We've come a long way from the tacos, dude food and fine-dining fusion that defined the start of this decade.
Looking at the food landscape now, these are the places that best capture the zeitgeist: they are ethically minded, native produce-leaning, relaxed enough to be whatever you want them to be and – hell yes – increasingly female-led. Hands up if this is a future you'd want to back? Us too.
The Summertown Aristologist's saucisson is made from house-reared pigs. Photo: Supplied
The Summertown Aristologist
Prosciutto from house-reared pigs is sweet and lush; a kitchen garden provides fresh-picked goodness; the restaurant's co-owners make wine among the surrounding gum trees. Where else would you rather be? This Adelaide Hills bolthole shows that a truly sustainable restaurant is built on community support and shared vision. Former Franklin chef David Moyle comes to the end of his eight-week tenure on the pans this month, following on from his old pal Luke Burgess (ex-Garagistes) in the kitchen for a spell. Another big residency announcement is expected for January. If you build it beautifully, Australia's best chefs will come.
1097 Greenhill Road, Summertown, 0477 410 105, thesummertownaristologist.com
Alanna Sapwell's layered peach Melba cake iced with finger lime pearls. Photo: Paul Harris
Chef Alanna Sapwell places high importance on training her staff in cooking-from-scratch essentials such as breaking down beasts, butchering fish and making perfect beurre blanc. The result is a nurtured kitchen of chefs with real-deal skills, evident in creations such as pork neck teamed with mead and caramelised witlof, and a spectacular peach Melba cake popping with finger lime. A casual pasta and wine bar is attached to the light-filled dining room, because this is 2019 and Australia's obsession with all things Italian demands it.
5 Boundary Street, Brisbane, 07 3505 3980, arcdining.com.au
The Don Peppino pop-up in Paddington. Photo: James Alcock
NEW SOUTH WALES
At least there's one positive from rocketing rent prices – the rise of the extended pop-up. Why spend a million bucks on a posh fitout and long-term lease, when you can take over an old Oxford Street nightclub until the landlord decides what to do with the joint? If you were a co-owner of Don Peppino's, you might use the extra cash to showcase farm-fresh produce, cracking amari and exceptional prawn tonnarelli. Donny Peps: here for a good time, not a long time, but at least until March.
1 Oxford Street, Paddington, 02 9326 9302, donpeppinos.com.au
Lankan Filling Station's egg hoppers. Photo: Christopher Pearce
A seat at O Tama Carey's Crab Curry Sundays is one of the hottest tickets in town. The sambol-loving chef serves her favourite crustacean in a spicy curry sauce, with sides such as white chillies and cavolo nero mallung. Share-plate dining has become a hallmark of modern restaurants in the past 10 years, and Carey does it with maximum grace and minimum pretense.
58 Riley Street, East Sydney, 02 8542 9936, lankanfillingstation.com.au
10 William St. Photo: Edwina Pickles
The ultimate no-bookings neighbourhood drop-in centre, catering to Paddington locals keen on a supper of pasta and lush spring greens, while industry folk sample natural drops from Australia, Italy and France. In the style of 10 William's wine, Trisha Greentree's cooking is all about minimal-intervention, and ingredients are plated only with the intent of deliciousness. The Garnish of No Consequence is dead – long live a focus on zero-waste and clarity of flavour.
10 William Street, Paddington, 02 9360 3310, 10williamst.com.au
Anchovies and boiled egg on toast at Napier Quarter. Photo: Eddie Jim
Cafe or wine bar? Restaurant or accommodation? Once the apartment upstairs is ready this month, this bluestone stunner in Fitzroy will be all of the above. Venues having to multi-task might be a tough reality rising out of a sluggish economy, but gosh it's good for diners when it's done well. Here you're living the old European dream of having a local as good at its espressos as post-work martinis, delivering a tight menu of ethically sourced anchovies and boiled egg on toast for breakfast (or dinner), vibrant salads with house-cured lardo and one free-range haunch of meat for dinner in between.
359 Napier Street, Fitzroy, 03 9416 0666, napierquarter.com.au
Assorted snacks at Greasy Zoe's rin Hurstbridge. Photo: Eddie Jim
Increasingly, passionate chefs are realising that to cook the way they want requires getting out of the rat race and thinking tiny. This Hurstbridge 15-seater, along with peers like Brisbane's Joy and Ballarat's Underbar, serves a precious few punters so they can use equally small-scale producers, grow their own and do fiddly things too tricky for a big audience. Lap up those perks, diners, including house-fermented gherkins and well-loved chicken where none goes to waste, and served with wines restaurants rarely serve because there's just one bottle.
Shop 3, 850 Heidelberg-Kinglake Road, Hurstbridge, 03 9718 0324, greasyzoes.com.au
Fresh-faced Lagoon Dining. Photo: Nikki To
It's a border-hopping contemporary restaurant serving charcoal-roasted char siu sluiced with tare (a Japanese sauce), accompanied by off-piste Aussie wines, coming to you from the heart of Melbourne's Little Italy. Because of this heritage, you'll also find a dish of garlic shoots spiced with 'nduja as a hat tip to the 'hood. You couldn't get more here, now and hell yeah than this fresh-faced Carlton proposition from a team of fine-dining expats letting their hair down.
263 Lygon Street, Carlton, 03 9349 1939, lagoondining.com
Oakridge's red fruits dessert. Photo: Simon Schluter
Chefs Jo Barrett and Matt Stone might be great on the pans, but it's what goes on before they get in the kitchen that defines this waste-free winery restaurant in Victoria's Yarra Valley. The breads start with fresh-milled flour. The trout has splashed out of their neighbour's property onto your plate both as fillets and a rousing XO sauce of its scraps. Raise your glass of single block chardonnay to its celebration of native muntries and sustainably sourced roo meat, too.
864 Maroondah Highway, Coldstream, 03 9738 9900, oakridgewines.com.au
Congress restaurant and wine bar. Photo: Jason South
How does this sound on paper: a restaurant custom-designed to fill the needs of those moving into an off-the-plan new-build apartment complex. Sexy, right? But the world is changing and smart hospitality operators like the Milieu Group have grasped the opportunity to bring personality to these could-be soulless projects. Congress, their wine bar on the ground floor of their Collingwood apartment block, brings in punters from upstairs, and all over town. It's a cosy but sleek space, mixing razor-sharp design, genuine service, a cracking New- and Old-World wine list and dishes like their explosive pig's head terrine and wasabi-leaf mayo sandwich.
49 Peel Street, Collingwood, 03 9068 7464, congresswine.com.au