Pull a seat up at the bar, and take a sip of sake (or perhaps a natural riesling), as we explore the year in food. The Age Good Food Guide team dined at more than 600 restaurants, always anonymously as paying customers, to bring you this edition. We found more than 120 new places, and along the way, our reviewers discovered a lot about the way we like to eat now. Here’s how we saw it.
GERTRUDE Street became the food epicentre of Melbourne. The raffish route 86 has at least nine exciting Guide entries in a single kilometre.
RABBIT, roo and wallaby started to appear, and appeal, more often on menus.
THE MEXICAN Revolution was a bit of a fizzer, but the Italian Renaissance ruled. The taco overtook the bun as the city’s favourite hand-held. A bunch of lively new Mexicans opened and were as overstuffed as a Californian burrito. Though they saw off cheese-and-beans Mexican, only a few did justice to this vivid cuisine with its countless regional variations. Italian food, on the other hand, is currently stellar, thanks to a number of small, new, big-hearted spots like Lupino and Mister Bianco, who’ve raised the bar for other local Italians.
SPEAKING of the bar, we got used to sitting at it. Heck, we even got to prefer it to sitting at tables, whether at stalwart Cumulus Inc, or Casa Ciuccio’s smart ‘kitchen table’.
DUDE food matured. Not quite the ‘stoner share-house food’ (thanks, Dani Valent) it once was, it grew into global street food as menus hopped from Korea to the Caribbean (Circa, The Smith).
EVERYONE had a nip and tuck. Many places got smaller (Red Emperor, The Deck), had a makeover (David’s), or altered their offerings for the times (Comme, No35).
PLACEMATE menus ruled. Pages of entrees, mains, desserts were dumped for single sheets that leapt from snazzy cocktails to feel-good desserts.
THE RAW menu found itself a spot, too, with oysters, carpaccio and tartare given their own room.
ANYWHERE you could fit a bit of dirt (goodbye to Attica’s staff parking) a vegie or herb patch popped up. Some greenovers were state of the art (Vue de Monde, we’re looking at you); some were as simple as taking recycling seriously.
THE HILLS are alive, and so are the valleys and beaches. Victoria’s vigorous country restaurant scene saw bold openings (Kazuki), little neighbourhood places (Darmagi, Dee’s) and revitalisation (Paringa) that delivered Victorians what’s still Australia’s best regional dining. In a tough year, we saw some big gestures from Victorian restaurants and diners, such as supporting Unicef and Fairfax’s Bread for Good campaign to fight famine in Africa. Thanks to the MoVida restaurants and their customers, who raised a Victorian record of $12,637, reminding us that while others go hungry, we’re eating very well.
Editor, Janne Apelgren