Chefs vote Australia's top 100 restaurants of 2016

Top chefs reveal their favourite ingredients

Nine top chefs tell us their favourite ingredient and what they make with it.

If you've ever wondered where chefs like to eat, their favourite places were revealed tonight at The Australian Financial Review Top 100 Restaurants awards, presented by Qantas. The ceremony, hosted by political commentator Annabel Crabb, took place at The Star in Sydney.

The poll - which is voted by chefs and hospitality workers nationwide - was topped by Melbourne's Attica, which made the crucial jump from last year's number two spot. Given that reservations for two can disappear in 43 seconds flat at Ben Shewry's acclaimed restaurant, scoring a booking at Attica might get even harder (and require more pre-reservation strategising). Its number one ranking also meant that the venue was ranked as Victoria's best restaurant, too.

"The dining experience at Attica is full of surprises, it's very interactive, deeply engaging, and very Melburnian," says Jill Dupleix, co-director of Top 100 Restaurants. "Ben Shewry risked all in 2015 by buying out his long-term partners at Attica and making it his own, so this is a great reward for taking that risk."

Terry Durack, fellow co-director of Top 100 Restaurants, highlights Shewry's passion for growing his own produce - much of it at his own gardens in the nearby historic Ripponlea estate grounds - as well as his focus on native ingredients. "His salted red kangaroo and bunya bunya course alone is extraordinary: a drama queen of a dish, red on red, blood on blood, all acidity, astringency and refreshing - the kangaroo meat mixed with a tumble of tiny scoops of bunya nut."

And while it takes an hour and a half to reach Brae from Melbourne, enough diners are enthusiastically making the pilgrimage, because the regional Birregurra restaurant took out the second spot, making the leap from 2015's number four ranking. Brae's chef/owner Dan Hunter had extra reason to celebrate, as he won the Top Chef award at the ceremony.

Ben Shewry's Attica restaurant in Melbourne was voted number one on Australia's Top 100 Restaurants list.
Ben Shewry's Attica restaurant in Melbourne was voted number one on Australia's Top 100 Restaurants list. Photo: Wayne Taylor

"He is a very thoughtful chef," says Dupleix. "Even the plates on which he serves his food are made of the clay around the dam that irrigates the gardens on the property; yet another way of linking and connecting his diners with where they happen to be."

The winner of 2015's Top 100 Restaurants list - Sydney's Sepia - may have slipped to the number three spot, but there was no reason to skip the champagne. Sepia was named the best restaurant in NSW and also won the inaugural Top Service award.

"Co-owner Vicki Wild, sommelier Rodney Setter, and restaurant manager Benjamin Brown bridge the gap between diner and kitchen so that we can enjoy Martin Benn's high-impact, Japanese-nuanced, degustation dining all the more," says Durack.

Sydney restaurants dominated the top 20 with 12 of the highest spots going to establishments in the city. Ester in particular made an impressive leap from last year's number 14 ranking to land in the top 5. Automata, which only opened in September, also had a remarkable placing - entering the list at number nine. Another new restaurant, Bennelong, made a fantastic debut at number seven.

This was a national list, though, and People's Choice was given to Canberra restaurant Akiba, which took out the diner-picked category. "Twice as many people voted for the Peoples Awards than 2015 - with a total of 23,000!" says Dupleix.

Hobart's Franklin was named Tasmania's top restaurant; Adelaide's Africola topped the South Australian list, while Restaurant Amuse was selected as Western Australia's best. Gerard's Bistro in Brisbane won the Queensland category; Monster Kitchen and Bar was voted the top restaurant in the ACT and Darwin's Little Miss Korea ranked highest of all Northern Territory venues.

A restaurant to watch will be Igni in Geelong - despite only opening at the year's start, Aaron Turner's venture scored a number 93 spot.

And while the awards may be over for this year, the Top 100 restaurants dining program has just launched: it runs from May 2 to 23. Visit australiastoprestaurants.com for more details.