Good Food Victoria's 100 Good Things 81-100: Gimlet, Indian cuisine, avocado kaya

Pivot-master Joe Vargetto of Mister Bianco.
Pivot-master Joe Vargetto of Mister Bianco. Photo: Eddie Jim

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.

81. Lockdown legends

When it comes to rarely standing still during COVID, Joe Vargetto, chef-owner of Kew's Mister Bianco, has been the poster boy. He was the master of the quick pivot, with his takeaway and delivery service (The Italian Job) via a fleet of Mini Coopers. He also opened a cooking school (Giuseppe's), released a book (Siciliano) and launched a pasta label (Mattarello). Viva Italia.

Jessi Singh was also a blur of activity. He not only opened Mr Brownie's Rooftop Hotel in South Melbourne mid-pandemic, he turned his businesses over to his visa-holding workers so they could make a living, and delivered hundreds of meals to hospital staff on the front line.

Andrew McConnell, the chef behind some of the city's most loved restaurants and bars (Cumulus Inc, Cutler & Co, Marion, and the Builders Arms), had a lot of displaced chefs during lockdown so his butchery business, Meatsmith, started to take on bodies. Now the dust is settling, the team is throwing itself into Christmas hampers, with rare-breed turkey, ham and all the trimmings. MR misterbianco.com.au; themrbrownie.com; meatsmith.com.au

82. Glass half full

Melbourne glass company Lope Home's crystallis collection is all about perfection in imperfection. The glasses and carafes, which could equally be used for sangria, spritzes or housemade lemonade, are inspired by raw natural materials. Each piece is hand-blown by glass artist Patrick Wong in his Mordialloc studio. MR thedeastore.com

GOOD FOOD REVIEW: Gimlet, 33 Russell st, Melbourne CBD . THE AGE. PICTURE : PENNY STEPHENS. THURSDAY 26TH NOVEMBER 2020

Gimlet at Cavendish House in the CBD. Photo: Penny Stephens

83. Gimlet is go

Andrew McConnell's ode to a glamorous 1920s cocktail bar, Gimlet, is finally open to the crowds he hoped for after its soft launch was paused in June.

The sprawling, split-level dining room and grand central bar are now welcoming up to 80 guests (still shy of its 150 capacity) for everything from a la carte banquets to elegant cocktail snacks.

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The summer menu is a greatest hits selection of McConnell moments, featuring rock oysters with seaweed butter, mud crab, dry-aged duck and crudites served with a cranking selection of cocktails mixed by bar manager Cameron Parish (ex-The Everleigh). We'll have a salted martini, thanks. MH gimlet.melbourne

Tom Sarafian is making hummus for Beirut

Tom Sarafian's next-level hummus. Photo: Supplied

84. Sarafian's Sunday sessions

Tom Sarafian's menu is always one to get around, claiming the title for possibly the best hummus in town (crowned with crab, it's hard to beat) and also the gilda (controversial, but this Armenian chef has a good tilt at the Basque skewer of olives, anchovies and pickles). He's back at the helm of Bar Saracen in the city, but possibly more exciting are free-wheeling $50-a-head Sunday sessions outside sister restaurant Rumi in Brunswick East, which has expanded into the car yard next door. Barbecued skewers, well-dressed hummus, DJs and Brick Lane Beers meet baklava ice-cream. Yalla, Melbourne, you can't lose. Running all summer. GC​ rumirestaurant.com.au

85. Spirited away

A celebration of small spirits producers and bottled-cocktail makers nationwide, Good Spirits is your one-stop shop for limited-edition drinks. Order online and discover signature drinks from bars such as Byrdi and Fancy Free and craft spirits from near and far. MR goodspiritstore.com

86. From singed pigeons to Petanque Social

The riverwalk fronting Crown Casino, known for its flaming pylons and the pigeons who defy them, has become Petanque Social this summer. It features day beds, bars, giant screens with sport, flying boules and jazz Sundays, with oysters shucked on demand. The menu is a pick of the Crown stable – Nobu's sushi and dishes from Bistro Guillaume lying on a lounger? GC crownmelbourne.com.au

87. Nomad by nature

Put this in your diary for March-April 2021. Sydney's Nomad is finally heading south, and the site is a doozy: the former Ezard in Flinders Lane. Chef Jacqui Challinor will help shape a menu built around a woodfire oven, but this is a restaurant that thrives on its terrain and will be influenced by Victorian finds. GC nomadwine.com.au

Biji Dining will be taking over Little Andorra until December

Biji Dining is taking over Little Andorra in December. Photo: Jana Longhurst

88. Indian summer

New-wave Indian cuisine has been one of the most important movements of Melbourne dining in 2020. Chef Harry Mangat came here from India in 2005 with aspirations to become an accountant, then wound up working in kitchens including Ides and Jackalope. Under the name Biji Dining he's teaming up with wine bar Little Andorra in Carlton North for a series of set-menu banquets, with dishes including a mussel ceviche with chilli and mustard oil and tandoori chicken rillettes.

Fitzroy's ISH wowed lockdown with at-home dishes such as seekh kebab sausage rolls, black garlic naan and gulab jamun tiramisu, while Daughter in Law, the latest venture in the CBD from Jessi Singh, is here to change the conversation with pani puri – crunchy, hollow semolina puffs filled with mint, tamarind and tart yoghurt liquor that detonate on bite.

At Atta in Albert Park, expect not only a smashup of Indian and Western cuisine, but a menu that traverses that of India itself. MH, GC & DV littleandorra.com.au; ishrestaurant.com.au; daughterinlaw.com.au; attarestaurant.com.au

89. Dine on the wild side

After a year of being deprived of the arts, other than what could be piped through your laptop screen, sensory dining is on the rise again. Leading the charge is creative agency SSIXX, which is delivering a tactile, scented, audiovisual romp alongside a freaky four-course dinner from Peter Gunn of Ides and Everleigh cocktails, starting January. GC​ ssixx.co

90. Cellar in the city

It's a cellar-door experience within a taxi ride of home. Handpicked Wines opens at the 80 Collins development, in the CBD, at the end of January. The wine boutique will benchmark its own Tasmanian, Mornington Peninsula and Yarra Valley wines against "handpicked" imports, which can be tasted and bought instore or delivered. RG handpickedwines.com.au

91. A very local pie

Boutique winery Grampians Estate has a secret weapon in Tom Guthrie, owner, winemaker and fourth-generation sheep farmer. It's very much reflected in the pie served at the Estate's new restaurant.

Guthrie delivers his lamb to nearby sourdough bakery Great Western Granary, where they marinate it in Grampians Estate shiraz and encase it in a pie crust made with local wheat. If that's not an all-encompassing pie experience, we don't know what is. DV grampiansestate.com.au

92. Off-grid, on song

Restaurant Atiyah opened in Federation Square as Melbourne emerged from the second lockdown, even though its chef, Therese Helou, was stuck in Beirut. Her son-in-law, Ben Armstrong, opened the restaurant without her after learning how to make manakish, a Lebanese flatbread, over video chat.

The carbon-neutral kiosk is powered by solar and biodiesel, water is collected from the roof and topped up by Fed Square tanks. Ingredients are local, ethical and sustainable. Packaging is compostable. DV atiyah.life

The Age, Food. Ben Armstrong from: Atiyah, a new Lebanese kiosk at Federation Square Ben with manakish a Lebanese street food at Fed Sq.Pic SImon Schluter 30 October 2020.

Ben Armstrong at the Atiyah kiosk at Federation Square. Photo: Simon Schluter

93. Next-gen publishing

You may recognise Anna Vu's name in her guise as artist and internet phenomenon Good Food Crap Drawing. She and Good Food Guide contributor David Matthews teamed up for Cartilage, PDF "journals" designed to put money into the pockets of chefs and restaurateurs. Each comprises three recipes plus "annotations, illustrations and scribbles" from the venue. They're $15, with $10 going to the restaurant.

Somekind Press is dedicated to amplifying new voices while supporting hospitality. Read the beautifully illustrated stories of Maker & Monger, Ides and Boon Luck Farm plus Good Food contributor Lee Tran Lam's anthology New Voices in Food.

Written with wit and depicted with verve, the recipes in The Isol(Asian) Cookbook sing on the page as clearly as they do on the plate. It is self-published by "unemployed chef and isolated illustrator", Rosheen Kaul and Joanna Hu, who say the project – sketched between calls to Centrelink and watching Tiger King – was never something they thought would end up featured by local and international media. PN cartilagelocal.com; somekindpress.com; theisolasiancookbook.com

Ben Murphy, Tambo Valley Honey, East Gippsland beekeeper Ben Murphy, owner of Tambo Valley Honey.ÂÂ

Tambo Valley Honey beekeeper Ben Murphy. Photo: Richard Cornish

94. There's gold in them thar hills

It's one of the year's sweetest stories, albeit with a bitter start. Ben Murphy, a young beekeeper in a game dominated by older professionals, lost 200 hives in the summer fires, as well as the rare round-leaf box eucalypts that fed them. Undaunted, Murphy has spent 2020 hiking the hills and gullies, searching for the last stands. For good reason – his Tambo Valley round-leaf honey is so unusually delicate and mellow, it's said to taste like Anzac biscuits. True liquid gold. Find it at Rod's Fruit and Veg, South Melbourne Market. GC​ rodsfruitandveg.com.au

95. Edible nostalgia evokes sweet memories

Melbourne chocolatiers Koko Black are constantly innovating, working with first nations ingredients as well as creating edible Christmas ornaments. But sometimes it's about going back to childhood favourites. Their Australian Classics collection is just that – riffs on Wagon Wheels, Iced VoVos (pictured), chocolate crackles and more. MR​ kokoblack.com

96. Avo kaya

You're standing by the toaster, paralysed by indecision. On the one hand, you have a powerful hankering for kaya, the coconut jam loved for breakfast in Malaysia and Singapore. On the other, you really need avocado on toast. Avokaya to the rescue.

Combining coconut milk, pandan, dark brown sugar, salt and avocados that were destined for landfill, it's a rich spread that's sweet, creamy and savoury all at once and is the brainchild of Dennis Yong, chef and artist turned fermenter. Yong's motto, "we ferment the rest", describes his approach to turning surplus produce into gold. Miso, kimchi and ketchup are on the way. PN ​instagram.com/furrmien

Three Blue Ducks at URBNSURF Melbourne, Tullamarine.
Photos: Ed Sloane
For Vic 100 Good Things, Dec 8, 2020

Surf's up at Three Blue Ducks in Tullamarine. Photo: Ed Sloane

97. Hang 10 with Three Blue Ducks

Surf is finally up at Tullamarine's human-made wave park URBNSURF, and after a year of delays, so is the wildly on-brand food collaboration with the salty boys behind Three Blue Ducks (Bronte, Byron, Brisbane). Chef Mark LaBrooy is heading up the kitchen, which will operate breakfast through to dinner daily. GC​ urbnsurf.com

98. Hot pizza, cool style

Hold the phone. Ronnie Di Stasio, Melbourne's Lord of Good Times and Italianity, is setting up a pizzeria on Lygon Street, set to open in March 2021. If you're a fan of his other work (Melbourne's Di Stasio Citta and St Kilda's Cafe Di Stasio), then a Naples-style pizza palace decked out with that signature aggressively stylish Di Stasio swagger will be sweet news indeed. MR distasio.com.au

99. New ways to serve old favourites

Serious about your Middle Eastern-style baked eggs? Of course you are.

Time to up your game even further with a series of hand-crafted shakshuka dishes from Ballarat-based ceramicist Ruby Pilven.

Don't love eggs? It doubles as a salad bowl. MR rubypilven.com

Chef Dan Hunter and head gardener Nina Breidahl at the kitchen garden at Brae restaurant in Rirregurra. Photo by Jason South. 29th April 2020

Brae chef Dan Hunter with head gardener Nina Breidahl. Photo: Jason South

100. Green shoots

Trust us, if ever there was a year to celebrate the kitchen garden restaurant, this is it. With restaurants closed, chefs such as Dan Hunter at Brae and Blayne and Chayse Bertoncello of O.My poured their heartache and souls into their farms. Hunter says the joy isn't in the rare, but in "getting the fruits and vegetables often considered mundane to a standard that elevates them".

As for O.My, a fertile time in the garden and kitchen had Blayne feeling "more excited than ever" about his food, though you'll be finding this on display at a residency in Beaconsfield after a fire tore through their restaurant shortly after reopening. 2020, hey? GC braerestaurant.com; omyrestaurant.com.au

Words: Gemima Cody, Roslyn Grundy, Michael Harry, Pat Nourse, Myffy Rigby, Dani Valent