The regional kitchens of Queensland outshone their city counterparts at The Brisbane Times Good Food Guide 2016 awards, held on Monday night at Lightspace in Fortitude Valley.
For the first time in the hat stakes, regional restaurants outscored urban kitchens, with 32 hats awarded to non-city venues compared with Brisbane's 29.
"The performance of the Gold Coast this year has been particularly strong," Brisbane Times Good Food Guide editor, Natascha Mirosch, says.
"Out of the 32 regional hats awarded, 14 were from the Gold Coast, and a lot of these were new entries such as Kiyomi, Room81, Moo Moo and Verve."
Big shake-ups on the night involved Stokehouse Q dropping from two hats to one and 85 Miskin St and Restaurant II both losing their one chef's hat each. Restaurant II dropped two points from 15.5 out of 20 to 13.5.
"Restaurant II has been considered one of city's top restaurants since it opened so it was a big shock for it to go down so much," Mirosch says.
Other city restaurants to lose a hat included Jellyfish, Tartufo and Vintaged.
Mirosch says a "huge and very noticeable dip" in the level of service in Brisbane was a significant contributor to the drop in scores across the board.
Esquire was the only restaurant awarded three hats and it was once again named Vittoria Coffee Restaurant of the Year.
"Ryan Squires and the team at Esquire are incredibly creative with what they put on the plate," Mirosch says. "The deliciousness of the food, the precision service and the aesthetics of everything, from the room to the ceramics, is always spot on."
GOMA Restaurant was promoted from one to two hats and its chef, Josue Lopez, was awarded Citi Chef of the Year.
"Josue has developed a unique style and there's a new level of confidence in his cooking," Mirosch says. "He has a love of native Australian ingredients and local produce and also takes inspiration from the art at GOMA by creating dishes that reflect an exhibition or particular piece. There's a sense of place to his cooking in terms of both local Queensland and being in the middle of an art gallery."
Also gaining a hat were 1889 Enoteca, Deer Duck Bistro and Paddington local favourite, Montrachet.
Chef Shannon Kellam took over the reins of Montrachet in April. "He's kept all the old faves like the souffle and steak frites, but on Fridays he does a degustation, which is really cutting edge and contemporary," Mirosch says.
The Catbird Seat Bistro was awarded a hat in its first year and also named Best New Restaurant.
The Santa Vittoria Regional Restaurant of the Year went to Noosa's Wasabi Restaurant & Bar. Sails and Ricky's Riverbar & Restaurant in Noosa also gained a hat as did Social Eating House on the Gold Coast.
In terms of Brisbane restaurant trends, the tables are getting smaller while the queues are getting bigger, Mirosch says.
"Restaurants are trying to pack in more people to maximise their shrinking profit margins," she says. "And for the first time in Brisbane, we're starting to see restaurant queues at popular no-bookings venues like Longtime and Gauge. At Gauge, not only can you not book, they don't have a webpage, listed phone number or signage."
Mirosch says she has also noticed more hidden and rooftop bars, more parts of the pig on menus such as trotter, jowl and head, and raw and vegan food infiltrating mainstream restaurants with greater frequency.
"Also the amount of paleo cafes now in Brisbane is unbelievable," she says.
Pick up your copy of The Brisbane Times Good Food Guide 2016 from Tuesday, June 30 for $7.99 from participating newsagents or online at brisbanetimes.com.au/goodfoodguide for $9.99 including delivery.