In a night of surprises, and to that you can add a few shocks, South Australia made a significant retreat in the awards announcement in Sydney.
Magill Estate (44 in the 2015 Top 100 and rated SA best restaurant in 2015) disappeared completely, while Hentley Farm (66 last year) slid to 96th position.
Chef Duncan Welgemoed’s Africola was South Australia’s top-rated restaurant at 47, with its fun and originality surprisingly outstripping Jock Zonfrillo’s ground-breaking Orana at 48.
Completing SA’s field of five (down from six last year) in the Top 100 were Peel St at 95 (down from 92 last year) and Fino Seppeltsfield at 98 (new entry).
In a list dominated by New South Wales restaurants, Australia’s Top 10 restaurants were: 1 Attica (Vic); 2 Brae, Birregurra (Vic); 3 Sepia (NSW); 4 Quay (NSW); 5 Ester (NSW); 6 Sixpenny (NSW); 7 Bennelong (NSW – new entry); 8 Rockpool est. 1989 (NSW); 9 Automata (NSW); 10 Franklin (Tas – new entry).
Dan Hunter, of Victoria’s Brae restaurant in rural Birregurra, was voted Australia’s Best Chef. Last year’s Top 100 winner Sepia won the new award for Top Service Team.
Co-director of the awards Terry Durack congratulated Attica on its win: “[Head chef] Ben Shewry has built Attica into a unique and personal experience that celebrates all that Australian dining excellence is about. With its passion for just-picked and wild plants, an intuitive use of native produce, and exceptionally warm, sincere service, it deserves every accolade and award it wins – especially this one.”
Australia’s Top Restaurants, now in its second year, remains the only national restaurant awards program of its kind decided solely by peer voting. While the full list of 500 restaurants is compiled by an Australia-wide panel of Good Food Guide editors, reviewers and industry experts, the Top 100 is decided by the chefs and restaurateurs themselves.
In introducing the awards, co-director Jill Dupleix hinted at the changes that lay ahead, saying they showed “how restaurant models are changing, along with the way that people dine out”.
Durack said the 2016 Top 100 reflected the fact that chefs vote for those who have earned their respect rather than over the more fleeting criteria of fashionable suburb or million-dollar fit-out.
“You can see by those who made it onto the Top 100, the importance the industry places on pure skill, quality and consistency,” Durack said.
“These are our most creative, polished, original restaurants, driven by chefs obsessed with quality.”
Along with Africola in South Australia, other state winners included Restaurant Amusé in Western Australia (49), Gerard’s Bistro in Queensland (64), Franklin in Tasmania (10), Monster Kitchen and Bar in ACT (80), Sepia in New South Wales (3), Attica in Victoria (1) and Little Miss Korea in the Northern Territory.
The People’s Choice Award – from 23,000 votes – was won by Canberra’s Asian streetfood diner Akiba, sparking comments about the lobbying power emanating from Canberra.
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