Spooning Australiaโ€™s Top 10 Restaurants, Cafes and Venues of 2023

10 of Australia’s Best

Wow – 2023 is gone and 2024 is already steaming ahead!! It has been a wonderful year for dining, but it has been from a lot less invites and therefor a good collection of food I wanted to pay for, there was only 2x comped meals in the entire list.

It should be noted, I do not include venues I do social media for, photography is AOK. We have a good mix, 1x VIC, 2x QLD, quite a few regionals and a good mix across the board. So what does it take to reach this list. Bloody damn fine food will definitely help, but also originality, service, knowledgeable staff and whether we had an amazing time at the venue. Planets need to align.

The captions are all from my insta posts and reflect my thoughts from the time. There are a few venues with blog posts – go on – click the link and read haha.

What was your favourite venue of the year?

Click on the venue titles for their websites and click on “Insta Post” for my Instagram posts and more pics/videos.

10. Sum Young Guys, Noosa QLD – visited April 23 (paid for)

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Great friend, Nashy, was on the Sunshine Coast at the same time as me, and that called for a lunch where she used to work and still raves about, Sum Yung Guys – a Vietnamese fusion restaurant by MasterChef Australia alumni Matt Sinclair. ๐Ÿ’šโค๏ธ๐Ÿ’šโฃโฃ

โฃโฃIt was astounding and I just adored everything.โฃโฃ

โฃโฃNot afraid to say it – ๐ญ๐ก๐ž ๐›๐ž๐ฌ๐ญ ๐‚๐ก๐ข๐œ๐ค๐ž๐ง ๐ƒ๐ข๐ฌ๐ก ๐Ž๐… ๐€๐‹๐‹ ๐“๐ˆ๐Œ๐„!! And I have moobs from living on chicken, it is my favourite meat, and after a million chooks I found my favourite!! So tender with the perfect spice level and flavours – it will be the one to which I compare all others.โฃโฃ

โฃโฃNot only that – ๐ญ๐ก๐ž ๐›๐ž๐ฌ๐ญ ๐๐ซ๐š๐ฐ๐ง ๐“๐จ๐š๐ฌ๐ญ ๐ˆ ๐ก๐š๐ฏ๐ž ๐ž๐ฏ๐ž๐ซ ๐ž๐š๐ญ๐ž๐ง – the sesame seeds are the trick!!โฃโฃ

โฃโฃAnd the Lime Tart was damn close to my all-time fave!!โฃโฃ

โฃโฃ๐—ช๐ก๐š๐ญ ๐ฐ๐ž ๐š๐ญ๐ž:โฃโฃ







โฃโฃThe large dishes are really bloody large so order heaps of the small and medium and share the large dishes, 1 per 2 people, we had heaps of leftovers.โฃโฃ

โฃโฃThe cocktails are also awesome, the venue is just fantastic, the staff were wonderful, and I can’t wait to return!!โฃโฃ

9. Tilba Valley Winery, Tilba Valley NSW– visited March and June (paid for)

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Happy birthday Ma – it was her 70th Shebang on the 26th of March, and I am staying down with the pares in Bermagui. ๐ŸŽ‚๐ŸŒน๐ŸŽ‚โฃ

โฃShe wanted to go to Tilba Valley Winery and Ale House for her birthday and I was surprised that in over 30yrs of visiting I had never been, I immediately fell in love with the place!โฃ

๐Ÿฆ๐Ÿ”๐Ÿฆ And just wow – what a meal, I had a seafood platter, mum the massive burger, and her friends varied between their Southern Fried Chicken, Calamari salad, and the fish special. I photographed the EPIC fish tacos, but that was on the pass and not one of ours. โฃ

๐Ÿท๐Ÿบ The winery is huge, with covered and uncovered seating, and there is plenty of paddock parking if the car park gets full. We had a band playing on Sunday, a one-man show with a guitar and a didgeridoo and the wine was sensational. I even bought a bottle of their Pinot Grigio to take home. And I drank and loved my first ever dark ale – a @tumutriverbrewingco that has coconut in it – I am sold!!โฃ ๐Ÿฅฅ๐Ÿบ๐Ÿ–ค

โฃA flawless visit that we will definitely repeat soon!! โฃWhich we did for Mike, the Stepdad’s 80th in June.

8. Three Blue Ducks, Bellingen NSW – visited Oct (paid for)

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I finally made it to a Three Blue Ducks โฃand all praise be – it was magnificent. ๐Ÿ’™๐Ÿ’™๐Ÿ’™โฃ

We went to the Bellingen one in our Coffs week. Gary, Luke, Paul, Tyson and myself, it was the gayest table they have ever had, and we got a little loud, but that will teach them to have exceptional pinot hahahaโฃ

โฃ๐Ÿฆ†๐Ÿฆ†๐Ÿฆ† Three Blue Ducks, located at The Lodge in Bellingen, is set on 16 acres of lush, manicured gardens, with uninterrupted Dorrigo National Park mountain viewsโฃ

โฃWe went on a Monday night which was their laksa night, you can either order their laksa or off the standard menu. Paul and Tyson ordered the laksa and the rest of us went through the menu drooling.โฃ

๐†๐š๐ซ๐ฒ ๐š๐ง๐ ๐‹๐ฎ๐ค๐ž ๐›๐จ๐ญ๐ก ๐ก๐š๐:โฃ



โฃ๐ˆ ๐ก๐š๐:โฃ




โฃ๐€๐ง๐ ๐ญ๐ก๐ž ๐ฅ๐š๐ค๐ฌ๐š ๐›๐จ๐ฒ๐ฌ ๐ก๐š๐:โฃ


โฃThe food was exceptional – the pork belly won for me – it was one of the nicest I have had, oh and so was my affogato for dessert lol. Special mention to the staff – they were so welcoming, firendly and knowledgable.โฃ

7. Noosa Waterfront, Noosa QLD– visited Sept (paid 50%)

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The fabulous Noosa Waterfront Restaurant – it is their second time in my annual lists. I just adore everything from this place – my fave dish was risotto followed by the Wagyu Beef Rump, Mum’s was the Snapper and Mike’s was the same as mine. ๐ŸŸโ˜€๏ธ๐ŸŸโฃ

โฃBut the best thing about Noosa Waterfront is the venue, it is location perfection.โฃ

๐๐ข๐œ๐ญ๐ฎ๐ซ๐ž๐ ๐ข๐ง ๐ญ๐ก๐ž๐ฌ๐ž ๐ฉ๐ก๐จ๐ญ๐จ๐ฌ ๐ข๐ง ๐จ๐ซ๐๐ž๐ซ:โฃโฃ

๐ŸŸ Pan Fried Snapper, mugnaia suce, green bean saladโฃ

๐Ÿฝ The venueโฃ

๐Ÿท Nomnom wineโฃ

๐Ÿฅฉ Wagyu Beef Rump Cut, tagliata, roasted potatoโฃ

โ˜•๏ธ Affogatoโฃ

๐Ÿ‘จโ€๐Ÿ‘งโ€๐Ÿ‘ฆ Mum, Mike and Moiโฃ

๐Ÿ Paccheri Pasta Napoletana Ragoutโฃโฃ

๐Ÿ (2 pics) Apple Ganache, pecan frangipani and apple puree AND fresh doughnuts, vanilla creme fraiche, caramelised appleโฃ

๐Ÿท My stickyโฃ

And to make it all above board, these guys and gals are a client of mine for photography.

6. Frankie’s Food Factory, Terrey Hills NSW– visited Nov and other times (paid for)

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This was from my second visit to Frankie’s – I have been 4 times so far in the last 18 months – can’t get enough lol

I was a lucky duck being taken back to Frankie’s Food Factory in Terrey Hills on Sunday thanks to my good friend Dinx for a belated birthday prezzy!! ๐Ÿฆฉ๐Ÿณ๏ธโ€๐ŸŒˆ๐Ÿฆฉโฃ

As usual, it was just wonderful, the manager Delilah was back giving some great service and hassling me for a Google review. Lol – it’s coming!!โฃ

I do apologise – this is more a JK appreciation post lol, I just love these pics that Dinx took of me with my Pink Hot Chocolate hehe, the scarf was Darinka’s, it completed my pink ensemble making me look the gayest I have ever looked – call me The Prince of Pink from now on. ๐ŸŒˆ๐Ÿณ๏ธโ€๐ŸŒˆ๐ŸŒˆโฃ

๐—ช๐ก๐š๐ญ ๐ฐ๐ž ๐๐ž๐ฏ๐จ๐ฎ๐ซ๐ž๐:โฃ

๐Ÿฅš ๐”๐ง๐œ๐ฅ๐ž ๐‰๐จ๐ž’๐ฌ ๐„๐ ๐ ๐ฌ – poached free-range eggs w/ Persian garlic labneh, crumbed eggplant, burnt butter chilli, crispy sage & leek served w/ organic sourdough toastโฃ

๐Ÿ‡ซ๐Ÿ‡ท ๐…๐ซ๐š๐ง๐ค๐ข๐ž’๐ฌ ๐…๐ซ๐ž๐ง๐œ๐ก ๐“๐จ๐š๐ฌ๐ญ – Brioche toast w/ creme Anglaise, fresh berries & berry compote, served w/ pistachio crumb & whipped ricotta (vegetarian and halal!)โฃ

๐Ÿฆฉ ๐…๐ฅ๐š๐ฆ๐ข๐ง๐ ๐จ ๐‡๐จ๐ญ ๐‚๐ก๐จ๐œ๐จ๐ฅ๐š๐ญ๐ž – served with Whipped Cream, marshmallows & sprinklesโฃ

โ˜•๏ธ ๐๐ข๐ฌ๐œ๐จ๐Ÿ๐Ÿ ๐‹๐š๐ญ๐ญ๐ž – served w/ whipped cream, w biscoff topping & biscoff biscuitsโฃ

Dinx loved her Eggs, and they looked mighty sexy. I really liked the French Toast, it was a marvellous bread, superbly fried, but it wasn’t sweet, this is probably ideal for a lard ass on a diet but it needed maple syrup, I was expecting sweet and got a rather nuanced healthy French Toast instead.โฃ

The Flamingo Hot Chocolate was my fave, surprisingly (also), the only sweet thing was the chocolate and lollies included, besides that it was an epic hot chocolate. The Biscoff Latte tasted like pure heaven – I said to Dinx that it reminded me of an open fire in winter. ๐Ÿ”ฅโ˜•๏ธ๐Ÿ”ฅโฃ

โฃ๐˜๐˜ง ๐˜บ๐˜ฐ๐˜ถ ๐˜ฉ๐˜ข๐˜ท๐˜ฆ๐˜ฏ’๐˜ต ๐˜ฃ๐˜ฆ๐˜ฆ๐˜ฏ ๐˜ต๐˜ฐ ๐˜๐˜ณ๐˜ข๐˜ฏ๐˜ฌ๐˜ช๐˜ฆ’๐˜ด ๐˜จ๐˜ฆ๐˜ต ๐˜ต๐˜ฉ๐˜ข๐˜ต ๐˜ด๐˜ฉ๐˜ช๐˜ต ๐˜ด๐˜ฐ๐˜ณ๐˜ต๐˜ฆ๐˜ฅ!!โฃ

5. Queen Esther, Newport NSW– visited 18th Feb (paid for)

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What a place – OMG – Newport is now a destination culinary hub of the Beaches, last weekend we ate at Rowie’s by the Sea and yesterday I had the pleasure of indulging in the best hole-in-the-wall falafel joint ever in Robertson St, Newport, oddly with Rowie – she came with us, as did Onika and Matt. ๐Ÿงก๐Ÿ’š๐Ÿงกโฃ

Queen Ester is a remarkable, packed-out little falafel bar, with plenty of other Turkish/Middle Eastern-inspired delights – it is officially an Israeli street food vendor and I just love it. I kind of know Arthur, one of the owners and chefs, his wife is a long-term friend of mine and Brookie’s, Sam, and Brookie and I had discussed visiting, Thursday was my 3yrs Strokeaversary so we put in the calendar to visit on Friday. ๐Ÿง ๐Ÿš‘โฃ

โฃSam suggested we get there early and we managed a table but within half an hour, the queue was nearly 20 people deep – just crazy!!โฃ

โฃNow, ๐๐ฎ๐ž๐ž๐ง ๐„๐ฌ๐ญ๐ž๐ซ ๐ฌ๐ž๐ซ๐ฏ๐ž๐ฌ ๐ญ๐ก๐ž ๐ฌ๐ข๐ง๐ ๐ฅ๐ž ๐›๐ž๐ฌ๐ญ ๐Ÿ๐š๐ฅ๐š๐Ÿ๐ž๐ฅ๐ฌ ๐จ๐Ÿ ๐š๐ฅ๐ฅ ๐ญ๐ข๐ฆ๐ž, they are the best I have ever eaten, and they didn’t make me fart haha. Chickpeas usually do ๐Ÿคฃ๐Ÿ˜. The Chicken Schnitzel with Eggplant roll was magnificent, and the roll was a “Turkish Brioche” and was magnificent. The cauliflower was wonderful. They also have this pastry called Ziva, it’s an Israeli pastry filled with mixed cheese and olives, it is served with boiled eggs, tahini, crushed tomatoes, zhug and pickles – if you do not get it – you have dined wrong hahahaโฃ

โฃI want to move back to Newport – it has advanced so much and the food game is strong!!โฃ

4. Ploos Sydney, The Rocks NSW– visited Feb (invite)

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Receiving the publicity mailout for Ploos from Sally Burleigh PR was the first time I had heard of this restaurant and I just had to check it out. ๐Ÿ‡ฌ๐Ÿ‡ท๐Ÿ’™๐Ÿ‡ฌ๐Ÿ‡ทโฃ

โฃSally’s invites had secured three of my Top 20 venues of 22 so I had high hopes for Ploos, nothing to be concerned about, it earned high praise across the board. I took my 6 monthly meet-up friend Nashy who I dine out with every 6 months when she is in port. Ash is a boaty to the wealthy travelling Europe and the world as a Chef and/or Chief Steward, I knew this venue overlooking the Opera House from a venue next to the Park Hyatt would be her kind of thing โค๏ธโค๏ธ.โฃ

โฃOn first look it appeared like another 50 harbourfront Sydney venues, serving the same crap touristy food, and I was like, the view will be damn fine, but what we experienced was 3hrs of exceptional, food, wine, staff and views. We were offered roughly $200- of dining value to write an article and I spent that again to really enjoy the food, I hate going with bloggers who try and get what’s free down to the cent but then cut the experience short!โฃ

โฃIt is Greek, well, a very modern take on Greek cuisine, I sent it to some Greek restauranteurs and they came back with “that’s not Greek,” but it definitely is, with a mix of Sydney influence thrown in.โฃ

โฃWe were told to make sure we had the Kataifi Tart, which we started our meal with (after the cocktails hehe) and it was a perfect start – just divine, then we had the meal of the day, their Ouzo Cured Ocean Trout – it was heavenly and I will return for this dish again! Next was the Abrolhos Octopus, a magnificent morsel.โฃ

โฃFor our mains, the Honey Roasted Lamb Ribs were good, but no match for the Twice Cooked Duck with a side of Pumpkin – which was astounding!!โฃ

โฃ๐Ÿฅ‚๐Ÿฅ‚ Then we polished off two amazing desserts with a sticky wine.โฃ

โฃIt is amazing – more at the higher cost end, we did drink a cocktail each, a bottle of wine, a glass of sticky and a glass of bubbles for Nashy so it can always be cheaper!!โฃ

โฃ๐Ÿ‡ฆ๐Ÿ‡บ๐Ÿฆ˜ If you want a restaurant to take some foreign friends visiting Australia – this is it!โฃ

3. Basin Dining Room, Mona Vale NSW – visited Jan (paid for)

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The Basin Dining is a revelation of Sydney Surf Club Dining – it costs a fortune but you will be raving about it for months and months!

โค๏ธโค๏ธ Head to Spooning Australia to read my blog post https://spooningaustralia.com/reviews/basin-dining/โฃ

2. Brae, Birregurra VIC – visited Sept (accommodation comped, food paid for)

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This is the 2nd time Brae is in my top list – I think it was 2019 the last time I visited and it was perfection then and now.

Culinary heaven – the extraordinary food by @chefdanhunter at the always perfect BRAE Restaurant in Birregurra, VIC. โฃ

โญ๏ธโญ๏ธโญ๏ธโญ๏ธโญ๏ธโญ๏ธ – 6 stars out of 5โฃ

A once in a life, now twice in a life, experience. Next time I will meet the man himself hahaโฃ

I got a wave from the kitchen and already have a signed book. ๐Ÿคฃ๐Ÿคฃโฃ

1. iTรณ, Surry Hills NSW– visited Nov (invite)

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The winner, I just adored iTรณ

One of my besties for a long long time, Steve (Chef), and I headed to iTรณ in Surry Hills, and were transported to Japanese culinary heaven with a touch of Italian – this is just a sneak peek as I have something special for this amazing restaurant coming in the next few days. โค๏ธโค๏ธโฃ

We cannot thank the restaurant enough – I am still dreaming about the eggplant! The staff were wonderful looking after us and answering a million questions from Steve and me about all the dishes, and I can’t believe I picked a mild flavour of szechuan when my tongue went numb hahaโฃ

๐—ช๐ž ๐ก๐š๐ ๐ฌ๐ฎ๐œ๐ก ๐š ๐ฆ๐ž๐ฆ๐จ๐ซ๐š๐›๐ฅ๐ž ๐š๐ง๐ ๐ญ๐ซ๐ฎ๐ฅ๐ฒ ๐ฐ๐จ๐ง๐๐ž๐ซ๐Ÿ๐ฎ๐ฅ ๐Ÿ๐ž๐š๐ฌ๐ญ.โฃ

โฃ๐˜ˆ๐˜ญ๐˜ด๐˜ฐ ๐˜ข ๐˜ด๐˜ฑ๐˜ฆ๐˜ค๐˜ช๐˜ข๐˜ญ ๐˜ต๐˜ฉ๐˜ข๐˜ฏ๐˜ฌ๐˜ด ๐˜ต๐˜ฐ Candid Comms ๐˜ง๐˜ฐ๐˜ณ ๐˜ต๐˜ฉ๐˜ฆ ๐˜ช๐˜ฏ๐˜ท๐˜ช๐˜ต๐˜ข๐˜ต๐˜ช๐˜ฐ๐˜ฏ ๐˜ต๐˜ฐ ๐˜ฅ๐˜ช๐˜ฏ๐˜ฆ.โฃ

So that wraps another year, what food is in store for 2024? – let’s see, smell and indulge!