Sydney Morning Herald Good Food Guide 2016: the award winners
Vittoria Coffee Restaurant of the Year ... The Bridge Room. Photo: Christopher Pearce
- Full list: the hats
- SMH Good Food Guide: full coverage
- Dishes of the year
- Vittoria Coffee Restaurant of the Year: The Bridge Room review
From legends of the dining scene to the stars of tomorrow, here are your Good Food Guide 2016 winners.
Vittoria Coffee Restaurant of the Year
Ticks every box. The winning restaurant does not need to receive three hats, but must capture the mood of the city right now and exemplify what it means to be a world-class restaurant.
The Bridge Room
Sunny and Ross Lusted's Bridge Street restaurant, set in that beautiful Art Deco building, has been on a steady upward trajectory for quite some time now. And now, thanks to years of honing an already near-perfect restaurant experience, they've landed. It's a mix of flawless service on the floor and some of the most original cooking you're likely to experience in a Sydney restaurant.
From their collaborations with artists and designers to produce a room that's all at once sleek and tactile, classic and modern – to employing a crack floor team, to the envelope-pushing stuff on the plate, this is an all-hat experience.
Best new restaurant
The most exciting opening in the past 12 months, this restaurant sets the eating agenda and starts conversations. Represents everything that's fresh, hot and interesting about eating.
No Sydney restaurant opening has been so hotly anticipated this year as the Fink Group's Bennelong takeover. Set in the moodily lit ribs of the Opera House, the luscious renovation has resulted in a three-part operation including the sleek cocktail bar (get there around 5pm for a natural light show better than any firework display), the accessible Cured & Cultured counter and, of course, all the bells and whistles of the restaurant. Much like everything chef Peter Gilmore touches, this is high art, gently and sensitively executed. Bravo.
Citi Chef of the Year
This chef must be at the forefront of dining, setting new standards, creating new flavour combinations, doing something original, and adding something extra to the Australian dining scene.
A chef's chef and in possession of one of the most forward-thinking, idiosyncratic food brains in the city,
Petanen just goes from strength to strength. He runs his restaurant out of an old taqueria painted a single shade of grey and serves a menu of progressive Finnish food with an Australian bent that never ceases to amaze and delight. Cafe Paci continues to be a joy to dine at, and it's all thanks to this chef.
Santa Vittoria Regional Restaurant of the Year
The best beyond metro limits. The winning establishment must provide a restaurant experience comparable to anything in the heart of the city but still remain uniquely regional.
Fleet (Brunswick Heads)
It's a 22-seat restaurant so tiny it doesn't even have space for a cool room. Chef Josh Lewis and restaurant
manager Astrid McCormack run this dinky wine bar/restaurant with daily visits to local fishermen and co-ops, changing the menu as quickly as fresh products come in. And diners have responded – the place is packed every afternoon with locals and visitors to the sleepy riverside town for a taste of this progressive yet incredibly down-to-earth menu.
Vittoria Coffee Legend
For an outstanding long-term contribution to the industry, chosen from a short list by Les Schirato of Vittoria Coffee.
Gentleman genius, mentor and culinary hero, Kyritsis is a man who's been known to change a sparkplug with the same kind of alacrity as whipping up the most delicate filo pastry for his famous wild weed pie. A natural cook with an enviably light touch, he's inspired plenty of chefs working in the industry today, including Jonathan Barthelmess and Chui Lee Luk.
Josephine Pignolet Young Chef of the Year
This award is chosen by a panel of food professionals led by Damien Pignolet. It celebrates the memory of a great young chef and is the ultimate accolade for a committed and talented young cook.
A driven, focused and naturally intelligent cook, this year's Josephine Pignolet award winner comes from the pastry section at Marque, where she's been working for the past three years. Her culinary inspiration comes more from the science behind cookery than anything else. When she's not dishing up clotted cream with house-made honeycomb at the restaurant, you'll find her reading the likes of Harold McGee and Francisco Migoya.
Citi Service Excellence
The winner of this award executes the highest standard of restaurant service, from attitude and skill to knowledge and personality.
Cam Fairbairn, ACME
The results are in, the votes have been tallied and the outcome is unanimous: restaurant manager Cam Fairbairn is a really nice guy whose only agenda is making sure you have a good time when visiting his restaurant. He manages to execute a level of service that goes above and beyond. Whether that's pouring a jeroboam of Lucy Margaux or serving a baloney sandwich, he nails that friendly, approachable and utterly professional brief every time.
Food for Good Award
A new award that celebrates innovation, charity and sustainability. The winner of this award goes above and beyond to contribute to the broader community.
Rob Caslick is a busy man. On top of his day job as an engineer, the philanthropist also runs the Inside Out
Organic Soup Kitchen and Cooking School, teaching young mothers and pregnant teenagers to eat well and cook for themselves. There's the rooftop garden above the soup kitchen, maintained by asylum seekers and also used as a source of food for the kitchen. And then there's Two Good – a social enterprise that employs women from domestic violence shelters. Truly, this is food for good.
Best Bar Food
Not just a place to get a drink, this is restaurant quality food in a bar setting.
Rockpool Bar & Grill
The "B" part of RB&G is the kind of handsomely square-jawed joint that makes blokes wish they had polished their shoes a little better. That wagyu burger and wood-fire-grilled minute steak are forever dependable (especially with a dirty martini) and there's more throwback action to be had with Kinkawooka prawn cutlets, finger sandwiches, and a housemade chorizo hotdog. Groundbreaking stuff? Gosh no. This is a menu of simple and delicious classics that guarantees a good time.
The best all-round bar that ticks all the boxes: service, drinks, vibe and decor. The winning bar adds something new or different to the drinking scene.
In a drinking climate where the line between bar and restaurant is increasingly blurred, Monopole takes that line and cures it, chars it, and roasts it before serving it with hard-tofind wine that's probably organic and always sensational. The perfect place for a hot date, mid-week cheese session with mates, or knocking back oysters and a Manhattan at the slick bar on a lazy afternoon.
Wine List of the Year
A diverse and high-quality by-the-glass selection alongside an accessible bottle list that displays a good range of vintages and complements the restaurant's food and style.
Bentley Restaurant & Bar
Proprietor-sommelier Nick Hildebrandt is at the top of his game. His wine list continues to keep Sydney's wine-loving community on the edge of its seats. The list is rich in classic wine regions but also offers wine producers known for quality and scarcity, not to mention cult wine producers, the rare and great that barely see the light of day. And yet never alienates a drinker.
Champagne Pol Roger Sommelier of the Year
The successful wine professional is able to demonstrate an in-depth knowledge of their subject, while helping to influence and educate diners. They must be personable, inclusive, curious and driven to constantly deliver the highest level of service.
Sebastian Crowther MS, Rockpool est. 1989
Crowther is Australia's first homegrown Master Sommelier, a title that comes not only with prestige, but a backbone of education in wine and drinks that is near-on encyclopedic. Crowther is currently Head Sommelier at Rockpool, managing a wine list that balances fine wine classics with increasingly broader selections and, importantly, perfectly attuned to the work of chef Phil Wood. His knowledge is undeniably epic, yet he is the antithesis of stuffy and aloof.
Regional Wine List of the Year
This award is for a wine list outside Sydney. The winning wine list offers a diverse and high-quality by-the-glass selection alongside an accessible bottle list that complements the restaurant's food and style.
Monster Kitchen & Bar
Monster is set in the stylish interiors of Hotel Hotel in Canberra's achingly hip NewActon precinct, with a wine list overseen by the charming Michael Gray. It's a list that goes long on the nearby Canberra wine-growing region with a showcase of local producers making wines of distinction and innate regional personality. The line-up leans in the direction of "natural wines" from organic and biodynamic producers and, though anchored in the region's best assets, is also a global list of thrilling things to drink.
Best cheap eat
A new award celebrating our diverse and exciting cheap dining scene. It's all about great food at an attractive, accessible price point, no matter what the setting, from shopfront to cafe to kebab stand.
Want a local, authentic kushiyaki experience? There's no more legitimate Japanese grillhouse in Sydney. It's fantastic value, you can eat here alone very comfortably and best of all, it's delicious. This Darlinghurst hot spot is a well-loved local secret well worth discovering for yourself.
A new addition to The Good Food Guide Awards, this reader-driven award allows the public to name their favourite restaurant. Voted by the people, for the people.
In a city obsessed by real estate, this is the dress circle. In more than two decades of ownership, the McMahon family has perfected the art of starched white- linen-and-best-cutlery fine dining with an inviting, happy atmosphere.
The Sydney Morning Herald Good Food Guide 2016 will be available for $10 with the Herald this Saturday. It can also be purchased in selected bookshops and online at smhshop.com.au/smhgfg2016 for $24.99.