Best Restaurants in Canberra

Updated 1 month ago

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What makes a great restaurant? Maybe it pioneered a trend, and remains the most vital example of it. Maybe, after several decades in the game, it still feels as fresh and relevant as ever. Or maybe it’s been open less than a year and already feels like a future classic.

All are equally valid answers when it comes to determining the best restaurants in Canberra. That’s why our list includes moody wine bars and other dressed-down eateries alongside the usual fine-dining suspects. The remit may be wide, but if you’re looking for restaurants that both define and capture our capital's culinary spirit, stop right here. These are the absolute best.

  • Though relatively young, Pilot is widely regarded as one of Australia’s finest restaurants. Its deceptively simple dishes evidence a fierce commitment to locality and seasonality, while the drinks list celebrates the country’s most exciting new winemakers and distilleries.

  • Natural wines, great food and a tasteful soundtrack – it's no wonder this is Canberra’s most acclaimed bar. Set within an 1920s heritage building with a window overlooking London Circuit, it also happens to be one of the capital’s best-looking venues.

  • The pace of modern Australian dining and the precision of Japanese cuisine come together on a seafood-heavy menu that goes all-in on premium produce. To drink, it’s sake, Japanese-influenced cocktails and a dizzying list of European and Australian wines.

  • At this no-rules bistro, a woodfired oven powers the daily menu of seasonal dishes. Expect influences from France, Japan and everywhere in between, alongside a fun list of lo-fi wines. And in the former bank vault downstairs, a cosy little bar for more wine, snacks and killer tunes.

  • Smoke and fire are through-lines that tie this sophisticated Civic diner together. By day it's a counter-style situation involving fall-apart proteins, salads and sides. At night, expect polished plates and lo-fi wines in a dark and sexy setting. There's nowhere else like it in Canberra.

  • Native Australian ingredients are prevalent on restaurant menus nowadays. But this sophisticated restaurant and bar from the team behind Assembly is fiercely committed to the stuff, serving exacting plates with larrikin spirit.

  • Lazy Su is one of Canberra’s buzziest venues for a reason. Splashed in neon, this fast-paced Asian diner serves Wagyu cheeseburger spring rolls, DIY bao plates and an upbeat soundtrack full of ’80s and ’90s bangers.

  • A little larrikin, a little retro and a lot quirky art gallery – there’s plenty going on at this wine bar. Drop in for a snack of crunchy and spicy school prawns or share a substantial meal of duck with sweet-and-sour sauce.

  • Ramen bar by day, izakaya by night. That’s the brief at this sleek Japanese joint, helmed by two Canberra chefs devoted to handmade Australian rye noodles. Pull up at the bar for outstanding ramens, pub snacks and an approachable list of wine and sake.

  • A refined, counter-style experience that’ll transport you to the omakase bars of Japan. Each of the 12 seats puts you up-close and personal with the chefs as they transform seasonal ingredients into contemporary Japanese dishes. Expect knife skills, seafood and plenty of sake.

  • Just like David Bowie, the inimitable cool of Sean McConnell’s restaurant will draw you in – and then keep you there with raw talent. Expect elegant European-leaning dishes, a Canberra-heavy wine list, and a takeaway bottle shop on-site for when you do (eventually) have to leave.

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  • A Gordon Ramsay alumnus is behind this modern French bistro, where seasonal ingredients and classic techniques collide on the must-order degustation. Gallic standards such as escargots and duck a l’orange are also on show, alongside a gamut of French wine and fun cocktails.

  • The Ovolo Nishi Hotel’s sleek bar and kitchen is a destination all its own. A boundary-pushing, all-veg menu is primed for casual snacks or a formal dining experience, in a contemporary space punctuated by eclectic lounges, roaring fireplaces and lakeside vistas.

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  • A classic Italian trattoria in the heart of Civic. Come for traditional hand-cut pastas, rustic *secondi* and wines sourced from small Italian producers. Mezzalira also has an alfresco offshoot called Da Rosario that’s primed for a street-side espresso.

  • A team of chefs harness fire and smoke to bring Wilma’s progressive pan-Asian dishes to life. Native Australian ingredients figure heavily, and are executed thoughtfully across a menu of raw, wok-fried and barbequed hits inspired by Southeast Asia and coastal China.

  • Named after the Spanish word for season, this moody inner-city bar is defined as much by its charcoal grill as its innovative cocktails. And while the menu isn’t strictly Spanish, dishes are reliably polished, approachable and driven by the day’s best produce.

  • A relaxed, no-tablecloths trattoria serving house-cut pasta, woodfired focaccia and antipasti from the family behind Canberra favourite Mezzalira.

  • This Nikkei-stye restaurant brings together the flavours of Japan and Peru. It's in a moody, dramatically-lit space filled with statues and hangings from Peru. Expect Peruvian anticuchos alongside nigiri and sashimi with South American tweaks.

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  • Canberra has no shortage of great Southeast food. But XO ranks among the city’s most innovative purveyors, with a set-menu that doesn’t shy away from pushing culinary boundaries. And even though it’s a degustation-only affair, the atmosphere is laid-back and friendly here.

  • Bar Beirut is about as close as you’ll get to the nightlife of Lebanon’s capital without leaving Canberra. To eat, it's meze such as smoky baba ganoush and flatbread, and larger dishes to share. Grab a drink from the in-house Martini cart and catch belly dancers every Wednesday and Thursday.

  • Set plum in the city centre, it’s no surprise this lively spot packs out nearly every night of the week. Despite this, it somehow manages to still feel like a relaxed neighbourhood bistro, with an energetic soundtrack and quality food to match.

  • This energetic, late-night East Asian diner is filled with neon lights and has one of the largest sake lists in Australia.

  • A true Canberra dining institution. The decor recalls old Shanghai glamour, but the set menu deals in Cantonese, Sichuan and Yunnan flavours, complemented by a lengthy wine list and Asian-inflected cocktails.

  • Not your typical Vietnamese eatery. Expect modern Vietnamese share plates of barbeque cabbage rolls, cauliflower curry and gai yang chicken. Plus, natural wines and a range of cocktails made with fermented peach and fennel.

  • A sleek and lively trattoria. Come for the house-made pasta, woodfired pizza and impressive wine list. Stay for the bustling atmosphere and theatrical cacio e pepe, which is served tableside from a giant hollowed-out pecorino wheel.

  • There’s no stiff fine-dining vibe at this French bistro. It’s a relaxed and unpretentious place to get across a menu of Gallic staples, from garlicky escargot to boeuf bourguignon with Paris mash. The drinks list includes classic cocktails and a suite of wines suited to all tastes.

  • Set within a gorgeous 1860s hotel, this destination diner channels the seasons with an impressive kitchen garden and produce sourced from neighbouring farms. It’s also serving snacks at the adjacent cellar door.

  • Matt Moran's Canberra debut is an Italian steakhouse with 116 seats and a menu showcasing some of the country’s best beef. In true steakhouse style, there's an extensive list of sides – like cacio e pepe mac’n’cheese – and pastas.

  • Dada is a refined, dietary-friendly Asian restaurant where everyone is welcome. You know you’re in good hands when the owner-chef remembers you (and your dietaries) from last visit.

  • Piles of pide and mountains of meze are found at this relaxed-yet-refined restaurant at Barton's Burbury Hotel, inspired by the cuisines and cultures of the east Mediterranean.