Restaurant Awards

2012 Restaurant Awards nominees

The hottest (and coolest) places to imbibe and graze have been tried and tested. Meet GT’s 2012 Restaurant Awards nominees.

The hottest (and coolest) places to imbibe and graze have been tried and tested. Meet GT’s 2012 Restaurant Awards nominees.

The Wine Library, Sydney, NSW

The Wine Library, Sydney, NSW

BAR OF THE YEAR NOMINEE

The Wine Library, Sydney, NSW

In 2011, the year of the Sydney wine bar, there are examples of more tightly focused lists, more obscure locations, and more obsessively curated cellars than those of The Wine Library. But no other new wine bar can hold a candle to the Buzo gang’s wildly successful vinous venture when it comes to bunging on the good times. The wine is impressive, the food a pleasure and the service an asset, making The Wine Library first among its brilliant equals.

PHOTOGRAPHY WILLIAM MEPPEM

See the September issue of Gourmet Traveller (on sale August 24) for all the winners, Australia’s Restaurant of the Year, and our 2012 Australian Restaurant Guide.

Shady Pines, Sydney, NSW

Shady Pines, Sydney, NSW

BAR OF THE YEAR NOMINEE

Shady Pines, Sydney, NSW

Nothing about the grungy basement setting, the queues and the dive-bar look screams “welcoming” on first glance, but this makes the friendliness and professionalism of the staff and the unimpeachable quality of the core offering (read: good whiskey, better beer, great times) all the more arresting. Shady Pines has been a runaway success, changing Sydney’s mind (and by extension, the nation’s thinking) about how much fun a beer bar can be.

PHOTOGRAPHY JASON LOUCAS

Black Pearl, Melbourne, Vic

Black Pearl, Melbourne, Vic

BAR OF THE YEAR NOMINEE

Black Pearl, Melbourne, Vic

Black Pearl’s crack bartender squad, led by Chris Hysted and Cristiano Beretta, has long attracted applause and affection with its finely tuned skills and devil-may-care attitude. The Pearl’s brief list of eccentric, original cocktails has always made the aficionados and the industry happy, and now, with the addition of the upstairs table-service-only bar The Attic, there’s even more reason (and space) for everyone to feel the love.

PHOTOGRAPHY JOHN LAURIE

The Stackings, Woodbridge, Tas

The Stackings, Woodbridge, Tas

REGIONAL RESTAURANT OF THE YEAR NOMINEE

The Stackings, Woodbridge, Tas

The location, overlooking D’Entrecasteaux Channel about 40 minutes’ drive south of Hobart, is glorious, and the architecture of the room is striking, but it’s what’s going out on the plates that has made people sit up and take notice of Peppermint Bay again. With a deft, light touch, chef David Moyle produces luminous, seasonally inspired food that holds up a mirror to the beauty of its setting.

PHOTOGRAPHY COURTESY THE STACKINGS

Royal Mail Hotel, Dunkeld, Vic

Royal Mail Hotel, Dunkeld, Vic

REGIONAL RESTAURANT OF THE YEAR NOMINEE

Royal Mail Hotel, Dunkeld, Vic

Winner of this award for the last three years, the Royal Mail continues to kick regional goals with Dan Hunter’s brilliant, often exquisite 10-course dégustation menu. The well-timed procession of artfully plated dishes offers a virtual tour of the region’s produce and seasons, filtered through Hunter’s bold imagination and careful hands. The cellar and service keep up their end of the bargain too, ensuring that this remains one of the country’s finest examples of destination dining.

PHOTOGRAPHY TIM JAMES

Biota Dining, Bowral, NSW

Biota Dining, Bowral, NSW

REGIONAL RESTAURANT OF THE YEAR NOMINEE

Biota Dining, Bowral, NSW

Kitchen garden? Check. Fancy kitchen gadgets? Check. Worthy “philosophy” statement on the menu? Check. Biota Dining is in all respects the very picture of the modern regional restaurant, only with more spirit and character than such a check list might suggest. Far from being simply the best restaurant in the Southern Highlands, this newcomer has a strong claim to being best in the state.

PHOTOGRAPHY AMANDA MCLAUCHLAN

Vince LaMontagna, Vincenzo’s Cucina Vera, Adelaide, SA

Vince LaMontagna, Vincenzo’s Cucina Vera, Adelaide, SA

BEST NEW TALENT NOMINEE

Vince LaMontagna, Vincenzo’s Cucina Vera, Adelaide, SA

The courage required by LaMontagna to scrap his à la carte menu in favour of all-dégustation dining is backed by a keen palate, bold ideas and a conviction that he can make superior produce sing. The result? An exciting nexus between Italian feasting traditions, striking modern flavour marriages and innovative presentation.

PHOTOGRAPHY AMANDA MCLAUCHLAN

Oliver Gould, Stokehouse, Melbourne, Vic

Oliver Gould, Stokehouse, Melbourne, Vic

BEST NEW TALENT NOMINEE

Oliver Gould, Stokehouse, Melbourne, Vic

Having worked under Anthony Musarra for almost six years, Oliver Gould has now stepped fully into the head-chef limelight following the recent revamp of the landmark St Kilda restaurant and kitchen, and ahead of the imminent opening of Stokehouse Brisbane. As Musarra says, Gould “brings a refined and more experimental approach” to the menu, which has seen an outbreak of pretty, whimsical and beautifully conceived dishes hitting the Stokehouse tables.

PHOTOGRAPHY SHARYN CAIRNS

Char-grilled calamari with chicory and coriander

Luke Burgess, Garagistes, Hobart, Tas

Luke Burgess, Garagistes, Hobart, Tas

BEST NEW TALENT NOMINEE

Luke Burgess, Garagistes, Hobart, Tas

Luke Burgess in one word? How about “uncompro­mising”? He’s also creative and passionate, but it’s his unwillingess to compromise that’s the key to his success. He’s cajoled local farmers and gardeners to grow to his needs, sourced extraordinary seafood, mastered pickling and curing, and tamed his wood-fired oven and bespoke grill to produce some of the most exciting food in the country.

PHOTOGRAPHY WILLIAM MEPPEM

Carolynne Troy, Restaurant Amusé, Perth, WA

Carolynne Troy, Restaurant Amusé, Perth, WA

MAÎTRE D’ OF THE YEAR NOMINEE

Carolynne Troy, Restaurant Amusé, Perth, WA

The gracious presence of restaurant manager Carolynne Troy has been a drawcard at Amusé since the word go: she is utterly professional yet unafraid to inject her own affable persona into the mix. Troy’s eagerness to lead by example has given rise to an ethic on the floor at Amusé that is the envy of its peers.

PHOTOGRAPHY FRANCES ANDRIJICH

Lara Marro, Vincenzo’s Cucina Vera, Adelaide, SA

Lara Marro, Vincenzo’s Cucina Vera, Adelaide, SA

MAÎTRE D’ OF THE YEAR NOMINEE

Lara Marro, Vincenzo’s Cucina Vera, Adelaide, SA

Explaining the fare of a restaurant with no menu seems an unenviable task, yet maître d’ Lara Marro has diners in her thrall at Vincenzo’s Cucina Vera. Unmistakably beguiled by the cooking of her partner, Vince LaMontagna, Marro conveys this passion from the kitchen to the dining room with intricate detail, keen intelligence and palpable sincerity, making each dégustation a joyous journey.

PHOTOGRAPHY AMANDA MCLAUCHLAN

Sarah Doyle, Porteño, Sydney, NSW

Sarah Doyle, Porteño, Sydney, NSW

MAÎTRE D’ OF THE YEAR NOMINEE

Sarah Doyle, Porteño, Sydney, NSW

Her dresses number in the hundreds, true, and her coiffure is downright hypnotic in its intricate perfection. But it’s Sarah Doyle’s skills as a hostess that distinguish her. Sharp of eye and keen of instinct, she works the room with equal parts vigour and glamour, and makes her regulars feel like stars.

PHOTOGRAPHY JASON LOUCAS

Rodney Setter, Sepia, Sydney, NSW

Rodney Setter, Sepia, Sydney, NSW

SOMMELIER OF THE YEAR NOMINEE

Rodney Setter, Sepia, Sydney, NSW

It’s the Greek wines that often alert diners to the fact that Rodney Setter is no ordinary sommelier. Sepia, where he does his thing, produces food that’s more aligned with Japan and modern Spain than the Aegean, and yet such is Setter’s knack for pulling the right flavours from his impressive palate-memory that a leap from assyrtiko to junmai daiginjo-shu is as seamless and assured as every other part of his service.

PHOTOGRAPHY COURTESY SEPIA RESTAURANT AND WINE BAR

Giorgio De Maria, 121BC, Sydney, NSW

Giorgio De Maria, 121BC, Sydney, NSW

SOMMELIER OF THE YEAR NOMINEE

Giorgio De Maria, 121BC, Sydney, NSW

“I’m opening a bottle of something strange; who wants a glass?” This utterance, an almost standard thing to hear fall from the lips of 121BC’s Piedmont-born wine impresario, sums up his paradoxical charm: he’s the sommelier who has the rare gift of taking the exclusive (his list of small Italian producers) and making it inclusive by dint of his generosity of spirit and knowledge. Yes, Giorgio, we’ll take a glass of whatever you’re having.

PHOTOGRAPHY ANTHONY GEERNAERT

Liam O’Brien, Cutler & Co., Melbourne, Vic

SOMMELIER OF THE YEAR NOMINEE

Liam O’Brien, Cutler & Co., Melbourne, Vic

As the judges who anointed him dux of the 2010 Len Evans Tutorial noted, Liam O’Brien has “an outstanding palate” and “an excellent grasp of world wine styles”. But, as his stints at Circa and now at Cutler & Co. have proved, O’Brien is equally talented in communicating a clear, concise, jargon-free wine message on his sharply written lists and by way of his quietly charming presence and words on the floor.

PHOTOGRAPHY JOHN LAURIE

Ortiga, Brisbane, Qld

Ortiga, Brisbane, Qld

WINE LIST OF THE YEAR NOMINEE

Ortiga, Brisbane, Qld

The first third of this 45-page list is devoted to Spain (highly appropriate, really); the rest packs in the best from Australia, France, Italy and the rest of the world. The Spanish part is exemplary, with wonderful choices and illuminating blurbs to guide you through, while the remainder also offers very rich pickings indeed. Each part would be excellent on its own; together they are outstanding.

PHOTOGRAPHY SHARYN CAIRNS

Felix, Sydney, NSW

Felix, Sydney, NSW

WINE LIST OF THE YEAR NOMINEE

Felix, Sydney, NSW

This list is so gorgeously, passionately French, you can almost hear Serge Gainsbourg warbling as you browse through the pages. The creation of GT‘s reigning Sommelier of the Year, Franck Moreau, Felix’s list mixes heaps of classic bottles with plenty of rustic country wines, supplemented by some very smart Aussies and Kiwis – many of which (Chandon, Sutton Grange, By Farr) have strong French connections.

FELIX PHOTOGRAPHY DIEU TAN

The Dispensary Enoteca, Bendigo, Vic

Sometimes you want a wine list to be purely functional: names and prices. But sometimes you want to settle back and have a good read. This huge volume is a superb example of the latter: a wealth of well-presented information on wines, Champagnes, whiskies, beers – and a wealth of choice, with a strong emphasis on local bottles and funky brews.

Porteño, Sydney, NSW

Porteño, Sydney, NSW

NEW RESTAURANT OF THE YEAR NOMINEE

Porteño, Sydney, NSW

Its owners might have a reputation for being pretty cool cats, but Porteño is no mere teenage trick. It’s a labour of love for its owners and staff alike, and a leader in trends rather than a response to them. Bodega’s Joe Valore, Ben Milgate and Elvis Abrahanowicz have created a restaurant that’s as big as it is ambitious, and as unusual as it is popular. It’s one small step for Latin American cuisine in Australia, and one giant leap for the otherwise neglected neo-rockabilly-Buenos-Aires-grill genre.

PHOTOGRAPHY WILLIAM MEPPEM

Golden Fields, Melbourne, Vic

Golden Fields, Melbourne, Vic

NEW RESTAURANT OF THE YEAR NOMINEE

Golden Fields, Melbourne, Vic

Andrew McConnell’s take on Asian food in St Kilda was always going to have wings in a city addicted to the “eating house and bar” stylings of Cumulus Inc. But, meticulous as ever, McConnell eschews laurel-resting for a menu of elegant, playful takes on Chinese, Japanese and Korean food, and, in the form of the New England lobster roll, has created Melbourne’s cult dish of 2011.

PHOTOGRAPHY DEREK SWALWELL

Garagistes, Hobart, Tas

Garagistes, Hobart, Tas

NEW RESTAURANT OF THE YEAR NOMINEE

Garagistes, Hobart, Tas

Natural wine, industrial setting, no-bookings dining, foraged, regionally focused cuisine. We’re talking the wilds of northern Sweden here, right? The Lower East Side? The Left Bank? Gertrude Street? No, we’re talking Hobart, Tasmania, and we’re talking a restaurant of substance worth going out of your way for, wherever you happen to be calling from.

PHOTOGRAPHY WILLIAM MEPPEM

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