It’s never been a better time for Victorian regional dining. The 2019 Good Food Guide awards, announced last night, have anointed Laura – the fine dining restaurant helmed by chef Phil Wood at Pt Leo Estate on the Mornington Peninsula – as Australia’s best new restaurant in the past year. Dan Hunter’s Brae, the perfect realisation of paddock-to-plate dining in the Otways hinterland, was named the regional restaurant of the year.
Good Food Guide national editor Myffy Rigby said the awards revealed dining in Victoria is in excellent health. “Six of the awards went to restaurants in Victoria, and four of the six went to restaurants outside of city limits. It's a big win for the state, and an even bigger win for the regions,” she said.
The annual pulse-taking of the nation’s restaurant scene, the 2019 Good Food Guide has gonged 69 Victorian restaurants with one hat, just pipping New South Wales on 68 single-hatted restaurants.
Of only seven restaurants nationally that achieved the top accolade of three hats, three are from Victoria: Attica, Brae and Minamishima. Restaurant of the year – Orana, the Adelaide home of chef Jock Zonfrillo and a host of Indigenous ingredients – also received three hats, while Sydney trio Momofuku Seiobo, Quay and Sixpenny rounded out the list.
Fittingly, last night’s black-tie event at Crown Palladium marked the first time the ceremony has been held in Melbourne since the Good Food Guide went national in 2017. Other Victorian winners included sommelier of the year, Carlton Wine Room’s Travis Howe, and regional wine list of the year for Wickens at the Royal Mail. The Josephine Pignolet Young Chef of the Year award went to Jodie Odrowaz of Iki Jime, while the 2019 Legend is “Mr Mildura”, Stefano de Pieri.
Peter Bingeman, CEO of Visit Victoria, said it was a milestone for Melbourne to host the awards and build on the momentum of hosting the World’s 50 Best Restaurant awards in 2017.
“We have the only two Australian restaurants in The World’s 50 Best Restaurants top 100 list. This means visitors are never very far from quality restaurant dining experiences and in the case of regional Victoria, the proximity of the city to so many diverse wine regions and food experiences is an added advantage.”
He praised the Good Food Guide awards’ ability to shine a spotlight on a destination, providing an opportunity to talk about the broader culinary offer: “For example, Melbourne is just as much about the hole in the wall café serving smashed avo or a great pie as it is about fine-dining. It’s something visitors appreciate when they arrive.”
Interstate rivalry aside (and let’s note for the moment that the 2019 chef of the year is Quay’s Peter Gilmore), the awards are also a chance to celebrate a thriving, innovative national dining scene. “There used to be a lot of disparity between the styles of chefs in NSW and Victoria but now chefs are travelling a lot more, there's more alignment,” said Rigby. “There's not such a slavish following of what's happening outside Australia anymore, either, which means more restaurants with a sense of identity and place.”
Find all the winners and hatted restaurants here.