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Vittoria Coffee Restaurant of the Year ... Gerard's Bistro. Click for more photos

The award winners: Brisbane Times Good Food Guide 2014/15

Vittoria Coffee Restaurant of the Year ... Gerard's Bistro. Photo: Harrison Saragossi

Gerard's Bistro has taken home the top prize at this year's Brisbane Times Good Food Guide awards.

The Fortitude Valley eatery received the Vittoria Coffee restaurant of the year award at Monday night's launch, just over 12 months after receiving the gong for best new restaurant.

Ryan Squires at esquire in Brisbane.
Citi chef of the year ... Ryan Squires from Esquire in Brisbane. Photo: Harrison Saragossi

"Ben Williams at Gerard's Bistro is one of the most consistently innovative chefs in Brisbane," says Good Food Guide editor, Natascha Mirosch.

"He has an incredible knowledge of Middle Eastern and African cuisine, which he weaves into his food using traditional techniques."

Gerard's Bistro only holds one chef's hat, bucking the notion that restaurant of the year should be awarded to a three-hatted, fine-dining establishment.

The brisbanetimes.com.au Good Food Guide 2014/15 launches on Monday night.
The brisbanetimes.com.au Good Food Guide 2014/15.

"Gerard's is also the type of restaurant you just want to go back to again and again, which was a big factor in our decision to award it restaurant of the year," Mirosch says.

"It has a great fit-out and the staff are always welcoming and professional."

The Foraging Quail in New Farm took out the title of Villa Maria, New Zealand best new restaurant. It opened in late April with a focus on contemporary, shareable food that draws on chef Minh Le's Vietnamese background. All produce is foraged and sourced locally where possible.

Esquire in Brisbane's CBD was the only restaurant to be awarded three hats, an accolade it has received in all three editions of the guide. This is in no small part due to the excellence demonstrated by its kitchen, Mirosch says.

Esquire chefs Ryan Squires and Ben Devlin were awarded Citi chef of the year and young chef of the year, respectively.

Aria, Stokehouse and Urbane all retained their two-hat status.

A big upset of the night was the widely loved Montrachet losing its one chef's hat. Tank was hatted last year, but no longer features in the guide after a change of direction from modern Japanese to casual laneway dining.

It wasn't all bad news, though.

"A good number of places have stepped up to the mark and there's a few new hats this year,” Mirosch says.

Black Hide Steakhouse, Cinco Bistro, The Foraging Quail, GOMA Restaurant, Jellyfish, Moda, Reserve and 85 Miskin St (formerly Brent's the Dining Experience) were all awarded a shiny new chef's hat.

Dining trends of the last year included a small American revolution, with bar food inspired by the deep south popping up everywhere, and new joints such as Mighty Mighty Cue and Brew in Fortitude Valley and Nantucket Kitchen and Bar at Indooroopilly. There has also been a further shift away from fine dining (case in point Gerard's Bistro receiving restaurant of the year) and a trend for drinks lists to feature moderately priced boutique wine instead of the big-hitting, highly priced plonk dictated by tradition.

Mirosch also notes the plate itself has become an important part of the dining experience. "There's more effort been put into how food is presented and we're seeing lots of beautiful, organic shapes in dinnerware. Lots of restaurants are actually doing bespoke plates and having them made with a dish in mind. The white plate seems to have largely disappeared," she says.

"And thank God slate seems to have returned to the floor where it belongs."

Mirosch also notes that vegetarians are celebrating as more restaurants are plating veg centre stage and offering alternatives to meat-based mains.

In the regional section of this year's guide there is a new two-hat eatery on the Sunshine Coast, with The Tamarind picking up two toques.

"It's exciting," Mirosch says. "Traditionally, the Sunshine Coast has been a very static dining scene so it's great to see The Tamarind step it up a notch."

The Fish House at Burleigh Heads was the other new member of the regional two-hat club where it joins The Long Apron in Montville and Noosa Sound's Wasabi Restaurant and Bar.

The Fish House was also awarded La Maison du The regional restaurant of the year.

The 2014-15 Brisbane Times Good Food Guide is on sale at newsagents from Tuesday, July 8 ($12.99) or online at smhshop.com.au. From next week, it will be available as an app, for tablet and mobile, from the app store.