Despite the world been thrown into chaos with COVID, southeast Queensland’s hospitality scene is thriving with a flourish of new eateries opening from Tewantin to Tugan.
From glamorous Japanese bars making the most of caviar and lobster to breezy bayside restaurants serving up million dollar views, The Courier-Mail’s restaurant reviewers have been running their critical eye (and tastebuds) across them all to bring you the best of what’s on offer.
So here is our list of the best new restaurants in southeast Queensland, you’ll want to make a reservation for ASAP.
4/59 Hardgrave Rd, West End
Tequila-fuelled laughter bellows over heaving house music. A wrestling match is projected onto a wall, while the highly knowledgeable service team work the almost-capacity, art-clad room with alacrity. The lively, buzzy Mexican eatery that is Mama Taco in West End has fast become one of the hottest venues in the hospitality-heavy suburb – and not just because of the chilli that finds its way into almost every dish.
This is a Mexican restaurant dedicated to authenticity unlike anything else in town. Sourcing produce organically and using ethically raised animals, there’s a enviable level of care and attention taken to the tight menu, which includes just four tacos and four mains, plus the option to build your own meal using a variety of sides. Begin with the ever-changing empanada made with whatever is good or in season that day before firing things up with the heat-heavy tacos, which are all winners, especially the eggplant version. It’s food designed to eat with one hand with a cocktail in the other and the tequila and mezcal-driven quality cocktail list is just the answer.
Mama Taco is a restaurant where good times flow as freely as the booze and where attention to detail in the kitchen and front of house transform a suburban taquería into something truly special.
Boom Boom Room Izakaya
49 Elizabeth St, Brisbane
To call the new Boom Boom Room in Brisbane’s CBD an izakaya is somewhat misleading.
By Japanese tradition, an izakaya is typically an informal bar where drinks are the star, while snacks are more an accompaniment to help soak up the booze and stop punters from falling off their stools after too many rounds. But the new basement space, hidden inside an old bank building off Elizabeth St, is – by any standard – a restaurant, boasting a level of sophistication and refinement far beyond a simple bar. There’s the ultra luxe fit-out with plush red chairs against gold wainscoting, a drinks list heroing sake and Japanese whisky across all price points, as well as international wines that complement the cooking, and a cocktail line-up created by some of the best in the business. But it’s the food that may just be the hero with a broad and enticing menu encompassing snacks, sushi, sashimi, yakitori, sandos, large plates and dessert. Top-notch local produce is the secret to the success of many of the dishes, like the red kangaroo tartare and miso-glazed toothfish yakitori, while the Fraser Isle spanner crab udon is life changing.
Complemented by knowledgeable and proficient service, Boom Boom Room is worth hunting for.
Fish Lane Town Square 63 Melbourne Street, South Brisbane
Positioned among the Jurassic-like, lush, urban jungle that is the newly built Fish Lane Town Square in South Brisbane comes this contemporary ode to Asia’s finest cuisines.
Heavily Chinese leaning but with influences from across East Asia prepared with a modern Australian spin, the fare is a fun example of fusion and innovation.
Chef Benny Lam’s dim sum is a must – particularly the XO pork xiao long bao, which explode with soupy goodness. Meanwhile, head chef Simon Hanmer’s conversion of the traditional dish of Xinjiang lamb into a Middle Eastern-style wrap with smoked yoghurt and flat bread is just what is called for when diners get a little too deep into the clever cocktail list or inviting and eclectic wine offering.
With thoughtful service and a moody atmosphere that carries from casual catch-up to romantic date night, Southside ensures plenty of reasons to visit.
77 Jurgens Street, Woolloongabba
A Japanese restaurant serving Korean food while playing Italian music. It sounds like a car crash. But, somehow, it’s not. Welcome to the ambitious new project from Michelin-trained Korean chef Alex Kim.
The small dark and moody space in the industrial backstreets of Woolloongabba is like the coming together of a Japanese izakaya and Balinese day spa, with guests seated around a square cooking station, while a buddha-shaped fountain trickles in the background.
The restaurant follows an omakase-style of dining, with the chef designing the multi-course menu (about 10-12 dishes), while diners sit back and watch it be expertly prepared and plated in front of them. It’s a luxurious and indulgent affair of crisp, clean flavours, premium produce and textural finesse with everything from cured salmon paired with dehydrated persimmon and pumpkin puree to a Japanese sandwich filled with Korean-style beef tartare awakening all of the senses. Prepare to be surprised, excited and intrigued, just remember to bring your own booze as the restaurant isn’t licensed.
4 Trafalgar St, Manly
Open lunch and dinner daily
Perched on the edge of Moreton Bay, sail boats gliding by and yachts clanging a fishing line’s cast away, is the stunning Manly Boathouse in Brisbane’s Bayside. Built to make the most of that gorgeous view, the coastal-style eatery is all white and bright with elegant rattan furniture, sprawling round and long tables for groups, and a brass-trimmed bar that spills out onto a spacious astro-turfed outdoor dining area shaded by white and navy umbrellas and a marquee.
Targeting all demographics, the menu is a simple but lengthy assortment of snacks such as oysters and a bucket of prawns to share plates and a grill section with proteins cooked over ironbark, running from line-caught snapper to steak. An ample kids’ menu is also in play, alongside a diverse drinks offering where cocktails are the star.
8 Market Lane, Maroochydore
Based on a classic European bistro, this restaurant offers the complete package. Service is outstanding, there’s a true sense of hospitality in the generosity of servings, the space, while functional, feels cocooned from the world and the food, running from oysters and chilled prawns to steak and pork belly, delivers a solid bistro experience that shines brightly. With a bottle shop attached allowing customers to select wine and drink it at the table for $20 corkage, there’s lots to love here.
2 Quamby Place, Noosa Sound
Sitting on the site of the much-awarded Japanese restaurant Wasabi that closed last year, Winston delivers a multi-course set dinner menu, moving from the likes of a prawn sandwich to perhaps tartare of aged beef. It’s lovely food with multiple components and intricate elements, distilling premium local produce into one busy dining experience. Service is superior and warm and informative without being intrusive, while there’s a global wine list or a drinks pairings for just $65.
610 Ann St, Fortitude Valley
Hidden from view along busy Ann St in Fortitude Valley, Eterna Dining is an ode to the food of the Eternal City. From the owners of the Italian gastronomy empire Salt Meats Cheese, Stefano de Blasi and Edoardo Perlo, this operation is more upscale in both its approach to food and service, but just as lively and spirited with jazz bands and a focus on late-night dining. Staff are ready to offer advice, but not intrusively so, on the broad menu which runs from Roman street fare, like rice croquettes and meatballs, to classic pasta such as carbonara, cacio e pepe and bucatini all’amatriciana, plus five main courses and dessert.
22 Agnes St, Fortitude Valley
At this dimly lit, industrial pyromaniac’s delight, everything is prepared with fire and smoke. Despite the challenges that brings, executive chef Ben Williamson (ex-Gerard’s) has built a lengthy menu working through an array of snacks – including the flavour bombs that are scarlet prawn doughnuts and the lamb ribs slathered in sesame whey caramel – to starters like oyster mushrooms with leek custard or perhaps clams with pork and fennel sausage, potato and onion butter.
The appeal of Agnes lies in its mood created by a wood-smoked alchemy of ambience, staff, and confident creation in the kitchen.
Gasworks Shopping Centre, 76 Skyring Tce, Newstead,
Everything in this Thai restaurant is a lurid pink, as if Barbie and Dolly Parton collaborated on the design and then decided to ramp it up because they were worried they were being a bit tame. But behind the brash decor lies an extensive array of Thai favourites, some with adventurous tweaks, and a serious drinks list. Begin, perhaps, with raw items like beef tartare or a snack of duck spring rolls, before moving on to mains such as Moreton Bay bug with chu chee sauce or all the beloved Thai curries, including a seriously good massaman.
Service is informative and friendly, dishes arrive quickly and are cleared promptly, and while it’s a pay-at-the-register-on-the-way-out scenario, it all seems to work efficiently.
19 Sunshine Beach Road, Noosa Junction
Pucca, the kitchen helmed by Indian-born, Australia-raised, UK Michelin restaurant-trained chef Neale White, has become something of a culinary hot spot in Noosa. Bringing in tourists and locals alike is its food from India’s Malabar Coast, beefed up with quality regional produce, and married with a smart drinks list offering a wide range of gins, including local brews made just a juniper berry’s toss away at Fortune in Noosaville.
This isn’t your standard butter chicken affair, but elegant cuisine darting from crisp samosas stuffed with lightly spiced Mooloolaba prawn mix or Fraser Isle spanner crab with salsa-like kachumber to mains including banana eggplant masala, whey-brined tandoori chicken and a standout Keralan fish curry, aromatic and with a depth of flavour that still lets the beautifully fresh fish remain the hero.
Originally published as RATED: The best new QLD restaurants our reviewers loved