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Good news, sugar-lovers. All signs indicate that we’re moving into a post-savoury world where it’s possible to skip the boring bits in favour of dessert, dessert and more dessert. The trend has hit Melbourne’s Om Nom, Perth’s The Trustee and Brisbane’s Bacchus. Image: Bacchus.
Sneaky chef’s table
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Or should that be chef’s counter? The few seats near the pass at Bread in Common in Perth’s Fremantle are walk-in only but the reward repays the risk. Score one and chef/co-owner Scott Brannigan will serve you his plates of the moment, plus sneak in some experiments inspired by produce from his network of farmers.
Cheers to Heston
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It’s one of Melbourne’s top restaurants but Dinner by Heston Blumenthal also boasts a bar worthy of the keenest cocktail connoisseur. It was previously open only to those with a dinner reservation but now you can slip in unannounced anytime. Perhaps they should rename it Drinks by Heston. Image: Mark Rope.
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Liberace, eat your heart out. Descend the steps to the intimate cellar at Hobart CBD wine bar Ettie’s on Friday and Saturday nights for an eclectic playlist, courtesy of the baby grand piano. This subterranean bar is a favourite of the late-night hospo crowd, with pianists tickling the ivories until at least midnight.
Bar about nothing
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“Be more like George” is the motto of Melbourne bar George’s, an homage to TV sitcom Seinfeld’s lovable loser, George Costanza. Roll up for beer, Seinfeld-themed toasted sandwiches and bowls of pretzels on the bar. Be warned: they’ll make you thirsty.
Down Mexico way
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Mexican places are a dime a dozen around the land but La Tortillería in Melbourne could have been ripped up by a tornado in Mexico City and deposited in backstreet Kensington. A tortilla factory with a simple eatery, it adheres to Mexican design principles – lurid colours, religious motifs – and the tacos, created with housemade corn tortillas, are as auténtico as it gets.
Death by pastry
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Melbourne’s home of cult baked goods, Lune Croissanterie in Fitzroy, hosts a weekend-only pastry degustation in it’s climate-controlled Lune Lab. The eight people lucky enough to land a seat get to sample a three-course flight of experimental treats and feel superior to the hoi polloi queuing outside. Book well ahead.
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Brisbane loves an adventurous drinker and locals prove their mettle by hunting down the city’s obscure hotspots. A case in point: The Mermaid Lounge in Petrie Terrace. This tiny bar within a bar, at Lefty’s Old Time Music Hall, is accessed via a grand staircase or, less salubriously, a short cut through the toilets. Sailor Jerry tattoo-style murals decorate the walls, fishing nets and stuffed sharks hang from the ceiling and the rum-soaked vibe, aided by an ’80s soundtrack, is as relaxed as the dress code.
Bad beat gone good
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It was once an illegal casino run by Melbourne underworld figure Alphonse Gangitano. Today, the gangsters are gone but the new custodians of this first-floor lair in Fitzroy North have wisely decided to leave the décor intact in all its kitschy glory. A nuevo speakeasy with food-and-wine cred, Neighbourhood Wine is comfort personified.
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Guy Grossi’s Melbourne wine bar, Ombra, embraces the tradition of aperitivo with all sorts of Italian deliciousness being passed around, gratis, to keep your afternoon wind-down drink company. With cheese, bread and olives, as well as housemade arancini and salumi fresh off the slicer, this is Italian hospitality at its finest. Better still, this ritual goes for two hours, from 4.30pm each day.
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With sweeping views over Sydney’s beautiful Freshwater Beach, Baretto is the recently opened (and still little-known) wine bar and eatery from fine-dining Sardinian restaurant Pilu at Freshwater. Try the $50 dégustation for dishes such as warm potato bread with whipped ricotta and bottarga and the pillowy chestnut gnocchi. Or just swing by for a glass of Italian wine at sunset.
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Even coffee gets into the subtropical Brisbane swing at Queen of Pops, where Wolff Coffee Roasters’ beans receive the popsicle treatment. At double ristretto strength, it’s a frozen kick on a stick. You can get a hot-chocolate pop as well.
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The tiny town of Geeveston in southern Tasmania, population 1431, is home to the best sushi in the state, thanks to Wakayama-born sushi master Masaaki Koyama. The unassuming Masaaki’s Sushi is open Friday to Sunday, for lunch only, but the 30-metre queue is testament to the all-Tasmanian seafood. Get in line for striped trumpeter and southern bluefin tuna, plus crayfish miso and fire-packed local wasabi.
Tell ’em Frankie sent you
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Everyone is in on the joke at Frankie’s Pizza by the Slice in Sydney’s CBD, where the pizza parlour at the front hides the heaving rock ’n’ roll bar out the back. It also boasts a tiny bar within a bar that used to be a chill space for bands. Take the fire door to the right of the stage, head down the stairs and through the brown door. Welcome to Frankie’s Fun Room, a world of bluegrass, whisky and beer in tinnies. Oh, and it’s only open after 9pm (6pm on Friday).
Up Next: These Are The World’s 20 Best Restaurants
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Get on the phone and start booking: tables at these spots aren’t going to last long. The best 20 restaurants in the world, as voted by the chefs, food writers and gourmands who make up the global judging panel of the World's 50 Best Restaurants, are in hot demand.