While not the night of the departed, last night's SMH Good Food Guide 2014 awards certainly celebrated the departing, with Guillaume at Bennelong elevated to three toques just as the restaurant winds down to its end-of-year closure at the Sydney Opera House. Securing a spot in the rarefied air of three toques isn't easy, evidenced by two of the biggest shocks of the night, the demotion of Marque and est to the two-hat level.
''There were some disappointing moments for our reviewers at both restaurants this year,'' says the Guide's editor, Joanna Savill.
It was a different story for Bennelong. ''It's as if the whole package - venue, food, wine, service - has really gelled, just as the Sydney Opera House decides to change direction [they want a bistro in the space]. Ironic, but a great way to go out,'' Savill says.
It was also the night of the bounce-back, with stalwart Lucio's back to two hats and Berowra Waters Inn back in at a single toque after new operators rebooted it after its closure under Dietmar Sawyere.
There's always a little blood spilt on Sydney's Eat Streets at the awards, Porteno's demotion from two to one hat rare in a year with little mid-table movement, and a posse of big names, including Otto Ristorante, 4Fourteen, A Tavola and Chiswick, all now without hats.
Savill praised the new breed. ''Seriously, just look at our Best New Restaurant contenders - MoVida, Monopole, Mr Wong, Kepos Street Kitchen, Gowings - all hatted in their first year of operation … There's a freshness and excitement and originality about these and several other places that is really making this an interesting town to eat out in right now,'' Savill says.
Guillaume at Bennelong might be closing at the end of the year, but its chef-owner Guillaume Brahimi isn't going anywhere. The chef tells Short Black he intends to reopen in a restaurant site the equal to Bennelong and is keen to open a casual venue close to his eastern-suburbs home.