If Aubergine isn't already the real deal, a moody makeover by Caprezio Copeland - sleek, monochrome, and showcasing dramatic ceiling-to-floor sheer curtains - only reinforces the sense of destination dining. Chef and owner Ben Willis continues to refine a four-course fixed menu that effortlessly drifts with the seasons and crosses geographical boundaries.
18 Barker St, Griffith, aubergine.com.au
2. Bar Rochford
You Am I is on the stereo, Howard Arkley's portrait of Nick Cave is on the wall and there's a savvy bundle of bottles from all over on the wine list. The arched windows of the Melbourne Building are lovelier than the view of the magistrate's court they frame, and the most has been made of this splendid old building's bones.
Level 1, 65 London Cct, Canberra, barrochford.com
After renovations, The Boat House has transformed from tired function space to destination fine-diner. Some extra shine on the floorboards is matched by greater polish at the pass. Flashbacks to chicken-or-fish receptions are erased with a fine entree of confit salmon balanced by a tarragon emulsion and pickled cucumber.
Grevillea Park, Menindee Dr, Barton, theboathouse.restaurant
Courgette is a nice break from the noisy, bustling style of many restaurants. The clientele is mainly business guests, there's plush coffee-toned carpet instead of typically unforgiving industrial concrete surfaces and there's barely any Instagramming going on despite James Mussillon's classic French technique creating plenty of clickbait.
54 Marcus Clarke St, Canberra, courgette.com.au
An L-shaped dining space framing an open kitchen, unclothed tables, blackboard menus, waggish on-the ball staff - Eightysix comprises all the standard ingredients of a hip inner-city diner. But add a sense of adventure that inspires the well-executed food and European-leaning wine list, and it stands out well above the rest. It's fun and it's loud.
Mode 3 building, Cnr Elouera & Lonsdale Sts, Braddon, eightysix.com.au
A rural restaurant within 10 minutes of Parliament House isn't a difficult concept for occupants of the bush capital to grasp. The farmhouse digs at Pialligo Estate offer rustic charm and the ambience is suitably refined.
18 Kallaroo Rd, Pialligo, thepialligoestate.com.au
Italian and Sons began building its fan base in 2009 and if you have been absent awhile, it's reassuring to return to the familiar long, narrow space, bar out the back, blackboard-menu walls, tightly packed tables, wood-fired oven working overtime, and well-versed staff with that slightly frazzled air.
7 Lonsdale St, Braddon, italianandsons.com.au
Močan & Green Grout is the antithesis of comfortable fine dining. From a cramped corner workshop in New Acton, a couple of mates started offering great coffee and toasties in between repairing bikes. Breakfast evolved into lunch, and then a modest menu of share plates by night.
1/19 Marcus Clarke St, New Acton South, mocanandgreengrout.com
Club sandwiches. Hushed, clubby surrounds. Mature waiters. Tablecloths. Monster isn't having a bar of it. This is an entirely new kind of lobby restaurant.
Hotel Hotel, 25 Edinburgh Ave, Canberra, monsterkitchen.com.au
10. Otis Dining Hall
Classic French bistro cuisine gets a Mod Oz makeover in a former Belgian beer bar. It sounds like a recipe for confusion, but former Sage chef Damien Brabender makes it cohesive.
29 Jardine St, Kingston, thisisotis.com.au
11. Ottoman Cuisine
With owner Serif Kaya clocking up nearly 25 years at the helm, Ottoman has enjoyed leadership stability unknown in the nation's capital. His command shines through in consistent and confident service, generous servings and quality produce.
9 Broughton St, Barton, ottomancuisine.com.au
12. Pulp Kitchen
Residents of the what's known locally as the People's Republic of Ainslie don't take kindly to regime change. Fortunately Pulp Kitchen's owner Gus Armstrong maintains bistro doctrine, keeping classic steak frites with bearnaise and a lemon tart with perfectly pitched acidity and exceptional pastry on the menu.
1 Wakefield Gardens, Ainslie, pulp-kitchen.com.au
Sage has seen about as many head chefs as Canberra has sworn in prime ministers in recent years. Fortunately, the cosy fine-diner has found consistency with Thomas Heinrich at the helm. He's pared back the menu and the reliance on foams and soils.
Gorman House, Batman St, Braddon, sagerestaurant.net.au
Set between the CBD and university, Temporada bridges culinary and social divides. By day, suited patrons order upmarket wood-fired burgers and steak sandwiches, or perfectly charred octopus with saffron aioli. By evening, it's a mixed milieu of fine diners and millennials drinking natural wine and sharing edgier selections by the bar.
15 Moor St, Canberra, temporada.com.au
XO moves to its own beat, the kitchen riffing on modern pan-Asian classics, the staff informal and enthusiastic. The spruced-up Asian diner decor and fun soundtrack complete the deal. No surprises that millennials and gen-Xers alike keep flocking here.
16 Iluka St, Narrabundah, xo-restaurant.com.au