What went down at the Gourmet Traveller National Restaurant Awards
Author: Maggie Scardifield
Photography: Andre Castellucci
After more than 50 years as the country's leading food magazine, Gourmet Traveller knows a thing or two about how to throw a good party. And that's exactly what happened in Sydney last night when Australia's food heroes and hot new talents gathered for the annual GT Restaurant Awards.
Adelaide's Orana was named Australia's Restaurant of the Year - the first restaurant outside Sydney and Melbourne in two decades to take home the award. Owner-chef Jock Zonfrillo accepted the top gong.
Mat Lindsay of Ester in Sydney took out the peer-voted Chef of the Year award, while 28-year-old seafood savant Josh Niland, of Saint Peter in Paddington, was named Best New Talent.
The awards mark the publication of the 2018 Australian Restaurant Guide: 409 restaurants around the country reviewed and rated for your dining pleasure. The glam gala dinner was held at Chin Chin in Surry Hills, the new restaurant from pioneering Melbourne restaurateur Chris Lucas. The first Sydney outpost of Melbourne's favourite South East Asian hotspot has been a long time coming, and the Oscars of the Australian food world were the perfect excuse to throw open the doors early.
Set in the historic Griffiths Teas building, Chin Chin Sydney didn't disappoint. It was a night of exceptional food and even more exceptional company. Guests including Andrew McConnell, Dan Hunter and Kate Reid flew into town for the awards, enjoying cocktails, laughs and plenty of high-fives with other respected hospitality players such as Kylie Kwong, Justin Hemmes, Matt Moran, Dan Hong, Peter Gilmore and Neil Perry.
It wouldn't be a celebration of the best of Australian dining without an impressive feast, and the Chin Chin team did a stellar job feeding the country's most respected cooks. Louis Roederer Champagne and wines from Murdoch Hill flowed as chefs, sommeliers, restaurateurs and maîtres d' mingled over crab, curry and coconut sandwiches, and chilli-fragrant mussels on rice cakes.
As the awards got under way, winter was put in its place with a fiery banquet: lobster and crab jungle curry, caramelised pork with sour herb salad, and beef short-rib with coconut salad among the highlights.
Other coveted awards included Wine List of the Year, which went to the newly opened Kisumé in Melbourne, and Regional Restaurant of the Year, awarded to Igni in Geelong. Sydney's eatery of the moment Fred's scored a double win with New Restaurant of the Year and, for Caitlyn Rees, Sommelier of the Year. Celebrated food-waste activist Ronni Kahn, of OzHarvest, accepted her Outstanding Contribution to Hospitality award to a standing ovation.
Along with the reveal of the 2018 guide, GT is celebrating its new redesign: the September issue has a fresh look that's all about keeping it fun and inspiring. It was a sensational evening with plenty of laughs, music and cocktails flowing well into the night (the Four Pillars Venti, made with Bloody Shiraz Gin, Venticinque Bitter and sweet vermouth was a favourite).
"Whatever you like about good food, there's something here for you," said chief critic Pat Nourse, before leading the charge to the after party. "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 these pages."
And with that, we're proud to bring you the Gourmet Traveller 2018 Australian Restaurant Guide, presented in association with Vittoria Coffee and Santa Vittoria, and supporting sponsor Ilve. For more details on all the award winners plus a year of wonderful eating, pick up your copy with the September issue, on sale now at all good newsagents.
See the full list of the winners here, and catch up on all the action on Twitter and Instagram using the hashtag #GTRestaurantAwards.