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.
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..."
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.”
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.”
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!"
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, the best high tea and best bistros 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.