Alta Trattoria, Melbourne | VIC
A group of young industry professionals with impressive CVs and a shared love for the food, wine and restaurant philosophy of north-west Italy decide to open a trattoria in Melbourne and absolutely nailed the brief. But Alta is no theme park or period piece; it takes all the best regional-seasonal-ingredient-driven aspects of the classic and translates those perfectly to a Fitzroy side-street context, accompanied by a beautifully collated wine list, exemplary service and enthusiasm-driven energy.
In short: Piedmont in Fitzroy.
Clam Bar, Sydney | NSW
There's nothing new about oysters Rockefeller, prawn cocktail or grilled rib-eye with Diane sauce. But at Clam Bar – Dan Pepperell, Michael Clift and Andy Tyson's raucous, retro and altogether fabulous big-city grill – everything's freshened up with an abundance of flair. The heritage art deco corner site fizzes with the energy of a clubby, old-school New York chophouse, fuelled by stiff Martinis, Blue Daiquiris and a cracking line-up of Chablis. It's the place to be in the CBD.
In short: Steak and sizzle in spades.
Patch Kitchen & Garden, Adelaide Hills | SA
When chef and restaurateur Andrew Davies took over a family-friendly café in the Adelaide Hills, the little town of Stirling got lucky. Davies earned his devoted following at CBD favourites Osteria Oggi and the original Press Food and Wine. Here, he carries that same convivial hospitality forth but with a more relaxed feel, heightened by his wife Belle who works Patch's dining spaces with endearing enthusiasm.
In short: All soul.
Petermen, Sydney | NSW
In some ways, Josh and Julie Niland's fifth venture plays like a greatest hits album, churning out signatures like salt-and-vinegar King George whiting, sea-urchin crumpets and that triumphant lemon tart. In others, it feels like entirely new territory, revealing just how wide the powerhouse couple's wingspan stretches. No matter how you frame it, there's a knack for ingenuity at work here that knows no bounds – you won't find seafood this diligently sourced and cleverly realised anywhere else in the country.
In short: Making waves.
Pilloni, Brisbane | QLD
When Andrea Contin and Valentina Vigni visited Sardinia last year, they returned with a vision – and a few dining room decorations. The result is Pilloni, a venue that combines Sardinian beach villa style cues with the warmth of Nonna's place. The menu combines top Australian produce with wood-fired Sardinian cooking, best represented by porceddu: a quartered, spit-roasted suckling pig from Shultz Family Farm. Plan ahead – this dish requires 24 hours' notice.
In short: A taste of Sardinia.
The Dining Room at Promenade Bondi Beach | NSW
The trouble with sites like Bondi Pavilion is that they're often home to overpriced tourist traps that trade on the merits of location alone. That's exactly what makes The Dining Room at Promenade Bondi Beach such a refreshing proposition – not only does it celebrate the elegantly casual sort of seaside dining that Sydneysiders hold dear, but in a way that's equal parts elevated and approachable. A new HQ for long Sunday lunches in your finest linens and then some.
In short: Instant classic.
Serai, Melbourne | VIC
There's an undeniable swagger to Ross Magnaye's CBD laneway restaurant – the concrete-floored industrial aesthetic, the volume of the music, the power of the cocktails, the scallop burger with crab fat sauce. But Serai is also cognisant that a human does not live on swagger alone. Magnaye's witty, modern take on Filipino flavours is as grounded in knowledge and skill as it is in showing you a good time. It's a brilliant double act, both exciting and tasty.
In short: Delicious Filipino swagger.
Such and Such, Canberra | ACT
Expectations ran high when the team behind Pilot announced plans to open a second venture in Canberra's city centre – and Such and Such has lived up to the hype. While it's more colourful and casual than its older sibling, the shared DNA is obvious in a flexible menu that's as playful as it is considered, and in an outstanding beverage program that has more than just one finger on the pulse. Some of the country's sharpest young operators have struck again.
In short: Paving the way forward.
Yiamas, Perth | WA
Yiamas by name, yum-as by nature. Rather than lean on Hellenic tropes, this contemporary Greco fantasy is about thoughtful restaurant craft. The intimate white-washed dining room smoulders while the drinks list takes a grown-up approach to Greek winemaking and distilling. Behind the pass is journeyman chef Justin Scarvaci who brilliantly applies new-school thinking – and touches of wood-grill alchemy – to dolmades, bakaliaros and other classics. Book ahead: this is a party you'll want in on.
In short: Ancient Athens goes modern Australian.