Meet the Finalists for Victoria’s Restaurant of the Year
From look-at-me luxury to eco-consciousness, Victoria’s finalists for the Good food guide‘s Restaurant of the Year are a high definition snapshot of the most important culinary trends of the last 12 months.
The six finalists for the Guide’s most prestigious award are Aru, Gimlet, Grill Americano, Navi, O.My and Vue de Monde.
“It’s a really eclectic list, and the finalists reflect some of the key themes we’ve noticed this year,” said Roslyn Grundy, editor of this year’s Guide.
Navi, a small independent restaurant in Yarraville, champions low-waste cuisine that remains luxurious. Not throwing away the fish bones and using them to make sauces takes a lot longer, but the alternative – throwing out bags of garnish every week – isn’t an option for owner-chef Julian Hills.
Food wasted in landfills accounts for 3% of Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions; 70% of what is wasted is edible.
Hills thinks fine dining restaurants like Navi should set an example for other restaurants.
“You have to do it and you have to show it’s doable.”
Plastic is another focus. “We’ve gotten to the point where one roll of Glad Wrap lasts us a year,” Hill says.
At O.My in Beaconsfield, the team grows all of their fruits and vegetables on a 2.5-hectare farm a 15-minute drive from the restaurant. It takes farm-to-table meals to the next level.
“The people behind these restaurants are thought leaders,” says Grundy. “They think more broadly about their place in society.”
Gimlet and Grill Americano, on the other hand, offer a postcard of mid-century glamour, a luxurious time you seemingly can’t get enough of. Reservations at The Gimlet are hard to come by even mid-week, especially as it was the only Australian venue to make the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list this year.
But while old-fashioned indulgence is back, critics are also eyeing the new guard. Urban restaurant Aru combines Southeast Asian ingredients and wood-fired cuisine in an exciting, contemporary package that breaks all the rules of fine dining.
There’s a duck sausage snack on homemade white bread that you pick up and eat with your hands, just like you would at a sausage sizzle.
These restaurants answer the question of whether gastronomy is dead with a defiant “no”. Instead, they redefine what fine dining means.
Aru is part of a growing movement claiming the idea of fusion cuisine. Chef and co-owner Khanh Nguyen says his cooking is inspired by his Vietnamese upbringing, childhood memories and high-quality Victorian produce.
“I think my career goal is to change people’s perspective on Southeast Asian and Asian cuisine,” says Nguyen.
The oldest restaurant on the list, Vue de Monde, has been in business for 22 years, which in part reflects the loyalty of Melbourne diners. But operating at the highest levels requires more than that, says Grundy.
“I would put that down to the sheer determination in the kitchen and the sheer determination of his backers.”
She adds that her young chef, Hugh Allen, has breathed new energy and ideas into the CBD restaurant, which sits atop the Rialto skyscraper.
“Each of the finalists is shaping trends, pushing boundaries and influencing other restaurants in their own way,” says Grundy.
The winner will be announced at a ceremony at the W Hotel on Monday, November 14.
Restaurant of the Year Finalists
A brilliant blend of Khanh Nguyen’s many culinary influences: Australian, Southeast Asian and beyond.
268 Little Collins Street, Melbourne, aru.net.au
Spinning at Cavendish House
Andrew McConnell’s love letter to the big city restaurants of a bygone era – one that’s staging a comeback.
33 Russell Street, Melbourne, gimlet.melbourne
Italian aesthetic meets New York steakhouse in the beating heart of Melbourne.
112 Flinders Lane, Melbourne, grillamericano.com
A small delicatessen with big ambitions for more sustainable catering.
83B Gamon Street, Yarraville, restaurantnavi.com.au
Restaurant on the outskirts of town that takes the farm-to-table idea to the next level.
70 Princes Highway, Beaconsfield, omyrestaurant.com.au
A Melbourne stalwart who continues to pursue – and achieve – excellence after two decades.
Level 55, 525 Collins Street, Melbourne, vuedemonde.com.au
The Good food guide 2023 The magazine is on sale from November 15 for $9.95 from newsagents and supermarkets or for pre-order at thestore.com.au.