5Mention Darwin and its lush greenery and accompanying waterfalls that’ll make nature buffs weak in the knees come to mind. (Not to mention the slew of activities made for the adventurous.)
Its dining scene has, surprisingly, taken a back seat. But with Australia’s bounteous offerings – think everything from seafood to its beef – it’d be a crime not to check out these restaurants within its city centre.
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PM Eat & Drink
Owner Ji and Alana didn’t look far to create the menu at PM Eat & Drink, a modern wine bar doling out tapas-style plates from afternoon till late. They are known for their seafood, partly owing to how fresh it is. It’s locally sourced from fishermen in the wee hours of the morning and are simply prepared to bring out its natural flavours. You’d have a hard time saying no to their oysters and grilled octopus.
It is not to say that that’s all they are good for. Every order chit will, no doubt, see their Duck Liver Pate. Meat lovers will adore the Wagyu steak and Roasted Pork Belly with its addictive crackling juxtaposed against layers of gelatinous fat. The latter comes with a tangy sauerkraut, making it a dream with a Sauvignon Blanc Semillon blend from Margaret River. Don’t forget to add on a side of Tempura Zucchini.
Whether you’re coming by for lunch or dinner, its industrial chic vibe is cool, casual and convivial. Staff are always on their A-game, and ever-ready to recommend daily specials and wine pairings.
Corner of Knuckey Street & Austin Lane, Darwin City NT 0800, Australia. Tel: +61 8 8941 3925. Open Tues-Thu 11am-12am, Fri-Sun 11am-2am
You can’t say you’ve dined at Darwin without grabbing a burger-and-beer combo at Lola’s Pergola. Overlooking Cullen Bay, it’s decked out in oddities you’d find at a carnival. Bring your camera along for a shoot with the mini Merry-Go-Round. The best time to come around is the evening, where you can perch yourself at one of the benches to catch the sunset with a couple of pints.
Foodwise, you’ve got all the classics. Burgers, pizzas and the like. The burgers are stellar but relatively small, making room for their Scotch Fillet. Grilled to a perfect medium rare, this juicy slab of meat will remind you why Australia’s beef has such a loyal following.
48 Marina Boulevard, Larrakeyah NT 0820, Australia. Tel: +61 8 8941 5711. Open Tues-Thu 11am-12am, Fri-Sun 11am-2am
Darwin Waterfront is teeming with restaurants banking in on the million-dollar view but Wharf One stands out with its quality plates, with a wine menu to match.
The menu is a treasure trove of what Australia has to offer. Standouts from the starters include the Beef Carpaccio, topped with crispy capers and truffle aioli, and the Grilled Octopus. The latter will easily become your benchmark when it comes to grilled seafood. The right amount of char, while still retaining that succulent, springy texture. As for the mains, it’s all about the beef. Go for the 300g Wood-Grilled Scotch Fillet for that chunk of bone marrow. Tip: Order the Wood-Grilled Seasonal Vegetables as a side.
The wine list impresses, stocking up varietals from around the continent. You’ve got a stunning Cabernet Sauvignon, the Rockford Rifle Range 2014 from Barossa Valley and Sauvignon Blanc from Shaw & Smith in Adelaide, to name a few. Best of all, you can upgrade any glass to 250ml.
A 4-course tasting menu is also available for those who just want to leave it to the chef.
Building, 3/19 Kitchener Drive, Darwin Waterfront NT 0801, Australia. Tel: +61 8 8941 0033. Open daily 12pm-3pm, 6pm-10pm
Parap Village Market
Missing home? Then you’ll want to check out Parap Village Market on Saturday. Aside from the usual suspects of produce, fresh flowers and aboriginal knick-knacks, most come here for the seemingly endless array of Asian food. Countless stalls can be seen peddling Thai food, from its fiery papaya salads to mango with sticky rice.
The snaking lines are usually for Mary’s Laksa, however. That thick, coconut-based broth is the base for many variations, going beyond the seafood that we know and love locally. Your best bet is to go for the beef; its Australia, after all.
There are also a couple of stalls peddling Western-style treats. There’s Tom’s Crepes, with both savoury and sweet options, acai bowls and gluten-free bakes.
3/3 Vickers St, Parap NT 0804, Australia. Tel: +61 438 882 373. Open Sat 8am-2pm
Char Restaurant is where you’ll find the who’s who of Darwin. The steakhouse has restaurateur John Kilroy to thank for its success. Kilroy is a nationally recognised beef judge, and sources the cuts straight from the producers before a dry-aging for five weeks.
The Australian Black, a Wagyu cattle of Karoge Washu and Tajima bloodlines from South Australia is a favourite here. The 420-day grain fed cattle comes as a rump, on its own or spice-rubbed. While there’s an option to go for one out of five sauces, its best to savour the cut with just a smear of mustard. If you’re feeling ravenous, add on a serving of their Wagyu rump cap tataki. Dressed simply in bonito soy and shiso, it accentuates the cut’s silky caramel undertones.
70 Esplanade, Darwin City NT 0800, Australia. Tel: +61 8 8981 4544. Open daily 6pm-10pm
*Disclaimer: Char Restaurant was paid by the reviewer.
Getting to Darwin
To our delight, Jetstar Asia has increased its direct flights to Darwin to five times weekly since October 2018. Daily flights are available during peak periods; 15 December to 1 January and 31 January to 17 February. The flight clocks in less than five hours, meaning you can grab a quick nap before making a beeline for amazing sights, such as Kakadu or Litchfield National Park (a concise list of to-dos here) upon arrival.
Read more about the special livery aircraft here.