Good restaurants for business need to be reliably good, have attentive but non-intrusive service, and be quiet enough so that you can hear each other talk, without letting other tables in on the deal. Here are some of the best in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane.
Executive chef Peter Doyle does wonders with his French-influenced dishes in this large elegant room with soaring white pillars. The service is professional and timely, just as you’d hope for. Go for the signature dish of steamed Murray cod with shaved abalone, snow peas, black fungi, ginger and green shallot vinaigrette. You could opt for the seven-course tasting menu to really impress. A separate private dining room seats between eight and 18 people.
Bentley Restaurant + Bar
The dark, heritage interior of this adjunct to the Radisson Blu hotel in Sydney’s financial district has been given a modern twist thanks to areas of crazy scaffold-like black tubing and hand made crockery. The service is exemplary, as is the wine list. Choose a-la-carte or an eight-course degustation meal. Imagine pork cheek with eggplant and pickled mushrooms, followed by sweet corn ice cream with puffed sorghum wheat and dried blueberries.
You never know who might be sitting next to you in this Darlinghurst institution, which first opened its doors in 1956. Even Frank Sinatra and Mick Jagger have eaten here. The atmosphere is quiet and calm and old school Italian. The wine list is impressive, and your anticipation surges when you scroll through a menu featuring pastas and gnocchi, oysters and scallops, figs wrapped in prosciutto, and pork loin with Parmesan and pine nuts.
Sometimes, during a business meeting, you want light, fun and airy rather than moody, refined and sedate. Cumulus, in the Flinders Lane art and fashion precinct, could be the place you are looking for. It’s comfortable and bright and you can sit at the solid white marble bar and watch the chefs in action. Start with oysters or asparagus with brown butter, followed by foie gras, then a whole roast lamb shoulder to share. There’s an 11-course tasting menu too.
This two-storey Melbourne institution on Bourke Street might have been around for a long time but its service and menu are cutting edge. Downstairs is The Grill, which offers casual ‘Tuscan-style’ dining with an open kitchen. Upstairs is more elegant, with wood-panelled walls and renaissance-style Florentine murals. The tables are set further apart than down below, which makes it good for a quiet chat. Expect dishes like risotto with cuttlefish, partridge, veal cheek with sweetbreads, and Fremantle octopus.
If you have a business meeting with someone from out of town then Flower Drum could be a highlight. This sprawling red-carpeted laneway eatery in Chinatown has been famous since 1975 for its tasty Cantonese food and impeccable service. Surprise your business contact with the likes of marinated jellyfish with sesame dressing, snow crab, sea conch, abalone braised in oyster sauce, and bird’s nest in almond cream.
It is set in a beautiful 19th century heritage building, and Customs House restaurant has sensational views across the Brisbane River to the Story Bridge, especially from its outdoor riverside terrace. Dishes could include veal medallion with sand crab, and Korean braised short ribs with kimchi. The restaurant is part of a large function room and seminar-room facility, and there are four private dining rooms for hire too.
For a fine dining experience you can’t do much better than Matt Moran’s Aria. This offshoot of his original Sydney restaurant is in a magical riverside setting with vast windows overlooking the Story Bridge. It’s a sophisticated place and the service is refined but friendly. A seasonal seven-course degustation menu should secure that deal. Think yellowfin tuna with miso and radish, and roast duck with red cabbage and rhubarb.
Black Hide Steakhouse
Fancy a steak? Well this is perhaps the best place in Brisbane to get one. Of course, it serves steak of all cuts and various types, including wagyu. But there are other options on the menu in this contemporary place too, like herb and ricotta ravioli, twice-cooked pork belly, and grilled spatchcock. So, even if you crave that juicy T-bone, your business contact won’t have to kowtow to the one who is paying the bill.