With more than half a century as the country’s leading food magazine, Gourmet Traveller might know a few things about how to throw a good party. The 2018 Gourmet Traveller Restaurant Awards, a gathering of Australia’s food heroes and hot new talents, was, naturally, one heck of a party.
Amongst the suite of awards, the most coveted categories included Best New Talent, Chef of the Year, Wine List of the Year, Regional Restaurant of the Year, New Restaurant of the Year, Sommelier of the Year, and Outstanding Contribution to Hospitality. Everyone was watching with keen eyes as the world-class culinary experiences that dot our cities and countryside received the public recognition they so sorely deserved.
Adelaide’s Orana was named Australia’s Restaurant of the Year – the first restaurant to steal the crown out from under the noses of Sydney and Melbourne in two decades. Innovative owner-chef and culinary master Jock Zonfrillo accepted the night’s top gong. Zonfrillo started Orana after trying to answer the nagging question: What defines Australian cuisine? His vision for an indigenous culinary grounding comes together at Orana in extraordinary dégustations using all manner of gums, gubinge, salty succulents, bush seasonings, and outback fruits as exciting embellishment rather than heavy-handed accents to kangaroo, Coorong mullet, pearl meat, and scallops. “I knew what I wanted, but it had to be absolutely tied to a belief system, and it wouldn’t work if it was comprimised,” says Zonfrillo. “It was all about timing to push this idea through, and I decided to take the leap.” It’s this ingenuity and adventurousness Gourmet Traveller strives to acknowledge and Zonfrillo and his team, which includes host Greta Wohlstadt and sommelier Brent Mayeaux, truly deserve the accolade.
Best New Talent was awarded to Sydney’s own 28-year-old seafood savant Josh Niland of Saint Peter in Paddington. When Saint Peter opened in the inner-city suburb of Paddington in 2016, the standard for seafood cookery was immediately raised by Niland and his team. But his skills didn’t spring from nowhere; he put in the years with fish-whisperer Steve Hodges at Fish Face as a young (or, rather, even younger) chef. Niland’s creativity often has him stuffing the heads of baby octopus to make outré Scotch eggs for brunch, or cooking up a sauce for coral trout from its bones, head, and liver. It’s this creativity, as well as Niland’s dedication to craft, respect for ingredients, and sheer surgical precision when cutting fillets from fresh Yamba anchovies that Gourmet Traveller tips its hat to in recognition to by donning him Australia’s Best New Talent.
“Whatever you like about good food, there’s something here for you,” said chief critic Pat Nourse of the event, “It’s never been a better time to be a diner in Australia. However you like to enjoy yourself at the table, at the bar or in the kitchen, there’s a year’s worth of great fun in the pages of the Gourmet Traveller 2018 Australian restaurant guide”.
Check out some of the stunning restaurants in contention for awards here, find out more about Gourmet Traveller’s Restaurant of the Year Orana, and grab yourself a Gourmet Traveller Gift Card to treat someone to a dining experience they’ll never forget.
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