Venture beyond the capital city and you'll find some of Queensland's best restaurants according to our 2020 Restaurant Guide. It starts with an understated modern-Australian restaurant in Burleigh Heads, to a clever eatery in Noosa that sources produce from its own farm. Pull up a seat at these top-notch regional restaurants in Queensland. You'll be pleasantly surprised.
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You know Burleigh's restaurant revolution is serious when it begins to march inland. A few blocks back from the beachfront is where you'll find Restaurant Labart, an old shop transformed into an understated and elegant space of forest-green walls, tanned leather banquettes and industrial light fittings. It deals in food that's similarly restrained and polished, the chefs mixing European, Australian and Japanese techniques to allow produce to speak for itself. A Rangers Valley beef tartare served with charcoal-black rice crisps is elevated by generous amounts of tarragon and salted egg yolk, while local spanner crab served with charred leeks almost melts into a creamy, salty roasted crab broth. Later, a simple well-rendered duck breast presented in peppercorn jus is plump and refreshingly unfatty. The relaxed, knowledgeable staff peddle a wine list stacked with Australian small producers and may also talk you into dessert – barbecued pineapple with lemonade granita and a mild white chocolate curd is as refreshing as the Gold Coast weather that awaits when you step back out the door.
8 West St, Burleigh Heads Qld, restaurantlabart.com
It's no mystery why almost everyone elects to sit outside at Nu Nu, even on a lukewarm, windy afternoon. A table on the timber deck is a premium spot in the stalls of the vibrant theatre that is tropical north Queensland, fluttering palms high above, the roiling Coral Sea on full display. Switched-on staff sporting shorts and sunnies scurry about, doling out candid advice. Begin with a cocktail, they'll suggest, and you'd be unwise not to listen; a vanilla and ginger Mojito roars with throat-tingling spice. Everything here, from a two-bite-sized snack of smoked reef fish in a tangle of papaya relish on a wild pepper leaf, to a salad of watermelon offset by dollops of quark, dehydrated olives and malty molasses crumbs, expresses the region's colourful palate (and palette) in high-definition. A blitz of seeds, mustard fruits, pickled radishes, chilli butter and fluorescent pumpkin purée takes the more-is-more mantra one step too far in a main course starring sourdough-crumbed Tablelands pork loin, but then a chocolate brownie emerges: a chewy, toffee-rich reminder that life's most gratifying pleasures are often the least complicated.
1 Veivers Rd, Palm Cove, Qld, nunu.com.au
The name and prime beachfront setting might scream "tourist trap", but don't be deterred. Pan-Asian goodness is delivered here with pace and precision – and tasty crossovers with Little Valley, the owner's Brisbane outpost, are obvious. Comforting, fall-apart Madras-spiced lamb arrives elevated by curry butter and a nutty black rice dressing, while a fried shrimp wonton crowned with pork floss finds another dimension of flavour in a clear smoked ham broth made hot and punchy with fermented chilli. An $80 banquet provides an overview, including Rick's famous bug rolls – crisp-battered Moreton Bay bug served with bug-and-sriracha mayo in a squishy bun. A snappy katsu toastie with pork crackling, candied tomato and mustard greens is a newer addition, but likewise warrants attention. Drinks adroitly navigate border-crossing share dishes, with a fine haul by the glass including spice-loving rosés and a mix of classic and trendier options. Desserts are refreshingly inventive – tangy sorrel ice-cream and Sichuan-scented strawberries play perfectly with peppered meringue and white chocolate ganache. And those epic views of rolling surf just beyond the open windows? Yep, a big, delightful bonus.
3/43 Goodwin Tce, Burleigh Heads, Gold Coast Qld, rickshores.com.au
Wasabi's focus on local produce (much of it sourced from the restaurant's own farm) may be contemporary, but dining at this riverside icon almost feels old-school – the setting is quiet and intimate, the floor staff exacting. There's no unnecessary fanfare, but expect an adventure of discovery; you don't so much order from the Wasabi menu as give yourself over to it. A tartare of fresh-caught local fish with an extra kick, courtesy of mirin, miso, shishito and edamame salt, awakens the palate, while charcoal-grilled arrowhead squid stuffed with baby Mooloolaba king prawns is finished with a grassy shiso and mitsuba dressing. Slow-cooked Rhodavale pork shoulder served with genmaicha, meanwhile, is served in its own rich broth to create a kind of rarefied Japanese comfort food. As for the drinks offering, order some sake from a wide-ranging international menu or a bottle from the impressive collection of vintage Champagne. Either way, be prepared to savour dessert – a watermelon and shiso granita finished with vibrant green nasturtium ice-cream proves to be, like everything else at Wasabi, both restrained and inspired.
2 Quamby Pl, Noosa Sound, Qld, wasabigroup.com.au