Here are the new restaurants that provide reasons to get off the couch, get dressed up and go out for dinner.
Fighting against the wave of delivery apps and the fast-casual boom, the new restaurants of 2019 gave us a reason to get off the couch, get dressed up and go out again. Whether you're into the personal attention you get at Brisbane's 10-seater Joy, or the engine-revving fun provided by art-filled Di Stasio Citta and music-focused Mary's Underground in Sydney, there are good times of all kinds.
Think of this new Italian restaurant on the old Berta site as the kissing cousin of inner-city French restaurant Hubert. Expect an eclectic and broad-reaching wine list to go with a menu that's as unapologetic as it is delicious. If cocktails and antipasto are what's for dinner, that's OK. They'll deliver both with equal alacrity.
17 Alberta Street, Surry Hills, New South Wales, albertoslounge.com
It's all happening down by the riverside. Brisbane-born young gun Alanna Sapwell moved back to the Sunshine State from Sydney's Saint Peter in 2019 to take on this light, airy riverside pavilion and adjacent wine bar, and she's nailing it with relaxed, confident small dishes that display great clarity of flavour.
5 Boundary Street, Brisbane, Queensland, arcdining.com.au
Engine-revving fun at Di Stasio Citta in Melbourne. Photo: Eddie Jim
Di Stasio Citta
The sequel to Ronnie Di Stasio's spaghetti-slinging, barolo-pouring St Kilda landmark has landed, and true to the nature of its art-loving provocateur owner, it's going to push buttons you didn't know you had. The raging red of its puffy chairs and the constant motion of video artworks heat the blood, causing you to suddenly consider dropping crazy money on the biblical list of wines from Italy's premium houses.
45 Spring Street, Melbourne, Victoria, distasio.com.au
Waterfront restaurant Island Market in Trigg. Photo: Supplied
It might occupy prime waterfront real estate, but there's plenty of substance here to offset all that breezy coastal style, not least because journeyman chef David Coomer oversees the kitchen. A wood-burning Zesti oven stars on the Levantine-inspired menu. Factor in waitstaff who are as bright as the room's whitewashed walls and pastel pink accents and the appeal becomes all too clear.
34 West Coast Drive, Trigg, Western Australia, islandmarkettrigg.com
Joy restaurant in Brisbane is run by chefs Sarah and Tim Scott. Photo: Paul Harris
Tim and Sarah Scott are unremittingly welcoming, as they move like fish in the pond of their kitchen, facing just 10 diners at the long, stool-lined counter. It's a neat two-person dance – they pour drinks, clear plates and cook and serve their five- and eight-course Japanese-influenced menus all without breaking a sweat.
Shop 7, 694 Ann Street, Fortitude Valley, Queensland, joyrestaurant.com.au
Assorted snacks at Kazuki's 2.0 in Carlton, Melbourne. Photo: Simon Schluter
Moving a beloved seven-year-old restaurant from Central Victoria to the Big Smoke is no mean feat – particularly one that's forged a reputation for imaginative Japanese-inflected Euro classicism. But chef Kazuki Tsuya has stepped up to the challenge of his new address. The food remains difficult to categorise but is quintessentially Kazuki's left-field brilliance.
121 Lygon Street, Carlton, Victoria, kazukis.com.au
Barbecue king prawns with prawn butter, capers and parsley at Labart. Photo: Supplied
The chef's daydream of opening a small neighbourhood destination sometimes descends into an ego-driven nightmare for the diner. Not here. The skill and experience of chef-owner Alex Munoz tells in every detail – from affable linen-clad floor staff to a chic mix of sea-green timber panelling, terrazzo-style concrete flooring and bronze banquettes.
8 West Street, Burleigh Heads, Queensland, restaurantlabart.com
The music-focused Mary's Underground in Sydney. Photo: Supplied
We may have to revise our long-held doubts about dining in live music venues, now that the Mary's team has taken over famous Sydney CBD music venue The Basement. It's a joy to walk into this dark, dimly lit, split-level space and see a jazz trio or Afro-Cuban outfit on stage, trays of cocktails lining the long bar and platters of shellfish being run out to tables.
7 Macquarie Place, Sydney, New South Wales, marysunderground.com
A dish of pork, honey and carrot at Pilot. Photo: Supplied
Pilot's dining room may be on the spare side, but its menu is telegraphic to the point of inscrutability. Who would guess that "potato bacon balls" is, in fact, balls of potato under a wave of jamon-infused cream and cubes of dashi jelly? What to make of "peaches and cream" among the entrees? Or, more troublingly, "zucchini"? Good thing they're all so bloody tasty.
1 Wakefield Gardens, Ainslie, Australian Capital Territory, pilotrestaurant.com
Pipit chef Ben Devlin on the pans. Photo: Sabine Bannard
Pottsville and excitement haven't always gone hand in hand. This is coastal cuisine with a focus on sustainable seafood and local plants, and no beef or lamb on offer. This isn't just a skilful chef opening a very appealing seaside restaurant; it's a genuine attempt to cook with a strong sense of place.
8 Coronation Avenue, Pottsville, New South Wales, pipitrestaurant.com
The Good Food Guide's third annual national edition, with hats awarded across Australia, will be launched on Monday, September 30 with our presenting partners Vittoria Coffee and Citi.
The Good Food Guide 2020 will be on sale from October 1 in newsagencies and bookstores, and is also available to pre-order at thestore.com.au/gfg20, $29.99 with free shipping.