Ahead of the national Good Food Guide Awards on Monday night, here is a snack-shot of the year that was and the places we loved.
The Agrarian Kitchen Eatery & Store, Tasmania
The good vibes are plentiful at Severine Demanet and Rodney Dunn's stunning new restaurant, which extends on the principles of their decade-old New Norfolk cooking school. Chef Ali Currey-Voumard's kitchen delivers peerless farmhouse dishes (macaroni carbonara draped in finest pancetta; wood-fired meat haunches, pumpkin pie with midnight licorice glaze) built on hyper-local ingredients in a sunshine-flooded room filled with artisanal trowels.
11A The Avenue, New Norfolk, 03 6262 0011
Citi Chefs of the Year: Where are they now?
We catch up with Sydney Morning Herald Citi Chef of the Year 2015 Brent Savage of Bentley and Cirrus restaurants in Sydney. Video brought to you by Citi.
Atlas Dining, Victoria
Charlie Carrington is the chef you want to hate but can't. At 23, he's opened his first restaurant, which changes its menus every four months to focus on a new cuisine (Vietnamese, Israeli, Korean, Mexican and beyond). It's proved to be the risky prospect that paid off. Mature beyond his years, Carrington's five-course fire-powered menus have been as innovative as they have been finessed.
133 Commercial Road, South Yarra, 03 9826 2621
Cirrus, New South Wales
Holy smoked mackerel, it's finally happened. Sydney has a world-class seafood restaurant by the water. Sure, Pyrmont Bay isn't as pretty as Bondi but with the Bentley's Brent Savage putting a delicious spin on familiar seafood favourites and Nick Hildebrandt pouring knock-out wine, we don't mind one bit.
23 Barangaroo Avenue, Barangaroo, 02 9220 0111
Hobart came in hot this year with stunningly original restaurants. And contemporary Italo-Japanese Fico by chefs Federica Andrisani and Oskar Rossi is one of the best. Drink a freaky beer and eat fluffy blinis with smoked herring roe or a cod mousse cooked inside mustard greens. Then maybe move on to a steepled half pigeon or angel spaghetti bound by onion juice, cooked down to a pungent caramel.
151 Macquarie Street, Hobart, 03 6245 3391
Fred's, New South Wales
Where you stand on this restaurant depends entirely on where you stand on paying a lot of money for very nice ingredients cooked very simply but very well. There's the lovely hearth where most of the cooking's done, wrangled by ex-Chez Panisse chef Danielle Alvarez, a big marble kitchen table set with mis en place displayed in ceramic bowls, pitch-perfect service and a wine list with depth and breadth. And between it all, incredible cooking.
380 Oxford Street, Paddington, 02 9240 3000
Lulu La Delizia, Western Australia
Lulu La Delizia proves that insanely good pasta skills coupled with a fiery wine list and a team that knows the meaning of the word 'hospitality' is the formula that can't ever fail. Chef-owner Joel Valvasori has decorated his restaurant to look like nonna's lounge-room, creating one of the most likeable modern Italian restaurants on the West Coast, serving the Italian take on chicken feet we never knew we needed.
Shop 5, 97 Rokeby Road, Subiaco, 08 9381 2466
Osteria Ilaria, Victoria
Melbourne pasta bar Tipo 00 proved such a blockbuster the team has returned with a sequel. Sleek, bricked and marbled with a central open kitchen, it's a place where chef Andreas Papadakis and sommelier Raul Moreno Yague do a little dance. Some dishes, like just-singed octopus and 'nduja, are built to support potent wines. Other dishes, such as nettle gnocchi scattered with blue cheese and almonds take the lead, with a gentle pinot noir for back-up.
367 Little Bourke Street, Melbourne, 03 9642 2287
Chef Nick Stanton's contemporary wine bar-bistro slinging South African chenin blancs, cocktails with edge and Instagram-conquering dishes (see the fiery kimchi leaf playing backdrop to marrow-loosened squid curls) was already the best thing to happen to Windsor dining in 2017. Then in July he tightened the look and installed an open charcoal pit. Now it appears unstoppable.
363 Chapel Street, South Yarra, 03 9827 0949
Saint Peter, New South Wales
Owner-operator Josh Niland, a young chef with a fin-to-tail sensibility, is unapologetically serving an entirely seafood-based menu. And he's having fun with it, too. There's a 'part-y' pie that sees deeply golden shortcrust filled with all the bits of a mirror dory leftover from filleting, bound in mornay sauce. If it's wrong to love a fish, we don't want to be right.
362 Oxford Street, Paddington, 02 8937 2530
The Summertown Aristologist, South Australia
Basket Range winemakers Anton van Klopper (Lucy Margaux) and Jasper Button (Commune of Buttons) have partnered with former Orana restaurant manager Aaron Fenwick to create a crackerjack bar and eatery 20 minutes from Adelaide. Whether you're keen on bread, butter and chardonnay, or a longer lunch exploring the treasure-chest cellar, this is the feel-good hit of Summertown.
1097 Greenhill Road, Summertown, 0477 410 105
The Good Food Guide goes national this year with hats awarded across Australia. The Good Food Guide 2018 will be launched on October 16 with our presenting partners Citi and Vittoria, and will be on sale from October 17 in newsagencies, bookstores and via thestore.com.au/goodfood, RRP $29.99.