Our Restaurant of the Year is Monster. Sean McConnell has been setting a cracking standard for himself since opening in the avant garde Hotel Hotel last year, gaining a hat this year in the Good Food Guide.
There's no real set space for this restaurant - it flows from window seats topped with a shaggy cushion to little nooks with leather sofas, to a private dining room in the corner. The fluidity is reflected in the way Canberra eats there - it's a casual cafe for breakfast, where you can dip into creamy porridge scattered with rose petals or poached pear and crumpets with house made honey.
In the afternoon there are creative types having business lunches over the crisp yabby and horseradish jaffles. Dinners are everything from couples on dates to girly catchups and pre-cinema drinks in the salon, where an open fireplace and brightly coloured couches beckon. And late at night there is still room for a glass of whisky and dessert on low fireside banquettes in the foyer.
Like its predecessor as Restaurant of the Year, Temporada, this is brilliantly relaxed yet high end food. A beef tartare with gel-like egg yolk, scooped from the plate on puffed inky black rice, is welcoming and filled with umami flavour. The katsuobushi with smoky eggplant and tart goat's curd is another staple dish and rightly so while shoulder of lamb with pomegranate and brik pastry is beautifully tender.
For a restaurant in an arty hotel, this is food that stays mostly simple and is executed to a consistently high standard. It's the way we like to eat and - we hope - the way of the future.
25 Edinburgh Avenue, New Acton, 6287 6287, hotel-hotel.com.au/eat-drink