Where to Take Out-of-Towners to Eat When You Want to Show Off Your City

Show off Brisbane's best and brightest side of the city.
Sarah Ward
Published on April 11, 2018

Where to Take Out-of-Towners to Eat When You Want to Show Off Your City

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Show off Brisbane's best and brightest side of the city.

When non-Brisbanites visit our river city, they tend to notice three things. First, the combination of humidity and heat always becomes a frequent, obvious and completely warranted topic of conversation. Next, there's the fact that we're definitely not the Gold Coast — or on the coast, for that matter. And finally, there's the unmissable feature that is our snaking central waterway.

What out-of-towners don't usually expect, however, is our thriving food scene, which often shows off all of the above. Eating outdoors all year round, without throngs of tourists, while enjoying a river view or finding yourself in walking distance of its banks — well, that's Brisbane in a nutshell.

If you're looking for the best examples of that, we've got 'em. With our pals at American Express, we've rounded up some of the most scenic, charming and all-around essential spots this town has to offer — the ones that show off Brisbane's charms and will make your visiting friends want to come back in a hurry. Plus, each of these accepts your American Express® Card so you can boost that points balance of yours for a reciprocal trip to your visitors home.

Got yourself in another dining situation and need some guidance? Whatever it is, we know a place. Visit The Shortlist and we'll sort you out.

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    best restaurants in Brisbane - GOMA Restaurant

    A trip to the Queensland Art Gallery or the Gallery of Modern Art is a must-do for any visitor to Brisbane and usually inspires the happy dilemma of deciding what to have for lunch nearby. Forget South Bank and opt for the GOMA Restaurant instead.

    The fit-out is simple, not just providing a frame for the view, but a blank canvas for the beautiful dishes. And while the menu changes regularly, you can expect whatever adorns your plate to inspire a cliché in the best possible way — the dishes are delicious works of art in themselves. Plus, five- and nine-course degustations are also on offer, should you want to immerse yourself in the experience — that’s what going to a gallery is all about, after all. Here, though, it applies to dinner as well as the masterpieces on display.

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    When Otto set up shop in Brisbane, it didn’t just bring the Sydney favourite north — it became one of the city’s favourites, too. That’s understandable given the eatery’s modern take on Italian classics, which spans beyond the usual pizza and pasta set-up. They’re great, but they’re not Gooralie pork cutlets, potato gnocchi with braised rabbit or butterflied spatchcock, now are they? Okay, so that all sounds good and delicious but — whether you eat meat or avoid it — your current salivating is only beginning. Otto’s signature whole roasted suckling pig for eight will keep the former satisfied, while their vegan lineup caters for the latter. There’s also a mighty nice wine list to go along with both, naturally. But we have another enticing option for you: visit on a Saturday for a three-course set lunch menu for $85 which includes BYO and free corkage. Otto isn’t just about consuming scrumptious things. Setting up shop in the middle of the CBD, it also features an exterior bar with killer river views and access to the building’s high-rise park.

    Image: Nikki To.

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  • 6
    The dining room with sunken tables looking out of Brisbane River at Sono Japanese Restaurant - one of the best Japanese restaurants in Brisbane.

    With delicious food, impeccable service and a sleek minimalist interior, there’s a lot to love about Sono Japanese restaurant at Portside (and the beautiful river views don’t hurt, either). The vibe, the view, the cuisine — it’s one of Brisbane’s fancy go-tos for a reason.

    The a la carte menu can most accurately be described as ‘epic’, with a vast range of choices that includes sashimi, sushi, gyoza, teriyaki and a whole host of side dishes, noodles and desserts. But, you owe it to your guests to opt for teppanyaki. There’s a large teppanyaki bar located in the centre of the restaurant where you can watch and learn as your food is cooked right in front of you.

    Then there’s the wine and sake, which is expertly matched to complement your chosen dishes. Plus, if you’re stretched for time and can’t make it to Hamilton, there’s a second Sono restaurant located in the CBD.

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  • 5

    For 22 years, E’cco Bistro wasn’t just a place to eat in Brisbane — it was one of the places to eat. In 2018, however, it said goodbye to Boundary Street and hello to Newstead, reemerging with a progressive menu, more casual fit-out and a Brazilian charcoal grill to boot.

    That might sound like a considerable amount of change for the classic haunt, but it’s still an absolute must-visit. Keeping everything fresh and simple is on the menu; think a pared-back version of the restaurant’s longstanding strawberry and raspberry cheesecake or the new pastrami brisket, an update of the pork belly version. When it comes to the new fit-out, it’s all about limestone and brick floors, a marble bar and kitchen benchtop, American oak detailing and subtle patterns — plus elements of the original E’cco, too. Locals might notice that the new banquette seats have details from the old circular seat-backs, for example, so you can tell your guests that they’re still experiencing Brissie history.

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  • 4

    Capitalising on Brisbane’s best assets is easy at Watt Restaurant and Bar. Spectacular views of the river and across to Hawthorne, as seen from both inside and out? Check. A waterfront location that provides an ever-changing backdrop and a welcome breeze in summer? Check. Housed in one of the city’s most iconic venues? Check again. Indeed, to really showcase Brissie, you can combine your trip with a stroll through New Farm Park and a show at the Brisbane Powerhouse.

    Watt particularly blossoms on a weekend, with Saturday and Sunday afternoons a great time to drop by. As for the food, charcuterie boards will give you something to snack on, bagels and burgers sit among other mains such as Thai chicken salad and king salmon, and the Queensland mango and passionfruit cheesecake couldn’t be better for the occasion.

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  • 3

    Located just across from the City Botanic Gardens and the riverfront, Moda boasts a distinctly Queensland vibe — perhaps because of all of the above, or perhaps because the usual clinical-white tableware and glistening glassware have been shunned in favour of a cheerful mishmash of bright patterned plates and colourful water glasses.

    More likely, it’s down to the fact that the entire restaurant is basically one big courtyard — even in winter, the restaurant is open-plan, with discrete heating elements to keep things toasty. Though far from southern Europe, Moda’s location and breezy setup are perfectly suited to the blend of French, Catalan and Italian-influenced dishes it serves up. And, it’s perfectly suited to showing off the stylish side of Brisbane. Opt for the chefs set menu ($89 per person) to sample three signature dishes — perhaps the WA octopus with persimmon and passionfruit, Spanish-style beef short ribs and olive oil bizcocho cake. And pair with a liberal mix of Spanish, Italian, French, Australian and NZ wines. 

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  • 2

    This classic Italian establishment is a standout in Fortitude Valley’s Emporium complex, and it’s instantly obvious why. If you’re looking for a place brimming with passion — for food, for art and for a great meal out — you’re in the right spot. Actually, you’re in one of the city’s best precincts as well.

    Dishes here are simple yet stylish: think traditional Italian beef and pork meatballs, house-made linguine served with wild and cultivated mushrooms, and a succulent porchetta. For an adequate representation of what a typical Italian family would feast on, opt for one of the set menus, which caters to several dietary needs ($65 for vegetarian, $75 for pescetarian and $90 for mixed). For tables of eight or more, you can get a grazing-style multi-course banquet for a cruisy $55 per guest. Pair this with a few glasses of smooth Italian vinos and half a glass of Sicilian dessert wine later, Tartufo’s concoctions are so well executed that you’ll remember how each and every one tastes. 

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    The Walnut

    Located on the ground floor of the Royal on the Park Hotel at the end of Albert Street, The Walnut will take your guests into old-school territory — when you thought about fancy dinners as a kid, this is the kind of place you were dreaming of. The views of the City Botanic Gardens contribute to a tranquil vibe — but it’s got far more to offer than that. 

    There are two more reasons to get cosy in the restaurant’s wood-filled surrounds: the faultless service (which will make you think you’ve suddenly become a celebrity) and the exceptional food, turning the most familiar menu items into something truly special. Sure, you’ve had oysters, maybe wagyu porterhouse and definitely warm sticky date pudding before, but you haven’t had it while feeling like the most important person in the city.

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As you drink and dine with your American Express, reap all the sweet rewards of being a Card Member. Explore the many ways American Express has your back here.

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