Canberra's top 20 restaurants for 2014

Natasha Rudra
A meal at restaurant of the year, Temporada.
A meal at restaurant of the year, Temporada. Photo: Jamila Toderas

1. Restaurant of the Year: Temporada

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Temporada encapsulates the trend of top chefs entering the realm of relaxed, less formal dining. It's about quiet style, with an understated, good-looking setup, lovely lighting and a semi-circle of tables around a central bar. The menu isn't super structured - it's about ordering what you feel like, whether that's little pig's head rolls filled with succulent meat, creamy mayo and kimchi, or a plate of fat slices of raw kingfish, meaty and rich with avocado and radish and puffed millet. It's our restaurant of the year for that blend of wonderful food in a relaxed setting.

Try: the char grilled lamb cutlets with merguez sausage.

The cheesecake at Pomegranate.
The cheesecake at Pomegranate. Photo: Jamila Toderas

2. Aubergine

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The wine list is huge and ambitious, with plenty of interest and unusual things to drink. The courses are intriguing too. Bright pink ocean trout cuts like butter and melts inthe mouth, topped with puffy, crunchy skin. Cauliflower rice adds a wonderful nibbly texture and lightly pickled vegetables lend sweetness. It's high quality eating in an elegant setting. 

Try: the mulberries, yogurt and lemon cream dessert.

Lamb tongue at Aubergine.
Lamb tongue at Aubergine. Photo: Graham Tidy

3. Italian and Sons

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A gleaming, crowded place, its menu is deceptively simple, taking full advantage of the wood fired oven that sits at the heart of the kitchen. Pizza bianca arrives blistered, and topped simply with globe artichoke, ricotta and rosemary. The wine list is international with an impressive array of Italian wine. People go to Italian and Sons for a great meal and a great night and they get it.

Try: the roast suckling pig on a Tuesday.


4. Monster

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Hotel Hotel has brought a  veritable excess of groovyness to the city and amid all the fantastic eating options in this precinct, Monster leads the pack. The food is not only on-trend, but seasonally based, pretty to look at, and surprising and excellent to eat.  You'll feel equally welcome  enjoying a tea or cocktail, snack or general lounge around.   This place is so cosy, you really wouldn't pick it for a hotel diner.

Try: the eggplant, katsuobushi and goat's curd

Sweet things at Silo
Sweet things at Silo Photo: Melissa Adams

5. Eightysix

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Eightysix made a white-hot entrance on to the Canberra food scene a little less than two years ago, and the hype continues almost unabated. A luscious duck bun is an evil cross between a pork bun and Peking duck - the rich flesh and crispy skin stuffed inside rice-bun pockets along with dark sauce and cucumber. 

Try: the banoffee pie.

Pork ribs with jackfruit and chilli at Lanterne Rooms.
Pork ribs with jackfruit and chilli at Lanterne Rooms. Photo: Scott Ogilvie

6. Malamay

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It's a highly responsive restaurant out to challenge your ideas about Chinese food and not afraid of borrowing from elsewhere to create dishes that keep you glued to the plate. The best of the food here is among the very best anywhere in the city. The sake list is wonderfully extensive.

Try: the oxtail stew with spices

Banoffee pie at Eightysix.
Banoffee pie at Eightysix. 

7. Courgette

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Courgette has been James Mussillon's beacon to the art of fine dining and the dishes within each course sound exactly like stuff you want to hook into. The wine list is cracking. This is unapologetic fine dining, for a special occasion or if you just want to eat well and be looked after. 

Try: the sauteed prawns with rare swordfish and Marie Rose sauce.

8. Ottoman

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The elegant dining room looking out over a rose-filled courtyard, the long lunches and the wafts of power emanating from the private wing - it must be Ottoman. The menu of Turkish classics includes a lovely plate of manti, a sort of ravioli filled with baby spinach and goat's cheese. 

Try: the mastica and sour cherries

9. Mocan and Green Grout

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Such is the casualness here that if you sit at the central bench, the chefs will just hand the dishes over as they prepare them. The food is all about simplicity, seasonal ingredients and ultra simple dealing in the kitchen.

Try: the Crookwell steak tartare

10. Lanterne Rooms

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There's a serenity about Lanterne Rooms that keeps it in our top 20 for another year. The cooking hasn't wavered - comforting classic Asian dishes given a fine-dining makeover, such as pork ribs with pickled green chilli and jackfruit. There's  plenty of style and the food has a consistently good feel to it. 

Try: the Penang-style satay

11. Les Bistronomes

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Les Bistronomes is like an amalgam of Pulp Kitchen and Sage, all in one happy and well-targeted package in one seriously food-obsessed part of town. Simple French dishes in a small menu are done to perfection with a wine list of French and Australian vintages.

Try: the bouillabaisse with rich seafood, yabbies and scallops

12. Silo

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Silo has racked up yet another year of the best tarts in Canberra, along with the best bread and the like. Whether you settle over a buttery croissant dipped in your coffee, or take a loaf and tart home, dig in for a long lunch; Silo is always an exciting place to eat. 

Try: the perfect baguette stuffed with ham and Emmenthaler

13. Pulp Kitchen

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this place is about producing the classics of the European table, and doing it at the highest level. Be it the beef tenderloin with perfect pomme frites and bearnaise or the heady fish stew, bouillabaisse. A good wine list, the well informed and often fantastically French service and the kind of bustle you'd expect in a quality brasserie.

Try: the lamb liver with pomme puree and caramelised onion

14. Morks

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A modern, young Asian restaurant on the Kingston Foreshore where Mork Ratanakosol is cooking with intent.  Individual barbecued pork buns are soft, fluffy and properly satisfying. A plate of scallops are topped with a pig's ear terrine and have a good balance of salty, sweet and tender. 

Try: the egg in hay dessert

15. Grazing

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At Grazing, in Gundaroo, you'll dine in little rooms, with big fires, at old tables that keep you in touch with the history of this mid 19th-century hotel. There's an increased sense of elegance and balance on the plate. Duck liver pate is mild, served with walnut sourdough and great fried celery leaves.

Try: the ox cheek braised in pedro ximenez

16. Sage Dining Rooms

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Sage and it's garden bar, Mint, are tucked into the leafy, colonial Gorman House building in inner city Braddon.  The menu is pretty confident and each plate a near picture-perfect rendition of modern restaurant food. The desserts are the strongest course and worth waiting for. 

Try: the deconstructed apple crumble

17. Black Fire

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There's an extensive menu that runs the gamut of Spanish and Italian dishes. Paolo Milanesi's touch is sure - eight-hour slow-roasted suckling pig is utterly melting with an effulgence of crackling on top and some gentle apple sauce. A good experience in our new Braddon heartland.

Try: the duck breast with caramelised sherry

18. Pomegranate

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Pomegranate offers a relaxed atmosphere with well executed Mediterranean food in a neighbourly setting in Kingston. Char grilled chicken breast is wonderfully thin, yet tasty and tender, and crisp zucchini flowers are bursting with goat's cheese. It's equally good for a weeknight dinner or a casual brunch. 

Try: the mixed nut ice cream

19. A. Baker

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A bakery and a cafe with a little bar downstairs. There's a "small and large plates" menu, and boxy leather banquettes dividing up the space - you know you are in a cool joint as soon as you walk in the door. Start with a selection of cold meats or a generous serve of A. Baker bread before moving on to larger shareable mains. 

Try: the Snowy River trout with kipfler potatoes and yellow beetroot

20. Le Tres Bon

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This is French country kitsch taken to quite an extreme in a small cottage in Bungendore. Duck rillettes are a rustic version, substantial shredded meat with bread, cornichons and good fresh greens. All of it is firmly provincial and firmly French.

Try: the garlic snails with butter and pastis