet is lifted by char-grilled peppered pineapple.
63 Skyring Tce, Newstead, eccobistro.com.au
It lacks the waterside setting of its Sydney counterpart but Otto Brisbane's city-chic digs on the fourth floor of a high-rise block are angled to amplify sweeping skyscapes taking in the river, Story Bridge and Customs House. Food-friendly Italian wines dominate, with Spritzes aplenty and Will Cowper's modern, precisely rendered southern Italian-influenced fare ferried to table by Brisbane's best. Fritto misto illustrates careful sourcing, arriving as a classic tumble of lightly fried, crisp school prawns, tiny whitebait and calamari strips; goldband snapper fillet is served simply with crisp salt-crystallised skin and a vivid pea purée, dotted with corn and fat savoury pieces of shiitake. Dessert is smokin': a rubble of liquid nitrogen-frozen coconut and vanilla-mousse chunks, with pineapple and a yolk-coloured mango sorbet paying sweet tribute to the Sunshine State.
Level 4, 480 Queen St, Brisbane, ottoristorante.com.au
8. Stokehouse Q
Effortlessly elegant, Stokehouse Q sits on the banks of the Brisbane River, a slender space divided into three – an airy bar with its own menu, a chic covered deck and a breezy dining room. Each room is designed to maximise water and city views. White-clothed tables bring a formality that's echoed in polished service, but the swoosh of fans and splash of river traffic ensures the dial stays set to subtropical smart casual. Kick off with snacks, choux pastry gougères, say, filled with a turbocharged cheese sauce and sprinkled with fiery kimchi dust, or a smoky eel pâté with puffed rice crackers. Fish dishes are exceptional – barramundi with almond purée and pickled raisins, or goldband snapper with a textbook tomato consommé, perhaps. Need a sweetener? A perfect circle of pistachio nougatine crowned with rosewater dust over a blood orange jam base delivers – in style.
Sidon St, South Bank, stokehouseq.com.au
If you prefer your wine natural and your emu tartare sculptural, Detour is for you. The large storefront space can't quite decide if it's industrial or polished wood modern, but the look works, as does the highly ambitious food spilling forth from the open kitchen. It's not uncommon to see liquid nitrogen smoke billowing, and there's a molecular bent to much of the menu, half of which is vegan. Rounds of raw scallop layer the bottom of a plate like translucent white tiles, covered in spherified orbs of apple, slivers of nectarine and a scattering of ice plant. That emu tartare plays up the deep, dark bloodiness of the meat, set against rich egg yolk, burnt shallot, and polenta crisps. The "herbivore" side of the menu offers a roast cauliflower plate that's a meditation on vegetal textures. Don't be fooled by the large arrow on the front door, pointing you elsewhere. You're in the right place.
6/11 Logan Rd, Woolloongabba, detourrestaurant.com.au
10. 1889 Enoteca
1889 Enoteca has dropped some airs and graces over the years and become more Roman along the way. Bambini are just as welcome as young lovers, Italian pop soundtracking the convivial atmosphere. Decisions start early: dine in the wine room, the marble-lined bar or alfresco on the beguiling Logan Road strip. Then they get hard: for entrée, juicy figs with Gorgonzola and prosciutto, or fried zucchini flowers bursting with mozzarella and anchovies? Whichever way you go, it's highly evolved simplicity. For main course, a saltimbocca alla Romana remains a favourite but Enoteca's edge is in its pasta – think pappardelle cut so thick you might mistake it for lasagne, its braised pork and beef sauce fragrant and hearty. A cherry and ricotta tart is compulsory, as is one final glass from the extraordinary list of Italian wines, as natural, low-intervention and approachable as the floor staff.
10-12 Logan Rd, Woolloongabba, 1889enoteca.com.au