If you are looking for a restaurant to celebrate that special occasion, then you have come to the right place! Whether its visiting family, a not-so-distant birthday, or date with a loved, my bet is you’re looking for something special. And when I say special, I really mean extraordinary.
You want it all. To be surprised and delighted by each, and every, mouthful. To sip crisp bubbles fizzing in your glass. Moody lighting, vistas, soft toned music beating in your ears. You want smiles, helping hands, and to made to feel like royalty.
Enter the world of fine dining. From mesmerising menus to service that sparkles like the cutlery before you, Canberra is home to the finest dining restaurants. Our culinary institutions are where big moments happen. From powerbroking to proposals and everything in between, our glorious fine dining establishments have seen it all over the years.
The challenge simply becomes where to start. In a world littered with awards, lists upon lists, and gastronomic tastes from every corner of the earth, choosing is the hardest part. Thankfully, we have taken it upon ourselves to curate the best of Canberra’s fine dining restaurants, so do read on below.
What makes a great fine dining restaurants?
A great fine dining restaurant oozes sophistication and a sense of occasion. It is the home of truly remarkable food, freely flowing drinks, and an atmosphere of sheer bliss. We think these attributes set the best fine dining restaurants aside from the rest:
- Ambiance aplenty. From the moment you enter a fine dining establishment you know you have arrived. The mood, the music, the décor, the art. All of it luxurious, with style in spades. And what should the atmosphere feel like? Sophisticated through and through, with a touch of comfort and a nod of relaxation. The crème of the crop of fine dining are a feast for all senses, so please do not settle for anything less.
- Culinary mastery. From the hors d’oeuvre to the petit fours, your palette should sing with the culinary mastery of the kitchen. Every mouthful should tantalise the taste buds, with each carefully considered course designed to lift you to the next. Each plate should offer layer upon layer of wonderful flavour profiles, the highest quality produce, and the freshest ingredients. Dining at an establishment of this calibre should be a theatrical experience, teetering with anticipation for what will be served next. Finally, the best fine dining restaurants will have a string of accolades and awards behind them, and perhaps a hat or two.
- Perfect pairings. Canberra’s best fine dining restaurants understand how important perfectly paired beverages are to the overall experience. Be it an aperitif at the lounge, a champagne to start, or a by-the-glass wine match, these establishments have it covered. Look for venues with extensive wines from the best regions served by well-informed sommeliers. Should a little cocktail take your fancy consider venues with creative mixologists at the ready by the bar.
- Sizzling service. Industry leading service is often a hallmark of a fine dining restaurant. From the telephone manner greeting you upon booking, to the farewell as you collect your coat, the best fine dining restaurants have service that sizzles. These establishments should be staffed by the best in the business, with years of experience, and a flair for communication. Not only should your hosts be gracious and warm; they should know the menu – and the venue inside out.
- Lovely location. Whilst impeccable food can be found in any location, the best fine dining restaurants offer something out of the ordinary. Whether it is the ripple of water, the city buzz, or history oozing from the walls, look for something memorable. After all, a great location really marks the sense of occasion that fine dining should be!
The best fine dining restaurants in Canberra
RiotACT’s editorial team has combed through 20 years of on-site comments to compile a list of the most recommended businesses according to you.
To be listed in our Best of Canberra series, each business needs to have consistently received positive feedback on RiotACT and Facebook as well as maintaining a minimum average of 4/5 stars on Google.
Tucked away in its own private parklands on the shores of Lake Burley Griffin, The Boat House is a stunning and award-winning fine dining option. Chef John Leverink delivers modern Australian dishes using the freshest ingredients all plated to perfection.
As the region’s premier waterfront dining establishment, The Boat House offers breathtaking views Kingston Foreshore and surround and an enchanting atmosphere. You simply can’t go wrong with the refined sophistication of The Boat House.
Christopher Bennett shared his experience on Google, “Another magnificent dining experience - food and service were exquisite, thank you The Boat House.”
Established in 1992, Ottoman Cuisine is one of the most awarded restaurants in the Canberra region – and with good reason! Inspired by the majesty of Istanbul, Ottoman Cuisine features a modern Turkish menu celebrating traditional flavours with a twist.
Nestled in the heart of Barton in an art deco pavilion it features numerous dining spaces and impeccably manicured grounds. This Canberra institution is testament to the quality of it’s food, and loyal patronage. For a fine dining experience that stands the test of time look to Ottoman Cuisine.
John B shared his experience on Google, “Great service, great food, great place... If you have never dined there before you need to."
Lapping up the shoreline of Lake Burley Griffin stands Waters Edge, one of Canberra's modern European-Australian delights. Their experimental cuisine ranges from the simplest fare to the most complex, making it loved by foodies who delight in nothing more than the best local produce presented well.
With floor to ceiling views of the lake and surrounds, Waters Edge is the perfect location to celebrate any special occasion. Featuring a well structured a la carte menu and detailed wine list this venue is sure to delight even the most fussy of diners. For a mainstay in the restaurant rounds with the classics done well look to Waters Edge.
Roz Lemon had this to say about Waters Edge on RiotACT, "Water’s Edge is magnificent!"
Quietly nestled in the Gorman House Arts Centre are Sage Dining Rooms and Mint Garden Bar, winner of the TripAdvisor Fine Dining Restaurant of the Year 2020. Lead by head chef Thomas Heinrich, Sage Dining Rooms commitment to sourcing sustainable produce from local and national producers is a hallmark of its success.
With a modern-Australian inspired menu Sage Dining Rooms is the perfect retreat for outstanding food, fine wine and fantastic atmosphere. If you're looking to escape the city, within the city, this is the choice for you.
Troy Humpherston shared this review on Google, "Sage provide a brilliant dining experience that can't be faulted. The location and interior are beautiful and a lot of work has been put in to make it a unique experience."
As one of the Canberra's iconic dining institutions, Chairman & Yip have been serving modern Pan-Asian cuisine for over twenty years. Centrally located in the Hotel Realm precinct in Barton, their elegant surrounds offer glorious spaces including a private dining room and balcony garden.
Well regarded for pioneering Asian cuisine in Australia, the team are known to introducing new tastes and elevating traditional fare to fine dining cuisine. For delectable, flavour packed Asian led dining, look no further than Chairman & Yip.
As Peter McLoughlin shared on RiotACT, "...Chairman and Yip has always been an excellent dining experience..."
OTIS Dining Hall has made its mark as one of Canberra's most awarded restaurants. Owned and operated by chef of the year, Damian Brabender, OTIS resides in a sumptuous saloon inspired setting in Kingston.
Known for its contemporary French bistro-style cuisine, OTIS offers diners an a la carte and chefs menu comprised of five glorious courses with wines to boot. For a hatted experience that exudes both style - and substance, OTIS is hard to beat.
As Tom Lindenmayer shared on RiotACT, "Absolutely can’t go past OTIS Dining Hall - as good as it gets."
Home to the region’s finest Japanese, RAKU combines the precision and artfulness of their culinary history with the vibrancy of modern Australian dining. Lead by Executive Chef Hao, the team produces an array of delectable morsels from sushi and sashimi, through to rolls, and a myriad of dishes from the robata grill.
Known for its sleek and contemporary setting, RAKU offers a unique fine dining experience. For a truly memorable meal that will have you yearning for more look to RAKU.
Peter Douglas shared his experience with Raku on Google, “A delightful dining experience. Delicious food, beautifully presented with excellent service. The sake recommendation was particularly good. Strongly recommended.”
This modern French fine dining gem has collected a string of impressive accolades over the last ten years. Owned by celebrated chef James Mussillon, Courgette offers fine dining with the utmost finesse making it an ideal choice for a special occasion.
Featuring impressive a la carte and degustation menus Courgette is home to some seriously delightful food. With intimate and luxurious spaces and the best wines from around the globe each dining experience is one to remember. For contemporary classics look to Courgette.
As Claire Walters shared on Google, “Delicious food and wonderful staff. Very attentive and friendly.
A great dining experience in Canberra.”
Aubergine has earned a formidable reputation as one of the regions most treasured gastronomic stars. Home to two Chef Hats for the last nine consecutive years, the food reflects Canberra’s seasonality with an ever-changing menu.
Offering a premium dining experience, Aubergine is cloaked in a warm and earthy interior creating the perfect backdrop for chef Ben Willis creations. From yellowfin tuna and artichoke to rib eye and yuzu prepare your palette for a surprising treat. For a fanciful feast to mark a special occasion consider Aubergine.
As Greg Hunting shared on Google, “Great service, food and wine. All in all excellent.”
With a lifetime experience in fine dining and hospitality in kitchens from New York, to Chicago, Vancouver, Sydney and Canberra, Thomas Heinrich has opened his own restaurant, Table by Canberra Gourmet.
This unique dining experience takes patrons straight to the chef's table, experiencing a set degustation with exquisite flavours and the promise of great food - and an even better time. For a fine dining experience in a more intimate environment look to Table by Canberra Gourmet.
Jo James shared this review on Google, "Absolutely loved the food and the atmosphere here! It was great being able to sit near the kitchen and watch our dishes be prepared. Definitely recommend!"
Nestled in the trendy Kingston neighbourhood of Canberra is Pomegranate, home to Mediterranean inspired modern Australian fare. Head chef Erkin Esen is known for his mastery of French techniques blended with a Turkish palette. The menu features an extensive use of seafood, with a la carte and banquet options available.
Pomegranate's warm and chic interior space oozes elegance with sprinkling of interest from bazaar inspired furnishings. For an flavoursome journey to the brinks of the Mediterranean look to Pomegranate.
Jerry Daikou shared this sentiment on Pomegranate via Google, "Amazing food with fantastic service. Each meal bursts with flavour and cooked to perfection. Make a booking you won't regret it."
If you’re looking for more information on dining options in Canberra, you might like our articles on the best cocktail bars, the best wine bars, the best French restaurant, and the best high tea Canberra has to offer. And if you’re a fan of wine, you might also like to read our article on the best wine tours in Canberra.
Your experience with fine dining restaurants in Canberra
Thanks to our commenters who have provided insightful feedback. If you believe we have got it wrong, please let us know.
Have you had experience with any of the fine dining experiences listed above? If so, share your feedback in the comments below.
Frequently Asked Questions
What does fine dining mean?
Fine dining restaurants full-service restaurants with dedicated meal courses featuring the highest quality produce and materials. They are typically higher end by nature, and the overall dining experience is formal. Some fine dining establishments generally expect that proper etiquette is observed and many encourage minimum standards of patronage attire.
What are the characteristics of fine dining?
Fine dining restaurants are characterised by their full-service offering. This is typically multi-course or degustation based with matched wines and course specific cutlery. Fine dining restaurants are also generally the most expensive of all dining experiences and as such are often reserved for special occasions.
What are the do’s and don’ts of fine dining?
Whilst good manners are second nature to most, they are particularly sacred at fine dining establishments. Know the basics and follow them well. Personal belongings – and elbows – off the table. Engage and communicate with all servers and take the sommelier’s advice. Know that a napkin belongs on your lap, and that cutlery is to be worked from the outward in. Break bread with hands and save the butter knife for the butter. When complete place your cutlery in the 10:20 position; and if you have had fabulous experience remember to leave a small tip.
What is the dress code for fine dining?
Knowing the appropriate dress code for fine dining can be trickery. There is a lot of variation from city to city and from one venue to another. The best advice is that when in doubt, always err on the side of caution – it is better to be over dressed than under. Gentlemen should consider dark denim or pants with a shirt and jacket, while ladies should consider well-tailored sets or a dress. Polished, respectful, and chic are the themes of the day.
Should I tip at a fine dining restaurant?
Tipping is by no means a compulsory custom however it is a wonderful way to acknowledge and reward exemplary service. Whilst there isn’t a magic number a good starting point is $20AUD per table, or a value at your discretion.