Restaurant Awards

Don't forget: Gourmet Traveller 2022 Restaurant Awards winners announced on Monday 24 Oct

The annual awards are back. Here's how to watch the announcement of the winners online, and a full run-down of the award finalists.

"Last year, we had to cancel our annual Gourmet Traveller Restaurant Awards after lockdowns prevented us from getting around the country and into restaurants.
"This year, our team of editors took on the challenge with gusto, eating their way around their states and navigating ever-changing restrictions to uncover the very best dining experiences to be found across Australia. And so here we have it – the finalists for the Gourmet Traveller 2022 Restaurant Awards, presented by Levantine Hill.
"Without question, the most exciting part of this year's awards is how many new restaurants feature. It is testament to both the creativity and resilience of the industry that new venues have continued to open since March last year, offering new and exceptional experiences. Many have come from established players, as they flex creativity and agility in equal measure.
"And there is plenty more to come. Lockdowns may pause physical progress but, time has proven, they can spark even brighter, bolder plans. So to all our finalists – and the entire industry – thank you for keeping us excited. We can't wait to see you again soon."
— GT editor Joanna Hunkin
Words by Fiona Donnelly, Michael Harden, Joanna Hunkin, Tristan Lutze, Tory Shepherd, Max Veenhuyzen & Karlie Verkerk

BEST NEW RESTAURANT

A'MARE | Sydney, NSW
Brought to us by Italian power couple Alessandro and Anna Pavoni (Ormeggio at The Spit), a'Mare is the shining jewel in Crown Sydney's dining portfolio. With uninterrupted views of Barangaroo's shimmering bay and interiors inspired by lavish palazzos, there's no better spot to sip sangiovese and swoon over squid-ink risotto. To diners' delight, dinner also comes with a show – vibrant basil pesto is made tableside in a large Carrara marble mortar; while gelato is scooped and topped in front of your eyes. It's a sleek experience that justifies the high price tag.
In short: An elegant affair.
HO JIAK TOWN HALL | Sydney, NSW
Two words perfectly describe Ho Jiak's new Town Hall location: funky and fresh. Funky, for the rich and wonderfully smoky flavours we've come to love about Malaysian cuisine. And fresh, because who knew that marron or truffle would work so well in say a char kway teow or Indomie goreng? Ho Jiak's Town Hall outpost has been dubbed chef and co-owner Junda Khoo's playground, where he puts bold twists on traditional dishes and family favourites. Paired with a buzzy hawker atmosphere, friendly service and a banging cocktail list, good times are guaranteed.
In short: Exhilarating eats.
PORCINE | Sydney, NSW
While the changing menu may seem intimidating on paper (or chalkboard) at Porcine – chopped tongue, whole pig's head terrine, black pudding – it's the exact opposite on the palate. Combining French classics with laidback British pub vibes, delicious porky dishes are the aim of the game here but sit comfortably alongside other classics like smoked eel and potato gratin, and wild rabbit pithiviers. Brought to you by an all-star cast – Nik Hill (The Old Fitz), Harry Levy (Don Peppino's) and Matt Fitzgerald (Solotel Group) – you'll want to pay your respects at this altar for the humble swine.
In short: A porky palace.
GIMLET | Melbourne, Vic
With the number of successful Andrew McConnell restaurants in Melbourne, becoming a bit blasé about the privilege of another one might be par for the course. But then Gimlet arrived beautiful and fully formed, giving off a palpable buzz even when pandemic-induced restrictions were at their most rigorous. It's a reminder both of why we love restaurants and how they make life better. Gimlet pays equal attention to food, booze, service and décor. It's a brilliant all-rounder and Melbourne is so lucky to have it.
In short: An instant classic.
ARU | Melbourne, Vic
Khanh Nguyen first made Melbourne diners sit up and take notice with Sunda. At Sunda's sibling, the big, bold and beautiful Aru, he's turning more heads as he continues to emphatically demolish the notion that fusion-cooking is a dirty word. Nguyen weaves together multiple, seemingly disparate elements – Vietnamese home cooking, Indigenous Australian ingredients, classic French and Malaysian techniques – in often miraculously delicious combinations, on a lengthy menu that will have the decision-phobic calling for their therapists.
In short: Dazzlingly original.
AURORA | Adelaide, SA
It would be a rare fine-dining experience these days without mention of local produce and sustainability. But Adelaide's Aurora is leaps and bounds ahead on the ethical path, at the same time delivering some of the best and most exciting food in South Australia. It's part of the social enterprise Light, a not-for-profit group bringing together musicians, artists, technology and hospitality, with a determination to give back to the community. Head chef Brendan Wessels has pulled together a menu of diverse influences – including his own South African vibe – and delivers excellence with a side of serious benevolence.
In short: Feel-good food.
CORELLA BAR & RESTAURANT | Canberra, ACT
Trying to describe the difference between a wine bar and a restaurant is almost as difficult as defining "Australian cuisine", but Canberra's bright newcomer Corella takes a confident stab at both with its cheery wine-buddying plates sprinkled with hits of both native ingredients and nostalgia. Nearby wineries and Australian distilleries are celebrated on the sharp drinks list; the clever cocktails evoking the same spirit as a menu that might include Davidson plum teriyaki, bush tomato balsamic and Bundy Rum ice-cream.
In short: Australia on a plate.
VAN BONE | Marion Bay, Tas
Building a restaurant with a view as spectacular as the one from Van Bone is a clear statement of confidence that the food can compete with the scenery. Chef Timothy Hardy's confidence is not misplaced. What's happening on the plate in his beautifully minimalist dining room – ingredients pulled from nearby field and ocean, many flavoured with char and smoke from the wood fire – is small scale and artisan but enhanced by the grand view, not diminished by it.
In short: Flavour-enhanced view.
ELSKA, Brisbane, Qld
Opening any restaurant during a pandemic is courageous. Opening a progressive, dégustation-only fine diner with 12 seats? That's a whole different kettle of fish. Especially if you add in a mission statement that involves showcasing under-used native ingredients by employing Scandinavian methods and techniques. On paper, certainly, it's not the most commercially promising of scenarios. Lucky for diners then that Elska owners, chef Nathan Dunnell and Danish expat wife Freja, ignored naysayers and persisted – creating Brisbane's most unlikely but cleverest new tasting menu.
In short: Wildly inspirational.
BIÀNCA | Brisbane, Qld
Biànca is the latest salvo from the savvy crowd behind hits Longtime, Hôntô, Agnes, LOS and Same Same. And boy, experience shows. Everything from Biànca's glowing Modernist Italo-cool interiors, to the affable staff and here-for-a-good-time drinks list conspires to create a buzz even COVID can't kill. Expecting the crew's ever-expanding restaurant empire to create a bit of focus-drift? Forget it. It's eyes down in the kitchen. Your fuss-free paccheri al pomodoro and porchetta alla Romana will emerge on point every time. It's safe to say this fast-paced newcomer is putting the "it" back in Italian.
In short: Everything's rosy at Biànca.
Melbourne chef Khanh Nguyen. His restaurant Aru has been nominated in Best New Restaurant category. Photo: Kristoffer Paulsen

BEST NEW TALENT

JUNG EUN CHAE | Chae, Vic
There's nowhere to hide in a tiny six-seat diner that's attracting increasingly noisy applause, but Jung Eun Chae's one-woman-show apartment-restaurant has nothing to hide. In fact, there's so much good stuff going on you wish more people could see it (an upcoming move to a farm in Cockatoo will not see capacity increase, we're told). Chae, a calm and hospitable presence, crafts amazing Korean dishes, many of them centred on fermentation and house-made seasonings. It's finely hewn, exquisite stuff. Chae, as much artisan as chef, has created something truly original.
In short: Pioneering flair.
NATHAN DUNNELL | Elska, Qld
The only fine dining listed on Nathan Dunnell's resumé is a stint at Brisbane's now defunct Stokehouse Q. But this hasn't impacted creativity or technicality at Elska. There's an abundance of ingenuity involved in the venue's twice-nightly dégustations. From intricate opening snacks through to petits fours, your 15 courses will be meticulously detailed. It could feature anything from a crocodile meatball seasoned with mackerel garum and foraged herbs, to emu tartare wrapped in fermented strawberries.
In short: Native cunning.
ROSHEEN KAUL | Etta, Vic
Despite an impressive CV (Lee Ho Fook, Ezard, Dinner By Heston, Smith & Daughters) and the success of her zine project, The Isol(Asian) Cookbook, Rosheen Kaul initially doubted she was ready for a head chef gig when Etta owner Hannah Green offered her one. Fortunately, Green was right and Kaul's subtle, clever and – best of all – delicious food is a perfect match for the restaurant. The best thing? Every visit keeps getting better.
In short: One to watch.
DAIKI SHIGETA | Fleet/Roco Ramen, NSW
Tokyo-born chef Daiki Shigeta has spent the past three years working alongside Josh Lewis to deliver Fleet's exceptional bespoke tasting menu night after night. In June, together with barman Rob Mudge, he was handed the keys, entrusted to transform one of the country's best restaurants into an artisanal ramen bar, Roco, for a season. Whether creating delicate dishes for Fleet's finessed Mod Oz menu, or serving bowls of rich tokusei ramen, Shigeta has proven he has the skill, commitment and creativity to keep up with the very best.
In short: No fleeting talent.
Best New Talent finalists Jung Eun Chae (Chae) and Rosheen Kaul (Etta). Photo: Parker Blain and Annika Kafcaloudis

BEST DESTINATION DINING

UNDERBAR | Ballarat, Vic
Ballarat's making a serious tilt at becoming one of Victoria's dining destinations right now and Underbar adds serious ballast to that ambition. That it's only 16 seats, opens two nights a week and hides behind an unsigned shopfront all adds to the mystique, but it's the remarkable talent of owner-chef Derek Boath and his scintillating multi-course menus that make the work of hunting down a booking worth the effort. An intimate, intricate experience that resonates long after the final bite.
In short: A hidden gem.
PROVENANCE | Beechworth, Vic
One of the delights of Michael Ryan's brilliant restaurant in Victoria's High Country is its constant evolution. It might be the physical changes in the dining room (the old bank building has gradually softened and warmed over the years) or it might be the amari he's made and added to the drinks list. Or the ingredients he's chosen to ferment, pickle and distil that populate the multi-course menu. The best news? All Ryan's surprises are good ones.
In short: Keeps getting better.
HENTLEY FARM | Barossa Valley, SA
There are many reasons to head to Seppeltsfield in the Barossa Valley, and Hentley Farm is one of the best. It's consistently featured in top-ten lists because it's consistently good. Dine in the atrium, a glassy space looking out to bush and vineyards. Chef Clare Falzon fossicks about in the kitchen garden, hunts foraged goods or curates farmed finds for her ever-changing seasonal lunch menus. And, of course, it's a winery restaurant with a tasting area, if snacking while sipping is more your style.
In short: Nature's bounty.
STILLWATER | Launceston, Tas
Stillwater has been doing its thing in a historic flour mill on the Tamar River for more than 20 years, but the energy it exudes is as fresh as it's ever been. There's an emphasis on Tasmanian produce in dishes that take their cues from a variety of cuisines, both European and Asian, but the major focus is always clean, clear flavour. The wine list is noteworthy, the service exemplary, the views and the light nudging magical.
In short: The taste of experience.
OAKS KITCHEN AND GARDEN | Port Douglas, Qld
There's no air-conditioning (other than overhead fans), it's BYO wine and lunch unfolds languidly in an outdoor kitchen set in a rainforest clearing. But when it comes to a memorable taste of the tropics? It's hard to better Oaks Kitchen and Garden's Thai chef's table experience. This property, near Port Douglas, is the handiwork of Rachael Boon (ex-Lee Ho Fook) and husband Ben Wallace (ex-Longrain). You'll enjoy not just Wallace's sharp kitchen skills but the pick of Boon's permaculture garden.
In short: Untypically tropical.
MILLBROOK | Jarrahdale, WA
Farm-to-table ingredients. Thoughtfully grown veg. Cutting back on wastage. In dining circles, these are serious issues that thoughtful chefs, restaurateurs and eaters meditate on, often at dining establishments with equally serious buy-ins. And then there's Millbrook, a postcard-perfect cellar door restaurant and kitchen garden in the Perth Hills that brings all this to the table at a price (and setting) accessible to all, from extended family groups to industry peers eager to experience No-Waste Monday, one of Australia's best meal deals.
In short: The people's farm-to-table restaurant.
Best Destination Dining finalist Millbrook, located in Jarrahdale, WA. Photo: Supplied

RESTAURANT PERSONALITY OF THE YEAR

SHARON ROMEO | Fino Vino & Fino Seppeltsfield, SA
Sharon Romeo has long been a powerhouse in the South Australian dining scene – a buzzing, compact energy force that enthusiastically guides you through an incredible evening. This legendary vip and vim has seen her work the floor at many of the state's best restaurants, and is the beating heart behind both Fino Seppeltsfield and its CBD sibling, Fino Vino, which opened in December 2019. Keeping the city eatery alive throughout 2020 saw Romeo dig deep and take on multiple roles, working her magic across both sites without ever missing a beat (or an order).
In short: Firecracker.
CAM FAIRBAIRN | Cafe Paci, NSW
If you're not looking to make any more friends, don't go to Cafe Paci. Because after one encounter with maître d' Cam Fairbairn you'll ask yourself why it took you so long to find your bestie. Fun, flirty yet perfectly professional, Fairbairn has honed a unique style of service that is almost impossible to replicate. It's a style that helped shape Acme, where he and his team didn't take themselves too seriously, despite being serious about service standards. Seeing Fairbairn in action is a reminder that hospitality is about making everyone feel welcome.
In short: Seriously unserious.
NICK HILDEBRANDT | Bentley Restaurant Group, NSW
He co-owns some of Sydney's top restaurants, including Best Wine Bar finalist Monopole, and has been crowned the country's best sommelier more than once. But Nick Hildebrandt refers to himself simply as "the wine guy". Don't mistake this lack of ego for a lack of passion –Hildebrandt takes no greater pleasure than introducing his guests to something special, often bringing two bottles to the table, encouraging diners to compare and contrast before picking a favourite. It will be a struggle to decide as both will be excellent; exactly what you didn't know you wanted.
In short: Always trust the wine guy.
TYRON SIMON | Agnes, Same Same, Hôntô, Biànca, Qld
There aren't many owners ready to pull out a blowtorch and char literally hundreds of metres of timber to achieve a design vision. But it's a task Ty Simon undertook to create the shou sugi ban effect he wanted for Hôntô, a darkly beautiful Japanese restaurant opened in 2018. It's a small detail but it's an insight into Simon's untiring commitment to excellence. It's also a pointer to why he's now a key player in a blossoming dining scene, a respected force in the foursome behind Brisbane's hottest tickets.
In short: Finger on the pulse.
HANNAH GREEN | Etta, Vic
You'd immediately award Hannah Green a thousand points on the strength of her disposition alone. And if the delight she displays as you walk into Etta is not genuine, then hand the woman an Oscar as well. But Green is not just a charming and friendly vibe. She's integral to the direction of the food and is also a crack sommelier with a talent for describing wine (especially) in ways that make you want to keep listening, and drinking.
In short: Style and substance.
TANIA NICOLO | Monsterella, WA
Tania Nicolo takes her work as Monsterella co-owner and restaurant manager personally: not (just) because her husband Ryan is the chef or her mother Maria hand-makes the pasta, but because hospitality is an innate part of her nature. While the seven-night hum of this suburban pizzeria demands an equally up-tempo service style, guests feel nothing but looked after with Nicolo and her smiling floor team dispensing an effortless blend of charm, care, humour and – on occasion – good-natured sass.
In short: Leading by example.
Restaurant Personality of the Year finalists Hannah Green (Etta) and Sharon Romeo (Fino Vino & Fino Seppeltsfield). Photo: Annika Kafcaloudis and Julian Cebo
JASON LUI | Flower Drum, Vic
The grand rooms, formally attired floor staff and esteemed reputation can give the impression that Flower Drum is an institution in stasis. But with the charming, impeccably groomed Jason Lui running the ship, the only thing static about Flower Drum is the quality of the food and the experience. From the brand-new bar to the new dishes on the menu that embrace modern techniques and brilliant Australian produce, Lui is keeping the Drum as relevant as ever.
In short: Keeping it fresh.
CARLO GROSSI | Grossi Florentino, Vic
Carlo Grossi is a great argument for those who believe you can inherit the hospitality gene. No matter which part
of his family's historic food and booze emporium on Bourke Hill you find him (these days mostly upstairs in the fine diner), Grossi nails that trickiest of front-of-house balances: informal formality. He'll treat you like royalty but crack a joke while doing it. He's a credit to his family but he's also bloody good at his job.
In short: In the blood.
FEDERICA ANDRISANI & OSKAR ROSSI | Fico, Tas
Fico's wife and husband double-act of Federica Andrisani and Oskar Rossi is integral to making their Hobart restaurant one of the best in the country. They're both excellent and creative chefs but it's not uncommon to also see them on the floor; their calm enthusiasm informing the culture there too. Young and unafraid to break some rules – from food to décor – they display the hospitality smarts of veterans. A winning combination.
In short: A dynamic duo.
Restaurant Personality of the Year finalists Carlo Grossi (Grossi Florentino) and Jason Lui (Flower Drum, pictured with his father Anthony).

WINE BAR OF THE YEAR

SNACK MAN | Brisbane, Qld
Sure charcuterie, conservas and cheese work beautifully with great European wines, but what about open-top dumplings crammed with chicken and prawn? Or sweet pork-floss and green onion Chinese pan-fried "pies"? Or a mushroom chow mein? Assess fresh possibilities at Snack Man, an out-of-the-box wine bar by Cameron and Jordan Votan. In addition to regional plates, you can weigh the merits of classic and lo-fi wine offerings ranging from vin jaune and Bandol rosé to Gravner and more by-the-glass. Staff are friendly, the fit-out sharp and there's a wine wall to inspire.
In short: A one-off.
MONOPOLE | Sydney, NSW
From a bijou neighbourhood wine bar to a light, bright and open space in the heart of corporate Sydney, Monopole moved with the times in 2020 and underwent a radical transformation. With the new look and location came a new wine list and menu from Bentley Group masterminds Brent Savage and Nick Hildebrandt. The result? Something fresh yet familiar, intimate yet open. Hildebrandt's commitment to affordable excellence is what really sets it apart, with a treasure trove of French and Australian wines to explore. Savage's snacks are the gougère on top.
In short: The ultimate glow-up.
PUBLIC WINE SHOP | Melbourne, Vic
Melbourne's always had a knack for finessed, opinionated wine bars and Public Wine Shop, from husband-and-wife team Campbell Burton and Charlotte Ryan, embraces the tradition. Carrying only small batch wines made with organic grapes, without added sulphur, plus a small, similarly principled range of beer, cider and spirits, the bar has another arrow in its quiver in the form of Ali Currey-Voumard, former Agrarian Kitchen head chef, making philosophically-aligned food in a bare bones kitchen.
In short: Nails the brief.
MUMMUCC' | Perth, WA
In Italy's Abruzzo region, Mummucc' (MA-mooch) is slang for mother. In Perth, it's the name of a clubby, neighbourhood bar where good wine and good times flourish. Originally opened as a holding station for parent restaurant Monsterella, this handsome 60-seater has established itself as a destination in its own right, thanks to a well-chosen cellar (lo-fi Italian vino and like-minded Australian cuvées, mostly), Matt McDonald's punchy Italianate cooking, and an informed yet informal approach to watering guests.
In short: The mother of neighbourhood wine bars.
SONNY | Hobart, Tas
In a town with many small, charming venues in historic buildings, relative newcomer Sonny is a finely tuned stand-out. Attention to detail is balanced with an emphasis on good times, tunes and service, while the compact wine list – long live the short, sharp curated list! – with plenty of local stuff and a good, changing selection by the glass cuts out the angst of too many choices. Don't miss the snacks, particularly the pasta, made by ex-Templo chef, and co-owner, Matt Breen.
In short: Small is beautiful.
A look inside Hobart's Sunny, a finalist for the Wine Bar of the Year award. Photo: Supplied