After fresh ideas for meals that are healthy but still pack a flavour punch? We've got salads and vegetable-packed bowls to soups and light desserts.
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Whether it's a late-night spot playing hip-hop at full volume, a throwback to the glamour of yesteryear or a bar-restaurant that slips the collar of definition, these three Bar of the Year finalists have all nailed one essential detail: good times.
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There’s plenty of potential in the depths of your crisper; you just have to be creative.
Our staffers' picks of the best Australian eats of the year.
Burrata with shellfish oil, Automata, Sydney
There's as much thought put into the bar snacks as the glam five-course menu at this Sydney newcomer. When the drinking hour strikes of a Friday pull up a pew for a glass of Bruno Duchêne's grenache and some burrata doused in chef Clayton Wells' house-made shellfish oil, switch on cruise control and let the weekend unfold before you. Automata, 5 Kensington St, Chippendale, NSW, (02) 8277 8555 EMMA HUTTON, EDITORIAL COORDINATOR
Charred kangaroo, beetroot and wild garlic, Orana, Adelaide
Orana does an admirable job of taking the gimmickry out of Australiana at the table, and the handling of kangaroo is a fine case in point. The chefs take roo tail, smoke it in a fire pit until it's rich and succulent, then give it bite with a sprinkling of dried Davidson plum, and pair it with slaty, succulent greens, tiny bulbs of roasted wild garlic and grilled beetroot. It was juicy and luscious, quite unlike any roo I'd tasted before. Orana, 285 Rundle St, Adelaide, SA, (08) 8232 3444 DAVID SLY, SOUTH AUSTRALIA EDITOR
Pipis with lemon myrtle, butter and warrigal greens, Paper Daisy, Cabarita
It could easily have been chef Ben Devlin's paperbark-wrapped cod, its milky, sweet flesh topped with a flavoursome tangle of onion and seaweed. Fittingly, though, in a spot whose traditional name means "place of many pipis", Paper Daisy's briny surf clams take top honours - classic French-style accompaniments are replaced by native warrigal greens and lemon myrtle, and Devlin's superb sourdough put to excellent use mopping up the buttery liquor. Simply stunning. Paper Daisy, Halcyon House, 21 Cypress Cres, Cabarita Beach, NSW, (02) 6676 1444 FIONA DONNELLY, QUEENSLAND EDITOR
Local grain risotto, nettles and calamari, Silvereye at Franklin
There were some great dishes the night Silvereye's Sam Miller and Franklin's Dave Moyle had a one-night-stand in Hobart, including, almost implausibly, a haunting blossom ice-cream made with spring flowers raided from local trees on a day when snow reached sea level for the first time in nearly 30 years. But it was a super-savoury riff on risotto that had us craving a second serving: a dish of local grains (spelt, pearl barley, and buckwheat) cooked with nettles, then finished with little soft white pillows of southern calamari, crisp saltbush and salty seablite. SUE DYSON & ROGER McSHANE, TASMANIA EDITORS
Anchovy grissini, Italo Disco x Gourmet Traveller, Sydney
With more than a little help from our guest creative directors Maurice Terzini and Giovanni Paradiso (working together as Italo Disco), and chefs Monty Koludrovic (of Icebergs) and Dan Pepperell (then at 10 William St), we came up with something pretty close to what I'd consider a dream menu for this year's GT Restaurant Awards dinner at Carriageworks in Sydney. Among the personal highlights: anchovy-spiked handmade grissini - just add Negronis. Encore! ANTHEA LOUCAS, EDITOR IN CHIEF
Blood pudding, Anchovy, Melbourne
Flavoured with Vietnamese mint, rice-paddy herb, Shaoxing wine and star anise, steamed to the soft-firm texture of custard and then pan-fried so the edges are caramelised, Anchovy's blood pudding is served in a cos leaf with Vietnamese mint, pickled ginger and pickled ginger dressing. The contrast of textures and temperatures and the layered, immensely satisfying richness of the pudding itself make this one of the best two mouthfuls in the country right now. Anchovy, 338 Bridge Rd, Richmond, Vic, (03) 9428 3526 MICHAEL HARDEN, VICTORIA EDITOR
Roasted Brussels sprouts, Alfio's, Sydney
Lennox Hastie had me re-evaluating salad entirely in 2015 with a plate of beautifully simple grilled lettuce, warmed guanciale and pecans. You can (and I did) make very good friends with salad after all. The favourite for me, however, goes to the Alfio's pop-up in Leichhardt and a "dish" of roasted Brussels sprouts. Grown especially for Full Circle, the food guerrillas behind Alfio's, by Moonacres farm in the Southern Highlands, the sprouts were roasted on the stalk in the restaurant's old pizza oven, and carried out from the kitchen like trophies. No serving platter - just baking paper rolled out over the tables; we were left to rip the charry, salty buds apart with our fingers. Full Circle MAGGIE SCARDIFIELD, STAFF WRITER
Spaghetti and "lots of truffle", Eightysix, Canberra
Even at a 50-dollar price tag - otherwise unheard of in the national capital - Eightysix's spaghetti, carpet-bombed with local black truffle, warranted many a return visit over winter. It's a no-brainer - perfectly al dente artisanal pasta, a buttery sauce loaded with the flavour of truffle, and the sharpness of parmesan for balance. Eightysix, 1 Elouera St, Braddon, ACT, (02) 6161 8686 GARETH MEYER, ACT EDITOR
Croque-monsieur, Budburst, Perth
It could have been the polenta with chestnuts cooked in smoked butter and Parmigiano-Reggiano that Lalla Rookh served over autumn. Or that duck-heart skewer cut with green-olive powder at Co-op Dining. Or perhaps Print Hall's grilled graviera and smoked-corn number. And let's not forget the way Mary's steak tartare with smoked-oyster cream stormed Perth's Instagram feeds. Yet for all this creative, blue-sky cooking, it's Gwenael Lesle's croque-monsieur I remember most fondly. The cheese is Gruyère, the leg ham is juicy and the whole sandwich is enriched with generous quantities of béchamel before it's baked for maximum crunch and savour. And did I mention it's just seven bucks? Budburst, 406 Oxford St, Mt Hawthorn, WA, (08) 9444 3406 MAX VEENHUYZEN, WESTERN AUSTRALIA EDITOR
Cape gooseberries, Firedoor, Sydney
Salt-dried human toes. Live squid tentacles. Chicken sashimi. I routinely put fairly stupid things in my mouth in the line of duty, and 2015 has been no exception. (The engorged sperm sacs of deadly pufferfish? Tick. Bennelong's $22 cheese toastie? Tick.) But then there were those moments that gave me pause for better reasons. Firedoor's Lennox Hastie has been the instigator of more than a few of them. If you believe that what you leave out is as important as what you put into a piece of work, perhaps you'll share my appreciation for his dessert of cape gooseberries, warmed over the coals with such care that their paper-lantern casings weren't so much as tanned, but warm and smoky just the same. No ice-cream, no sprinkles, no dust, no crumbs, no squiggles, no granita, no gels - just prime produce given the slightest twist by the hand of the chef to make it shine afresh. Firedoor, 1a/23-33 Mary St, Surry Hills, NSW, (02) 8204 0800 PAT NOURSE, CHIEF RESTAURANT CRITIC
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