What are the hottest new restaurants to put on your radar, the places that thrum with potential and bring something fresh and exciting to Australia's dining scene? Presenting Gourmet Traveller's Top 10 Best New Restaurants for 2020...
10. Totti’s, Sydney
Fun, vibrant and endlessly shareable, Totti's is a place for everyone. Litres of Negroni for the primed and primped Sunday-sessions crowd, orange cordial for the kids, big charry pillows of wood-fired bread with snacks – San Daniele prosciutto, burrata drenched in olive oil and heirloom tomatoes among them – for all and sundry. Enthusiastic waitstaff encourage sharing, and it's a good idea, but dishes as moreish as an al dente linguine coated in bright green pesto and smothered in herbs and parmesan may convince otherwise. Vegetables continue to shine in sides of broccolini jazzed up with anchovy and almonds, or in a creamy, chilli-spiked corn polenta, accompanying mains such as a whole roast chicken from the wood oven, crisp of skin, juicy of flesh. Come dessert, classics with a sense of play are the main brief, but the highlight is the simple tart of the day with buttery, shortcrust pastry encasing seasonal fruits – autumn plums and pear, perhaps. The piazza-like courtyard, complete with gnarled olive tree, is transportive and abuzz, the room warm and welcoming, and then there's the no-frills pub, The Royal, at the front. Indeed, a place for all. Bravo Merivale.
283 Bondi Rd, Bondi NSW 2026, Australia, (02) 9114 7371, merivale.com/venues/tottis
9. Madalena's, Perth
What's not to love about a place where you can swim in the ocean as an apéritif? A liberal attitude towards sandy feet and wet bathers is just one reason why Perth has fallen hard for this beachside address styled on the neighbourhood bars of Europe. While personable floor staff and a focus on new-wave wines contribute towards Madalena's appeal, most are lured here by the West's most essential seafood cooking. Butterflied Rottnest Island herring with pickled cucumber; golden red emperor wings accented with white pepper and a crudo of razor prawns and silken tofu in a ginger dressing speak to the kitchen's imagination and close working relationship with enthusiastic local fishmongers Fins. The $40 fish, frites and salad weekend lunch special for two revels in the value, both on the wallet and palate, of less celebrated species such as nannygai and flounder. Chef and Andrew McConnell alumus Adam Rees is no one-trick ponyfish, though. Roasted, dehydrated and fried squash with almond cream and buckwheat demonstrates respect for vegetarians. Slivers of just-set lemon tart – and another dip in the sea – make for the sweetest goodbye.
406 South Terrace, South Fremantle, WA, madalenasbar.com.au
8. Joy, Brisbane
This 10-seat chef's table affair is as tiny and uplifting as its name. There's nothing extraneous – just two chef-owners (who live above the shop) cooking their hearts out in a galley-style kitchen, sharing Joy with diners as they plate up before them, tweezers and tongs in hand. It's an intensely personal experience heightened by the immediacy of the style of service. Oven-fresh corn chawanmushi comes to the comptoir topped with crisp-fried quinoa seasoned with pale shreds of scallop floss, petals of lacto-fermented pumpkin for zing and smoked salmon roe. Venison tartare is sheathed in a translucent skin of fermented celeriac, its meatiness offset by roasted sesame and a trio of garlic garnishes – flowers, black fermented and lightly bitter golden chips. A snappy drinks list favours the artisanal, which tallies with the ethos here, with the likes of Ephemera's negroamaro and brown-rice sake on pour. Mont Blanc is remastered for dessert and topped with gold leaf, with malted roast artichoke caramel in place of chestnut, and a layered base of salted crème Chantilly and savoiardi. Unalloyed Joy sparked.
Bakery Lane, 690 Ann Street, Fortitude Valley, Qld, 0412 425 626, joyrestaurant.com.au
7. Mary's Underground, Sydney
The Underground isn't about burgers, or fried chicken, or potato and gravy (although if you stay late and stay at the bar, it can be). What it is about, though, is the same principles that have made the Mary's team so celebrated: sound flavours, solid execution, and an unrivalled commitment to good times. Loud, dark, brash and buzzing, this venue (once home to The Basement) thrums with excitement, with jazz bands on stage every night, and classic cuisine taken in fun directions. Strawberry clams served raw on ice with a chaser of fermented tuna vinegar. Hot little dinner rolls with a wickedly silky duck-liver parfait sharpened with pickled cumquat. Chocolate-mandarin bombe Alaska burning blue with flaming mezcal. Cocktails (Rum Uppercut! Left Hook! Rock 'N' Rose Jab!) are tall and punchy, and former GT Sommelier of the Year Caitlyn Rees has put together a winning wine offer that's decidedly low-intervention, but sidesteps funk in favour of wines from makers who know their product. On the floor, meanwhile, the team has clearly imbibed the brief that having a good time is more about being engaged than pleases or thank yous. The rôtisserie duck, pasture-raised, dry-aged and served with a persimmon sauce and slivers is plenty engaging, too. Throw in the late-night license, and the prospect of lobster Australienne, and Mary's is a new model for Sydney dining coming right when we need it.
7 Macquarie Place Sydney 2000, marysunderground.com.au
6. Pipit, Pottsville
Find a site in a small Northern Rivers town. Tile it yourself. Get your dad to make some furniture and your partner to sort the back of house. Fill it with details from locals. In Pipit, husband-wife Ben Devlin and Yen Trinh have created the model regional restaurant. One that engages with the area to present an immediate and cerebral portrait of the surrounding area, rendered in food, drink and fine times. There are simple nods to local suppliers and the seasons, like a canapé of cucumbers, winged beans, radishes and young angled gourd from nearby Boon Luck Farm piled into a bowl with a dab of almond cream, or new-season Brazilian cherry topping an éclair-like "finger bun" filled with mullet cream. Fish are sustainable, local indigenous group Currie country supply pipis, hoofed animals don't come near the menu, and coals power the grill, which Devlin mans with enough attention to serve spatchcock crisp and juicy, and eggplant tartare rightly smoky. It's a coastal, tropical line, with wines matching the mood, and seasonal fruits dressing up a half-moon of frangipane cake that's a must for dessert. Simple, layered and community-focused. First Pottsville, then the world.
8 Coronation Ave, Pottsville, NSW, 0490 380 117, pipitrestaurant.com
5. Pilot, Canberra
Pilot is a restaurant by the people for the people. One where two ambitious owners run the floor with grace and surety, and a talented young chef, Malcolm Hanslow, sends out plates that break good ideas down to their constituent parts and reassemble them in new, exciting ways. A potato salad, perhaps, that eats less like barbecue stodge and more like a refined Waldorf, made up of a jumble of radish, celery, and a coil of green apple dressed with potato cream and chives. Or cacio e pepe come via Japan with roasted-buckwheat noodles tossed through a sauce of buttery caramelised cabbage thick with parmesan and warm with black pepper. Or roast chicken in a sharp, savoury jus served with kombu mayo and steamed bread. Wines skew fresh, light and white. Snacks land hot, crisp and right on the money. While ceramics and glassware made in town, coffee from ACT roasters Barrio, and fruit and vegetables sourced from nearby growers double down on the local angle. The result? A restaurant for the here and now, that's right at the forefront of where capital dining is headed.
Shop 5/6 Wakefield Gardens, Ainslie, ACT, (02) 6257 4334, pilotrestaurant.com
4. Alberto's Lounge, Sydney
Alberto's embraces its billing as Restaurant Hubert's Italian cousin with gusto: same soft-lit charm, smooth service, plush carpet and wood panelling, but a little more bustle, a little more jostling for space, and (just maybe) a little more fun. It's a return to new-wave Italo form for chef Daniel Pepperell, too, who keeps one eye on tradition and the other on how to advance it. The Amatriciana is proof of the former: house-made bucatini in a sauce of guanciale and its rendered fat with pecorino, chilli and tomato that's both rich and slippery, in a good way. For the latter, take the trippa alla Romana, melting into the sauce the way it might in a trattoria in Testaccio, but spun in the direction of butter chicken with deft deployment of cream and spice. Sommelier Andy Tyson's wine offer is more natural than at Hubert, but excitement is the through-line, be it from one of many bottles under $100 or back-vintage Barolo from a section labelled "Il Rosso Divino". A crisp cannolo is a cracking finish, but daily changing gelati – mango and sticky rice, perhaps – capture Alberto's in a single scoop: technically astute and bristling with adventure.
17-19 Alberta St, Sydney, NSW, albertoslounge.com
3. Kazuki's, Melbourne
Lygon Street might not be the first place you'd look for a precise fine-diner marrying French technique with Japanese flavour and ingredients, but Kazuki's is unafraid of unlikely locations, having called Daylesford home until the move to Little Italy in late 2018. The city digs are glamorous in a suitably minimalist way, while the service from meticulously dressed professionals also signals that chef Kazuki Tsuya has ramped it up with the relocation. His food – balanced, handsome and served on beautiful handmade ceramics – also nails the brief. Dishes like a Moreton Bay bug dumpling topped with foamed sake butter, dry-aged Macedon Ranges duck accompanied by radicchio, blackberries and shiitake mushrooms, or raspberries and white chocolate teamed with an exquisite ice-cream flavoured with sour sake lees, can border on the ethereal. The wine offer leans towards finely crafted artisan labels and is accompanied by a page of similarly inclined sake. Consider ordering the extras beyond the set-price menus – neglect the snacks at your own peril (think fresh uni on a kipfler potato chip with cultured cream) – while the nine-score wagyu, at once sweet and rich, grilled on the hibachi over red gum and ironbark, showcases the clever, precise cooking at play here.
121 Lygon St, Carlton, Vic (07) 3252 206,0, kazukis.com.au/
2. Arc Dining, Brisbane
Chic Anna Spiro-designed interiors. Widescreen waterfront views. Confident, original dishes. From every angle, Arc has arrived in peak form. Located at the quieter end of a bustling wharf precinct, this glam eye catcher is a two-fold treat, boasting a sibling wine bar that's just as appealing as the conservatory-style dining space. Well-organised floor staff are engaging, and there's much to discuss. There's the textural drinks offer from sommelier Ian Trinkle's smart list, and Alanna Sapwell's menu offers its own swag of talking points. House-cured goose prosciutto, for instance, savoury slices of which might come draped across pleats of persimmon on fresh curd encircled by fig leaf oil. Or a fillet of rosy jobfish with crisp, glass-like skin and milky flesh accompanied by buttered corn dotted with star-shaped slices of winged bean. Pork terrine, made with hock and head meat and served at room temperature to magnify its flavour, is embellished with dried heart shavings, peach chutney and a curve of salty, vinegary potato chips. Surprises flow into dessert, too, where the Melba cake, a glorious slice of peach icing, raspberry jelly and pale sponge covered in finger lime sprinkles, knocks it out of the park.
5 Boundary St, Brisbane City, Qld, (07) 3505 3980, www.arcdining.com.au
1. Di Stasio Città
Rinaldo Di Stasio's city restaurant stakes an immediate claim as one of the country's most beautiful. A minimalist temple of contemporary art (video work by Reko Rennie and Shaun Gladwell on loop) and traditional craftsmanship (handcrafted terrazzo floors, Murano chandeliers), Città also offers visceral bustle and a lengthy menu centred on old-school deliciousness. Fans of the St Kilda original will be thrilled at the presence of favourites such as the foil-wrapped crumbed veal and white bread "after-school sandwich", the maltagliati with calamari and radicchio, pieces of thrice-cooked duck, and the addictive white chocolate and mascarpone tart.T here are also new thrills: salty anchovy and sage snacks, bagna càuda with a colourful platter of vegetables, pasta cooked al chiodo tossed with a rich ragù of beef and pork, and perfectly chilled Martinis served on a silver tray to knock back while contemplating the Italian-heavy winelist. Città's theatricality– including meticulously kitted-out floor and barstaff– doesn't come cheap, but neither does a restaurant experience that effortlessly channels Milan, Venice and Melbourne. Di Stasio has always had a gift for transporting you away from the everyday, and Città continues the theme unashamedly and wholeheartedly.
45 Spring St, Melbourne, Vic, (03) 9070 1177, distasio.com.au