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And his lucky host city is…
From an art-fuelled Friday night to fish and chips on the sand, Melbourne is packed with adventure this summer - all of it delicious.
No eggnog here: this December, we're drinking a seven-apple cider blend, a spicy durif, and a luscious sweet Riesling.
The Botanical Hotel’s public bar has been re-opened as Gilson thanks to the founders of some of Melbourne’s busiest cafes.
For our 50th anniversary issue in 2016, we scoured Australia asking two questions: What dishes are making waves right now? What flavours will take us into the next half-century? Melbourne provided 14 answers.
It may be a magnet for destination diners the world over but Attica circa 2016 is more firmly planted in Australia than ever, writes Michael Harden.
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For our 50th anniversary issue in 2016, we scoured Australia asking two questions: What dishes are making waves right now? What flavours will take us into the next half-century? Sydney provided 16 answers.
Nothing says summer like mangoes. Go beyond the criss-cross cuts - bake a mango-filled meringue loaf with lime mascarpone, start off the day with a sweet coconut quinoa pudding with sticky mango, or toss it through a spicy warm weather Thai salad.
"Great cake, also known in Barbados as black cake or rum cake, is a variation of British Christmas cake that's smashed with rum and falernum syrup," says Momofuku Seiobo chef Paul Carmichael. "This festive cake varies from household to household but they all have two things in common: tons of dried fruit and rum. It's a cake that should be started at least a month out so the fruit can marinate in the booze. Start this recipe up to five weeks ahead to macerate the fruit and baste the cake."
Whether in a fresh salad or seasonal seafood dish, feta's creamy tang can be used to add interest to a variety of summer dishes.
The day's financial pages might brim with less than inspiring news, but if the action at Australia's top tables is any guide, even those who fear the end is nigh want to face the apocalypse well fed. At elite restaurants across the country, waiting lists for a Saturday night table for four stretch as far as six months into the future, and many of these restaurants employ full-time teams just to cope with the demand for reservations.
On 5 August, calling anonymously, we contacted the restaurants
that rank in the top 50 in the GT 2012 Australian Restaurant
Guide to request a booking for four people for 8pm on a
Saturday (see the winners of our 2012
Restaurant Awards here).
At Tetsuya's, the restaurant that pioneered the "permanent waiting list" phenomenon in Australia, Margarete Lethorn heads a team of five full-time staff who confirm bookings, take reservation enquiries by telephone and online, and deal with the many cases of special pleading for the next available table.
"We've never done an exact count of how many calls we get in a day," Lethorn says. "But it's always in the hundreds, and when there's a special event or we're mentioned in the media you always know, because the number gets noticeably bigger."
Curious about that "special pleading" she mentions? It seems people will go to great lengths to get a reservation: Lethorn has seen and heard everything from forged confirmation forms to begging to customers who say they'll sit in the driveway or bring their own table.
Quay general manager John Fink, meanwhile, says his staff have encountered people turning up pretending to have a reservation at Quay, the restaurant that tops our Toughest Tables list.
Quay operations manager Kylie Ball says media exposure thanks to the MasterChef juggernaut, on top of Quay's high rankings in the S.Pellegrino World's 50 Best Restaurants list and the GT Top 100, forced a complete overhaul of Quay's reservations system. Within 24 hours of the appearance of Peter Gilmore's snow egg dessert on national television, Quay's website received more than 100,000 hits and nearly 500 email requests for reservations. The following day, the phone rang so constantly it had to be moved from the restaurant's front desk to the office.
Celebrity garnered via television and through appearances on restaurant lists certainly goes a way towards explaining why some restaurants on our Toughest Tables list have lengthy wait times, but it's not the only reason it's so hard to secure a table at many of our top-end diners on a Saturday night.
David Chalke, a research analyst for the social monitoring organisation AustraliaSCAN, believes the reason many of the restaurants at the top end of town continue to do such good business is that they cater to a section of society that's "less scared by the headlines".
"A lot of top-end dining is funded by business," Chalke says. "And these are the people who read the business pages more thoroughly, are more informed about the real risks in America and the Euro zone and are just not as uneasy about future financial prospects as much of middle Australia."
But Chalke also acknowledges that food has become more important in people's lives, that it's become a fashionable way of showing "love, connection, sharing".
"People are certainly trimming back on some things… but the breaking of bread in good restaurants seems to be one place where people are still prepared to spend money."
Andrew McConnell, owner and chef at Melbourne restaurants Cutler & Co., Cumulus Inc. and Golden Fields, says he's actually noticed people spending more over the last 12 months. He concedes, however, "I can only speculate and talk from my own experience," and he doesn't believe things are rosy everywhere.
"I think if you look at the restaurants that have healthy advance bookings, they're only a small percentage of the industry as a whole. Many places are just not doing it that easy."
Rockpool's Neil Perry believes diners are picking their restaurants with greater care than ever. "They're investing money where they're getting the most value and the best experience," he says.
With people willing to wait up to six months for some restaurants, you'd have to concede he has a point. Best make that booking now.
1. Quay, NSW
Waiting List: 22 weeks
Available: 4 February
2. Royal Mail Hotel, Vic
Waiting List: 19 weeks
Available: 17 December
3. Attica, Vic
Waiting List: 13 weeks
Available: 5 November
4 Cutler & Co, Vic
Waiting List: 12 weeks
Available: 29 October
5 Tetsuya's, NSW
Waiting List: 12 weeks
Available: 29 October
6. Bécasse, NSW
Waiting List: 11 weeks
Available: 22 October
7 Rockpool Bar & Grill, WA
Waiting List: 10 weeks
Available: 15 October
8. Aria, NSW
Waiting List: 9 weeks
Available: 8 October
9. Marque, NSW
Waiting List: 8 weeks
Available: 1 October
10. Vue de Monde, Vic
Waiting List: 8 weeks
Available: 1 October
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