Archive | October, 2016

The Age Good Food Guide 2017: Full list of award winners

18 Oct


Vittoria Coffee Restaurant of the Year

Ticks every box. The winner does not need to receive three hats but must capture the mood of the city right now and exemplify what it means to be a world-class restaurant.

Brae, Birregurra

Where to start? New accommodation that means no driving and post-lunch playings of Marvin Gaye original pressings on your room’s record player? The fact that Dan Hunter just keeps on marching down the path of deliciousness, channelling his impressive artillery into flavour over show-off moves? How about Simon Freeman and his floor team who carry out seamless service in the most relaxed and engaging way possible, all while you look out over the Birregurra restaurant’s gardens, the aroma of woodsmoke in the air? It’s all part of it and then some. Destination dining doesn’t get better.

Best New Restaurant

The most exciting  opening in the past 12 months, this restaurant  sets the eating agenda and starts conversations. Represents everything that’s fresh, hot and interesting about eating.

Embla, Melbourne

Everyone expected big things from the Kiwi collective behind Carlton’s Town Mouse when they announced a city venue. Instead, we got huge things. And this is just the downstairs bar, with the restaurant proper still to come. Even so, it’s become a magnet for inner-city snackers as much for the heat of the hospitality (all respect to Christian McCabe, an owner who still works the door on freezing nights) as for simpler-than- Town-Mouse but still razor-sharp take on bistro from chef Dave Verheul. That means crisp-skinned chicken, stracciatella lightened with camomile, and veg-based genius in the form of salt-baked celeriac. But you might never even eat when there’s that dark bronze-toned bar to hold up and a hell of a wild wine list to investigate. Bring on phase two. We can’t wait.

Citi Chef of the Year

To acknowledge those with the craft and ability to make a real difference to the way we dine now and in the future.

Aaron Turner, Igni

He was already a gun chef, evidenced by The Age Good Food Guide 2012 Regional Restaurant of the Year award for his much-missed Drysdale restaurant Loam. When it closed he spent a year cooking in Nashville before returning to introduce Geelongsters to spice-licked Nashville-style bird at Hot Chicken Project.

But this is the year Aaron Turner discovered fire. At Igni, which opened in a former electrical goods showroom in Geelong’s backstreets in January, Turner has been cooking entirely over wood – often fruit wood such as apple and olive – making subtle adjustments to dishes daily in response to a fire that changes every day. It’s forced him to rethink his methods, stripping dishes back to their essence to let the produce shine.

“The cooking needs to be a lot more precise. There’s nothing to hide behind,” he says.

In his new digs, Turner has enjoyed experimenting with unfamiliar ingredients brought in by locals, including hamburg parsley root with a flavour like parsnip; sweet, football-shaped cumquats; and burr comb, a kind of free-form honeycomb. The resulting dishes show the chef’s innate ability to read ingredient potential so that even a potato becomes an unbelievable spaghetti-like showstopper. So many plates in the air, rarely a miss among them.

Santa Vittoria Regional Restaurant of the Year

The best outside Melbourne. The winning establishment must provide a restaurant experience comparable to anything in the city but remain uniquely regional.

Igni, Geelong

You could feel a gale of bated breath being exhaled when Igni proved to be not only as empathetic towards ingredients as chef Aaron Turner’s much-missed Loam (native and foraged meets impeccably sourced, be it pigeon and marron or grown-to-order oyster leaves), but in some ways better, with an added focus on cooking over an ironbark-fuelled grill. Add the room in its grey, charcoal and ashen palette and the soothing hospitality stylings of Andrew Hamilton and Joanne Smith (fellow ex-Loamers) and you have one heck of a new destination restaurant for Victoria (and Australia).

Young Chef of the Year

To acknowledge our best and brightest rising star of the kitchen.

Jarrod Di Blasi, Ezard

It’s the tale of slow and steady for Jarrod Di Blasi, the head chef of Ezard. Di Blasi has always believed in the long game, setting sights on working for his Michelin-starred idol, Tom Aikens, in London from the second he started his apprenticeship at 16. There he found his mission – to not only be great, but consistent, humble, produce-worshipping and above all, a teacher, so that the industry has chefs for the future. Back in Australia, Di Blasi has risen through the ranks, becoming head chef at Ezard in 2014. For our panel of judges, industry legends Alla Wolf-Tasker, Frank Camorra and Philippe Mouchel, Di Blasi is a chef they’d hire in a heartbeat.

Food for Good Award

An award celebrating innovation and charity. The winner goes above and beyond to contribute to the community.

StreetSmart Australia

In 2003 former businessman Adam Robinson started StreetSmart Australia, throwing his business and marketing smarts at the growing problem of homelessness. Since then, StreetSmart programs such as DineSmart and CafeSmart have raised more than $2 million for people experiencing or at risk of homelessness, mostly through gold coin donations by diners and cafe-goers.

People’s Choice Award

A reader-driven award that allows the public to name their favourite restaurant. Voted by the people, for the people.

Ezard @ Levantine Hill, Coldstream

They come by helicopter and they come by car to this Fender Katsalidis-designed dining room among the vines. A collaboration between Yarra Valley winemaker Levantine Hill and chef Teage Ezard (Ezard, Gingerboy), it combines a cellar door, tastings in barrel-like booths, and a fine-dining restaurant.

Wine List of the Year

A diverse and high-quality  by-the-glass selection alongside an accessible bottle list that displays a good range of vintages and complements the restaurant’s food and style.

Marion, Fitzroy

In a year when the bar for drinking has never been higher, it’s the drinks list at Andrew McConnell’s Marion that’s come out on top for so easily riding the line between trends and traditional. Whatever your hot take on sulphites or biodynamic horn-burying practices, Marion has you covered, and there’s a lot to be said for that ability to challenge and cosset simultaneously. It’s truly the bar that’s there for its drinkers, staffed by a pro team who can get you where you need to be and serving everything you want to eat…