Top win for Agnes proves Brisbane’s dining scene is on fire

It may have been a surprise to many when Queensland’s Agnes took out the top gong at Gourmet Traveller’s annual restaurant awards.

But to those familiar with the dining scene in Brisbane, it made perfect sense.

The restaurant is only the second in Queensland to claim the title in the awards’ 44-year history – after Brisbane’s E’cco bistro win in 1997. Agnes chef Ben Williamson described the win as “unbelievable”.

“Brisbane, I mean, it’s not just a place that you come to on the way to Noosa and beyond, I guess,” he told the crowd to cheers and laughs.

Now, the secret is out. Agnes is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the Brisbane’s food and wine culture.

Here’s the lowdown on the winning restaurant, and eight other reasons to visit the city’s vibrant dining scene.


The Fortitude Valley warehouse venue, led by head chef and co-owner Ben Williamson, is known for its open kitchen with multiple woodfire pits, and a menu that features innovative use of fire and smoke. There is no gas or electricity in its cooking.

Williamson says the return to the “very primal base” of cooking with fire was in part inspired by the building’s age.

“What we wanted to do was … harness that old feeling that the building has and take the cooking right back to what it would have been hundreds of years ago,” he says.

“What I love about cooking this way is, you can write a recipe, but you really need to teach it because managing the fire is probably 50 per cent of the cooking process.”

Seafood is the focus at this flash riverside diner. Photo: Fosh


If it’s from the sea, you’ll find it at Fosh. This brand new seafood restaurant at Portside Wharf is a Poseidon’s palace dedicated to freshly caught fish, molluscs, crustaceans and bivalves.

Owner Michael Tassis learned the trade at his dad’s George’s Paragon Seafood Restaurant in Sanctuary Cove, and here you can enjoy fish, prawns, scallops, bugs, oysters – all by the river, with impressive views.

Snack on whipped taramasalata and fish-finger sandwiches before a caviar bump (with optional vodka and champagne), a raw seafood lineup featuring oysters, before moving on to mains such as dry-aged fish, Moreton Bay bugs with spaghetti, pan-seared snapper and one-kilogram servings of black mussels.

Vertigo is taking Brisbane dining to new heights. Photo: Powerhouse


Here’s one for adventurous types.

It’s common to dress up a bit when going out to dine at a nice eatery. Rarely does the outfit include a safety harness, but Vertigo isn’t like most eateries.

To open in October, Brisbane’s first vertical restaurant offers the best view in town – four storeys above the ground overhanging Brisbane Powerhouse’s industrial facade.

Guests are escorted to the rooftop, where they don safety harnesses and climb out to their seats to experience sky-high city views and a 17-metre drop beneath their feet.

After eating, diners can descend through Brisbane Powerhouse or end the meal with one final adrenalin burst by dropline down the building’s face.

Brisbane Powerhouse artistic director Kate Gould says the collaboration is unlike anything else in the world, “an unexpected combination of adventure tourism and fine dining on a heritage site”.

There’s more to Rise than croissants, but they’re a fine place to start. Photo: Rise Bakery

Rise Bakery

Brisbane bakeries come in all shapes and sizes, but they don’t usually have a gleaming chandelier hanging from the ceiling. Rise Bakery is drawing croissant lovers like moths to a flame.

Growing up, visiting the local patisseries and boulangeries was a weekly, if not daily, occurrence for Adrien Marcinowski and Maxime Bournazel. The chef duo is looking to recreate this communal experience – in what might be one of Brisbane’s best-looking bakeries.

But as stunning as the interior is, it pales in comparison to what you can find in its cabinets. From viennoiseries – buttery beauties including croissants, lunettes, pain Suisse, pain aux raisins and chocolate brioche – to pies and quiches, to an all-star cast of delectable lemon-meringue tarts, Paris brest, mille feuille and chocolate eclairs.

If that’s not enough, there’s the champagne bar, serving 15 champagnes by the glass or as part of a curated bubbles and patisserie pairing.

Brisbane food dining

Andrew McCrae’s outlook on food highlights taste, texture and technique. Photo: Perspective Dining

Perspective Dining

For Andrew McCrea at Perspective Dining, the relationship goes a little bit deeper.

With only 6 per cent vision, the chef is legally blind. This means his approach to cooking is shaped by more than just his palate – it comes down to feel, emotion … and some inspiration.

Perspective offers nine-course tasting menus (one plant-based menu and one protein-based) that use locally sourced seasonal produce and unheralded cuts of meat.

The chef is throwing away the rulebook and subverting his own classic French culinary teachings with emotion-driven plays on texture, taste and technique.

“A lot of it is to do with my visual impairment,” he says. “I take pleasure in different things you take pleasure in. I take pleasure from feel and taste and smell – that’s what my world revolves around.”

brisbane food dining

Street food as they do it in Italy. Photo: Scugnizzi


Scugnizzi (a word in the Neapolitan dialect used to refer to rebellious streetwise youths and their playful energy) ushers in a new era of Italian cuisine with its ‘grab-and-go’ concept bringing quality quick-service Italian street food to the suburbs of Brisbane.

It’s a widely popular concept in Italy, and Scugnizzi co-owners Carmine Guarino and Simone Presta saw a huge gap in the market.

“We noticed a lack in Brisbane for a sort of Italian fast food,” Simone says.

The menu encompasses square-cut tray pizzas, nine kinds of pasta, a clutch of snacks such as golden arancini and truffle fries, and includes gnocchi with slow-cooked duck ragu and porcini cream, traditional carbonara, Genovese with slow-cooked beef and onion ragu, and tagliatelle with prawns, cherry tomatoes and lemon zest.

Sweet tooths can indulge in a decadent dolci on the go, including a classic tiramisu or pistachio cheesecake with pistachio cream sourced from Italy.

No finer place to sit and enjoy a beer than Patio. Photo: Range Brewing

Patio by Range

Fans of craft-beer types Range Brewing have rejoiced at the advent of their charming Australiana-inspired bar Patio.

Imbued with a sense of timeless warmth and a fondness for Australiana-inspired aesthetics, Patio blends classic Australiana with Italian alfresco.

There are nods to the classic Australian pub we all know and love – rustic brick walls, tiled bar tops, red-tile tables, bentwood stools and plenty of dark timber.

As for the drinks, Patio’s bar will be equipped with a dozen taps, 10 of which will be dedicated to pouring a rotating line-up of beers. The final two will dispense a couple of Range’s own branded wines, alongside a sizeable list featuring both new-age lo-fi drops and traditional crowd pleasers.

Get southern California vibes – and margaritas – at this easy, breezy eatery. Photo: Viva La Cali

Viva La Cali

Fortitude Valley’s California Lane is where you’ll find SoCal-style Viva La Cali – a palm tree paradise of summer vibes that mixes West Coast cool with food inspired by the cuisines of Central and South America.

A fun and punchy menu highlights the best of Peruvian cooking. Try a banh mi-style taco with pulled chicken, pickled vegetables and chicken pate, a pork jowl taco with fermented cabbage, apple wild rice and smoked yoghurt or the seasonal fish ceviche with cucumber, pickled jalapenos and pomegranate.

Those with more of an appetite can sample smoked wagyu served with cactus salsa and roja cruda, or the spiced eggplant with acao mole, toasted pepitas and queso, finished of with a round of Peruvian doughnuts.

Tequila is the spirited star here, of course, with a cocktail list that will take you straight to Margaritaville.

A tiny cellar door with cheese, wine and pinxos to boot – perfection! Photo: Ardo’s


Ardo’s is something of a hybrid – a micro-cellar door and bar that’s suitable for drink-in customers and takeaway sales. Dig deeper, though, and European influences become evident, giving Ardo’s its distinct character.

The pocket-sized venue remains true to its Australian wine list, championing local produce that prioritise minimal intervention practices.

An array of pintxos-style snacks can be ordered by the piece and enjoyed with a glass, as well as provisions (cheeses, charcuterie and assorted accoutrements) that can be bought and assembled into a palate-pleasing platter.

The Ardo’s crew are also launching cheese and wine, and food and wine pairing masterclasses at the venue’s parent location.

-with InQueensland

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