Restaurant Awards

Gourmet Traveller Hospitality Honours List 2020: pivoting hard

From take-home ramen packs to a drive-through pasta shop, these quick and clever pivots set high standards and paved the way for others.

By Michael Harden & Jordan Kretchmer
(From left) Sáng by Mabasa co-owners Jin Sun Son, Kenny Yong Soo Son, Youmee Jeon and Seung Kee Son.

Ragazzi + Fabbrica: pasta to go

Transforming a dine-in restaurant into a drive-through is a standout idea, and one that Ragazzi owners Nathanial Hatwell, Matthew Swieboda and Scott McComas-Williams executed within days of closing their Italian wine and pasta bar in Sydney's CBD. Customers could simply drive (or walk) by and pick up a fresh pasta pack with duck ragù or puttanesca sauce to go. On the other side of town, Hatwell and Swieboda's wine bars – Dear Sainte Éloise and Love, Tilly Devine – pivoted to lush produce boxes, trays of lasagne and their own line of pantry goods.
Now, all of their venues have reopened, including a shiny new location called Fabbrica: a stand-alone pasta deli and bar on King Street. "The world has changed a lot this year," says Swieboda. "We wanted to create a shop that empowers customers to produce amazing restaurant-quality pasta meals at home." It was the enthusiastic response they received during lockdown that empowered them to push forward with the project, which opened in early October. Alongside the permanent retail offering of Fabbrica, the team is also focused on finessing the outdoor seating at Dear Sainte Éloise and Love, Tilly Devine, thanks to City of Sydney's relaxed restrictions around al fresco dining.
Fabbrica co-owners (from left) Nathanial Hatwell, Cam Birt, Scott McComas-Williams and Matthew Swieboda. Photo: Nikki To

Simulation Senpai by Chase Kojima

This high-grade, masterfully made sushi spin-off from Sokyo head chef Chase Kojima gave Sydneysiders a chance to indulge in a luxury many missed while in lockdown. Kojima elegantly packed boxes with strips of fatty toro, sweet prawns, rich tongues of urchin and fleshy snapper, all draped over sushi rice. Maximising Kojima's connections with specialist tuna dealers and his knowledge of the seafood markets, Simulation Senpai set new standards for takeaway meals. The luxe sushi boxes are still going strong with deliveries continuing to go out every Friday and Saturday.
The hoseki bako box from Simulation Senpai.

Lagoon Dining Express

All about ease and convenience, Lagoon's vacuum-sealed heat-and-eat meals – from fiery dan dan noodles to rich butter chicken – have a shelf life of up to 15 days, a boon for when the inevitable day came each week when Melburnians just could not face cooking again. But it wasn't all about shelf life – weekends were marked with daily specials. A fried chicken roll or a Lagoon fave, hot and sour shredded potato, gave the weekend meaning again.
Lagoon Dining's range of ready-to-heart meals, including (clockwise from far left) chana masala spiced chickpea curry, vegan fish-fragrant eggplant, lion's head meatballs, dan dan noodles, green chicken curry, Japanese potato salad, beef rendang, butter chicken and lu rou fan. Photo: Josh Robenston

Sáng by Mabasa delivery

Sáng By Mabasa pedalled hard, with manager Kenny Yong Soo Son doing home-delivery rounds on an electric bike. In the kitchen, his parents Jin Sun Son and Seung Kee Son made take-home batches of Korean specialties, including mandu (dumplings), jokbal (braised pig's trotters) and kimchi jjigae, which were complemented by beautifully shot instructional videos (with bonus mukbang content) by Kenny and his partner Youmee Jeon. Proof that a tiny family-run restaurant can do very big things.
Words by Yvonne C Lam

Mr Niland at Home

Josh Niland and the Fish Butchery team created meal kits that were the highlight of many Sydneysiders' lockdown. One night it could be semolina spaghetti (made by Mitch Orr, formerly CicciaBella) with XO vongole; the next, tiger prawn and ocean-trout sausage jambalaya. Much like at his standalone venue Saint Peter, Niland executed the dishes with finesse and flair.

Chaco Ramen’s take-home ramen

As Sydney went into lockdown, our May issue cover star Chaco Ramen was forced to shut its doors. But it wasn't long before head chef Keita Abe worked out how to reproduce his famous ramen from home. Freezing the broth and sending out ready-made noodles took some tinkering, but once mastered the ramen packs were some of the first and finest out there.

Pipit’s Vietnamese pop-up

Chef Ben Devlin and wife Yen Trinh's regional NSW restaurant, Pipit, is typically known for its contemporary-coastal cuisine, but from May to August it transformed into a Vietnamese hotspot called Mr Trinh's. The takeaway shop dished up Moreton Bay bug bánh mì, spanner crab rice porridge, and doughnuts filled with Vietnamese coffee custard.
"It felt like such a stressful whirlwind at the time, but I did appreciate that when you have everything and nothing to lose, there's real creative freedom," says Trinh. "The importance and energy of local communities was also magnified." The temporary Vietnamese takeaway was so loved by locals, it will return as a weekend pop-up in the future.
Mr Trinh's duck bánh mì. Photo: Ben Devlin

Napier Quarter's providore and paninoteca

This friendly neighbourhood wine bar in Fitzroy, Melbourne transformed into a homely takeaway wine store, providore and "paninoteca" where punters could pick up mortadella-loaded sandwiches, gorgeous galettes, lamb roasts, jars of pâté and vegetable soups, alongside groceries and pastries.

RUYI at home

Sheng Fang and his wife Qian Qian Luo-Fang got the memo early: Melburnians in lockdown wanted comfort food. And nothing says comfort like a dumpling, so their suave, modern Chinese restaurant became a handmade dumpling machine pumping out excellent xiao long bao, chilli wontons, pork and chive dumplings. An added bonus? The frozen dumplings being delivered by the charming owners themselves.

Lee Ho Fook at home

Chef-owner Victor Liong twigged that traditional takeaway wouldn't do his food justice, so he went the finish-at-home option. The crowning achievement is the Peking duck for the Home pack; the dry-aged, malt-glazed, air-pumped Aylesbury duck, pancakes, and accompanying vegetables and sauces are simple to prepare but with just enough cooking to feel a sense of achievement.

Lune Croissanterie delivery

This ever-buzzy Melbourne croissanterie selected different suburbs to drive to each day to deliver freshly baked croissants and cruffins, so folks living outside of Lune's five-kilometre radius could still enjoy the cult baked goods. The lucky dip saw them visit more than 150 suburbs, from Coburg to Mt Eliza in the Lune-mobile.
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  • undefined: Michael Harden & Jordan Kretchmer