Top 10 Australian destination restaurants

Copa di testa with cumquat at Agrarian Kitchen.
Copa di testa with cumquat at Agrarian Kitchen. Photo: Peter Mathew

Venture beyond the city limits and eat in some of the country's best restaurants while you're at it.

The Agrarian Kitchen Eatery satoct13coverfood - regional restaurants - text by Ute Junker
Image supplied via journalist for use in TRAVELLER

Settle into the $60-a-head tasting menu at Agrarian Kitchen. Photo: Supplied

Agrarian Kitchen, Tasmania

This former mental hospital is now a vibey, monochromatic dining hall with a huge central fireplace, soaring pressed tin ceilings and aproned waiters deftly steering traffic. As the name says, it's as much agrarian as kitchen, with many of the ingredients grown on the owners' farm. It's worth the 30-minute drive from Hobart just for the potato fritters in a shattery sourdough batter with house-made tomato ketchup. While you're here, stick a fork into "last summer's corn polenta", a coarse-textured mash enriched with paper-thin cured pork, shaved cheese and a golden yolk. Better yet, settle into the $60-a-head tasting menu and don't ignore dessert.

11A The Avenue, New Norfolk, 03 6262 0011, theagrariankitchen.com

Brae Restaurant with Chef Dan Hunter SatOct21coverFood fantasy foodie tour australia ; copy by Terry Durack
pictured: Brae @ Birregurra Victoria
credit: Colin Page

Dining at Brae is all about deep, unhurried comfort. Photo: Colin Page

Brae, Victoria

It's a restaurant that lives and breathes the seasons, fed directly by what's growing in the ground out the front. Chef Dan Hunter's cooking, though, is almost otherworldly. The single mouthful combination of scallop, urchin and truffle is disconcertingly-yet-deliciously cooling, warm, fatty. Quite a few of Hunter's dishes have that head-versus-mouth effect, actually. The latter, however, nearly always wins. Baked beetroot, local honey and a massive spoonful of trout roe see the brine, earth and sweetness make an incredible team. Bonito cured overnight with kelp and mountain pepper is soft and warm with just the right balance of sweetness and savour. Dining in this sprawling converted weatherboard house is all about deep, unhurried comfort, backlit by the setting sun.

4285 Cape Otway Road, Birregurra, 03 5236 2226, braerestaurant.com

BRUNSWICK HEADS, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 20: Fleet Restaurant on March 20, 2016, Brunswick Heads, Australia. Photo by Kate Nutt

Fleet is as wildly original and refined as it is fun. Photo: Kate Nutt

Fleet, NSW

Is Fleet Australia's most likeable restaurant? You can make a case for Brunswick Heads' 14-seater, as wildly original and refined as it is fun. In one sitting your mind is blown by the faith-leap miracle of gently warmed oysters, sheep's curd and shaved macadamia (so mineral, tart, round), then the straight-up boss move of that squishy fried sweetbread sanga served with a tinnie of fruity lager. Yep, chef Josh Lewis and service gun Astrid McCormack have killer instincts. The good times flow with ease, from a mini-yet-mighty wine list of left-field producers to dishes that surprise but never posture.

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2/16 The Terrace, Brunswick Heads, 02 6685 1363, fleet-restaurant.com.au

Dishes at Franklin, a restaurant in Hobart, on Tasmania in Australia, Dec. 5, 2017.  From Bourbon Street to the South Pacific pull of Fiji, destinations abound for the tourist with a strong case of wanderlust. (Lauryn Ishak/The New York Times) .

Delicate layering of deliciousness at Franklin in Hobart. Photo: Lauryn Ishak

Franklin, Tasmania

"I get much more enjoyment out of making everything from scratch these days as opposed to buying in. If we make a pizza I'm more interested in adding sourdough, milling grains, making cheese, than in making it fancy." So says Analiese Gregory who took over the kitchen here in mid-2017. The former Quay chef has embraced life on this rugged island, foraging, diving for abalone, making mozzarella. The food is fancy though, thanks to delicate layering of deliciousness, masterful use of a showpony scotch oven and an well-travelled hand with spice. Pearlescent perch may come parchment-wrapped, basted in deeply fragrant madras spices. Octopus tendrils tick every box: sweet and sour from currants, crunch from almonds, smoke from time in that scotch oven. Be led by chilled but passionate staff and watch as Gregory quietly commands her open industrial kitchen with a confident sense of belonging.

30 Argyle Street, Hobart, 03 6234 3375, franklinhobart.com.au

Phil Wood at his Point Leo fine diner, Laura.

Phil Wood at his Point Leo fine diner, Laura. Photo: Kristoffer Paulsen

Laura, Victoria

Sydney star Phil Wood has finally arrived on the Mornington Peninsula. Sure, he's been cooking at the $40 million sculpture park since November 2017, but it's in this calm terrarium of taupes and creams where he's truly flexing. That looks like four-to-six courses celebrating the peninsula's vineyards, dairies, land beasts and fish. It sounds like balloon whisks gently tickling pans as classic techniques bolster Wood's big ideas. Fibrous lion's mane mushrooms dance with beetroot broth hiding abalone and fruity button mushrooms. It's innovative cooking that doesn't shock, but soothe. Your main is a mini Sunday roast of glassy-skinned smoked duck breast, liver-enriched gravy, salad bouquet and leg-stuffed boudin blanc. Add service gun Ainslie Lubbock's instincts, and drink matches encompassing Moriki Shuzo sake and white Burgundies. Phwoar.

3649 Frankston-Flinders Road, Merricks, 03 5989 9011, ptleoestate.com.au

Liberte in Albany, Western Australia.

Liberte's room is an homage to faded aristocratic decor. Photo: Jenny Feast Photography

Liberte, Western Australia

Chef Amy Hamilton's restaurant might be a modern Vietnamese affair these days, but the French accent can still be discerned in the steak tartare, a profiterole dessert, and the option for baguette and butter instead of rice. The room is an homage to faded aristocratic decor with gilt mirrors, red velvet drapes and a theatrical assortment of seats. A meal here is a casual affair but the flavours are rendered in high definition. A pillowy bao stretched around a wobbegong fritter is reminiscent of a Thai fish cake. Leafy greens are finely shredded and tamed with garlic and oyster sauce. And their famous fried noodles laced with garlic, crab, shaved parmesan and warm sunbeams of chilli will hit your umami receptors faster than mi goreng after a bender.

160-162 Stirling Terrace, Albany, 08 9847 4797, libertealbany.com.au

Michael Ryan picking kale at his Beechworth restaurant Provenance

Michael Ryan picking kale at his Beechworth restaurant Provenance. Photo: Supplied

Provenance, Victoria

Cafe de Tokyo butter might be the best thing to happen in French-Japanese fusion since foie gras found its way onto sushi. Glistening over onglet, braised daikon and hazelnuts, it's a thundering force of shio kombu, shiitake and miso that'll have you wondering why soy sauce isn't offered with steak frites. Japanese ingredients enhance most of owner-chef Michael Ryan's dishes at this sophisticated restaurant in a cosy old bank. Kangaroo is flavoured with mullet roe and a fish sauce of wonderful clarity and depth. Duck is brined and roasted on the bone for superb texture and taste (there's no sous vide sleight-of-hand here) and plated with a tart punch of umeboshi puree mellowed by brown rice congee. With charming accommodation attached for all your bed and breakfast needs, Provenance is a perfect destination to recalibrate.

86 Ford Street, Beechworth, 03 5728 1786, theprovenance.com.au

Kohlrabi, dorrigo, quandong & lemon myrtle - ORANA restaurant Adelaide SatNov17Cover - Hot Food 100 - text Terry Durack
Image supplied for use in Traveller via journalist
RESTAURANT: NEXT-LEVEL INDIGENOUS HAUTE CUISINE AT ORANA, ADELAIDE

Storytelling at its most delicious at Orana. Photo: Supplied

Restaurant Orana, South Australia

Never mind the cultural cringe. These are native ingredients as you've never tasted them before. The pitch of Jock Zonfrillo's intimate restaurant is indigenous ingredients spotlit by the chef's fine-dining pedigree. It's storytelling at its most delicious - 20-or-so courses, each with a narrative embedded in a mix of Zonfrillo's personal history and that of the Australian landscape. Start with damper, brought to the table on smouldering coals, skewered on young eucalyptus bushels. Zucchini flowers are stuffed with bunya nut, sea grapes and macadamia. Tender pieces of baby squid are dressed in warm aged beef fat, the richness and musk refreshed with native ice plant. All the while, there's this constant smell of woodsmoke in the spare, mid-century dining room. It's immensely comforting. Sit still, breathe in. This one's a game changer.

Level 1, 285 Rundle Street, Adelaide, 08 8232 3444, restaurantorana.com

The Spirit House restaurant, Yandina, Sunshine Coast. Picture supplied

Spirit House is a modern Asian institution. Photo: Supplied

Spirit House, Queensland

Upon entry to this tropical hideout, vibrant rainforest and burning incense gives way to punchy, spice-laden starters and warm, fragrant curries. It really is an all-sensory experience. Lemongrass sambal packs heat on charred kingfish, with a squeeze of lime to lift rather than extinguish. Smoked salmon and aromatic herbs drenched with a silky coconut soup cool the palate. Like a deconstructed dumpling dipped in curry, five huge barbecued Mooloolaba prawns land on a sour pork and turmeric sauce. Request a table by the pond at this modern Asian institution so water dragons scuttle around your feet vacuuming up crumbs.

20 Ninderry Road, Yandina, 07 5446 8994, spirithouse.com.au/restaurant

Summertown Aristologist in South Australia.

A celebration of local and natural at Summertown Aristologist. Photo: David Solm Photography

Summertown Aristologist, South Australia

The journey is all part of the adventure when it comes to eating at this full-circle restaurant in the Adelaide Hills. Care of winemakers Anton Von Klopper (Lucy Margaux) and Jasper Button (Commune of Buttons) along with Orana's ex-floor boss Aaron Fenwick, the Aristologist is all locavore all the time. From the open kitchen, that could translate as broccolini draped in lardo from their own pig (which also turns up as two types of French-style cured sausage on a salumi plate). Calamari tendrils, are dressed with lime and coriander while many expressions of pumpkin (pickled, gnocchi'd, roasted, seeds) party down with a scattering of crunched up kale leaves. Wine? Much like the food, it's a celebration of local and natural.

1097 Greenhill Road, Summertown, 0477 410 105, thesummertownaristologist.com

The Good Food Guide 2019 is available at thestore.com.au/gfg19