I want to put something out there that's very close to my heart. And that's bread and its sexy cousin, toast. For too long now the pair have had a bad rap – the bun-loving criminals of the food world charged with fatness wherever they go. But the era of demonising toast is over. It's time to take back what is rightfully ours – the power to carbohydrate, from flaky roti to puffy potato bread, crumpets, muffins focaccia and more, accessorised with all the delicious curds, cures and salts you could wish to see. It's the food of the people, the ultimate equaliser. And 2018, on the (side) plate is a delicious reflection of that. As Barack Obama one famously said, Yes Wheat Can.
Muffuletta at A1 Canteen, Sydney. Photo: Barry Patenaude
Muffuletta, A1 Canteen, Sydney
Is there such a thing as a haute sandwich? If so, here it is. Chef Clayton Wells' ode to the New Orleans classic isn't just the prettiest stack of cheese, pickles and cured meats between two slices of bread, it's also the most Instagrammed. As a card-carrying sandwich enthusiast, that's an accolade you can take to the bank.
Bar Liberty's potato bread. Photo: Barry Patenaude
Potato bread with whipped butter curd, Bar Liberty, Melbourne
There are very few guarantees in life, but here is one: all food tastes better if you get to cut it up yourself with scissors. It's just one of those things only scientists can explain. Order the amorphous mass of puffy, salty potato bread, take to it like you're Sweeney Todd with a fresh victim, then dip at will in the accompanying whipped butter curd.
Carlton Wine Room's potato focaccia. Photo: Barry Patenaude
Potato focaccia and stracciatella with zucchini ribbons, Carlton Wine Room, Melbourne
Who knew, in this sad age of Atkins diets that one of the most popular combinations on Australian menus would be the double carb? Not that we're complaining when it's hunks of fluffy potato focaccia dragged through a gooey lake of stracciatella topped with zucchini ribbons.
Marion's pan-fried flatbread. Photo: Barry Patenaude
Pan-fried flatbread and fromage blanc, Marion, Melbourne
This tiny, simple snack of pan-fried flatbread represents all that is good and true at Andrew McConnell's wine bar. Here, the bread is fried in a little olive oil, and then finished with a brush of garlic butter as it comes off the grill. Dipped in fromage blanc, they're the finest toast soldiers you ever did meet.
Matilda 159 Domain's spanner crab. Photo: Barry Patenaude
Spanner crab and charred flatbread, Matilda 159 Domain, Melbourne
Scott Pickett knows the Golden Rule of Dining Luxuriously. It's this: when in doubt, add a crab. Order a stack of hot buttered charry flatbreads and then go to town on spanner crab bound with creme fraiche and dressed with beach succulents.
Paper Bird's prawn toast sandwich. Photo: Barry Patenaude
Prawn toast sandwich, Paper Bird, Sydney
Menbosha by name and yum cha at a picnic by nature, these squishy little prawn toastlets sandwiching a mayonnaise-heavy coleslaw and deliver maximum explosion with minimum motion. If you don't leave at least half-covered in prawn toast and goo, you're doing it wrong.
Poly's anchovies on toast. Photo: Barry Patenaude
Anchovies on toast, Poly, Sydney
Everyone has a favourite type of anchovy and if you don't, you're living a lie. Chef Mat Lindsay hedges his bets here, and delivers one of each for the top deck of fish sandwiches – a white and dark anchovy doing the tango on a piece of charred toast.
The Pot by Emma McCaskill's paratha and dhal butter, Adelaide. Photo: Barry Patenaude
Paratha and dhal butter, The Pot by Emma McCaskill, Adelaide
As much as we'd like to make the argument for all breads being good for you, Emma McCaskill's tissue-like parathas – somewhere between torn silk and breakfast food – would be a long bow to draw. Especially served with a thick dhal butter – a shout out to her grandparents' years in India and a middle finger to bread courses everywhere.
Quay's crumpets and truffle butter. Photo: Barry Patenaude
Crumpets and truffle butter, Quay, Sydney
If eating a malted barley crumpet – served in a custom made Tasmanian timber crumpet tray – spread with butter hidden under a shower of shaved truffle while listening to Townes Van Zandt isn't the very definition of stupid, beautiful luxury, then we don't know what is.
Shobosho's pork katsu sando. Photo: Barry Patenaude
Pork katsu sando, Shobosho, Adelaide
Beware the wrath of the titanic pork katsu sando. It's dressed with Kewpie mayonnaise, given a bit of vinegary bite thanks to a layer of pickles and only just held together by slices of soft white bread. This is a three napkin job and shouldn't be attempted in polite company.
Sunda's roti and curried Vegemite. Photo: Barry Patenaude
Roti and curried Vegemite, Sunda, Melbourne
Two worlds collide on Punch Lane, where chef Khanh Nguyen delivers flaky tufts of roti to be torn and dipped into a Vegemite and kaffir-lime fragrant curry oil emulsion. It's an off-menu treat and there are only 25 serves made a day. Live it, love it, then let it go.
Gerard's falafel crumpet. Photo: Barry Patenaude
Falafel crumpet, Gerard's Bistro, Brisbane
Everyone pause for this crumpet-related Public Service Announcement. Because this one's a doozy. Chef Ben Williamson has created a falafel-crumpet hybrid, dressed it in taramasalata and bejewelled it with a scattering of trout roe. Is it breakfast for supper, or supper for breakfast? And do we care? No.
The Good Food Guide's second annual national edition, with hats awarded across Australia, was launched on October 8 with our presenting partners Vittoria Coffee and Citi. The Good Food Guide 2019 is on sale in newsagencies, bookstores and via thestore.com.au/gfg19 (delivery included), RRP $29.99.