Australia’s Best Suburban Restaurants

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Apr 01, 2016

by TRAVEL INSIDER WRITERS

Just as slick as their inner-city counterparts, these friendly suburban restaurants are worth crossing town for.

Tasmania 

Smolt Kitchen

As the sibling of both Smolt restaurant in Salamanca and Frank on Hobart’s waterfront, Smolt Kitchen has some serious pedigree. Featuring a Memphis-style interior with bold colours and shapes, it’s a haven for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Come early and try the mushroom brioche with crisp bacon and smoked tomato relish or house-made rye toast with seasonal jam. Dropping in for lunch or dinner? The lamb and currant meatballs are served with yoghurt, harissa, fig and pomegranate seeds. The house wines are good, too: the Smolt Crisp Tasmanian White and Smolt Tasmanian Dry Red are crafted by award-winning winemaker Nick Glaetzer. 

107-109 Hill Street, West Hobart 

Local Pizza 

Opened last year by Isabella Lubiana (daughter of renowned winemaker Stefano Lubiana) and her partner, Joel Edwards, this friendly neighbourhood pizza joint is just north of MONA. And, yes, there is art in a good pizza. The crust is thin, the pizzas are wood-fired and the choices include White Guy (fine slices of zucchini, garlic, Gorgonzola, mozzarella and parsley) and the Sting (free-range salami, honey, Taleggio, mozzarella and chilli flakes). You can grab a bottle of Stefano’s biodynamic reserve merlot or sauvignon blanc but they do serve other Tassie wines. And if there are no seats to be had, get a takeaway pizza and head to the MONA rooftop. 

52 Maroni Road, Berriedale

SEE ALSO: The 15 best restaurants for "selfies" - that is, diners eating alone - in Australia

Victoria

The Black Toro

On a busy weekend night when slow-moving cars search for that elusive parking space, you could be forgiven for thinking Glen Waverley has declared itself a separate state to Melbourne’s CBD. And the likes of the Mexican-leaning Black Toro are a good reason to eschew the city. At his bustling bistro deep in the heart of the Glen, chef Garen Maskal, a former Teage Ezard protégé, spins a neat line in new-wave Latino, splicing its street-food soul with restaurant values. The ubiquitous grilled corn on the cob is haunted by the smoky opiate of chipotle mayo, and the pulled pork taco saddles up with cabbage, sour cream and lime. Flavour horizons are pushed with an East-West spanner crab tostado with yuzu, avocado and tobiko (flying fish roe) and the barbecued baby chicken in a luscious tamarind caramel glaze. Beware only of sticky fingers. 

79 Kingsway, Glen Waverley

O.My

Three brothers with a passion for food and wine open a restaurant in their ’hood and become critical darlings. That’s the short version of the story behind O.My, a singular little eatery in Melbourne’s south-east where the Bertoncello brothers – two in the kitchen and one on the floor doubling as maître d’ and sommelier – wow all those who enter the former butcher shop. The siblings are keen gardeners and foragers and the dégustation menu sticks faithfully to the seasons, whether it’s the autumnal pine mushrooms with kingfish in a gelatinous broth with lemon gel and fresh finger lime; the whole-veg approach of cauliflower (slow-baked florets, velouté and fried leaves, with grapes and red wine gel); or the braised lamb shoulder with garlic purée. 

23 Woods Street, Beaconsfield 

Merricote

Beneath Merricote’s homey façade of animal figurines and patterned rugs beats the heart of a restaurant on a mission to cosset the citizens of the inner north. The elegant Euro-leaning wine list, with plenty of interest by the glass, is the calling card of co-owner Bronwyn Kabboord, as is the pitch-perfect service. The menu’s Dutch flourishes – veal bitterballen (meatballs) with dijon aïoli, for example – come via co-owner Rob Kabboord’s lineage. The modern European fare includes farmhouse classics such as duck rillette with lavosh and cornichons; cured kingfish with the hearty kick of green harissa; and respectfully treated proteins with a twist. Add an old-fashioned cheese trolley and you have the perfect local.

81 High Street, Northcote 

Australian Capital Territory

Baitong

Weston Creek isn’t a typical destination for travellers but Baitong’s Lao sausage stuffed with pork, galangal and herbs is calling. This no-frills Laotian/Thai restaurant is tucked behind a shopping centre and is one of the city’s best-kept secrets. Locals in the know go back time and again for their fix of sticky rice and authentic Laotian dishes such as larb (minced meat) flavoured with roasted rice powder, chilli and lemongrass or marinated and grilled strips of pork neck served with sweet, tangy tamarind sauce. A king prawn salad with kaffir lime and homemade chilli paste packs some serious punch and taro with steamed sticky rice and coconut cream is a sweet way to finish. 

Shop 13, Cooleman Court, Brierly Street, Weston Creek

Pho Phu Quoc

When you walk through the door at Pho Phu Quoc, chances are you’ll be greeted with a cheerful, “Hello, darling!” Sue Le rarely forgets a face and loves nothing more than welcoming new ones to her humble family Vietnamese restaurant. Le runs the show at these new Dickson premises, which are large, loud and colourful (check out the sea-themed terrariums). Hungry Canberrans travel across town just to get a fix of the spring rolls and steaming hot bowls of pho bo – soup packed with soft rice-noodle ribbons, rare beef and mint. Be sure to order the pepper fish and the sautéed water spinach. Wash it down with a cold beer.

5 Badham Street, Dickson

SEE ALSO: Consider yourself a foodie? These are five of the most memorable food experiences around Australia

Queensland  

Deer Duck Bistro 

The décor looks like that of any other suburban bistro – in 19th-century Paris, that is. A series of interconnected dining rooms house a delightful collection of antique tables, mismatched velvet chairs, old silver cutlery, crystal whisky decanters and gilt-framed hunting scenes. But there’s nothing old-fashioned about the food. Creative chefs’ tasting menus may include thin slices of raw black kingfish with house-made buttermilk, potato crisp, pickled onion and locally foraged sorrel. In contrast to the delicate fish comes a woozily tender cube of suckling pig with Granny Smith apple, mussels, smoked paprika aïoli and various incarnations of celeriac for texture. As good as these are, the best is yet to come in a dessert of caramelised milk ice-cream with a buttery almond biscotto and rhubarb.  

396 Milton Road, Auchenflower

Cinco Bistro

It’s not exactly a dream location, wedged between a bus shelter and a pathology lab on a busy main drag, but Cinco Bistro has had a loyal following for more than a decade. So owner-chef Peter Stubbs clearly knows what he’s doing. Menus are a beautiful balance of classic European and seasonal mod-Oz. Mushroom and foie gras tartlet with porcini velouté and port wine syrup has been on the menu for years – with good reason. It’s earthy, hearty comfort food at its classiest.

A salad of watermelon, haloumi, pomegranate, radicchio and mint is light, fresh and pretty. The same goes for almond mousse with peach and plum soup, mango sorbet and shards of mango “glass”. Interiors are every bit as welcoming and stylish as those of its city counterparts.

589 Old Cleveland Road, Camp Hill

Western Australia 

Sarawak Hawker Cuisine

Leach Highway and its surrounding suburbs have long offered rich pickings. While Perth’s south-eastern corridor boasts plenty of benchmark dishes – loh bak at Fook Kee in Thornlie, say, or Bateman Chinese Malaysian Cuisine’s fish-head mee hoon – this packed hawker centre delivers across the board. The chicken rice, all fragrant and giving in texture, is one of the state’s finer specimens, while the popularity of its kolo mee (a hillock of house-made noodles topped with pork, prawns and fishballs) isn’t just limited to Sarawakian expats. A winning combo of bright tamarind and rich coconut milk, the Sarawak-style laksa is a thrilling version of this oft-maligned food-court standard. 

Shop 3/41 Burrendah Boulevard, Willetton

Trang’s Café & Noodle House

As you’d expect from Perth’s Vietnamese heartlands, Girrawheen and neighbouring Marangaroo continue to serve the west’s truest tastes of Indochina. Start your crash course in Vietnamese Cuisine 101 at Newpark Shopping Centre. While sandwich fanciers delight in ranking the bánh mì sold by delis such as Nhu Loan, Vung Tau and BMT, public opinion puts Trang’s at the top of the pho leaderboard. Much of its popularity can be attributed to the broth – deep, comforting and a study in both savour and spice. Just add thick rice noodles and beefy all-sorts. Daily specials like the French-leaning bo kho (beef stew) are worth hitting the road for, as are the lemon sodas and avocado milkshakes. 

11/70 Marangaroo Drive, Girrawheen 

New South Wales

Via Alta

Every suburb needs a great Italian but surely Via Alta takes “local” to a new level. Risotto savant Alessandro Pavoni (Ormeggio) and head chef Alex Keene are paying homage to the Italian trattoria – and drawing crowds from all over Sydney. A decorative palette of trad bistro furniture, bright-green walls and a giant chalkboard menu set the scene for the big, bold flavours of Italy’s north to shine. The dishes may be classics but they’ve been given a refined touch without losing their punch. Start with a nonna-style eggplant parmigiana or delicate pickled sardines with pine nuts. Blue swimmer crab and peas bring lightness to gnocchi, while Taleggio raises the risotto roof. You’d be forgiven for thinking that you’re in northern Italy, not Sydney’s North Shore. 

197 High Street, Willoughby

Pazar Food Collective 

We’ve seen a lot of kooky culinary mash-ups (with most adding “con” to “fusion”) but Pazar Food Collective is an anomaly. Restaurateur Attila Yilmaz has found balance and harmony through the sultan’s smoke beneath a spicy sombrero. And this modern-industrial glimpse into real Australia is an astonishing find. Embodying all the energy of a house party, Pazar sees punters swig sangria served from the quirky bar and communal tables groaning with a finger-licking feast. Sugar-maple labne is gently smoked and crowned with a salsa of chiltepil, sesame and pepita. Harissa-rubbed chicken is wood-roasted then nestled on a bed of hummus, while tostadas help lift a scallop aguachile ceviche. It’s some of the most exciting food in Sydney right now.

325 Canterbury Road, Canterbury 

Antoine’s Grill

Where are the great French bistros of Sydney? Well, there’s one in inner-western Concord. Antoine’s is a French bistro that is also a steakhouse, built on the backbone of owner Antoine Moscovitz’s French technique and an understanding of how Australians love to eat. Here you’ll spread eucalyptus-honey-glazed foie gras over toasted sourdough and place pickled turnips on mouthfuls of eye fillet tartare. Swipe a trio of pork (belly, cheek and loin) through plum purée or tempt a food-coma fate with an 850-gram tomahawk steak for two with petite truffle mash. Just, please, leave room for a soufflé. 

50 Mortlake Street, Concord

SEE ALSO: The Top Locavore Restaurants Around Australia

South Australia

Assaggio

Once rather formal, Assaggio has become more low key, all while maintaining the excellent food standards established over the past decade. As well as a new casual look and chef, Nick Tadija, there’s also a revamped menu focusing on seasonal and local produce, along with house-made pasta and cured meats. Star dishes include slow-cooked pork belly with cauliflower purée and a bowl of rich, salty pork broth with seared red snapper. Desserts are theatrical and delicious; the wine list has depth and range. Every neighbourhood should have an Italian restaurant like this. 

92-94 King William Road, Hyde Park 

The Crafers Hotel

Take a historic but slightly shabby suburban hotel in the Adelaide Hills, give it a total makeover and add a highly accomplished chef and access to an enormous wine cellar. That explains why The Crafers is filled most nights, mainly by locals but increasingly by customers from around the hills and across the city. Chef Anna Kittel’s French-influenced menu ranges from a classic steak frites or seafood bouillabaisse to the house pie and charcoal-oven-cooked lamb rack with kipfler potatoes. You can spend a little on the usual pub grub of burgers and schnitzels (accompanied by an Adelaide Hills sauvignon blanc) or blow more than $1000 on a Burgundy. Choose your own adventure.

4 Main Street, Crafers

Northern Territory

Oka Teppanyaki

It’s not the cheapest night out but it sure is fun. Set your cynicism aside and give in to the corny jokes and childish pleasure of catching a bowl of rice tossed from a metre away. The dinner-plus-slapstick routine at Oka Teppanyaki may sound gimmicky but even tofu develops personality when it’s fried on the teppanyaki grill until it’s golden and crusty on the outside, creamy in the middle then doused with miso sauce. And is there a better way to cook fat scallops? Perfectly seared, mere seconds from appearing on the plate. Prawns, chicken, fish and steak (upgrade to Wagyu if you please) get similar treatment. There’s also a decent à la carte menu and what may be Darwin’s best range of saké. 

11/34 Parap Road, Parap