Vittoria Coffee Restaurant of the Year
Ticks every box. The winning restaurant does not need to receive three hats, but must capture the mood of the nation right now and exemplify what it means to be a world-class restaurant.
Good Food Guide Awards name Australia's best restaurants
The Good Food Guide Awards have gone national, pitting Australia's best restaurants against each other.
For the past 10 years, chef Ben Shewry, a New Zealand expat and sweetheart of the Melbourne dining scene, has constantly pushed the envelope. There have been past highs, and plenty of them. But after a renovation this year, Attica feels like a restaurant reborn. Service hums with renewed vigour, the dishes have both cohesion and a sense of place. It's well-paced. Fun. Exciting. Narrative, but not hand-wringingly so. Kick off with a series of tiny bites from strips of wagyu threaded onto a polished shin bone (there's an opportunity for The Story of Ripponlea in scrimshaw here, surely) dusted in salted macadamia to the world's most elegant smashed avocado on toast, lifted with finger lime and nib tips of mint. Fancy weeds might be left to you to dredge through house-made sour cream, dotted with apple cider vinegar and olive oil. A light, delicate and cooling dish of snow crab and broome seeds resting in a translucent, barely there chicken broth is the palate-cleanser we always wanted but never knew we did. Eating at Attica today is like putting on the reading glasses you never thought you needed until you read a chapter and realise just how much sharper everything seems. Myffy Rigby
Josh Niland of Saint Peter in Paddington. Photo: James Brickwood
New Restaurant of the Year
The most exciting opening in the past 12 months, this restaurant sets the eating agenda and starts conversations. Represents everything that's fresh, hot and interesting about dining.
Saint Peter, New South Wales
A drawn and quartered bass grouper has rarely looked this beautiful. But if you follow chef Josh Niland on Instagram, you already knew that. Here, gill-to-tail cooking is elevated in such a way that a local tuna might be dry-aging in the cool room while a red gurnard has been carefully butchered, each part treated with as much care as the next, and heart and swim bladder set next to spine, fins, fillet and tail. All of this translates to a menu that changes daily, in a tiny restaurant hidden in plain sight on Paddington's high street. This isn't just next-level fish cookery. It's next-level cookery full stop.
Daniel Puskas from Sixpenny. Photo: James Brickwood
Citi Chef of the Year
This chef must be at the forefront of dining, setting new standards, creating new flavour combinations, doing something original, and adding something extra to the Australian dining scene.
Daniel Puskas, Sixpenny, New South Wales
For a chef who used to skateboard to work and cook sous-vide in a bucket, Daniel Puskas has travelled a long way. His restaurant, which he now runs solo (co-owner James Parry left the business last year) goes from strength to strength. It's the honing of his craft, and his sheer force of will to squeeze maximum flavour from every ingredient he touches while keeping each dish to its most minimal that gives this ex-Josephine Pignolet Award winner the edge. Puskas has, over the years, honed and sharpened his menu into an ever-evolving study in simplicity. Check out snacks like a gougere filled with gouda and sweet chutney and a confit pumpkin doughnut bomb finished with a sprinkling of pumpkin seed salt - it disappears on the tongue in seconds, with flavour for days. The restaurant has really hit its straps in the past 12 months, and it's Puskas's drive, vigour and passion that makes this so. It's that devotion to his craft that has diners and chefs alike sitting up and paying close attention. Josh Niland, fellow Chef of the Year nominee and Sixpenny fanboy says "the elegance and [Puskas] constant striving for perfection makes his the food that I would want to cook if I had the courage". Myffy Rigby
The Agrarian Kitchen. Photo: Peter Mathew
Santa Vittoria Regional Restaurant of the Year
The best beyond metro limits. The winning establishment must provide a restaurant experience comparable to anything in the city but remain uniquely regional.
The Agrarian Kitchen Eatery & Store, Tasmania
It's fresh on the Tasmania scene, but The Agrarian Kitchen Eatery & Store has deeply established roots through Rodney Dunn and Severine Demanet's Derwent Valley cooking school, the Agrarian Kitchen. Pickling. Fermenting. Local. Seasonal. They're techniques and terms chefs are infatuated with, but this newcomer presents a masterclass in all, using ingredients from barely beyond the doorstep, delivered in a sun-drenched room. It's a gun team from kitchen to cocktail bar. The menu might read simply – carbonara macaroni; a caesar-like salad of broad bean leaves with smoked ham and alpine cheese – but the techniques drill deep into the collective cooking wisdom from around the globe and emerge as close to the ideal as it seems possible to get. Both ideas and produce have been germinating and fermenting for a long time to result in a restaurant that calmly, cooly and deliciously screams a sense of place.
The late Jeremy Strode. Photo: Wade Laube
For an outstanding long-term contribution to the industry, chosen from a short list by Les Schirato of Vittoria Coffee.
Jeremy Strode 1964-2017
Jeremy Strode was one of the country's best-loved chefs (Bistrode CBD, the Fish Shop). The Brit-born chef's dishes were recognisable for their spare, almost austere aesthetic, where what was left off the plate was often as significant as what was left on. Strode's influence on the industry over 27 years' cooking in Australia is inestimable but perhaps the largest thumbprint he will leave is his nurturing of young chefs, who lovingly refer to him as The Truth for his honest, no-bull approach to cooking. His kindness, openness and his willingness to share his knowledge and his skills were legendary. They will be greatly missed. Myffy Rigby
"I fell in love with Jez's food long before I had even met him. Eating at Pomme I knew I had to work for him. No one respected ingredients quite like he did. He intuitively knew when to stop putting something else on the plate, letting everything else breathe. He was passionate about the environment and was banging on about seasonality and sustainability years before it became trendy. He simply couldn't eat at a restaurant if it was serving tomatoes in winter or asparagus from Peru. It took a long time to become friends and we were falling in love with each other so slowly neither of us realised. And it was a crazy, powerful enormous love that was big enough to get us through the hard times that would follow. We had so many incredible, exciting, fun times together. Bringing Hunter and Nathaniel into the world and watching them turn into the gorgeous boys they are now, travelling, running our little Bistrode together and eating so much food. This industry was Jeremy's whole world. He lived and breathed it. And when he discovered Instagram it was like fanning a fire. To be connected instantly to the rest of the food world and to share his experiences became an obsession. It was pretty f------ annoying at times! I will spend the rest of my life missing him and trying to reconcile how much pain he must have been in that he could leave us like this. I need all of you to help keep him alive for me and especially for Max, Hunter and Nathaniel." Jane Strode
Kylie Millar of Attica restaurant. Photo: Simon Schluter
Josephine Pignolet Young Chef of the Year
This award is chosen by a panel of food professionals led by Damien Pignolet. It celebrates the memory of a great young chef and is the ultimate accolade for a committed and talented young cook.
Kylie Millar, Attica, Victoria
She might be working the sauce section in a three-hat restaurant, but Kylie Millar would also really like to be a butcher. The only woman to get through to the final round of interviews for this year's prestigious award boasts an eclectic resume – she is a trained physiotherapist and also speaks fluent Spanish. Focused on produce, learning and education, Millar is also infatuated with the theatre of hifalutin pastry work.
Africola manager Nikki Friedli. Photo: David Solm Photography
Citi Service Excellence Award
The winner of this award executes the highest standard of restaurant service, from attitude and skill to knowledge and personality.
Nikki Friedli, Africola, South Australia
When Nikki Friedli first met Duncan Welgemoed after she moved from the Northern Territory to Adelaide, her dirty jokes impressed the Africola chef so much he immediately hired her to work at his East Terrace eatery. A gung-ho, let's-rock-this attitude didn't hurt either, nor did a sparkling dry wit from growing up in a town like Alice. The 26-year-old restaurant manager knows how to read an audience, slinging mezcal shots to party-keen locals with the same energy she introduces first-time diners to the bold flavours from the South African-Australian kitchen. Whether it's with a pour of something fresh and new from the local-leaning wine list or a whip-fast one-liner, Friedli makes sure every customer leaves Africola with the world's biggest smile.
Chef Jock Zonfrillo from the Orana Foundation. Photo: David Solm
Food For Good Award
The winner of this award, which celebrates innovation, charity and sustainability, goes above and beyond to contribute to the broader community.
Orana Foundation, South Australia
Jock Zonfrillo dreams of a future where bunya nuts share shelf space with cashews, and quandong jam outsells strawberry. The Orana chef has expanded the discoveries of his Adelaide restaurant into a foundation that preserves the food heritage of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and integrates native foods into our culinary culture. Most importantly, Zonfrillo strives to ensure any benefits of a new native produce industry are returned to Indigenous communities. The Orana Foundation has also partnered with the University of Adelaide to create an online database of native foods, including their culinary uses and nutritional information, a resource that generations of Australians will be able to learn from. There's more than one way to cook a tanami apple.
Arlechin cocktail bar. Photo: Simon Schluter
Bar of the Year
The best all-round bar that nails service, drinks, vibe and decor. The winning bar adds something new or different to the drinking scene.
Arlechin, the tiny and mighty new late-night bar by the seasoned Grossi family came out swinging in the back straights of 2017 to prove that everything we've always loved about bars: sharp cocktails, dim lights and high times in dark alleys will never, ever go out of style. If the words "midnight spaghetti" don't strike a fire in your heart, perhaps it's time to retire from bars. And whether it's that elegant twirl of carbs with a sort-of puttanesca vibe; a bombolini set on fire at table or a razor-sharp viscous martini from the list designed by Romeo Lane's Joe Jones (last year's Age GFG Bar of the Year), what's certain is that this glowing bolt-hole in Mornane Place delivers more sophisticated good times than you deserve at 3am.
Raul Moreno Yague of Osteria Ilaria. Photo: Simon Schluter
Sommelier of the Year
The successful wine professional is able to demonstrate an in-depth knowledge of their subject, while helping to influence and educate diners. They must be personable, inclusive, curious and driven to constantly deliver the highest level of service.
Raul Moreno Yague, Osteria Ilaria, Victoria
Name the sommelier who can boast cooking experience in Marco Pierre White's Mirabelle kitchen, a Masters in Viticulture and a stage at Thomas Keller's Bouchon at the Venetian Hotel in Las Vegas? If you answered Raul Moreno Yague, you're right on the money. The Spanish-born somm has seen the restaurant industry – and the dining public – grow up since arriving in 2003. "When I came to Australia, I found that there were not many sommeliers but a lot of people passionate about wine. The industry has changed drastically in the past 10 to 15 years." Back then, Australian diners were indignant when sommeliers tasted their wine for faults and wary of taking recommendations. Today, he says, most people are happy to take his advice. When not recommending and pouring Italian and Italianate wines at Melbourne laneway newcomer Osteria Ilaria, you might find Moreno Yague elbow-deep in grapes at wineries in Portugal, Spain, South Africa or Victoria's Strathbogie Ranges or lecturing in wine viticulture at the University of Melbourne. It's this rich background and broad wine knowledge that makes Moreno Yague the sommelier's sommelier. Roslyn Grundy
Ian Trinkle, Sommelier from Aria. Photo: Bradley Kanaris
Wine List of the Year
A diverse and high-quality by-the-glass selection alongside an accessible bottle list that displays a good range of vintages and complements the restaurant's food and style.
Aria Brisbane, Queensland
The 1000-wine strong list at Matt Moran's Brisbane riverside fine diner looks daunting at first, but sommelier Ian Trinkle has designed it so fluidly, so elegantly, that even the most casual wine drinker will likely drill down to something they want to drink within seconds. A Coravin system provides access to special Torbreck treats, Black Market Sake supplies textured junmai, and Aria's cellar size allows for a wonderful collection of back-vintage gems from Montefalco to McLaren Vale. Queensland wines are given an important spotlight, too. There are no gimmicks here – this is a list built by confident hands with access to deep and delicious pockets.
Summertown Aristologist. Photo: David Solm
Regional Wine List of the Year
Honouring a wine list outside the city limits that displays a diverse selection that complements the restaurant's food and style while reflecting the unique qualities of the region.
The Summertown Aristologist, South Australia
Disguised as a casual bar and restaurant, this Narnia wardrobe to SA's Basket Range hides a magical cellar in its bottom drawer. The short list is a nifty little number of fun times, courtesy of winemakers and venue co-owners Jasper Button (Commune of Buttons) and Anton van Klopper (Lucy Margaux), but it's vital you ask Summertown's third aristologist, Aaron Fenwick (pictured), for a gander at the full cellar. Wine tourists can sink Adelaide Hills drops the world is jonesing for, while locals imbibe the top of the minimal-intervention pops from France and Italy.
The national Good Food Guide 2018 will be on sale from October 17 in newsagencies, bookstores and via thestore.com.au/goodfood, RRP $29.99.