Ben Willis at Aubergine: No 1.
Aubergine once again tops our list of the best 20 restaurants in Canberra this year, reflecting the excitement and technical flair chef and owner Ben Willis achieves on the plate.
Aubergine is a fine-diner with a sense of elegance and correctness in the set-up and service. It’s a style that's not at the edge of dining fashion such as Canberra’s newfound obsession with food that comes with noise, milk crates and soundtracks.
But Aubergine is so much more than the category 'fine diner' implies. Willis never forgets that ingredients and seasonality must take centrestage in every dish, and amid the complexity of his food the pristine ingredients always shine, treated with huge understanding. That, coupled with his restless creativity and his sense of adventure makes Aubergine our Restaurant of the Year.
This year, we’ve chosen our top 20 and ranked them, 1 to 20. Italian and Sons is in second spot, very close to Aubergine, albeit in a quite different style. The Italian cucina in Lonsdale Street brings bright gutsy Italian flavours to the table with a real sense of warmth in the more casual set-up. Like Aubergine, its success lies largely in its sense of confidence and focus. The Trimboli brothers know what they’re trying to achieve and stay well on theme.
And third is newcomer Eighty-six, a big call for an eatery you might even describe as controversial. Eighty-six crashed on to the scene loud, even wild, with an attitude not seen in Canberra to date. It’s their party and you can come along if you want to. We like all this, if nervously, but we wouldn’t rate Eighty-six without the food – which has maintained a highly likeable freshness, simplicity and modernity. Again, very on tune.
You’ll find the top 20 restaurants below.