Restaurant Awards

Meet the winners of the 2020 Gourmet Traveller Restaurant Awards

The names and places that should be on your radar.
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Who are the talents pushing the envelope in Australian dining? Which veterans are continuing to set the standard? And where, simply put, are the best places to eat and drink right now? We’ve spent the year looking into these questions in detail, and we hope you enjoy our findings. Presenting the Gourmet Traveller Restaurant Awards, in partnership with Vittoria Coffee, ILVE Appliances, Mutti and Waterford Crystal. Order up!

Words: Max Allen, Fiona Donnelly, Michael Harden, David Matthews, David Sly & Max Veenhuyzen


(Photo: Colin Page)



presented by Vittoria Coffee

Attica has been evolving since it opened more than a decade ago but since Ben Shewry’s buy-out of his business partners a few years back, the evolution has become bolder and more experimental. From what’s on the plate to the restaurant’s culture, an always interesting restaurant is morphing into something even more intriguing. And the inspiration behind the changes doesn’t always come from expected sources. Shewry, a diehard music fan and sometime DJ, cites ’80s punk band Fugazi as an influence on how he approaches Attica. “Fugazi is a band that’s all about self-publishing, self-creating, self-funding and doing everything themselves,” he says. “They have full independence, full creative control and kind of give the finger to the establishment, while on the other side, they’re absolutely taking care of their fans. I like that hardcore mentality paired with the desire to not want to screw people.”

So how does the Fugazi model work in the context of an internationally acclaimed restaurant? For starters, the dining room and service has become looser, more relaxed, while still maintaining a remarkable level of precision. Then there’s the awareness of the mental health of his staff that’s brought about four-day weeks and shifts allocated in the restaurant’s kitchen gardens, bringing fresh air and daylight to the equation. There’s also a deeper engagement with first Australians, not just in terms of ingredients (something he’s been exploring for years), but in learning about and understanding the cultural context and history of those ingredients. It’s this thirst for knowledge that has made the increasingly native ingredient-focused food at Attica move beyond trend towards an understanding of cultural legacy and connection. And with that greater understanding have come dishes that are more delicious than ever and never lose sight of food’s power to comfort and nourish. The evolution continues.

74 Glen Eira Road, Ripponlea, Vic, 3185, (03) 9530 0111,

Paul Carmichael

(Photo: Andrew Finlayson)



When Momofuku Seiobo landed in Sydney back in 2011, it almost defied categorisation. An American-KoreanJapanese-Australian spinoff from a restaurant group headed by David Chang with an English head chef. When it débuted in the Restaurant Guide, took out the award for New Restaurant, then followed it up with Restaurant of the Year it was with a freewheeling style grounded in classic technique. But no one could have predicted what came next. Paul Carmichael tore up the runsheet. Taking the helm at Seiobo in 2015, here was a chef who spied similarities in the Australian produce with that of his home country, Barbados, and the surrounding regions, and set about building a menu that spoke both to his roots and to the place he came to call his home. Such was the impact, Seiobo won Restaurant of the Year (again) in the 2017 awards.

That was then. The Seiobo of today is further down the same path. Way further. The menu has slowly evolved to speak even more to the wider Caribbean, with the likes of coconut rundown served with sea urchin roe, marron sauced in spicy sofrito, and cou cou with corn butter some of many intriguing stops. Most impressive, though, is that Carmichael, ably supported by Kylie Javier Ashton on the floor, has found something of a middleground between homestyle and haute. “I’ve seen a lot more of my personality, and Kylie’s personality, go into the restaurant over time,” he says. “But it takes a long time, and honestly a lot of believing in yourself, for that to happen.” “Early on I thought Seiobo needed to be very delicate, and fine dining and fancy,” he says. “I’m not saying we’re not fine dining, but Caribbean food is bold and big and full of flavour. I’ve really tried not to change it into something it’s not.” In this award, which is peer-voted, there’s recognition from Carmichael’s fellow chefs that following your own track, although not always easy, can lead to some pretty special places.

The Star, 80 Pyrmont Street Level G, Sydney, NSW, 2009, (02) 9657 9169,

Di Stasio Città

(Photo: Peter Bennetts)



presented by Mutti

A new venture from restaurateur Rinaldo Di Stasio was never going to slip under the radar, but even his most ardent fans might not have anticipated the seismic effect his city outpost has had on the dining scene. That vibration? The sound of a gauntlet being thrown down. When Di Stasio Città landed on Spring Street in February, all marble, terrazzo, Murano glass and jittery video art, it was a guns-blazing reminder that great restaurants are not just about food. They must also be places of theatre, of fantasy, of flirtation and fun. It reminded us that it’s exciting to get dressed up for dinner, to eat fried pastries from silver trays, to surrender time to celebrating the things that can’t be valued via spreadsheet. You know, life stuff. Città arrived an undiluted expression of the gospel according to Ronnie.

“When I opened Café Di Stasio in St Kilda it was because I wanted to be in business… I wanted to be my own boss,” he says. “But with Città, it’s not business, it’s personal. I wanted it to be an amalgamation of all the things that I love: Italianality, art, architecture and food. It’s like a personal journey where I can include my love of Venice and Milan with my love of Melbourne.” The best thing about Città is that it works as successfully as a place to get fed and watered, all day every day, as it does as a manifesto. It might not be for everybody, and grand expressions like these never come cheap, but it’s filled a gap and added something important to the dining scene, not just of Melbourne but of the country. Everybody can come here and be a little more glamorous, have a little more fun, drink and eat a little more than they should and then head back into the world a little better for it. That’s something we can all get behind.

45 Spring Street, Melbourne, Vic, 3000, (03) 9070 1177,

Alanna Sapwell

(Photo: Pandora Photography)



presented by ILVE Appliances

For some chefs an award is a licence to slip the foot off the pedal and have a breather. For others, like Alanna Sapwell, accolades are a spur to dig deep, redouble efforts and encourage your team to soar higher yet. “It’s always incredible to be recognised but with that comes expectations,” says Sapwell, head chef of Brisbane’s stylish Arc Dining and Wine Bar. “Bums on seats help – but it’s only any good if those diner expectations are met.” Since starting as kitchen head at Howard Smith Wharves’ flagship venue in February, Sapwell has effortlessly exceeded expectations. It’s been a stellar return home to Queensland for the Sunshine Coast-raised chef, who quit a plum role as head chef at Sydney’s Saint Peter to helm the riverside destination.

Her cooking style is marked by a light hand, anchored by classical nous and an appetite for hard work – she was an apprentice under Noosa-based chef David Rayner and served in head and sous-chef positions In Japan and Italy, as well as filling senior roles in top Brisbane restaurants. Her kitchen at Arc reflects her regard for tradition and doing things properly. It’s a sous vide-free zone to ensure her squad learns the basics, not shortcuts, with staples like butter made in-house to nurture skills and creativity. Arc’s menu is bright, confident and in tune with its location, but it’s Sapwell’s ability to coax diners (and staff) to accompany her on interesting detours that’s delivering dividends for Queensland dining – this may involve serving lesser-known catch like rosy jobfish, making charcuterie in house or treating fruit and vegetables in new ways – fermenting persimmon, creaming leeks with beeswax, or deploying cranberry hibiscus in crab miang kham.

Sapwell’s clever riffs on classics – an ever changing house cake coated with finger lime sprinkles, or noodles conjured from grilled squid with preserved lime and saltbush dressing – are further testament to her breadth and flair. Talent to burn, and she’s just getting started.

5 Boundary Street, Brisbane City, Qld, 4000, (07) 3505 3980,

Kylie Kwong

(Photo: Alicia Taylor)



Billy Kwong wasn’t just a restaurant, it represented the very best of Australian cuisine. And in Kylie Kwong we have an ambassador for what Australian dining looks like. It looks like a third-generation Chinese Australian woman who came to marry Cantonese food with skills picked up under some of the country’s finest chefs. Who built a hole in a wall in Surry Hills and watched it flourish before throwing it all in and reopening in a big, beautiful space in Potts Point. And who, after some provocation by a certain Danish chef, switched gears, bringing the native ingredients of this land into the fold on her menus in a way that few local chefs have, even now.

Make no mistake. In bringing together the food of her heritage with the food of her country Kylie Kwong came closer to a true Australian cuisine than maybe anyone, with food that spoke of people and place and still managed to remain unerringly delicious. Davidson’s plum lending sharp acid sweetness to deep-fried duck, for instance, finger lime giving pop to wok-tossed yabbies sticky with XO sauce. Seeing the outpouring of affection that accompanied the closure of Billy Kwong this year reminded us that a restaurant can be much more than a place to have dinner. For her, it was a hub, bringing together collaborators, each with an interest in improving the world around them. Be it fishermen, growers, artists, preachers, beekeepers or brewers, Kwong had, and has, an eye for spotting the right people and bringing them into her and our world.

“The wonderful thing is,” she says, “as cooks, as chefs, and via the food we put on the table, we can make so many of these connections and highlight these community issues in such a beautiful, delicious way. I think in that respect, we’re very lucky.” She and us both.

Read more on Kylie Kwong’s plans for the future.

(From left) Mary’s wine director Caitlyn Rees, co-owners Kenny Graham and Jake Smyth and sommelier Charles Leong.

(Photo: Jason Loucas)



“Basement restaurants with brilliant wine lists” are now officially A Thing in Sydney. First there was Hubert (winner of our 2017 Wine List of the Year); now, a Champagne-cork-pop away from Hubert near Circular Quay, we have the outstanding list at Mary’s Underground. Caitlyn Rees, GT’s Sommelier of the Year for 2018 and formerly at Fred’s in Paddington, lays out her philosophy clearly on the first page of this superb, on-trend, 250-wine list: everything on offer here is organic and/or biodynamic, wild-yeast fermented and made with little or no sulphur – the kind of wines, in other words, that rusted-on Mary’s fans love to drink. Rees doesn’t let ideology stand in the way of quality, though: this is a wide-ranging selection of wines, from grower Champagnes to “Jurassic” whites, from obscure Italian ramato to Grand Cru Burgundy, with few if any heading too far into the funky/chunky end of the natty wine spectrum. The prices are also surprisingly reasonable, on the whole: two-dozen excellent by-the-glass options start at $12 (almost unheard-of in Sydney venues of this calibre), there’s plenty to drink well under $100, and the standard of wine service is, as you’d expect, impeccable.

29 Reiby Place, Circular Quay, NSW, 2000, (02) 9247 3430,

Leanne Altmann

(Photo: Kristoffer Paulsen)



presented by Waterford Crystal

Some sommeliers can’t wait to prove how clever they are. But Leanne Altmann, beverage director of all Andrew McConnell’s restaurants, has a humour and a calm assurance about her that makes it feel like you’re being guided rather than led. She asks questions, listens to answers and imparts information in a way that’s more anecdote than lecture. Altmann also has the ability to gauge your level of expertise and interest, displaying the same level of engagement whether you’re considering cocktails, softs, sake, beer or wine. It’s all about getting you the good drink, one that will bring out the best in the food. Given that the lists in McConnell’s venues emphasise small, artisan and sometimes obscure producers, there’s always a clear and present danger of intimidation for the unwitting punter. Leanne Altmann eliminates the danger.

Cutler & Co, 55–57 Gertrude St. Fitzroy, Vic, 3065, (03) 9419 4888,

Wines of While

(Photo: Lulu Cavanagh)



Short for Wait A-while. Or so the joke about slow-moving WA used to go. Then along comes Wines of While, a cosy, freewheeling wine bar and bottle shop at the non-striker’s end of William Street, to really silence the haters. This ode to organic winemaking has been a hit since opening last August and, believe it or not, it’s only gotten busier and more confident over the past 12 months. Owner and first-time publican Sam Winfield doesn’t just know his wines, he’s priced bottles to move and offers everything alongside a tight blackboard menu of uncomplicated yet excellent Mediterranean staples: think great house sourdough and accompaniments, comforting pasta and seasonal salads. Easy-going service from a team that just seem to inherently understand hospitality no matter their experience is just as likeable. Factor in a robust pop-up program that sees everyone from Northern Thai zealots to fried chicken sandwich bootleggers take over the kitchen and Wines of While’s reputation as Perth’s ground zero for natural wines and good times is all too obvious.

458 William St, Perth, WA, (08) 9328 3332,


(Photo: Kristoffer Paulsen)



One of Brae’s paddocks produced nearly six tonnes of wheat this year, a successful first crop five years in the making. The grain is stored in a neighbour’s silo before being brought, ute-load at a time, to the kitchen where it’s milled in small batches and baked into bread in a woodfired oven. There’s never been a masterplan for Brae to become self-sufficient but every year chef Dan Hunter grows more of the ingredients that will land on his restaurant’s tables. And while the beehives, the ever-expanding vegetable gardens, olive and citrus orchards, chicken runs and now the paddock full of wheat might read as some kind of Bear Grylls-style extreme restauranting, it’s less about fanatical adherence to locavore ideology than it is a full-fledged commitment to getting great ingredients onto the plate. What Hunter does with these ingredients at Brae is to reflect the surrounding countryside in flavour. Whether they’re grown in the gardens or sourced from nearby producers, the ingredients speak of the soil, air and water of this rural-maritime region. It’s a detailed, succinct, clever portrait that marks Brae as one of Australia’s great restaurants. Combined with an elegant dining room that still hints at the restaurant’s farmhouse past, superb service from a committed team and a drinks list in lock step with the flavours on the plate, Hunter keeps honing a singular dining experience that reclaims the seasonal-regional cliché from marketing mantra and reframes it as a way of life.

4285 Cape Otway Rd, Birregurra, Vic, 3242, (03) 5236 2226,



It’s the art you notice first: the neon-fabulous mural by artist Reko Rennie outside Di Stasio Città – the restaurant’s only form of signage – and then the jittery, looping video art inside by Rennie and Shaun Gladwell. But there’s craft in the Hassell-designed, temple-like interior too – the hand-poured terrazzo floor, polished plaster walls, white marble bar, red leather chairs and Murano glass chandeliers that float like marine life above the bathrooms. Città is a skilful, seamless blend of gallery and restaurant, one that makes it logical to be drinking a Martini served on a silver tray while art formerly shown in the Australian Pavilion at the Venice Biennale splashes the room with the colours of the desert. Add a few techy flourishes – the button-operated sliding doors at the entrance and in the bathrooms – and it all adds up to a transporting space; unique, beautiful and a whole lot of fun.

45 Spring Street, Melbourne, Vic, 3000, (03) 9070 1177,

Joanna Smith

(Photo: Julian Kingma)



The superpower of any great maître d’ is making everybody in the room believe it’s mainly about them. Joanna Smith has the power. She used it to great effect when working for Aaron Turner at Loam and has honed it to a fine art at Igni, which she co-owns with her former boss. It’s a great double act. Turner runs a calm kitchen, and Smith’s talent is to always appear unrushed, fully focused and fully engaged with whoever she’s interacting with at the time, even if the room is full of punters similarly convinced that they’re the sole focus of her attention. This is made possible not just because Smith has assembled a well-trained team who follow her calm and assured lead, but because there’s nothing cynical In her approach. Her innate sense of hospitality means that you, and everybody else in the room, really are her favourite customers.

Ryan Place, Geelong, Vic, 3220, (03) 5222 2266,


(PhotoO: Andre Costellucci)



The quest to identify and understand Australian cuisine through this country’s indigenous ingredients has driven Jock Zonfrillo as a chef. Spending time with Indigenous communities provided the impetus that led to great success for his restaurant, Orana, but it’s also providing the template for our chefs to better understand this country’s flavours. Accolades are not Zonfrillo’s goal. Rather, its The Orana Foundation, which serves dual purposes of supporting Indigenous communities in developing food supply businesses, and creating a database of Australian native foods and how best to use them. It informs Orana’s nimble menu that changes as produce availability allows, but Zonfrillo’s masterstroke is in the application. Ingredients alone do not provide the magic, but it is how they are prepared and combined with other ingredients that unlock an entirely new taste spectrum. It’s a universe Zonfrillo is still discovering, while a league of rising chefs is also embracing lessons being learned in Orana’s kitchen. The influence is spreading.

Upper Level, 285 Rundle St, Adelaide, SA, (08) 8232 3444,

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