Good Food Guide Awards 2020: Victoria claims top gong

Dan Hunter's regional Victorian restaurant, Brae, is the 2020 Vittoria Coffee Restaurant of the Year.  
Dan Hunter's regional Victorian restaurant, Brae, is the 2020 Vittoria Coffee Restaurant of the Year.   Photo: Kristoffer Paulsen

Regional Victoria won big at the 2020 Good Food Guide Awards in Brisbane last night, with farm-to-table star Brae named Vittoria Coffee Restaurant of the Year. The Birregurra restaurant, where chef-owner Dan Hunter tends an extraordinary kitchen garden, also secured three hats – the Guide's highest ranking – at the September 30 event at Howard Smith Wharves.

Good Food Guide editor Myffy Rigby said of the win that "Brae is the finest example of its kind in the country, delivering a closed loop dining experience with all the bells and whistles we've come to expect from a three-hat restaurant. Truly, best in class."

Good Food Guide awards announced

Australia's restaurant elite gathered in Brisbane for the 2020 Good Food Guide awards with the biggest names in the business showing up to the event.

Regional Victoria shone brightly overall, with the Citi Service Excellence award going to Joanna Smith, co-owner and general manager of fire-driven Igni in Geelong.

Rigby says of the award that "there's so much more to creating a memorable experience than merely delivering food. You must be a therapist, and even a mind reader". At Igni, where there is no menu; Smith goes the extra mile to make diners "feel at ease and excited."

Melbourne also sparkled. The duck frites and black-velvet cocktails at Michael and Zara Madrusan's glamorous late night Bar Margaux, saw the Lonsdale Street venue take out Bar of the Year.

Bar of the Year winner, Bar Margaux.
Bar of the Year winner, Bar Margaux.  Photo: Chris Hopkins

Di Stasio Citta, Ronnie Di Stasio's high octane Italian, a nominee for Best New Restaurant, missed out on the title, which went to Brisbane's 10-seat temple Joy, but was a hot new entry into the Guide with two hats.

Other notable inductees included Kazuki's, the modern-Japanese restaurant that transplanted from Daylesford to Lygon Street in December, bagging two hats, while neighbourhood heroes Congress Wine Bar, Napier Quarter and West Footscray's Harley and Rose were recognised with one. In the regions, Hogget Kitchen, in Warragul, Rare Hare, at Jackalope Hotel, and Cape Restaurant, at the RACV resort, received their first hat. Paringa Estate was rewarded for its new hire of chef Simon Tarlington, rising in the ranks from one hat to two.

The awards, attended by more than 800 restaurant industry guests including Matt Moran, Kylie Kwong and the Vittoria Coffee Legend Award recipient, Maggie Beer, were a double celebration. It is the 40th anniversary of The Age's first Good Food Guide, introducing chefs hats to the Australian dining landscape. Now in its third year as a national book, a team of 50 reviewers assesses more than 500 restaurants across the country to reach the final number.

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At the ceremony, Rigby acknowledged how tough the year had been for the industry, noting how many high-profile restaurants had closed. While the trend was most notable in Sydney, four of Melbourne's hatted restaurants, ESP, Ramblr, Saint Crispin and The Press Club hung up their hats in 2019 to transform into casual restaurants.

But Rigby was also optimistic. "Australia is one of the greatest countries in the world when it comes to its restaurant offering, thanks to the grit and determination of our incredible industry," she said. "And that's reflected in the restaurants featured in the newest edition of the Guide."

Joanna Smith, winner of Service Excellence, brings warmth to the floor at Igni.
Joanna Smith, winner of Service Excellence, brings warmth to the floor at Igni. Photo: Kristoffer Paulsen

Tuesday's Good Food lift-out has more details on the award winners and pick up the new Good Food magazine, free with The Age on Friday.

The Good Food Guide's third annual national edition is on sale now in newsagencies and bookstores, and available at thestore.com.au/gfg20, $29.99 with free shipping.