The usually discrete worlds of élite Australian dining and Italian dancing collided in the tastiest of ways at the Gourmet Traveller restaurant awards last night.
A creative collaboration with the Italo Disco project of Sydney restaurateurs Maurice Terzini and Giovanni Paradiso gave proceedings a mirror-ball sparkle. Rockpool was named Australia's Restaurant of the Year, Brae's Dan Hunter walked away with Chef of the Year, and in a surprise turn-out Bennelong won New Restaurant of the Year in an evening brimming with celebration and glammed-up bonhomie. "It's a very special award to win, that's for sure," says Bennelong's Peter Gilmore. "It's one of the most coveted awards in the country because it's national."
Redfern's Carriageworks was a feast for more senses than one, with the teams from Icebergs and 10 William St putting together a menu that was gutsy and inventive in just the right measure. Natural wines from prosecco producer Zanotto and South Australian vino-provocateur Tom Shobbrook flowed as platters of anchovy grissini and gnocco fritto with speck were ferried around the crowd by a platoon of crisply white-jacketed waiters. And as the awards got underway in earnest, guests rolled up their sleeves to do battle with radishes and laver cream, steamed artichokes and schmaltz, and mozzarella with black-garlic bread before the main event arrived: seriously luscious, piping-hot roast suckling pig with cime di rapa gratin and roasties.
It was a rocking night. As grand a spectacle as it presented, it was, as they say, one of those success stories that's the result of a lot of small things done well, and the contributions from the crack team at Aria Catering, a kitchen led by Icebergs chef Monty Koludrovic and 10 William's Enrico Tomelleri, aperitivi and digestivi fuelled by Campari, Aperol, Four Pillars Gin, Peroni and Fox Beverages, and the support from Ilve, Uniworld and Sydney Kitchens, and, above all, the essential sponsorship of major partner Vittoria Coffee made it a party truly worthy of celebrating the best in Australian hospitality.
The unfailingly glamorous Leila McKinnon cut a dash as host, friendships were forged and renewed over the table and the bar, laughs were had, and the good times (and disco tunes) continued well into the night, fuelled by Negronis and pizza.
And with that, we're proud to present the Gourmet Traveller 2016 Australian Restaurant Guide. For more details on all the award winners plus a year of wonderful eating, pick up your copy with the September issue - it's on sale now.