Brae climbs up world's best restaurant list but Sydney's Quay falls

Brae in regional Victoria.
Brae in regional Victoria. Photo: Supplied

One half of the world's most prestigious (and debated) restaurant list was released overnight, leaving Australian chefs and food media speculating who would make the top half of the World's 50 Best Restaurants list for 2016. 

Two Australian restaurants made the 51-100 list; Brae restaurant in regional Birregurra in Victoria and Sydney's Quay. 

Brae has increased the size of its produce garden and opened onsite accommodation since first making the top 100 list ...
Brae has increased the size of its produce garden and opened onsite accommodation since first making the top 100 list last year. Photo: Supplied
Brae jumped an impressive 22 positions from 87th spot to 65th. The news wasn't quite as good for Quay, sliding from last year's position at 58th to 98th place. By comparison, New York's Per Se came in 52nd, The French Laundry came in 85th and chefs' favourite Burnt Ends, in Singapore, made 70th position. Burnt Ends is headed up by Australian expat David Pynt. Country-wise, America led the list with nine restaurants, followed by France with eight and Japan with four. 

Brae's operations manager Julianne Bagnato said 12 months of hard work has paid off for chef and husband Dan Hunter and their team. "We're relieved and excited," she said. "You don't expect to move up; you hope to stay where you are and if you are lucky you move up."

Chicken yakitori at Sepia restaurant. 
Photo: Edwina Pickles.
Chicken yakitori at Sepia restaurant. Photo: Edwina Pickles.  Photo: Edwina Pickles

"It's been a massive year. After making the [top 100] we've made a really conscious effort to improve. We have come into our own a little more. We're a high-end restaurant that is a comfortable place and our restaurant manager Simon has really driven that."

Ms Bagnato said their decision to build and open six accommodation suites on site earlier this year had really paid off, attracting more people to make the trip to Birregurra - about 90 minutes' drive from Melbourne. Those wanting to dine and stay at Brae on a Saturday night now have to book six months in advance.

"It's a great time to be a regional restaurant," she said. "Food is becoming so much more culturally significant in Australia and people are designing their holidays around it."

Last year, Group Editor of the World's Best Restaurants list, William Drew, announced that the full list would be split into two announcements, with the 51-100 listings announced a week before the main ceremony, to allow restaurants in the bottom half of the top 100 list to share the spotlight.

Wondering why a few heavy hitters are absent from the list? The pointy end of the World's 50 Best Restaurants list will be announced at an official ceremony on Monday, June 13 in New York. 

Sepia, which clocked in at 84th last year and was awarded the coveted 'One to Watch' by the list, was conspicuously absent from the 51-100 list this year. It's been a stellar year for Martin Benn and Vicki Wild's restaurant, scooping the pool at the Australian Financial Review's Australia's Top Restaurant 2016 awards to win third best restaurant in the country, top service award and the New South Wales restaurant of the year. 

Vicki Wild and partner, Martin Benn who run Sepia restaurant in Sydney. 26th April 2013
Photo Dallas Kilponen

Vicki Wild and partner, Martin Benn who run Sepia restaurant in Sydney.  Photo: Dallas Kilponen

Attica, which placed 32nd last year (Australia's only top 50 entrant), was also absent from the list. It's predicted to be the highest ranking Australian restaurant on the top 50 list. 

Noma is the real wildcard; especially given the amount of international press lavished on Rene Redzepi's Sydney pop-up version of his Copenhagen restaurant (which has topped the list four times). For a restaurant to be included in the list, it must be voted for by a 1000-strong international panel of restaurant professionals, who have seven votes each.

Noma Australia's crumbed abalone.

Noma Australia's crumbed abalone. Photo: Edwina Pickles

According to the World's Best 50 Restaurants list, "the panel in each region is made up of food writers and critics, chefs, restaurateurs and highly regarded 'gastronomes'. Members list their choices in order of preference, based on their best restaurant experiences of the previous 18 months. There is no pre-determined check-list of criteria, but there are strict voting rules." 

It's heavily rumoured that the prestigious awards will be hosted by Australia next year, which is expected to be confirmed at the Monday, June 13 ceremony. 

With Jane Holroyd

More information: The World's 50 Best restaurants