Whether you're a Canberra local or are simply planning a weekend trip to the ACT, you'll want to have these top Canberra restaurants on your hit list. No longer is Australia's capital and its surrounds reserved for politics and innovative winemaking, Canberra's culinary scene has exploded in recent years.
The city is now home to fine dining restaurants, newly opened fun-loving venues, exceptional wine bars, and a unique Canberra dining experience that offers a different menu daily.
We've scoured the city for the best places to eat, drink and celebrate Canberra's dining culture. Here are the best restaurants in Canberra right now.
GT's Restaurant Guide ACT State Winner
GT's Restaurant Guide ACT State Winner
Nothing appears to work too hard at this handsome 30-seater. Not the pendant lights, bentwood chairs or trim list of low-intervention wines. Nor a small bowl of smoky onion consommé or the textbook duck terrine that kickstart proceedings. Yet, it becomes clear pretty quickly just how much paddling goes on beneath Onzieme's relaxed surface. Chef-owner Louis Couttoupes changes his menu daily, coaxing huge flavours from hyper-local produce at its seasonal peak, often in the wood oven. In early autumn, that might mean gorgeously blackened thick-cut carrots and crisp-fried curry leaves resting on a bed of labne. Or a blistered cobia fillet with gently wilted kale in a delicate avgolemono sauce. That same passion for provenance isn't lost on the crack young floor team, who know their cues and help steer the flexible dining format with generosity and warmth. Consider it the Platonic ideal of the neighbourhood neo-bistro.
5/39 Kennedy St, Kingston, onzieme.com.au
On the turntable, dub and reggae records are playing at a perky volume. In a rocks glass, there's a wicked tequila and rhubarb cocktail called "Rub & Deggae", sharpened by the sting of guindilla pepper. And all around the candlelit, vintage-accented room are savvy locals and off-duty industry folk making merry over unfiltered marsanne and punchy mencía, accompanied by charry ox-tongue skewers and fatty lamb ribs slathered in Sichuan sauce and lime caramel. Bar Rochford may have started as a wine bar with humble ambitions, but it has evolved into what many would call the capital's defining hangout. A steamed snapper fillet sauced in smoked crème fraîche makes it easy to understand why, as does house-made casarecce coated in puréed pumpkin, pepitas and zhoug. That it's all delivered by an informed, fresh-faced team with the swagger to match the atmosphere only strengthens the case. "Canberra institution" status: unlocked.
First Floor, 65 London Cct, Canberra, barrochford.com
Morks may no longer be the well-kept secret it was when the brothers Ratanakosol took over their parents' restaurant back in 2013, but its relevance and fandom have not waned. This is a place that works smarter and harder, boldly interpreting the cuisines of Thailand and its neighbours with dexterity and first-generation flair. Take the nahm jim spooned over startlingly fresh scallop sashimi – spiked with absinthe for an intriguing liquorice backbeat. Or the brilliant hand-rolled egg noodles, more Bologna than Bangkok, glossed in brown butter and chilli jam, with tomatoes, Thai basil and crackly nuggets of pork stomach. Larb gets thoughtfully re-examined along the way, too, swapping minced meat for utterly tender blocks of beef heel. There's such relaxed surety about it all, from the utilitarian room to the obliging tone on the floor, and the rigorously edited wine list follows suit, confirming the case for less being more. Long may the winning streak continue.
18/19 Eastlake Pde, Kingston, morks.com.au
Consider the "Hawaiian tart" – a two-bite snack that winks at the divisive pizza by layering 'nduja cream, fermented pineapple, tomatoes and crisp salami in a peppery pastry shell. Or the wittiness of a dessert called "tirami-choux", which reconfigures the Italian mainstay in profiterole-like form. They're strong indicators of just how much playfulness Pilot weaves into its seven-course dégustation, but it's juxtaposed with an impressive command of the fundamentals, too. It's there in the perfect pan-searing of a hapuka fillet lolling in bonito foam, and the skilful roasting of a cured and smoked duck breast with butter-smooth eschallot purée and shaved chestnuts. Beyond the plate, there's boatloads of ambition at every turn, from collaborations with local artists and designers to cerebral house-made non-alcoholic drinks including a mystifyingly complex blend of blueberries and kombu. Little wonder this suburban pearl is widely considered the linchpin of the bush capital's flourishing restaurant scene.
1 Wakefield Gardens, Ainslie, pilotrestaurant.com
"All of it is fun, not all of it is serious," reads the preface to Such and Such's on-the-pulse drinks list. "Also, all of it yum." You could say the same about the free-wheeling cooking, too, which leaps across borders with whimsy. There's a nod to the Levant in the slick of toum on crumpet-like sourdough flatbread; a gesture to Neapolitan acqua pazza in a brothy tumble of salmon, mussels, semi-dried tomatoes and al dente beans. Unthinkably juicy roast duck on the crown, meanwhile, owes as much to China and France as it does to Kylie Kwong, finished with blood plums and a resonant fish-sauce caramel. The concept, look and feel may well be loose-knit, but the vision is clear and the focus just as tight. Pilot's more casual, colourful sequel has come in hot and, much like its older sibling, looks poised to become one of the Territory's quintessential dining addresses.
220 London Cct, Canberra, andsuchandsuch.com