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Finalists for Regional Restaurant of the Year 2018
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Italy's claim to being the greatest of the world's cuisines has one key weakness: breakfast. But, argues John Irving, there's more to the story than first meets the eye.

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Finalists for Maitre D' of the Year 2018
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Gertrude Street Enoteca at Avani, Hawker, The Raffles Hotel, Comida

Gertrude Street Enoteca at Avani Winery

Gertrude Street Enoteca at Avani Winery

Our restaurant critics' picks of the latest and best eats around the country this week, including Gertrude Street Enoteca at Avani, Hawker, The Raffles Hotel, and Comida.

MORNINGTON PENINSULA
Gertrude Street Enoteca at Avani Winery
At the risk of being accused of blowing our own trumpet, the pop-up eatery GT is hosting in collaboration with Gertrude Street Enoteca until the end of January is a mighty fine place to have lunch. There's the location on the Mornington Peninsula for starters: Shashi and Devendra Singh's beautiful winery Avani in Red Hill, where they make excellent biodynamic syrah from the vines stretching out in front of the concrete-floored, timber-lined dining space. Then there's the room dressed with furniture from design store Angelucci and tablecloths and waiters' aprons courtesy of fashion designer Lisa Gorman. Brigitte Hafner's weekly changing $65 set five-course menu has a particularly Italian accent courtesy of Hafner's co-chef Francesco Rota (Da Noi, Tea Rooms of Yarck). It might run along the lines of goat's curd and olives for starters, followed by a gorgeous summer lasagne - handmade pasta layered with buffalo mozzarella, zucchini, basil and super-vibrant, sunshiny tomatoes - and a white peach and custard crostata flavoured with almonds and rosewater. There's a cracking single-page wine list, too, with Avani's output sitting alongside the likes of Main Ridge Estate chardonnay and Canella prosecco. We reckon it should be on your summer hit list, even if we do say so ourselves. Gertrude Street Enoteca at Avani Winery presented by Gourmet Traveller, 98 Stanleys Rd, Red Hill South, Vic, lunch Wed-Sun until 1 February. For details and bookings go to gertrudeenoteca.com. MICHAEL HARDEN

SYDNEY
Hawker
A tip for the novice Chinese-Malaysian diner: wearing white is asking for trouble. The smoky oil that flings from the rice noodles that are the foundation of char koay teow, the classic stir-fry enriched with eggs, prawns, lap cheong sausage and cockles, will end your garments. Cop some inky collateral damage from the black-on-black KL Hokkien mee noodles with prawns, pork and crisped-up pork fat and you might as well burn the shirt on the spot. Where Mamak, the first restaurant from Hawker's founders, is all about the Halal cuisine of dry spice and rotis that sprang up on the Malay Peninsula in the wake of migration of Tamil Muslims from southern India, Hawker is all about the Hokkien-influenced food of the majority-Chinese island of Penang. That equals woks seething with fresh chilli and pork fat, and it also puts a spotlight on assam laksa, the far more interesting sour, fish-powered cousin to the lemak-style noodle soup commonly seen in Australia. Grab a rojak, the Penang-style salad crunchy with cucumber, jicama, pineapple, guava and fried tofu in a sticky-sweet tamarind dressing, to freshen things up. The restaurant is not without its shortcomings - what it lacks in atmosphere it makes up for in glaring fluorescent lighting - but it's a credible step in the right direction for one of South East Asia's most thrilling cuisines in Sydney. And it's BYO for a mere two bucks a head. Just watch what you wear. Hawker, shop G.02, 345B-353 Sussex St, Sydney, (02) 9264 9315. PAT NOURSE.

PERTH
The Raffles Hotel
Lycra - following a much-publicised spat last weekend between a bouncer and cyclists at the recently reopened Raffles Hotel, that's all people seem to be talking about, but the new Raffles is about more than outlawing middle-aged bike gangs. Four months of renovations have seen this famous riverside hotel emerge as a brighter, breezier version of its former self, its new interior leaning less old-money and more playful-Deco. Food-wise, it's out with the tired upstairs fine-diner and in with an all-day menu sporting a heavy Mediterranean bent: puffy and pliable pizze, kingfish crudo and fancy veal parms. Pasta dishes, including a generously stuffed prawn tortellini, deliver impressive bang for buck, with respect to both quantity and quality. And because it's the Raffles, and Print Hall beverage director Dan Wegener has weighed in on the list, count on good drinking. Interesting wines, a tight cocktail selection and eight-dollar pints of Colonial kölsch? Works for us. The Raffles Hotel, 70-72 Canning Beach Rd, Applecross, WA, (08) 9314 9000. MAX VEENHUYZEN

ADELAIDE
Comida Catering Co
Former Mesa Lunga chef Brad Sappenberghs has been a tapas ace in Adelaide for many years, and his Comida Catering Co is now based in the Adelaide Central Market - part of an exciting continuing development that puts more dining options inside the historic CBD produce hub. Beyond serving breakfast and lunch on market days, Sappenberghs cooks outstanding giant-pan paellas on Friday evenings, using produce from neighbouring market stalls. Sit at stools around the cooking bench and chase it with tumblers of Moritz lager, cold Sherry or a spicy house red. Comida, stall 11, Adelaide Central Market, Gouger St, Adelaide, SA, 0421 883 375. DAVID SLY

Got a hot tip for our Hot Plates team? Let us know on Facebook or tag your Instagram photos with #GThotplates.


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