Eating out is a great way to tap into Darwin's vibrant multiculturalism, whatever your budget. Start with the weekend markets (Parap, Nightcliff, Rapid Creek), where foodstalls serve delicious cheap cuisine: dynamite laksas, Vietnamese soups, Javanese satay lotong and fresh Thai paw-paw salad as well as fresh juices, pancakes and coffee.
In the city, it's down unassuming arcades and in back lanes that you'll find the the best places to eat. At 23 Cavenagh Street, Sari Rasa has been serving up Indonesian favourites such as bif rendang (tender beef) and terong pedas (spicy eggplant) for more than 20 years. A favourite lunchtime spot for office workers, it is now open for dinner (5.30pm-9.30pm).
Off Smith Street Mall, on the site of Darwin’s old picture theatre, the Star Arcade is a humming little courtyard, home to long-time Darwin favourites Simply's Vegetarian Café and the Malaysian Laksa House, plus the newly opened and rather hip Four Birds Café,. Hanuman (White Monkey), next to the Darwin Entertainment Centre on Mitchell Street, has a sublime menu a mix of Thai, Nonya and Indian dishes that feature local produce and is, for my money, the best restaurant in town with Saffron an Indian restaurant at Parap Village a very close second.
Tasty House, a Chinese restaurant on the Smith Street mall, has modern industrial décor and does great weekend Yum Cha. While the GO Sushi Train serves up some of the best sushi you’ll ever taste.
For modern Australian cuisine head for Char in Old Admiralty House on the Esplanade at Knuckey Street, while at Sky City Casino Darwin, Il Piatto serves up a great gourmet pizza in a spot with awesome sunset views.
The Roma Bar, near the ABC on Cavenagh Street, is the place for a power breakfast: it's a hub for Darwin's arts workers, journalists and politicians and does a regular fish-of-the-day blackboard special.
The Ducks Nuts Espresso bar next to the cinema on Mitchell Street is great bet for coffee and a cake after a film and I'm loving the bar at Mantra on the Esplanade cool and airy with a sea-view, this is a great place for a catch-up drink with friends.
Down at Cullen Bay, a 1980s marina development that hasn't quite found its groove yet, there are a string of waterside eateries. On Marina Boulevard, Buzz cafe is worth a visit if only for its eclectic decor (one-way mirrors in the blokes' bathroom and redbacks embedded in the toilet seats). The opening of local restaurateur Jimmy Shu's new Italian venture Il Lido, at the Darwin Waterfront this year has set the bar in fine dining in Darwin’s Waterfront Precinct. If you have a family to feed, head out to the historic Stokes Hill Wharf, for low-key outdoor eating and let the kids feed the fish that gather under the lights. Open from 6pm.
There are two spots out of town that are worth the trip, starting with Eat at Martin's, a gem of a cafe tucked away in Caryota Court off Dick Ward Drive at Coconut Grove (turn in at the clock tower). Popular with the crowd from nearby Darwin Yoga Space, this "soul food" joint serves fresh, healthy, delicious food sans greenie earnestness. Cornucopia Cafe at the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory at Fannie Bay is another brunch-to-lunch spot, with enormous servings and views across rolling lawns to the azure Timor Sea. Book in advance.
Picnics and outdoor eating are a way of life in Darwin, and the free gas barbecues in the city's foreshore parks are well-used, especially at sunset. Pick up some fresh barramundi fillets from the Fish Markets at Frances Bay, fill your picnic hamper with tasty smallgoods from Parap Fine Foods or Fannie Bay Supermarket and head for Lake Alexander or Nightcliff, near the pier.
Have you eaten at any of these places in Darwin? Know of any others worth mentioning? Tell us about it using the comments form below.
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