Instead of the Good Food Guide, this year we bring 100 Good Things to the table: a collection of people, places, moments and mementos that best represent 2020.
21. From fires to roaring success
Kevin and Susan Plath were on the brink of having their car repossessed after summer's bushfires shuttered their Bright restaurant, The Chicken Shop. Selling their Memphis-style barbecue sauce online not only saved their business, it led to the newly formed Alpine Sauce Co., which now sells a range of sauces and rubs from a growing list of retail outlets. GC alpinesauce.com
22. Floating fortunes
The team behind The Arbory and its floating spinoff Arbory Afloat is poised for a huge summer on the Yarra. The twin outdoor-only venues are in the box seat for socially distanced drinks as the city roars back to life – and should the weather turn, don't worry. If anyone knows their way around a mushroom heater, it's this crew. Arbory Afloat has been updated, with this year's theme celebrating the classic Australian beach house. An easy-going menu supercharges the good times: natural oysters, 'nduja pizza, pink-gin cocktails from Four Pillars plus Pimm's, pina coladas and general debauchery. MH arboryafloat.com.au
23. Always was, always will be
Yarraville cafe Mabu Mabu is owned by Torres Strait woman Nornie Bero (pictured). Her bush tacos come with emu, yam or fish and an accompanying native-succulent coleslaw.
Jala Jala ("very good") is a new chocolate brand from Yamatji-Noongar woman Sharon Brindley, who also owns Cooee Cafe in Rosebud. Her white-chocolate blocks are flavoured with Davidson plum and lemon myrtle.
Dja-Wonmuruk ("Yes Tea") has just been launched by Djaara woman Sharlee Dunolly-Lee. Her loose-leaf mountain pepper spicy chai is a key brew.
In East Gippsland, Bush Cafe is at the local Gunaikurnai people's land and water corporation headquarters. It's a simple canteen and the local flathead is excellent. DV mabumabu.com.au; cooeecafeandcatering.com.au; dja-wonmuruk.com
The peel and eat prawn bucket at Stokehouse's Pontoon deck. Photo: Parker Blain
24. Sand and sky
Missed the beach? Melbourne's seaside suburbs are gunning to get you back, wherever they can squeeze you. For St Kilda's Prince Hotel, that's on their rooftop car park, which has become a giant beer garden with a strong line-up of DJs, Brick Lane brews and Nagambie spirits.
Pontoon, the lower deck of Stokehouse, has stuck a flag in its surrounding lawns and claimed it as Pontoon Park, land of the pizza, spritz and seltzer.
Port Melbourne, meanwhile, has a brand-new baby, residential towers with a Middle Eastern restaurant, Elma, on the ground headed up by ex-Rockpool chefs, and a rooftop bar, Sol and Luna, with an infinity pool and Peruvian ceviche from former Citrico chef Daniel Salcedo. GC theprince.com.au; pontoonstkildabeach.com.au; elmamelbourne.com.au
25. A tiny star is born
Sometimes, a total global shutdown isn't so bad. Like when it provides a clear window of time in which to complete the renovation on your bucolic 12-seat Surf Coast restaurant and to turbocharge the garden that will fuel its menu. Chef Tobin Kent, ex-Gladioli and Brae, opened Moonah in Connewarre, south-east of Geelong, just two months behind schedule and it's the ultimate 2020 antidote. Kent's dishes (pictured) are spare combinations of the house-grown, carefully raised and sustainably harvested, from hand-dived sea urchin to a tartare of crayfish with fermented tomatillo. GC moonahrestaurant. com.au
26. Knife edge
Kentucky native Bud Heyser grew up making one-of-a-kind knives alongside his father and grandfather. He brought the family tradition to Melbourne in 2017, creating custom blades for chefs and collectors from a no-frills Collingwood workshop, 13 Knives. Until recently, all knives were made to order, using found materials such as animal bones for handles. Lockdown inspired Heyser to create his first small-batch retail series, including the Kitchen Assistant, with a handle made from matte Bakelite offcuts sourced from a Brunswick electronics company. MH 13knives.com.au
Fresh produce at Morning Market, Andrew McConnell's grocery store in Gertrude Street. Photo: Jo McGann
27. Love your local
There was a time this year when it seemed every second restaurant was having a go at retail (and quite reasonably so when most other revenue streams were denied). Many dropped the idea in short order, some stuck at it and a handful found they were rather good at it. Residents of the top end of the CBD were delighted by the news that Becco's produce store would live beyond lockdown and keep dispensing the Italianate good times.
Meanwhile, Andrew McConnell's collaboration with Baker Bleu at Marion, his wine bar, has morphed into Morning Market, a new premises a few doors up Gertrude Street. It stocks Ramarro Farm and Saint David Dairy produce, a very fine roster of sandwiches, fancy pot-pies to cook at home and, of course, Baker Bleu bread.
28. Summer Coda
It's almost time for the annual migration to the coast, and chef Adam D'Sylva (pictured) is leading the charge with the opening of Coda Lorne. The seaside sibling of his 11-year-old mod-Asian city diner is due to launch before Christmas directly above MoVida's coastal offering, making the Lorne Hotel a one-stop shop for well-heeled meals on the Great Ocean Road. D'Sylva is flat chat right now, also preparing to open a flagship restaurant at the new W Hotel – an all-day affair called Lollo – in February. MH codarestaurant.com.au
29. Muscle for the side hustles
For visa-holding chefs, there was no financial help at hand when they were stood down this year. To survive, many turned to selling cannele, custom cakes and pasta through their Instagram accounts – so successfully the admin became overwhelming. Food Around the Hood has stepped in to bring more than 30 of these independent projects together so diners can order easily through one site and have them delivered across the city for $5.95. GC foodaroundthehood.com.au
30. Casting a wider net
After lease issues meant closing their acclaimed restaurant, Captain Moonlite, Matt Germanchis and Gemma Gange were able to concentrate on their Anglesea fish and chip shop, Fish By Moonlite, including snagging a general licence so they can sell booze, such as locally distilled Great Ocean Road Gin. The pair has also used the hiatus to search the region for a site for their next venture, one that includes both a dining room and accommodation. Germanchis says they're confident the new business will be up and running by mid 2021. MH fishbymoonlite.com.au
Acre Farm & Eatery in Burwood East. Photo: Paul Jeffers
31. Hands in the dirt, breakfast in the sky
Do you remember when the team from Sydney's farm-to-table playground Acre Camperdown opened Acre, a 2000-square metre urban farm and restaurant on top of Burwood's Brickworks? No? Well, it's been a busy year. Luckily, it's also been a bumper year for those rooftop gardens to grow and the quails to settle in, so it's looking its best, ready to greet green-thumbed diners. GC acre-burwood.com.au
32. Caking a stand
Chef, baker and writer Gabrielle Entwisle has a particularly sweet take on grassroots activism to support hospitality. Each week she bakes a very handsome cake, posts a photo of it on Instagram, runs an online auction and gives the profits to Tip Jar, a relief fund for hospitality workers. Sour-cream berry crumble? Tangelo and passionfruit cake with vanilla custard and cream-cheese frosting (pictured)? Chocolate and caramel mousse with coffee-hazelnut custard? Giving never tasted so good. PN instagram.com/gabby.writer.candy.baker
33. Get the good wood
Anthony Nelson is the beekeeping, music-making, sustainability-obsessed Northcote furniture-maker behind Remaek. He transforms everything from fruit tree prunings to fence posts into rolling pins, tofu presses, pasta tools and kraut smashers, each marked with their tree species and the postcode where they were found. GC beesimple.com.au
34. Beyond the laundry
Helly Raichura's profile exploded after contestants from this year's MasterChef crashed her home "restaurant", Enter Via Laundry. EVL at Home, a pandemic pivot offering recipes from Karnataka to Kerala, only grew her base. Now, her shared-table degustations exploring stories of migration, invasion and globalisation using local produce, including a Bengali Thali with crisp purple potatoes and blood lime pickle, have found new secret digs near Geelong. GC entervialaundry.com.au
Mr Black and St Ali's collaborative coffee liqueur. Photo: Guy Davies
35. Boozy coffee is a thing again
Does booze-spiked coffee ever really go out of fashion? Certainly not in the eyes of NSW Central Coast coffee-liqueur company Mr Black, which recently teamed up with St Ali roasters. Market Lane roasters just jumped on board with Jameson Irish whiskey, reimagining the classic Irish coffee, Melbourne cold-brew style. Both can be bought online to enjoy at home. MR mrblack.co/au; jamesonwhiskey.com
36. Home invasion
Founded by restaurant agitator Shane Delia in March, digital restaurant platform Providoor has quickly grown to support 50 restaurant partners delivering more than 230,000 meals. Delia isn't done, and plans to push things further with the launch of Providoor People, which provides a suite of staff to arrive with your order. "It's going to be the solution to home entertaining," says Delia. "They'll do the cooking, cleaning, serving, the whole lot." MH providoor.com.au
Super Ling's Xinjiang lamb flatbread. Photo: Supplied
37. The best thing since flat bread
When publican Iain Ling and chef Mike Li put their heads together, some of Melbourne's most enjoyable adventures in Chinese food are the result. Witness the cult of the Super Ling mapo tofu jaffle. But the jaffle's supremacy might now be under threat from a new creation that draws on Uighur tradition in a flatbread loaded with Xinjiang-style spiced lamb, pickled onion and coriander – a cumin-scented mouthful of good times. PN superling.com.au
38. Men of ramen
Ben Reardon and Ryan Maher really love ramen and decided to adapt the notoriously fiddly Japanese treat for a series of heat-and-eat delivery kits to enjoy at home. Gomi Boys (gomi is Japanese slang for rubbish or "trash") was born and the pair has been slammed with orders. They have turned their North Melbourne kitchen into the Gomi Mart tuck shop, inspired by Tokyo convenience stores, with katsu sandos, gyoza and Japanese soda available to dine in. Ramen is still their main event, with three styles of broth plus handpulled wheat noodles researched and honed over several visits to Japan. MH gomiboysramen.com
Firebird's scotch egg with salted duck egg relish and rice flakes. Photo: Jana Langhorst
39. Firebird lays an egg
Where there's smoke, there's Firebird, the Prahran mod-Vietnamese newbie that opened just as lockdown hit. If you missed it then, try this cute scotch egg, which wraps quail in chicken-and-pork mousse then encrusts it with green rice flakes. Add duck relish and you've got a killer summer snack. DV firebird.hanoihannah.com.au
40. Paddock to plate
Chef Brigitte Hafner is turning the paddock next to her Red Hill restaurant, Osteria Tedesca, into a biodynamic vegetable garden, complete with hot houses where she'll grow everything from seed. The garden "will become the menu". She's also building a smokehouse.
"I like the philosophy of whole animal cooking but a whole pig provides so much meat we couldn't put it through the restaurant, so we'll make charcuterie, smoke some bacon, make salami, pancetta and sausages."
Add a flock of Wiltshire Horn sheep, a wood-fired oven, bee hives and an orchard full of heirloom fruit trees, and Tedesca self-sufficiency looms. MH tedesca.com.au
Words: Gemima Cody, Michael Harry, Pat Nourse, Myffy Rigby, Dani Valent