Restaurant Awards

The Winners of the 2019 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 have 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 and Santa Vittoria. Order up!

Photography: Adam Gibson (Franklin), Will Horner (Ali Currey-Voumard; Josh Niland), Julian Kingma (Dinner by Heston Blumenthal; Laura), Colin Page (Brae), Mark Roper (Phil Wood), Rob Shaw (Quay; Rootstock), Jessica Wyld (Emma Farrelly; Liberté).

Videography: Will Suen

2019 Restaurant of the Year: Quay, Sydney


No pressure. But when you’re running one of the most visible, celebrated and (yes) expensive restaurants in the country, and you spend three months and many millions rethinking the place from the carpet up, there’s going to be a certain amount of scrutiny from the dedicated diners of Australia when you throw open the doors. Such is the nature of a special-occasion restaurant; your guests develop an emotional investment in what you do. They don’t think of it as your place, but as their place. (Retire your snow egg at your peril, and be careful what you do with your tablecloths.)

But just about everything at the new Quay has been done to put the focus back on the diner. Peter Gilmore is no one-trick pony and The Fink Group’s big gamble has paid off. The new Quay does everything the old Quay did – the dazzling food, the sense of occasion – while trimming away the hint of the rote, of the production-line that had rankled with some diners. Our reviewers noted in last year’s guide that certain “naff, nanna and negligent” aspects of service had begun to creep into the experience. A year down the track and the Quay of today is a long way from any of those things. Jeremy Courmadias, a Le Caprice alumnus who gave new polish to Rockpool Bar & Grill in his previous job, has brought a very welcome transformation to the service culture. And Gilmore and his team, reveling in a new-build kitchen, are flexing their muscles anew. It’s a new Quay, and there’s no other restaurant quite like it.

Quay, Upper Level, Overseas Passenger Terminal, The Rocks, NSW, (02) 9251 5600,

Pictured: chef Peter Gilmore and Fink Group’s creative director John Fink

2019 Chef of the Year: Josh Niland, Saint Peter, Sydney


You might recall Josh Niland appearing in this very awards rundown this time last year when he scored the Best New Talent prize. (The keen-eyed reader may also recall that his seafood attire of choice on that occasion was socks decorated with pictures of sharks.) In what might well be the fastest turnaround of its kind, he has been catapulted straight to the top of our peer-voted award this year.

The mechanics of the award are simple: we ask the chefs of last edition’s top 100 restaurants which chef working in Australia today they respect most. Whether it’s his humility, work ethic or sui generis seafood skills, there’s something about what Josh Niland does at Saint Peter that is as captivating to his fellow professionals as it is to us diners. Not content with simply opening one of the best seafood restaurants the country has seen, he is now trying to rework seafood retail at his neighbouring Fish Butchery. Niland’s skill in the kitchen will be abundantly clear to anyone lucky enough to dine at Saint Peter, but his larger gifts as a chef – running a team and keeping them in tip-top condition – are just as worthy of emulation.

Part of his motivation in finding brilliant ways to minimise the waste from the fish he buys has been to put the savings he makes into giving his chefs better working hours. “Our staff at Saint Peter have hobbies beyond eating and drinking themselves silly and sleeping all day,” he says. “To me, that means we’re doing something right.”

Saint Peter, 362 Oxford St, Paddington, NSW, (02) 8937 2530,

2019 New Restaurant of the Year: Laura, Merricks


Given the buzz ahead of the opening of Pt Leo Estate‘s restaurant, expectations could’ve readily been dashed. Instead Laura surprised with its perfectly pitched low-key luxury, its confidence and chef Phil Wood’s original, beautiful and completely delicious interpretations of the flavours of the Mornington Peninsula. There’s also the lure of a team of professional floor staff led by one of the country’s finest front-of-house folk, Ainslie Lubbock. The list features estate wines but also showcases great small vintners from across the globe.

Grounds filled with fine sculpture give way to pastures and then sea. It’s an enviable setting for skilled and often surprising cooking that uses a rollcall of great local ingredients – Flinders mussels, vine leaves from the Estate – in intricate, artfully plated dishes that speak of the region in a way that is new. This is an ambitious restaurant but it’s also quiet, comfortable and untroubled by the need to declaim its virtues.

Laura, Pt Leo Estate, 3649 Frankston-Flinders Rd, Merricks, Vic, (03) 5989 9011,



Ali Currey-Voumard started cooking as a teenager, first in her native Tasmania and then in Melbourne where she worked in the Andrew McConnell stable of restaurants, including a stint front of house at Fitzroy wine bar Marion. She returned to Tasmania to take the lead at her first kitchen at the age of 25 and has shown impressive maturity and nerve in the face of an avalanche of accolades and attention that the New Norfolk diner has received since it opened last year. She’s also proven to be a clever and dexterous chef, able to thrive within the challenges of a strict philosophy of using only sustainable, seasonal, locally and ethically produced ingredients. As a diner you don’t notice the effort; Currey-Voumard’s food is bracingly tasty, often playful, always comforting.

Currey-Voumard says that running a kitchen has changed her priorities a little. “Initially it was all about the food and respect for the ingredient,” she says. “Now I realise that you have to have respect for your staff and how they’re feeling, too. It used to be that fun was a dirty word in many kitchens but I’ve come to realise that if you and your staff are having fun then that is absolutely going to be reflected in the food you’re cooking.” Her object now is to make sustainable staff as big a priority as sustainable ingredients. It’s an attitude that bodes well for Tasmania’s culinary future.

The Agrarian Kitchen Eatery, 11a The Avenue, New Norfolk, Tas, (03) 6262 0011,



Though it was ostensibly focused on natural wine, the not-for-profit Rootstock festival, which was started in Sydney in 2013 by Mike Bennie, Giorgio De Maria, James Hird, Linda Wiss and Matt Young, was elastic enough to draw together food and art from Indigenous communities and from Georgia, to broaden Australian drinkers’ understanding of beer and sake, raw-milk cheese and heirloom livestock. All about collaboration and creative mutation, it went on the road to Melbourne and Tokyo, and became a highlight of the global calendar for destination drinkers. It crowdfunded Indigenous agriculture through the Gurandgi Munjie project, and last year, in what turned out to be its final outing, it bottled a brandy distilled from the wine collected from the previous festival’s spit buckets in the name of addressing waste. It showed the food and wine community that Australian drinkers are much more adventurous than they’d previously thought, and it reminded everyone that wine is, after all, supposed to be fun. It changed the conversation about wine in Australia, but for its organisers, Rootstock’s big achievement, beyond sharing knowledge and passion, was the building of a community. Wine comes to life when it brings together people, sparking dialogue between farmers and artists, cooks and producers, professionals and the public, the dreamers and the doers. Here’s to you, Rootstock.

From left: Rootstock founders Matt Young, Mike Bennie, Giorgio De Maria and James Hird. All dressed by Harrolds.



Given the faultless choreography of the service at Heston Blumenthal’s Melbourne outpost, accolades could go to Dinner’s general manager Jonno Forbes and restaurant manager Danilo Mancini, even if just for their ability to hire and train the right people. The greatness here is a sum-of-its-parts scenario, with every member of the team equally committed to showing diners a good time. There’s pride and confidence in the approach, starting with the well-designed and meticulously kept uniforms and continuing with the charming greeting at the front desk, the skill and witty banter at the excellent bar and a relaxed, informed tableside manner that’s never rushed or pushy and is defined by an enthusiasm for what’s being served and poured. If it’s not genuine, it deserves a swag of acting awards. Experiencing seamless service like this emphasises how integral the front of house experience is to a restaurant’s success. It also underlines the truth that serving people is a genuinely honourable profession, one where you send people out into the night feeling better about themselves than when they arrived. That’s what they do here and why we reckon they’re one team really worth barracking for.

Dinner By Heston Blumenthal, Crown Towers, Level 3, 8 Whiteman St, Southbank, Vic, (03) 9292 5779,

2019 Regional Restaurant of the Year: Brae, Birragurra


There’s often a caveat for regional restaurants, one that forgives lapses because of location: it does well, considering where it is. Brae, on the other hand, is great because of where it is. Dan Hunter’s talent and experience would predict a quality dining experience no matter where he set up shop, but it’s in the country, a gorgeous part of the world 90 minutes from Melbourne, where his sincere, emphatic and uncompromising embrace of the seasonal and regional really pays the best dividends. And Brae just keeps getting better.

Hunter’s knowledge of the region and the people who are growing and producing superb ingredients there continues to expand, just as his property at Birregurra increases the number and size of its gardens, fruit trees and beehives. The commitment to cooking with produce he’s grown himself now runs to Hunter and his team growing their own wheat to mill daily for bread, cooked in an outside oven fired with local wood. It all speaks of a rustic, dirt-under-the-fingernails approach. And that’s what makes the juxtaposition with Brae’s sophisticated, clean-lined dining room, one of the best service teams in the country and the refined artistry happening on the plate so impressive.

Brae’s multi-course menus include some greatest hits – the oyster ice-cream, the parsnip “pastry”, the smoked eel doughnut – but they’re also very much influenced by what’s coming out of the garden, or the sea, or a nearby property that day. Hunter has the ability to sketch both region and time of year on the plate with complexity and skill that never seems fussy or overworked. Everything on the plate must have a job to do and, when you’re eating a lengthy meal like this, that kind of careful editing is worth a standing ovation on its own. There’s also the best restaurant accommodation in the country – generously stocked, luxurious rooms designed by architects Six Degrees that should have a place on any self-respecting food fan’s bucket list – making this a dining experience as complete as it is unique.

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

2019 Bar of the Year: Liberte


The space might be a Francophile’s dream – Parisian tat and zinc tables in the front bar, vintage Belle Époque glamour in the dining room – but this plucky watering hole draws key inspiration from the Great Southern region. Local names are front and centre on a drinks list celebrating maverick brewers and free-thinking vignerons. A good bar, after all, is all about looking after locals. Then there’s bar manager Keryn Giles, a quietly spoken cocktail force to be reckoned with. She knows her way around the classics but her inventive creations starring local brandy, honey, and cold-brew coffee exemplify her think-global-shake-local approach. And whether owner-chef Amy Hamilton is celebrating underappreciated seafood or unconditionally supporting the little guys, (“I always pay small producers first,” she says), she’s also all about maximising her home-court advantage. “The isolation forces a sort of creativity,” she says. “When I started, I was looking at French and Vietnamese cooking, but I think the key to Liberté is how we interpret those flavours through Great Southern ingredients.”

Liberté, 160-162 Stirling Tce, Albany, WA, (08) 9847 4797,

2019 Wine List of the Year: Franklin, Hobart


Deliciously idiosyncratic, with a deep lean towards all things natural, the list at Franklin, which opened in 2014, has always been unlike any other in the country. But just as the arrival of Analiese Gregory has taken the restaurant to a new level, so too has the wine offering become a more confident and complete package under the guidance of manager Forbes Appleby. There are layers to the wine experience here, accommodating different levels of expectation and enthusiasm. The list handed to guests on arrival consists of three-dozen brilliantly diverse wines, half of which are available by the glass, plus a concise drinks selection featuring mostly local craft brewers and distillers. But for those who want to really embrace Franklin’s natural passion, there are other lists: one a celebration of all things sparkling and unfiltered (the country’s best collection of pét-nats), the other a line-up of rare, unusual, hard-to-find bottles. Franklin’s wine offering is still refreshingly unique, but now it’s better than ever.

Franklin, 30 Argyle St, Hobart, Tas, (03) 6234 3375,

2019 Sommelier of the Year: Emma Farrelly, State Buildings, Perth


One inner-city precinct. Many eating and drinking options. Countless happy guests. This is how Emma Farrelly, wine director at Perth’s ambitious State Buildings, is advancing the wine discussion out west. Overseeing the wine lists at four different venues requires a crystal-clear understanding of both restaurant and diner, yet Farrelly manages to make it look easy. Big-ticket labels? Go directly to Wildflower, the Como hotel’s elegant, special-occasion-ready rooftop fine-diner. Need a little more vermentino, nebbiolo and garganega in your life? All-day trattoria Post celebrates Italian wine culture with vino from Australia as well as the mother country. Aromatic, spice-friendly wines star at Long Chim while Petition’s collection of small-scale Australian labels is simpático with the menu’s focus on local produce. (The options at Petition’s dedicated wine bar and enoteca are even more far-reaching and tempting, still, not least because diners are welcome to buy any bottle off the shelf and enjoy it at the restaurant proper).

Wine know-how aside, contagious enthusiasm and a love of her job are Farrelly’s calling cards. She’s also regarded as being one of the industry’s good guys: after some formative years at Perth’s famed Must Winebar under mentors Anne-Marie Banting and Paul McArdle, she consulted to various operators around WA before being headhunted for her current gig two years ago. In that time, she’s managed to simultaneously step up the State Buildings’ collective wine offering while making it more fun. Whether you’re chasing the natural and the cutting-edge or the rarest of grands crus, Farrelly has your back (vintage).

State Buildings, Cnr St Georges Tce & Barrack St, Perth, (08) 6168 7780,

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