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New restaurant of the year nominee

Dinner by Heston Blumenthal, Melbourne

So smooth is the service, so glam the dining room, so solid and flat-out flavoursome the menu, so deftly democratic the wine list that it's hard to remember that Dinner is a new restaurant. Sure, it's a spin-off of Heston Blumenthal's original Dinner in London and has replaced his Antipodean pop-up version of The Fat Duck, but its complete, precise embrace of golden-age hotel dining, from gorgeous cocktails through to expensively upholstered horseshoe booths, plus nods to its southern-hemisphere location (kangaroo, groper, lamingtons) make it seem like a big, grown-up breath of fresh air.

IN SHORT Old school in the new world.


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2017 Gourmet Traveller Restaurant Awards Finalists

Where is the most exciting food being cooked in Australia right now? Who's cooking it? Who's serving it? And what are we going to drink with it? Having eaten their way across the length and breadth of the nation to produce the new edition of the GT Restaurant Guide, our review team is perfectly placed to answer these questions and more. If you want to get the jump on the best eating the country has to offer, we've got the story for you. Treat yourself to a double-helping of talent - some new, some established - and then join us in celebrating them when we announce the winners of our restaurant awards in our September issue.

Words Max Allen, Fiona Donnelly, Michael Harden, Pat Nourse & David Sly

Photography Marcel Aucar (Dinner, Brae), Scott Hawkins (Hubert), Julian kingma (Igni, Anchovy, Smalls, Marion), Phillip Castleton (Dan Sharp, Monopole), Scott Hawkins (Hubert), James Knowler (Blackwood, Pink Moon Saloon, Nikki Friedli), AJ Moller (Ben McNair, Gauge), William Meppem (Fleet), Chris Court (Clayton Wells), Jessica Reftel Evans & Martin Reftel (Meira Harel & Bar Liberty)

Healthy Eating

We're championing fresh food that packs a flavour punch, from salads and vegetable-packed bowls to grains and light desserts.

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Farro recipes

Farro can be used in almost any dish, from a robust salad to accompany hearty beer-glazed beef short ribs to a new take on risotto with mushrooms, leek and parmesan. Here are 14 ways with this versatile grain.

Aløft

There's nothing new about Nordic interiors - blond timbers, concrete surfaces, warm, mid-century charm without the twee - and thank heavens for that. It's a style that augments the beauty of everything around it, in this case, gorgeous Hobart harbour, which makes up one whole wall. What is new here, however, is the food - by veterans of Garagistes, which once dazzled diners down the road, Vue de Monde in Melbourne and Gordon Ramsay worldwide. There's a strong Asian bent, but with Tasmanian ingredients. In fact, the kitchen's love of the local verges on obsessive - coconut milk in an aromatic fish curry is replaced with Tasmanian-grown fig leaf simmered in cream to mimic the flavour. Other standouts include a gutsy red-braised lamb with gai lan and chewy cassia spaetzle, pigs' ears zingy with Sichuan pepper and a fresh, springy berry dessert. While the food is sourced locally, the generous wine list spans the planet. 

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A far cry from Tuscany’s familiar gently rolling hills, Monte Argentario’s appealing mix of mountain, ocean, island and lagoon makes it one of Italy’s hidden treasures, writes Emiko Davies.

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Grilled apricot salad with jamon and Manchego

Here we've scorched apricots on the grill and served them with torn jamon, shaved Manchego and peppery rocket leaves. Think of it as a twist on the good old melon-prosciutto routine. The mixture would also be great served on charred sourdough.

O Tama Carey's fried eggs with seeni sambol, coconut and turmeric

"I first cooked a version of this dish - inspired by the excellent deep-fried egg dish at Billy Kwong - while working at a restaurant in Sri Lanka," says O Tama Carey. "The lattice-like eggs are doused in a creamy turmeric curry sauce and topped with seeni sambol, a sweet-spiced caramelised onion relish. This dish is equally perfect for an indulgent breakfast as it is served as part of a larger meal." The recipe for the seeni sambol makes more than you need, but to get the right balance of spices you need to make at least this much. It keeps refrigerated for up to three weeks; use as an onion relish. The curry sauce can be made a day or two ahead.

Kisume, Melbourne

Chris Lucas has flown in talent from all over the world, including Eleven Madison Park, for his bold new venture. Here’s what to expect from Kisume.

Brae

Prepare to enter a picture of the countryside framed by note-perfect Australiana but painted in bold, elegant and unsentimental strokes. Over 10 or more courses, Dan Hunter celebrates his region with dishes that are formally daring (Crunchy prawn heads! Creamy oyster soft-serve! Sea urchin and chicory bread pudding!), yet rich in flavour and substance. The menu could benefit from an edit, but the plates are tightly composed - and what could you cut? Certainly not the limpid broth bathing fronds of abalone and calamari, nor the clever arrangement of lobster played off against charred waxy fingerlings under a swatch of milk skin. The adventure is significantly the richer for the cool gloss of the dining room, some of the most engaging service in the nation and wine pairings that roam with an easy-going confidence. Maturing and relaxing without surrendering a drop of its ambition, Brae is more compelling than ever.

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