The nation’s best place to eat was revealed tonight at the Oscars of the Australian food world, the Gourmet Traveller Restaurant Awards. Taking out the top spot, Adelaide’s Orana has been named Australia’s Restaurant of the Year in the country’s longest-standing national restaurant awards.
Orana, led by owner and chef Jock Zonfrillo, celebrates indigenous Australian ingredients and traditions in spectacular dishes that are founded on years of research and relationships. It’s also the first restaurant outside Sydney and Melbourne to be named Restaurant of the Year in two decades.
Orana is unusual, too, because it’s part of the Orana Foundation, an organisation partly funded by the South Australian government that works in collaboration with the University of Adelaide to study and explore traditional ingredients and food cultures in a way that benefits Indigenous communities.
“The restaurant is just a billboard that promotes the food,” says Zonfrillo. “Developing the foundation is the crucial next step in preserving Indigenous food knowledge and to sharing that with everyone. I aim to give back more than I take.”
Australia’s leading chefs and restaurateurs gathered in Sydney to attend the awards and the launch of the country’s national restaurant guide at a gala dinner hosted by Gourmet Traveller’s editor Sarah Oakes and chief restaurant critic Pat Nourse. The event was held at Chin Chin Sydney, the first venture north of the Murray for pioneering Melbourne restaurateur Chris Lucas, opening in the landmark historic Griffiths Teas building in Surry Hills.
Mat Lindsay of Ester in Sydney took out the peer-voted Chef of the Year, hot on the heels of being singled out by The New York Times as one of the chefs defining the new flavour of Australian restaurants. Celebrated food-waste activist Ronni Kahn, of OzHarvest, was honoured with the magazine’s Outstanding Contribution to Hospitality award, while 28-year-old seafood savant Josh Niland of Sydney’s Saint Peter restaurant was named Best New Talent.
Australia’s Regional Restaurant of the Year is Aaron Turner’s Geelong restaurant, Igni, and the nation’s Bar of the Year is Canberra’s brilliant Bar Rochford. Shoring up Melbourne’s reputation for great service, Chris Young from Café Di Stasio in St Kilda scored Maître d’ of the Year, while new Flinders Lane hotspot Kisumé won Wine List of the Year. Sydney’s eatery of the moment Fred’s scored a double win, taking out New Restaurant of the Year and, for Caitlyn Rees, Sommelier of the Year.
The September issue of Gourmet Traveller also introduces a new look and feel for the magazine, with a redesign that’s fresh, fun and all about driving inspiration – qualities, says new editor Sarah Oakes, that are consistent with the talents celebrated by the awards.
“I look at this list of winners and I’m so inspired by the incredible work of the women and men who have made Australian restaurants such hot property on the world stage,” she says.
“Whatever you like about good food, there’s something here for you,” says chief critic Pat Nourse. “It’s never been a better time to be a diner in Australia. However you like to enjoy yourself at the table, at the bar or in the kitchen, there’s a year’s worth of great fun in these pages.”
Details of the winners are in the September issue of Gourmet Traveller, on newsstands with the new edition of the Gourmet Traveller Australian Restaurant Guide, presented in association with Vittoria Coffee, and supporting sponsors Ilve, on Thursday 24 August. The full list of winners follows.