After more than 30 years of fine dining and harbour views, Quay maintained its position as Sydney's premier restaurant at the national Good Food Guide Awards held in Brisbane last night.
The Opera House-facing restaurant, where a 10-course meal costs $295 before drinks, was awarded the Guide's top ranking of three chef hats for a "holistic experience at the very peak of Australian dining".
Good Food Guide awards announced
Australia's restaurant elite gathered in Brisbane for the 2020 Good Food Guide awards with the biggest names in the business showing up to the event.
It is the 18th consecutive year Quay has received three hats at the Good Food Guide Awards, a record-setting sequence that began soon after chef Peter Gilmore joined the Fink Group-owned establishment in 2001.
"I would like to say we are lucky - because we are - but keeping ahead in restaurants is not a game of luck, it's the people," said John Fink creative director of the Fink Group, which also counts Bennelong and Otto in its fine-dining portfolio.
"We have some of the most skilled and talented industry professionals working for us."
After a $4 million renovation last year, Quay now employs more than 80 staff to keep the restaurant's service and food at a standard to match its views.
Small Stanmore restaurant Sixpenny, lead by chef Daniel Puskas, was the only other Sydney venue awarded three hats.
"Sixpenny is the three-hat restaurant that changes the idea of what a three-hat restaurant is," said The Sydney Morning Herald chief restaurant critic Terry Durack.
"It doesn't have the views, the million-dollar wine cellar, the 40 well-drilled floor staff, or the centre-of-the-universe location, but it is The Perfect Small Restaurant, in the way that Quay is The Perfect Big Restaurant. They're also both driven by chefs with very strong personal cooking signatures, particularly inspired by the rare, the wild, the natural and the hard-to-find."
More than 800 restaurant industry guests packed Howard's Hall at Brisbane's new Howard Smith Wharves precinct for the awards, which also marked the Good Food Guide's 40th anniversary.
Attendees included Matt Moran, Kylie Kwong and Maggie Beer.
Lennox Hastie was named Citi Chef of the Year for setting new standards of cooking and originality at Surry Hills' Firedoor, the restaurant he owns and operates in partnership with Fink Group. There is no electricity or gas in Hastie's kitchen - even boiling a pot of water requires lighting a fire.
"Hastie's genius lies in gently teasing flavours with fire and his tight control over such a volatile element," said Good Food Guide editor Myffy Rigby.
Sydney's other big winner on the night was Potts Point restaurant Yellow, owned by chef Brent Savage and sommelier Nick Hildebrandt. It was awarded Wine List of the Year for a focus on producers with sustainable vineyard practices and wine choices complementary to the kitchen's pickled, fermented, smoked and roasted vegetarian food.
Quay, Firedoor and Bentley (also operated by Savage and Hildebrandt) were named as finalists for Vittoria Coffee Restaurant of the Year, however the prized trophy ultimately went to Brae - 140 kilometres south-west of Melbourne in the small town of Birregurra.
"Brae is one of a kind," said Rigby. "A restaurant that grows, makes and composts its own food, delivering a closed-loop dining experience with all the bells and whistles we've come to expect from a three-hat restaurant. Truly best in class."
At the ceremony, Rigby acknowledged that it had been tougher 12 months than usual for the hospitality industry, noting how many high-profile restaurants had closed their doors since the release of the last Good Food Guide. She was also full of praise for the overall quality of restaurants across the country and the hard work of talent in the kitchen and front of house.
"For the restaurants featured in this new edition, it's a case of grit and determination across chefs, floor staff and restaurateurs that makes Australia one of the greatest countries in the world to eat," she said.
Pick up the new Good Food magazine, free with Friday's Herald.
The Good Food Guide's third annual national edition is on sale now in newsagencies and bookstores, and available at thestore.com.au/gfg20, $29.99 with free shipping.