Indulge your inner gourmand at midday for great value meals from some of Australia's top restaurants.
The Press Club
72 Flinders Street, Melbourne 03 9677 9677
George Calombaris soon to star on TV's Masterchef cooks earthy and fun contemporary Greek. Come for the $37/$45 X-press lunch, perhaps poached prawns with avocado and ouzo, followed by spit chicken. The four-course kerasma (banquet) menu is $48 ($74 evenings).
10 Bligh Street, Sydney. Tel 02 8078 1888
Head to Neil Perry's funky modern Chinese restaurant for the 10-course $69 (per person) banquet menu, which turns up the heat with numbing pork and beef in fire water before watermelon granita arrives like a Summer southerly.
Overseas Passenger Terminal, Circular Quay West, The Rocks. Tel: 02 9251 5600
Four courses for $145 seems expensive, but this is Australia's best restaurant. Europe costs three times more, without breathtaking Opera House and harbour views. Mud crab congee is a classic; pork belly with abalone and tofu is on its way. It's masterful, sharp and surprising cooking. At lunch, try three courses for $95.
Royale of asparagus at Guillaume at Bennelong
Sydney Opera House, Bennelong Point. Tel: 02 9241 1999
This Escoffier classic demands hundreds of dollars in Europe, but Guilluame Brahimi's version, with yabbies and truffles, is just $50. It's a small price for luxury. The turban of scampi with sterling caviar and champagne sauce ($75) is also worth every cent.
Caramelised banana galette at est.
Establishment Hotel, Level 1, 252 George Street, Sydney. Tel: 02 9240 3000.
Desserts are $26, but here's the deal: a glass of 1989 Chateau Suduiraut Sauternes for $55 and sweets tossed in for nix. This galette, with white coffee ice cream, kahlua and hazelnuts is the best match. So how about a nightcap?
74 Glen Eira Road, Ripponlea. Tel: 03 9530 0111
Less ambitious chefs aim for comfort, but not Ben Shewry, whose magical combinations thrill at a fraction of the price you'd expect. Think smoked trout broth, basil seeds and fresh smoke. No wonder it's The Age Good Food Guide Restaurant of the Year.
Sardinian tasting menu at Pilu at Freshwater
End of Moore Road, Freshwater. Tel 02 9938 3331
Sun, sand and Giovanni Pilu's shimmering Sardinian food - bellissima! This seven-course $100 feast ($150 with wines) includes saffron pasta with goat ragu and suckling pig in an old weekender overlooking the beach. There's a $55 midweek lunch deal too, for two-hat Italian food.
37 Little Collins Street, Melbourne. Tel 03 9663 7890
Everything's delicious and there's nothing over $16 in this snappy CBD tapas bar. Nibble on chorizo; poached pork neck, and shaved cabbage with mint and feta feeling sophisticated, civilised and thrifty. The wine list tours Europe.
78 Williams Road, Windsor. Tel 03 9525 2178
Shouldn't everyone feel like a Master of the Universe? This three-hat mansion lavishes that attention with polished, classic panache. This is stylish food with Asian inflections. Spend as little or as much (degustation, $150) as you fancy and know you're getting a good deal.
89 Kent Street, The Rocks, 9256 2222
It's expensive if you want (especially the wine list), but this lovely, old-fashioned hotel dining room has a new Japanese chef and keenly priced menu with plenty of seafood, foie gras and all the fine diner trimmings. Dress up, or down, and enjoy.