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Introducing The 2018 Good Food Guide Award Finalists

October 11, 2017 Accolades No Comments Email Email

The 2018 Good Food Guide Awards are just one week away (Monday October 16)with the stage set for Australia’s best dining destinations and chefs to be recognised and revealed.

700 of the crème of the food industry will converge at The Star in Sydney for a gala black tie event to celebrate the official launch of the prestigious2018 Good Food Guide – and to watch the best of the best receive the ultimate award in their nominated category.

Awards will be bestowed for Chef of the Year, Restaurant of the Year and Young Chef of the Year, among others.

For the first time in the 38-year history of the Good Food Guide and the Good Food Guide Awards, accolades and coveted ‘hats’ will be awarded to restaurants Australia-wide in line with the Guide going national.

The 2018 Guide considered every Australian state and territory for potential inclusion – from Darwin, Hobart, Sydney and Melbourne, to Perth, Brisbane, Adelaide, and Canberra – as well as regional areas.

More than 500 restaurants nationwide were reviewed for the 2018 Guide. The best of the bunch will be awarded hats, symbolised by a chef’s toque.

Below are finalists in some key categories from this year’s Good Food Guide Awards.

They have all made it to the pointy end of the biggest and most respected food industry awards in Australia, and below is a taste of what the Good Food Guide reviewers had to say:

Good Food Guide 2018 Citi Chef of the Year finalists

In a climate where big business has turned its hand to restaurants and staff shortages are more dire than ever, there are still chefs out there creating personality-driven venues.

A call back to simplicity and cooking not just as a craft, but as a precision skill, is the real driving force at some of the country’s more idiosyncratic restaurants.

This narrowing of focus sees chefs like Josh Niland (Saint Peter, Paddington) opening restaurants devoted to envelope-pushing seafood. He specialises in using every part of the fish he can – down to the blood, heart and even semen.

Industry-wide staff shortages have certainly added to the trend towards simplicity on the plate. Many chefs now build their dishes during service with a minimal team in the kitchen. Fewer elements in a dish means ingredients have a time to shine.

The 2018 Chef of the Year finalists are:

Aaron Turner, Igni (Geelong, Vic)

Brilliance is in part about knowing when to pull back, Turner and his polished front-of-house partners in this low-key backstreet dining room have it nailed.

The chef’s skill with the wood grill at the heart of his kitchen is to coax the essential flavours and textures from the remarkable produce that come his way.

Danielle Alvarez, Fred’s (Paddington, NSW)

The big draw here is the lovely hearth where most of the cooking’s done, wrangled by this ex-Chez Panisse chef.

If you really want to just drop your wallet into the flames, the musty Robbins Island 600 gram T-Bone will leave you $135 poorer, but all the happier for it.

Dan Puskas, Sixpenny (Stanmore, NSW)

Chef Dan Puskas has, over the years, honed and sharpened his menu into an ever-evolving study in simplicity.

Kick off with snacks like a gougere filled with gouda and sweet chutney and a confit pumpkin doughnut bomb finished with a sprinkling of pumpkin seed salt.

Dave Verheul, the Town Mouse and Embla (Carlton, VIC)

It was love at first bite for many Melburnians when the talented Kiwi unveiled this bijou, black-tiled tiny diner four years ago.

Shareable and often pretty dishes have an elegant insouciance as well as beguilingly beautiful flavours.

Josh Niland, Saint Peter (Paddington, NSW)

This young owner-operator, a young chef with a fin-to-tail sensibility, is unapologetically serving an entirely seafood-based menu.

He brings seafood cookery on a level unseen in Sydney.

Good Food Guide 2018 New Restaurant of the Year finalists

This award goes to the most exciting opening in the past 12 months, a restaurant that sets the eating agenda and starts conversations.

The 2018 New Restaurant of the Year finalists are:

The Agrarian Kitchen Eatery & Store (New Norfolk, TAS)

The good vibes are plentiful at Severine Demanet and Rodney Dunn’s stunning new restaurant, which extends on the principles of their decade-old New Norfolk cooking school.

Chef Ali Currey-Voumard’s kitchen delivers peerless farmhouse dishes (macaroni carbonara draped in finest pancetta; woodfired meat haunches, pumpkin pie with midnight liquorice glaze) built on hyper-local ingredients in a sunshine-flooded room filled with artisanal trowels.

Fred’s (Paddington, NSW)

Where you stand on this restaurant depends entirely on where you stand on paying a lot of money for very nice ingredients cooked very simply but very well. There’s the lovely hearth where most of the cooking’s done, wrangled by ex-Chez Panisse chef Danielle Alvarez, a big marble kitchen table set with mise en place displayed in ceramic bowls, pitch-perfect service and a wine list with depth and breadth. And between it all, incredible cooking.

Lulu La Delizia (Subiaco, WA)

Here’s proof that insanely good pasta skills coupled with a fiery wine list and a team that knows the meaning of the word “hospitality” is the formula that can’t ever fail.

Chef-owner Joel Valvasori has decorated his restaurant to look like nonna’s lounge-room, creating one of the most likeable modern Italian restaurants on the West Coast, serving the Italian take on chicken feet we never knew we needed.

Osteria Ilaria (Melbourne, VIC)

Melbourne pasta bar Tipo 00 proved such a blockbuster the team has returned with a sequel.

Sleek, bricked and marbled with a central open kitchen, it’s a place where chef Andreas Papadakis and sommelier Raul Moreno Yague do a little dance. Some dishes, like just-singed octopus and ‘nduja, are built to support potent wines. Other dishes, such as nettle gnocchi scattered with blue cheese and almonds take the lead, with a gentle pinot noir for back-up.

Saint Peter (Paddington, NSW)

Owner-operator Josh Niland, a young chef with a fin-to-tail sensibility, is unapologetically serving an entirely seafood-based menu.

And he’s having fun with it, too. There’s a “part-y” pie that sees deeply golden shortcrust filled with all the bits of a mirror dory left over from filleting, bound in mornay sauce. If it’s wrong to love a fish, we don’t want to be right.

Good Food Guide 2018 Regional Restaurant of the Year finalists

Some of Australia’s best eating out this year has been beyond the metro limits, in regional restaurants offering incredible experiences unique to their surrounds.

The 2018 Regional Restaurant of the Year finalists are:

The Agrarian Kitchen Eatery & Store (New Norfolk, TAS)

Here’s to a bright new future for an old Tasmanian mental asylum, thanks to Rodney Dunn and Severine Demanet. For the most part you’ll build a lunch of charcuterie, hyper-local produce and an all-in roast trimmed by myriad sides.

You will need to appoint a designated driver thanks to the excellence of bartender Adi Ruiz (ex-Bulletin Place, Sydney) and the restaurant’s distance from Hobart. If the food, radius-conscious natural wines and cocktails aren’t enough to make you book a flight or ferry, you are insane.

Brae (Hunter Valley, NSW)

When Dan Hunter took over this Otways hinterland property in 2013, he inherited a simple cottage with a brick oven and a kitchen garden.

He’s added luxurious accommodation, beehives, chickens and many more garden beds. But the renovated farmhouse and wood oven are still the glowing heart of Brae. Increasing attention from FIFO food lovers may account for Hunter’s growing appetite for Indigenous ingredients, plated alongside the produce that flourishes on site in a degustation of many colours.

Clementine (Yass, NSW)

This charming, intimate restaurant, set in a 1950s weatherboard cottage, is everything you’re probably not looking for in a side street in Yass.

The gently lit dining room is decorated simply, the tables kept bare. In the kitchen, Adam Bantock is cooking simple European-inspired food with plenty of flavour. The big focus here is on regional produce – even the wine list is completely local.

Fleet (Brunswick Heads, NSW)

A tiny restaurant in a tiny town, Fleet is all colour and nervous energy founded on super-sharp technique, coupled with gracious service from Astrid McCormack.

Locals with sun-bleached hair drink pina coladas and snack on sweetbread schnitty sangas at a little table on the footpath. Give ’em a wave on the way out before strolling to the pub to plot a permanent move to Brunswick Heads.

Igni (Geelong, Vic)

If brilliance is in part about knowing when to pull back, Aaron Turner and his polished front-of-house partners in this low-key backstreet dining room have it nailed.

On taking a seat (kitchen counter, bar, or pale timber tables), you’ll choose five or eight courses and from there it’s all surprises – but everything that comes your way will be pared-back, beautiful and taste like the best possible version of itself. It’s all delivered with efficient warmth and savvy advice on the short but smart wine list.

The Good Food Guide 2018 Bar of the Year finalists

What would you pour to celebrate being named one of Australia’s top bars?

A bar that nails service, drinks, vibe, decor and adds something new or different to the drinking scene? It’s a question the following finalists could all answer.

The 2018 Bar of the Year finalists are:

Above Board (Collingwood, VIC)

Prime or end your night at bartender Hayden Lambert’s house of earnest drink worship.

The 12-seat charcoal and glowing mesh bar is mostly built for booze nerds, happy to sit around the intimate 360-degree central bar and watch as Lambert crafts manhattans and citrusy originals over branded ice.

Arlechin (Melbourne, VIC)

Welcome to the Grossi family’s new alleyway bar: the party you never knew you were missing that’s now here to tempt you until 3am every night.

It’s a domed temple of Italo-Australian wines, bracing cocktails and things you can-and-want-to eat with one hand after midnight, from bolognese jaffles to quail, crisp and cinnamon-crumbed.

The Dolphin (Surry Hills, NSW)

Last year, star restaurateur Maurice Terzini took one of the worst pubs in Surry Hills and turned it into a multi-tiered fun house of pizza, wine, tiny snacks and beers.

Out the back, the wine bar offers up an esoteric mix of natural-leaning wines, cracking cocktails and snacks like the crisp pig’s head sandwich.

The Gresham (Brisbane, QLD)

Ryan Lane is a bloke who cracks tinnies with the same enthusiasm he applies to bourbon or a well-mixed martini.

He leads one of the best bar teams in Australia at this heritage-listed Brisbane joint, which comes into its own on Saturdays when the suits stay home, the nips get bigger and Maggie May is turned up to 11.

Wyno (Surry Hills, NSW)

Chefs Elvis Abrahanowicz and Ben Milgate offer up rich, salty snacks that make you want to order more from Joe Valore’s broad and eminently drinkable wine list.

And goddamn if this isn’t the best plate of fried eggs doing the rounds in a Sydney bar right now.

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