Vittoria Coffee Restaurant of the Year
A great restaurant strives to deliver immaculate service and an experience you can recall with reverence for months, perhaps years, afterwards. Certainly Brae in small town Birregurra does this, where Dan Hunter's 10-course tasting menu is precision-tuned to the region and bookmarked by the warm welcome of intuitive staff. Perhaps croissants in the morning, too, if you've splashed out and stayed the night. Brae goes a country mile beyond just 'great'. It's a world-class example of a restaurant's ability to enrich a community by working closely with local producers while also moving the needle on the role of the chef in securing a sustainable food future. No one harvests their own organic wheat, explores new methods of agriculture, and grills a straight-up delicious abalone and pork jowl skewer like Hunter. A global treasure.
New Restaurant of the Year
Has the world gone mad? Are we to believe that a tiny Brisbane laneway restaurant run by just two people, that seats just 10, and offers only a no-choice menu that is served to everyone at the same time, is the New Restaurant of the Year? Believe it. Joy happens to be the bravest, most single-minded, driven and personal package of all the talented newcomers to grace the Australian dining scene in the past 12 months. Husband-and-wife team Sarah and Tim Scott honed their cooking talents at the likes of Sepia, Automata and Urbane. Now they just want to feed people – beautifully – while also meeting, greeting, serving, pouring wines, and doing the dishes. It's a new barrier-busting business model for the industry, based on the oldest principle of all: hospitality.
Santa Vittoria Regional Restaurant of the Year
Pottsville, New South Wales
This modest, built-by-hand, wood-fired restaurant in the coastal village of Pottsville in northern NSW is very much of its time and place. Chef Ben Devlin trained at Noma in Copenhagen and Esquire in Brisbane, then made his name with a fresh take on coastal cuisine at the glamorous Paper Daisy at Cabarita Beach's Halcyon House resort. For Pipit, he has refined the concept further, committing to local plants, tropical fruits and sustainable seafood, with no lamb or beef on the menu. Cooking is directly over coals – almost primal – and the flavours, while distinct, sing from the same songbook. It's a special thrill when a chef claims their own coast as their primary source of inspiration, and does it with such skill, inspiration and quiet pride.
Citi Chef of the Year
Firedoor, Sydney, NSW
Let's hear it for firepower, the driving force behind Lennox Hastie's cooking. He's a chef who has spent half his professional life meditating over flames, and it's here at his two-hat restaurant that you'll witness the gentle teasing of flavours using wood from apples, peaches and ironbark, as well as grapevine. The genius lies in Hastie's tight control over such a volatile element. Soft, oily bonito might be lightly seared and teamed with three different plums. Or barely cooked, reassembled, grilled squid could be draped in guanciale furls with black ink-dyed potato noodles. Sidenote, Firedoor operates with no electricity or gas – even boiling a pot of water requires a kitchen member to light the fire. That's about as primeval as you can get in a restaurant setting.
Vittoria Coffee Legend Award
She finished school at 14 and never formally trained as a chef, but one of Australia's greatest culinary careers belongs to Maggie Beer AM. A TV presenter, prolific cookbook author, restaurateur, businesswoman and undisputed authority on verjuice, her success across the industry is almost unparalleled. Her Pheasant Farm pâtés and burnt fig ice-creams belong in every self-respecting fridge, but her place at the top of Australia's food pyramid is secured not from selling her products, but her passion. She sold her company in March 2019, but that mighty energy is now powering the Maggie Beer Foundation, her non-profit raising the food standards for those in aged care. Because Beer's is a world where deliciousness belongs to all.
Josephine Pignolet Young Chef of the Year
Momofuku Seiobo, Sydney, New South Wales
Meet the junior sous chef who's on a mission to achieve perfection in simplicity. Anna Ugarte-Carral is driven by what it means to be genuine – in the way she cooks, eats and behaves. She seeks to pare her practice back, which she sees as a sign of respect – not only for the diners but the produce as well. It's an attitude that reflects in the restaurants she chooses to work at, including Chef of the Year Lennox Hastie's flame-fuelled Firedoor, louche late-night bistro Hubert, and the gentle and relaxed Lyle's in London, and Relae in Copenhagen. Right now, she's learning about the joys of luxed-up Barbadian cuisine at Momofuku. Ultimately, though, she'd love to work in the Basque country for Victor Arguinzoniz at Asador Etxebarri and get back to her Spanish roots.
Citi Service Excellence
Igni, Geelong, Victoria
Whether innate or learnt, Igni co-owner Joanna Smith has the uncanny ability to read diners' moods from the moment they step into this fire-powered restaurant in a quiet Geelong backstreet. In this intimate room, no two tables receive exactly the same dishes. Smith is the thread that seamlessly weaves kitchen, bar and diner together to create a memorable collaborative experience. If she can tempt a timid guest to order a style of wine they haven't tried before, relax another enough to engage in a bit of banter, and solve a tricky dietary quandary on the fly for a third, while ensuring all leave happier than when they came in, Smith considers it mission accomplished.
Food For Good Award
NATIONAL INDIGENOUS CULINARY INSTITUTE
NSW and Victoria
How do you address the fact that Indigenous people are under-represented in the finest professional kitchens of Australia? How, in fact, do you change the face of Australian hospitality? The answer has come from the industry leaders themselves: train aspiring Indigenous chefs in partnership with Australia's top chefs and restaurateurs. A not-for-profit hospitality industry initiative founded in 2012, NICI sees trainee chefs carry out their apprenticeships with chefs of the calibre of Neil Perry of Rockpool and Rosetta, Guillaume Brahimi of Bistro Guillaume and Monty Koludrovic of Icebergs Dining Room and Bar, with guaranteed jobs at completion. Graduates now work at the highest level across the industry, with 2019 seeing NICI chefs cook for the president of France, represent Australia at a food festival in Ireland, and travel to London to intern at Brett Graham's two-Michelin-starred, the Ledbury.
Bar of the Year
Imagine eight years of dreaming and planning. Laying 20,000 tiles to make the basement lair glitter like a classy New York subway. Having family fly in five times over three months to do the build. Going broke, twice. Imagine devising hefty wine lists, cocktail shenanigans and two menus, then finding staff who are both willing and able to execute it until 5am. Imagine doing all of this and the only thing anyone can talk about is your goddamn burger. To be fair, it's an outlandishly unctuous beast that could calorifically power you across the Antarctic. Too much? It sure is, and it's about time Melbourne joined that party. The late-night knees-up from bar heroes Michael and Zara Madrusan (the Everleigh and Heartbreaker) with chef Daniel Southern on the pans is a glorious addition to the canon.
Sommelier of the Year
Franklin, Hobart, Tasmania
For those who know their skin contacts from their pet-nats, Franklin's wine list is a long and thrilling walk on the wild side. For newcomers to the natural scene, it's a challenging trek into uncharted territory. Like the best bespoke guides, Appleby is adept at intuiting how far off the main trail customers are ready to travel. No further than organically farmed pinot noir from his shorter list of three dozen bottles? Or deep into the lo-fi wilderness of the full list? A fluent storyteller, he knows this territory intimately and has close relationships with sustainably minded, small-batch winemakers from across Australia and beyond. Backed by chef Analiese Gregory's fresh focus on foraging, Appleby's understated aplomb as manager and sommelier has been central to Franklin's evolution as a wine-forward flag bearer for all that is sustainable and delicious.
Wine List of the Year
When a menu is built around vegetables that have been pickled, fermented, dehydrated, smoked, sweated or roasted, traditional wine matching goes out the window. Fortunately, Nick Hildebrandt's stellar Yellow wine list has been designed to cover all bases. With its focus on low-volume, high-quality producers who preach sustainable vineyard practices, the ethos here mirrors the one applied to the kitchen in regard to sourcing from specialist producers. The list is organised in order of weight and mouthfeel – another helpful factor in deciding what to pair with your food – and in keeping with the vegan-friendly degustation option, there are plenty of vegan options, too. Want more? The wines from sister restaurant Monopole are also available on request.
Regional Wine List of the Year
Tanunda, South Australia
Although the globetrotting wine list is no secret, it's still surprising to find such an expansive and interesting offering in the middle of jammy shiraz territory. Designed with chef Tuoi Do's Vietnamese-inspired cuisine in mind, Grant Dickson's 90-plus-page tome is packed full of bright, aromatic wines made everywhere from Cotes du Rhone to the Canary Islands. Naturally, there's attention given to the Barossa Valley, although included with the cabernets and grenaches is a range of lesser-known varieties including chenin blanc, cinsault and trebbiano. Sake is given an enormous platform, as is sherry, and almost every listing has an accompanying tasting note or, in some cases, full producer profiles to help make what feels like an impossible decision a little easier.
The Good Food Guide's third annual national edition, with hats awarded across Australia, was launched on September 30 with our presenting partners Vittoria Coffee and Citi. The Good Food Guide 2020 is on sale now in newsagencies and bookstores, and at thestore.com.au/gfg20, $29.99 with free shipping.