Three hats for Sydney's inner west at Good Food Guide Awards

Stanmore isn't traditionally associated with world-class fine dining, but the inner west suburb now has a three-hat restaurant to call its own.

Sixpenny, the small corner restaurant chef Daniel Puskas opened with former business partner James Parry in 2012, was awarded the national Good Food Guide's highest ranking of three hats at an awards ceremony October 8 at Crown Melbourne. It is the first restaurant to hold three hats in the inner west since Tetsuya's relocated from Rozelle to the CBD 18 years ago.

The Good Food Guide Awards 2018

The best of Australian food is celebrated at the second national Good Food Guide Awards in Melbourne.

"It's highly unusual for a restaurant so tiny and so independent to win three hats," said the Herald's chief restaurant critic Terry Durack. "The food has always been brilliant in parts, but now it doesn't skip a beat. You take the first couple of mouthfuls and then – squeal of a handbrake turn, tyres spinning – a second wave of flavour comes through, that's just as provocative and surprising as the first.

"It's very clever stuff. It's also very brave in an era when a lot of the bigger outfits think they have to play it safe in order to keep the more conservative diners coming back."

The Good Food Guide 2019 Awards were attended by 800 of the restaurant industry's biggest names and catered by chefs Neil Perry and Guillaume Brahimi. It is the first time the awards have been held in Melbourne after The Sydney Morning Herald, Age and Brisbane Times editions of The Good Food Guide were combined into a national publication last year, with reviews of more than 500 restaurants across Australia.

Sixpenny's potatoes cooked in rye butter.
Sixpenny's potatoes cooked in rye butter.  Photo: Edwina Pickles

Adelaide's Restaurant Orana, where chef Jock Zonfrillo showcases Australian ingredients with fine-dining technique, was awarded Vittoria Coffee Restaurant of the Year.

"Zonfrillo has an ability to take left-field ingredients such as ants and Geraldton wax and turn them into something incredibly delicious," said Good Food Guide editor Myffy Rigby. "There's no cultural cringe, just purity and beauty. And, most importantly, Orana is a lot of fun to eat at."

After a $4 million renovation and menu overhaul in July, Quay was awarded three hats to make it 17 consecutive years The Rocks fine-diner has achieved the Guide's top ranking. Quay's Peter Gilmore was named Citi Chef of the Year.

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"In the past 17 years with Peter Gilmore at the helm, Quay has achieved just about everything there is to achieve in the restaurant world," said Durack. "A lot of chefs would start resting on their laurels around about now and go on the celeb-chef circuit, but Gilmore has drilled down instead. His artistic, perfectionist nature combines with his constant work as a gardener to create a new sort of chef."

Momofuku Seiobo at The Star was the only other Sydney restaurant to achieve a three-hat rating, awarded to establishments with a Guide score of at least 18 out of 20. It is the first time Momofuku has achieved three hats since Barbados-born chef Paul Carmichael took leadership of the kitchen in 2015 and brought a Caribbean influence to the menu. Momofuku manager Kylie Javier Ashton received the Citi Service Excellence Award for maintaining the restaurant's vitality since it opened in 2011.

Sepia, which has held three hats since 2011, was absent from new edition of the Guide after it was reported the team behind the Sussex Street restaurant would be relocating to Melbourne before Christmas. "Vicki [Wild] and Martin [Benn] have been highly instrumental in creating the incredible Sydney restaurant scene we have today with Sepia," said Rigby. "It's sad to see them go but I also can't wait to see what they do next."

Chef Daniel Puskas of Sixpenny, Stanmore.
Chef Daniel Puskas of Sixpenny, Stanmore. Photo: James Brickwood

In the Guide's larger game of snakes-and-ladders, Potts Point modern vegetarian restaurant Yellow moved from a one-hat rating to two, while Indian fine-diner Aki's in Woolloomooloo, Bondi's Da Orazio Pizza + Porchetta, Bistro Rex and The Paddington all lost their hats.

Chippendale's A1 Canteen, East Sydney's Lankan Filling Station, and Surry Hills neighbours Poly and Chin Chin made a Guide debut at one hat. The Boathouse on Blackwattle Bay jumped back into the one-hat club after losing a toque last year.

Maurice Terzini's Surry Hills pub, The Dolphin, was named Bar of the Year for being a "bellwether boozer for the local community" and former Deputy Lord Mayor of the City of Sydney, Jess Miller, received the Food for Good Award for establishing the Sydney Doesn't Suck campaign to rid the city of single-use drinking straws.

Scarlet prawns with prawn roti at Restaurant Orana.
Scarlet prawns with prawn roti at Restaurant Orana. Photo: Supplied

Rigby believes future of Australian restaurants is bright. "For many decades, the restaurant industry has been associated with a mentally stressful work environment and boy's club culture," the Good Food Guide editor said. "In the last 18 months, however, work conditions, pay rates and gender equality have been under the spotlight in the media and within the industry. Creating environments that aren't toxic, and inclusive of a broad spectrum of people, is highly important. The end result of anything, if you treat it gently and well, is always going to be a better product."

The Good Food Guide's second annual national edition, with hats awarded across Australia, was launched on October 8 with our presenting partners Vittoria Coffee and Citi. The Good Food Guide 2019 is on sale in newsagencies, bookstores and via thestore.com.au/gfg19 (delivery included), RRP $29.99.