The best places to wine and dine in 2019
From the best new restaurants to Australia’s finest wines, here are the best chefs, sommeliers and dining establishments to visit in 2019, writes Kate Powell.
Foodies rejoice, you can now start planning this year’s itineraries following the 2019 Good Food Guide Awards – and it may be a little different from what you’d expect. With an expert panel of 60 reviewers having visited more than 700 restaurants around the country, the hats have been handed, and this year’s national guide shows that Sydney and Melbourne are locked in combat as fiercely as ever. Yet, these are far from the only Australian cities worth a visit, with a number of up-and-coming foodie destinations claiming ground.
South Australia for…
Restaurant of the Year
Restaurant Orana, Adelaide, South Australia
Move over, Melbourne. This quirky restaurant, found in a nondescript upstairs room in the centre of Adelaide, is led by head chef Jock Sonfrillo, whose progressive attitude to cuisine has earned him recognition as one of the country’s most celebrated chefs. Around 20 small courses champion Australian ingredients – including damper skewered on eucalyptus branches – and support Indigenous communities through the not-for-profit Orana Foundation. The story told on the plate is almost as incredible as the story of Sonfrillo himself, who credits his life to his passion for cooking, having struggled with addiction, homelessness and (almost) kicking Madonna’s dog in his youth.
New South Wales for…
Chef of the Year
Peter Gilmore of Quay, Sydney
For the record-breaking (and somewhat jaw-dropping) 17th consecutive year, Peter Gilmore has captained Sydney’s Quay to three-hat status, although this is an even more impressive feat in 2019, considering that this year saw a complete redesign of the restaurant’s menu. Among the chef’s most notable achievements is the Snow Egg, reportedly the country’s most acclaimed dessert of all time, while new sure-to-be classics on the menu include hand-harvested seafood and white coral, paying tribute to Sydney’s renowned coastal surrounds.
Bar of the Year
The Dolphin Wine Room, Surry Hills
Sydney conquers yet again in the award of 2018’s most distinguished bar with The Dolphin Wine Room, the public bar of the Dolphin Hotel in Surry Hills. You’ll find a range of local spirits, fine international wines, small-batch colas and even tins of Boags at this eclectic blend of Aussie pub and discerning distillery. World-class chefs often guest star at the Delfino aperitivo afternoons.
New Restaurant of the Year
Laura at Point Leo Estate, Merricks, Victoria
A set menu at Laura tells the story of Mornington Peninsula as interpreted by Culinary Director, Phil Wood, who was, perhaps, the most sought-after chef in Australia following the closing of Neil Perry’s Eleven Bridge in 2017. Awarded two hats in this year’s guide, the restaurant itself creates a feeling of being encapsulated in a terrarium as diners look onto the surrounding sculpture park (the site is a $40 million endeavour). Head sommelier, Andrew Murch, has curated a pairing wine list as equally enticing as the coastal region the restaurant calls home.
Regional Restaurant of the Year
‘Farm-to-table’ is no mere buzzword to this regional gem; living by the seasons, its produce is grown on its own front yard in the beautiful Otway Ranges. The restaurant is housed in a converted weatherboard house, offering accommodation for guests visiting the region with a crackling fire in the lounge. Chef Dan Hunter previously helmed two Michelin-starred Mugaritz, placed in the top 10 of the World’s Best 50 Restaurants list under his leadership.
Regional Wine List of the Year
Wickens at the Royal Mail, Dunkeld
This award-winning regional restaurant is well worth the visit for splendid mountain views alone, but its new tourable cellar secures its position as a foodie-must this year, housing a noteworthy 28,000-bottle collection. Owner Allan Myers reportedly holds the Southern Hemisphere’s largest privately owned collection of Burgundies and Bordeaux, 800 of which are displayed in three temperature-controlled cellars. Wines are matched to your five- and eight-course degustation.
Sommelier of the Year
Travis Howe of Carlton Wine Room, Melbourne
Don’t let the user-friendly graphics fool you; the 100-bottle list curated by Travis Howe at Carlton Wine Room is to be taken seriously. Newly appointed as head sommelier in 2018, Howe’s background at Coda and Tonka has well prepared him for the new role, which he navigates with expert insight.
Young Chef of the Year
Jodie Odrowaz of Iki Jime, Melbourne
With a focus on sustainably sourced seafood, Jodie Odrowaz of Iki Jime, Melbourne is bringing conservational practices and minimal waste to fine dining. Having learnt to trace fish from its source and dry-age it in order to maximise its use, the young chef champions producers and even saves the restaurant’s leftover coffee and kelp to make body scrubs. Iki Jime can be found on Little Collins Street in Melbourne’s CBD and serves a seasonal menu curated by Justin James, the culinary mastermind behind Vue Group.
The Legend Award
Stefano’s Cantina, Mildura
Proving it’s not all happening in the bustling cities, this year’s ‘Legend’ status was awarded to Stefano’s Cantina, found in the regional Victorian town of Mildura. Owner Stefano de Pieri has been showcasing all the region has to offer long before farm-to-table was trending, having today turned a hotel cellar into a destination restaurant in addition to launching a cafe-bakery, brewery and wine label.
Wine List of the Year
Queensland’s sole accolade recipient in this year’s awards, Otto in Brisbane cosies up to the river with a curated wine list of Italian (and “Italianish”) wines, expertly matched to Italian fine dining by sommelier Alan Hunter. The offspring of Otto’s original Sydney location, expect a touch of glamour and a whole lot of la dolce vita.
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