The best of Victorian dining
Good Food Guide: Melbourne 2011 – The Age
By Tricia Brown
Even bigger and better this year, The Age Good Food Guide has more than 665 places to eat, drink and be merry. Some of them are brand new, some reborn, some are in the bush where the finest food can be found but surely this is the year of the pub.
Paul Wilson is overseeing new menus at new look pubs the Middle Park and Albert Park; Luke Mangan opened The Palace in South Melbourne; and a slew of other hoteliers decided drinkers deserve good food too.
The Royal Mail Hotel at Dunkeld in the Grampians won the Restaurant of the Year with Dan Hunter's menu making it one of Australia's best restaurant and pub experiences. Fine service and an amazing cellar make this a journey every food lover should make at least once.
Scattered throughout the Guide are many of these gastropubs from the elegant The Grand in Richmond, a cherished Melbourne destination pub, to the bold and brazen menu of Hotel Max in Prahran right down to Harvest Bistro, the front bar at the Healesville Hotel, which does a great line in classic pub food of the pie and lasagne kind.
The former Griffs Wine Pub in Fitzroy also reopens as the Town Hall Hotel under chef Harry Lilai featuring rustic, homely Italian cooking, a cellar room table, bar food and family Sunday lunch.
Regional awards went to Tea Rooms at Yarck for Country Restaurant of the Year and Loam on the Bellarine Peninsula for Best New Country Restaurant where chef Aaron Turner's menu deserves leisurely savouring and return visits.
Loam was also awarded Dish of the Year for its suckling pig – 'crackle-hatted meat teams perfectly with sublimely sweet rockmelon, aerated goat's yoghurt and a scattering of wild fennel pollen, flowers and seed.'
Best New Restaurant is Izakaya Den, Simon Denton's latest venture, a thrilling and fun combination of drama, great drinks and cocktails, and a quirky Japanese menu including fabulous bar snacks.
Ben Shewry (Attica in Ripponlea), is Chef of the Year, with his innovative and adventurous dishes that surprise and delight, and Michael Fox (hoping to open his own restaurant and bar in 2011) awarded Young Chef of the Year.
A wave of new eateries washes into Crown in 2011 including Atlantic with chef Donovan Cooke (est est est, Ondine) and Guillaume Brahmi's Bistro Guillaume as well as recently opened Spice Temple, Neil Perry's exciting take on modern regional Chinese cuisine (and existing popular place of worship in Sydney).
The Guide also features the best coffee, bars, gourmet cafes and wine awards along with Five of the Best – dumplings, breakfast, Sunday traders, cheap thrills, seafood and steak. Regional Victoria is covered along with the best of the best interstate.
Restaurants are visited anonymously and are given a score out of 20 with the very best awarded chef's hats – from one to three. Categories include food, wine and wine service, overall service, atmosphere and value for money.
'Every place in this year's Guide has a special something. Maybe it's a drop-dead gorgeous dessert, or service that could charm the credit cards out of a wallet. But these are the vital ingredients that made the year's dining special.'
Victorian dining – whether restaurant or gastropub along with great wine lists and fabulous coffee – is out there and thriving. Here's how to find it.
The Age Good Food Guide 2011 edited by Janne Apelgren is published by Penguin Books (Melbourne, sc, 2010; RRP A$29.95). Subscribers and Members of VisitVineyards.com and Winepros Archive click here to purchase The Age Good Food Guide 2011 at 12.5% discount from our book partners Seekbooks (postage extra).
The Age Good Food Guide 2011 is now online at goodguides.com.au with the website exclusive for Good Food Guide readers. Use the unique number inside your copy (or supplied when purchasing the iPhone app) to gain access. Here you can browse all reviews and make your reservations on the spot, rate the restaurants and leave your own review.
On the home page you will find a link to buy the Good Food Guide 2011 iPhone app which sells for A$10.
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