Hats on and off at Sydney restaurateurs’ night of nerves
NTheSydneyMorningHerald ’ Good Food Guide Awards, held at the Museum of Contemporary Art at the APEC-enforced Circular Quay on Monday night.
Even the most competitive (catty?) among the assembled crowd couldn’t help but applaud another success for Tetsuya Wakuda’s world-acclaimed venue. Travel& Indulgence ’ s Alistair Jones stood in for FoodDetective and reports that although there was no blood on the floor, there were gasps of mock horror and flexed claws at a few of the night’s surprises. ‘‘ It’s like school bullies waiting to pounce on the new kids,’’ commented one guest.
Chef’s hat ratings came and went but it was the loss of one hat each for Guillaume at Bennelong (from three to two) and Bathers’ Pavilion (one to zilch) that got the crowd of restaurateurs, press and foodies nattering. Perhaps it was just as well the Good Food Guide editors didn’t choose the demoted Guillaume at Bennelong as the awards venue. It hosted the event last year and food apparently was many notches above, and more plentiful than, that of the MCA’s caterers.
Aria and Rockpool failed to pick up that elusive third hat but Tony Bilson sighed O shock horror that Tetsuya’s should be named restaurant of the year at
s with relief when Bilson’s remained a firm three-hatter, one of seven in the city. He told Jones he had put on 7kg during his recent visit to France, interviewing (and presumably eating the spoils of) rising Michelin-hatted stars.
Despite the rivalries, Jones reports he viewed one vignette that sums up the positive side of the awards. Darleys, the heritage restaurant at Lilianfels in the Blue Mountains, kept its first hat in the regional category. The Lilianfels representatives glowed with delight only to almost faint with joy moments later when Darleys won best regional restaurant.
The Good Food Guide 2008 is now on sale; for the first time, there are half-points and ‘‘ the bar has risen’’, say co-editors Simon Thomsen and Joanna Savill, ‘‘ to a score of 14.5 for a restaurant to earn a chef’s hat’’. The ones to watch? The freshly capped Glebe Point Diner, with its comfort food, and Azuma, where chef Kimitaka Azuma must surely aspire to a second hat to join fellow Japanese-Australian chef Ryuichi Yoshii of the stellar Yoshii at The Rocks.
ASIDE from the accolades for established restaurateurs, it’s good to note that newbies and veterans are not forgotten in theSMH annual awardfest. Daniel Hong of Bentley Restaurant & Bar picked up the Josephine Pignolet Best Young Chef trophy while Michael Manners, formerly of Selkirks, Orange, was honoured with the Vittoria Legend award for his contribution to regional fine dining.
Detective fondly remembers deliciously drawn-out weekend lunches in the 1980s at Manners’s Glenella at Blackheath in the Blue Mountains. By the way, his utterly charming former wife Monique Manners is now in charge of guest relations at Lilianfels, bringing an extra rung of savoir faire to proceedings.
THE Strathbogie region, 90 minutes north of Melbourne, is where to head on September 30 for wining and dining with a local flavour. The White Hart Hotel at Longwood will host a lunch featuring local produce, followed by tastings from 2.30pm to 5pm attended by winemakers from the parish. White Hart’s co-proprietor Nadiene Power says, ‘‘ Our chef Vikram Kotamraju will prepare a special lunch featuring local produce, matched to some fine examples of Strathbogie wines.’’
Power adds that more than 75 per cent of the wines she serves are sourced locally. Strathbogie primarily produces shiraz and cabernet, and district wineries include Elgo Estate, Longwood Winery, Maygars Hill, Plunkett Fowles, Dawson & Wills and Kithbrook Estate. Lunch is a modest $35 for two courses or $45 for three courses, including matched wines. Bookings essential. (03) 5798 5203; email@example.com.
THERE are whispers of a heavenly new brew out west, according to New Norcia’s Belinda Hill. She tells Detective that Chuck Hahn of Sydney’s Malt Shovel Brewery (of James Squire fame) has handcrafted a limited edition Abbey Ale for the Benedictine monks of New Norcia, 132km north of Perth and dubbed ‘‘ Australia’s only monastic town’’.
The brew is described as ‘‘ a traditional monastic ale, golden in colour, blessed with scents of fruit and spice, with a delicate champagne-like finish balanced with just a hint of bitterness’’.
Hahn will launch the fine brew at New Norcia on September 23; Abbey Ale will be available exclusively on tap and in sixpacks and cartons from the New Norcia Hotel. www.newnorcia.com; www.maltshovel.com.au.
READER David Williams of North Adelaide writes to say that, motivated by our feature on best afternoon teas ( Travel& Indulgence , February 24-25), he recently sampled the spread at Claridges, London. Indulgent? Yes. Hang the cost? Why not.
He asks for further recommendations in the British capital. Of course there’s the splendour and history of The Ritz and The Savoy, but on Detective ’ s special list are Brown’s (reopened after a full facelift), The Berkeley (its fun Pret-a-Portea is inspired by fashion trends) or, for a soupcon of French flair, the Rose Room at the Sofitel St James (with a glass of Lenotre Rose champagne to ease down the scones).
FIND of the week: Tasmania’s The Pinot Shop at 135 Paterson St, Launceston, specialises in premium pinot noir, pinot gris, pinot grigio and sparkling wines. There are good-value buys online, including specials such as Carpene Malvolti sparkling pinot nero ($19.99), described as ‘‘ maraschino cherry in a bottle’’. Sounds like just the shot for summer. www.pinotshop.com.
DETECTIVE loves: Jan Nash’s Pastilla Nash prune and walnut log (260g), an intensely flavoured, all-natural delicacy (perfect with cheese) packaged in 20 serves. Bravo to Nash: the product is halal and kosher certified and is selling a storm overseas. It’s served in Qantas first class and at Tetsuya’s. www.pastillanash.com.
DETECTIVE loathes: The imminent finale, next Friday, of the latest series of Great BritishMenu on the Lifestyle Food channel. This has been addictive television fare as top Brit chefs battle it out to cook for a banquet hosted by the British ambassador to France. And the star of the series? Without doubt, earthy Irishman Richard Corrigan of Soho’s Lindsay House, one of London’s hot-ticket restaurants. Detective is in mourning until the next round. Judith Elen is on assignment.
Sushi star: Yoshii