Orana has been named Vittoria Coffee Restaurant of the Year at The Good Food Guide 2019 Awards. The small Adelaide restaurant where chef Jock Zonfrillo showcases Australian ingredients with fine-dining technique also received three hats - the Guide's highest ranking – at the awards event October 8 at Crown Melbourne.
"Zonfrillo has an ability to take left-field ingredients such as ants and Geraldton wax and turn them into something incredibly delicious," said Good Food Guide editor Myffy Rigby. "There's no cultural cringe, just purity and beauty. And, most importantly, Orana is a lot of fun to eat at."
The Good Food Guide Awards 2018
The best of Australian food is celebrated at the second national Good Food Guide Awards in Melbourne.
The Good Food Guide 2019 Awards were attended by 800 of the restaurant industry's biggest names and catered by chefs Neil Perry and Guillaume Brahimi. It is the first time the awards have been held in Melbourne after The Sydney Morning Herald, Age and Brisbane Times editions of The Good Food Guide were combined into a national publication last year, with reviews of more than 500 restaurants across Australia.
Victoria reigned supreme, claiming six of the major gongs, with four of those being awarded to regional restaurants.
For the first time in the Guide's history a Mornington Peninsula restaurant, Laura, beat out all city contenders in Australia for the best new restaurant title, an award that goes to a restaurant with its finger on the pulse. The ambitious fine diner sits at the heart of a $40 million plus sculpture park in Western Port, helmed by chef Phil Wood who was lured away from Sydney and the Rockpool group.
"I think this tree-and-sea change has had a dramatic effect on Phil Wood," says chief Sydney Morning Herald restaurant critic Terry Durack. "It has made him so aware of the land, the soil and the sea; bringing him into closer contact with his suppliers and seasons. His food now is more reflective of its source, and more aware of its time and place."
Mildura was in the spotlight, with the Vittoria Coffee Legend Award going to longtime champion of regional food and producers, Stefano de Pieri.
Santa Vittoria Regional Restaurant of the Year went to Dan Hunter's impeccable Brae near Birregurra, recognising Hunter's ever deeper commitment to the gardens that fuel the plates. Wickens at the Royal Mail's 30,000 bottle-strong cellar took out Australia's best regional wine list.
After a $4 million renovation and menu overhaul in July, Sydney's Quay was awarded three hats to make it 17 consecutive years The Rocks fine-diner has achieved the Guide's top ranking. Quay's Peter Gilmore was named Citi Chef of the Year.
"With Peter Gilmore at the helm, Quay has achieved just about everything there is to achieve in the restaurant world," said Durack. "A lot of chefs would start resting on their laurels around about now and go on the celeb-chef circuit, but Gilmore has drilled down instead. His artistic, perfectionist nature combines with his constant work as a gardener to create a new sort of chef."
Sixpenny, the small Sydney restaurant chef Daniel Puskas opened with former business partner James Parry in 2012, was awarded three hats for the first time.
"It's highly unusual for a restaurant so tiny and so independent to win three hats," said Durack. "The food has always been brilliant in parts, but now it doesn't skip a beat. You take the first couple of mouthfuls and then - squeal of a handbrake turn, tyres spinning - a second wave of flavour comes through, that's just as provocative and surprising as the first."
Momofuku Seiobo at The Star was the only other Sydney restaurant to achieve a three-hat rating, awarded to establishments with a Guide score of at least 18 out of 20. It is the first time Momofuku has achieved three hats since Barbados-born chef Paul Carmichael took leadership of the kitchen in 2015 and brought a Caribbean influence to the menu. Momofuku manager Kylie Javier Ashton received the Citi Service Excellence Award for maintaining the restaurants vitality since it opened in 2011.
Sepia, which has held three hats since 2011, was absent from new edition of the Guide after it was reported the team behind the Sussex Street restaurant would be relocating to Melbourne before Christmas. "Vicki [Wild] and Martin [Benn] have been highly instrumental in creating the incredible Sydney restaurant scene we have today with Sepia," said Rigby. "It's sad to see them go but I also can't wait to see what they do next."
There was no movement in the three-hat stakes for Victoria with Attica, Minamishima and Brae all retaining their three-hat ranking.
In the Guide's larger game of snakes-and-ladders, Potts Point modern vegetarian restaurant Yellow moved from a one-hat rating to two, while Indian fine-diner Aki's in Woolloomooloo, Bondi's Da Orazio Pizza + Porchetta, Bistro Rex and The Paddington all lost their hats.
Chippendale's A1 Canteen, East Sydney's Lankan Filling Station, and Surry Hills neighbours Poly and Chin Chin made a Guide debut at one hat. The Boathouse on Blackwattle Bay jumped back into the one-hat club after losing a toque last year.
New Melbourne restaurants Lesa, Sunda and Ryne entered the Guide with one hat. Scott Pickett's swaggery South Yarra restaurant Matilda 159 Domain, underground kaiseki restaurant Ishizuka, and Iki Jime - a seafood restaurant from the Vue de Monde group where Josephine Pignolet Young Chef of the Year winner Jodie Odrowaz is on the pans - all debuted at two hats.
Melbourne spills included Port Phillip Estate, Matteo's and Philippe all losing their hats. Meanwhile, Carlton Wine room is back in hat stakes following a takeover by Marion alumni, chef John Paul Twomey and wine director Travis Howe, who also took out Sommelier of the Year.
Brisbane's Urbane restaurant, which was sitting on top of the dining heap 12 months ago with three hats, missed out entirely this year on a hat of any kind. Urbane executive chef, Alejandro Cancino, departed the restaurant in April to focus on his own vegan fine-diner in Noosa and head chef Josh Raine was appointed to lead the Tetsuya's brigade late last year.
It reflected a tough year for Queensland with the number of hatted restaurants in the state slipping from 31 to 22. Tasmania held most of its ground with seven hats and Western Australia nearly doubled its hatted restaurants, jumping from 12 to 20. South Australia saw a small net gain in hats, going from 13 to 15.
Maurice Terzini's Surry Hills pub, The Dolphin, was named Bar of the Year for being a "bellwether boozer for the local community" and former Deputy Lord Mayor of the City of Sydney, Jess Miller, received the Food for Good Award for establishing the Sydney Doesn't Suck campaign to rid the city of single-use drinking straws.
Rigby believes future of Australian restaurants is bright. "For many decades, the restaurant industry has been associated with a mentally stressful work environment and boy's club culture," the Good Food Guide editor said.
"In the last 18 months, however, work conditions, pay rates and gender equality have been under the spotlight in the media and within the industry. Creating environments that aren't toxic, and inclusive of a broad spectrum of people, is highly important. The end result of anything, if you treat it gently and well, is always going to be a better product."
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.