THE TEAM AT DINNER BY HESTON BLUMENTHAL, MELBOURNE, VIC
Singling out one person from the service team at Heston Blumenthal's Melbourne restaurant misses the point. The level of poise, personality and polish is a meticulously groomed group effort – from the people greeting you at the door, to those who mix and serve some of the city's most sublime cocktails to the ones who graciously attend the well-spaced tables. It's truly wonderful to witness, like a seamless choreography, made even better by the entire staff appearing genuinely committed to and invested in giving you the best time possible. Assured, confident and well-versed in what's happening on the menu and wine list, this is one team worth following.
In short: Dream team.
MICHAEL NICOLIAN, CONTINENTAL, SYDNEY, NSW
You loved Michael Nicolian's work at the bar upstairs at the old Porteño, but it has been at Continental, the Newtown deli-diner-drinks haunt he opened with his former employers, Joe Valore and Elvis Abrahanowicz, that he has really won your heart. Here Nicolian has a more intimate stage for his bartending prowess, but also the scope to display his gifts as a host, an admirer of cheese and canned fish and a bringer of the good times. With a gentle lisp and an even gentler manner, he puts the hospitable into hospitality, and we can't wait to see what he does with Continental's Sydney CBD branch, opening soon.
In short: A jack-of-all-trades who masters his craft.
SARAH FEEHAN, D'ARENBERG CUBE, MCLAREN VALE, SA
Mad geometric building design. Outrageous harlequin colour scheme. Oddball artefacts. Weaving all of the d'Arenberg Cube's disparate characteristics into a cohesive dining experience with the right mix of wow-factor and whimsy might daunt some, but not Sarah Feehan. Smart and assured, the 33-year-old draws on considerable experience at the top end of the trade, from running the floor at Southern Ocean Lodge on Kangaroo Island to stints at Orana, Attica, and Noma in Copenhagen, Sydney and Tulum. This has given her the skills and confidence to appear unflappable during epic four-hour Cube lunches, abetting diners through a procession of luxurious dishes while capturing a joyous spirit that this idiosyncratic destination demands.
In short: Calm inside a kaleidoscope.