Restaurant Hubert was the latest soigné backdrop to Australian hospitality's night of nights, the Gourmet Traveller Restaurant Awards. To celebrate the annual awards and the launch of the latest edition of Australia's longest-running national restaurant guide, Australia's biggest names in food flocked to the two-star restaurant for the announcement of Australia's Restaurant of the Year.
The standard-setting fine-diner Quay basked in the glow of its new look and new menu, taking home Restaurant of the Year after an extensive renovation, the boldest in the Sydney restaurant's 30-year history. Chef Peter Gilmore and father-and-son operators Leon and John Fink accepted the award, celebrating the fourth time the restaurant has won the top gong.
"When you take one of the most visible, celebrated and expensive restaurants in the southern hemisphere, a place that has held three stars for an unmatched 16 years in a row, shut it down for three months, scrap its menu and pour a few million dollars into giving the place the biggest makeover it's had in decades, there is of course no pressure to take it to the next level," said chief restaurant critic Pat Nourse.
"But that's exactly what Leon and John Fink have done, and with one of the country's most respected culinary ambassadors, the remarkable Peter Gilmore, at the centre of it all."
Saint Peter chef Josh Niland was voted Chef of the Year by his peers in a remarkably rapid ascent for a young chef who just last year took home the Best New Talent honour. The latest Best New Talent winner is Ali Currey-Voumard, whose hyper-local, seasonal and ethical menus at Tasmania's The Agrarian Kitchen Eatery have earned high praise from critics since the restaurant opened last year.
The gala event at Restaurant Hubert (named Best New Restaurant in 2017) saw up-and-coming talent rub shoulders with industry leaders such as Neil Perry, Kylie Kwong and Andrew McConnell over Daniel Pepperell's brilliant French-inflected food, Seppelt wines and cocktails by Four Pillars Gin. As well as celebrating this year's award winners, the night also marked the launch of the Gourmet Traveller 2019 Australian Restaurant Guide, which holds reviews of the country's top 400 restaurants.
The wood panelling, vintage French posters and courtly service of Hubert added a touch of Old World glamour to the night, enhanced by dishes such as anchovy and venison tarts, pâté en croûte and Murray cod in Grenobloise sauce. But it wouldn't be a night at Hubert without a few curve-balls from chef Pepperell, whether it was XO-sauced snails in the vol-au-vent or kimchi in the gratin upping the fun factor, while Four Pillars Underground Sydney Gin featured in a sharp, citrussy cocktail of caper oil and Italicus Rosolio.
Chefs, sommeliers, maîtres d' and restaurateurs from around Australia raised a glass to award winners including New Restaurant of the Year Laura, located at the Mornington Peninsula winery and sculpture park Pt Leo Estate, and Dan Hunter's Brae, named Regional Restaurant of the Year for a second time. Bar of the Year was awarded to Liberté, a French-inspired salon located in the small Western Australian town of Albany, more than 400 kilometres south-west of Perth.
The Outstanding Contribution to Hospitality prize went to Rootstock, the natural wine festival that started in Sydney in 2013 but took the fun on the road to Melbourne and Tokyo before wrapping up earlier this year. The founders' wide-ranging mission to broaden our drinking horizons and understanding of viticulture, sustainability and Indigenous food culture were highlighted by GT editor Sarah Oakes and chief restaurant critic Pat Nourse in presenting the award.
Guests danced off into the night with gift bags containing the likes of Tom Ford fragrance and Dinosaur Designs dishes as well as a copy of the 2019 Australian Restaurant Guide, presented in association with Vittoria Coffee and Santa Vittoria, and supported by Ilve, Mutti and Harrolds. For more details on all the award winners plus a year of wonderful dining, pick up your copy with the September issue of Gourmet Traveller, on sale now at all good newsagents and major supermarkets.
See the full list of Restaurant Award winners, and catch up on all the action on Twitter and Instagram with the hashtag #gtrestaurantawards.