Fire and smoke are back in a big way, though the lessons of molecular are still very much in vogue; ‘provenance’ is the one word you’ll be sick of by 2015, but chefs growing their own grub is likely to never get old.
We’ve compiled an almost-painfully short list of some of the most exciting restaurants around the country, 10 great venues that are experimenting as much as they’re entertaining. Enjoy.
46-52 Meagher St,
Good old Chippo’s long been on the up-and-up, but Ester officially elevates the suburb to a dining hot-spot. The restaurant’s spiritual centre is an enormous wood-fired oven, which head chef Mat Lindsay puts to excellent use on anything vaguely edible – but most notably, half a chicken. Rustic, earthy and comfortable, Ester’s packed out for a reason.
4285 Cape Otway Rd.
Everyone’s pretty excited about Brae. Former Royal Mail chef Dan Hunter has literally put down roots, growing produce directly for the plate on his own little patch of land. While part of the magic’s travelling two hours from Melbourne to dine in Hunter’s farmhouse, it’s the chef’s labour-intensive but culinarily-honest menu that’s the real trick.
90 Collins St
It’s a strange state of affairs when being able to book a table at a restaurant makes food news headlines… But, Philippa Sibley and Jason M. Jones quasi-themed, pre-paid restaurant Prix Fixe is much more than just a novelty. Devising a brand-new set menu every month, Sibley and Jones are doing uncomplicated if scrupulously executed food in a space that’s, well, fun.
24 Waymouth St,
Duncan Welgemoed might be South African born, but when it comes to throwing down for your home town, it’s Adelaide this chef represents. His small-statured but big-hearted diner, Bistro Dom, is all about terroir; greens and herbs are foraged from the Basket Ranges, veggies are grown in his personal patch, and the (amazing) wines come from his mate’s sheds. The ringleader of an emerging bande à part, Bistro Dom isn’t the Adelaide we know, but it’s the one we love.
158 Enmore Rd,
Once upon a time, Enmore Road meant Saray’s, Faheem’s and the Sultan’s Table (and thank heavens it still does). And though Newtown lifers might rail against the suburb’s gentrification, Italian-by-way-of-New-York-and-North-Sydney’s Osteria di Russo n Russo is a welcome by-product. Inventive young chef Jason Saxby is re-imagining Italian classics in the kitchen, while Marc Russo delivers hospitality of the old school on the floor.
92 Smith St
You’d think you know what to expect with dishes like “sweet and sour pork”, “Shangdong Chicken” and “Special Fried Rice”. That is, unless, you’re at Lee Ho Fook, where you’d be completely and utterly wrong. Young chef Victor Liong is one of the true innovators of Chinese cuisine, and his casual Collingwood venue is one of the more interesting things to happen in a year full of pleasant surprises.
91-93 Macquarie St,
Okay, so we haven’t actually eaten here yet – but that’s because doors are yet to open on what may very well be Tasmania’s – if not Australia’s – most anticipated new restaurant. Formerly situated across the water from Bruny Island at Peppermint Bay, The Stackings’ was getting serious vibes for chef David Moyle’s fishy menu. Now, it’s in the process of opening in the big (well, bigger) smoke, with a space in the former Mercury building to be revealed within the next couple of months. We’re booking flights…
10 William Street,
Daniel Pepperell has been building a chef’s dream CV for a few years now, notching up joints like Oscillate Wildly, Attica and Momofuku in New York. But it’s at 10 William Street that the young chef’s really making his name. Molecular reassemblies of Italian classics; butch offal or Mediterranean-Asian fusion; whatever: Pepperell’s game. As are we.
9 Elouera Street
Mode 3 Building,
With its menu scrawled across the wall, Eighty Six wants to tell the nation’s capital it’s different. And it is: French, Italian and American favourites appear on your plate as though scrambled in a (tasty) black hole. Wacky European wines are served by the glass, and there’s a caramel popcorn sundae. We’re not in Canberra anymore, right?
Radisson Blu Hotel
27 O’Connell St
The Bentley was great when it was an upwardly-mobile pub with intentions. These days, the Bentley’s a genuine diner above the Radison Blu – and now it’s even better. After relocating from Surry Hills to a heritage site in the CBD, owner-chef Brent Savage is walking a precise line between delicate, inventive cuisine and plate-licking grub.