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Australian Gourmet Traveller, National  by Max Allen
01 Sep 2017
General News - Page 94 - 3117 words - ID 833335473 - Photo: Yes - Type: News Item - Size: 7318.00cm2

Small with big ambition (or just plain big), closer to home, more outward- outwardlooking,

licked by flame or inflected with sustainable sensibility. Dining in looking,

Australia in 2017 is hard to pin down, but in its breadth, in its dedication

to pleasure, and in its boldness, it's better than ever. Presenting the

Gourmet Traveller Restaurant Awards. Forks at the ready.


Orana's dining room and its Kangaroo Island queen scallops without outside financial backing. It was a high-stakes gamble, but his belief in the project was unwavering.

"I knew what I wanted, but it had to be absolutely to a belief system, and it wouldn't work if it was compromised," says Zonfrillo. "It was all about timing to push this idea through, and I decided to take the leap."

After four years, there's relaxation on the plate, the sense of adventure and excitement is more powerful than ever. Wow-factor comes via superb balance and harmony, with ingredients that dazzle in mouth the heat of Dorrigo pepper, the sensations fermented pandanus, gubinge (aka Kakadu plum) the spearmint tinge of ox-eye dandelion leaf. These not mere garnishes; they're intrinsic to each dish. There's no hint of pretentiousness in Orana's busy degustation of about 18 dishes. Each is delicious and thrilling: sea urchin with a kangaroo ferment; pipis in rich broth of their own juices with fermented beach succulents; flathead cooked in a firepit with eucalyptus; kohlrabi piqued with Dorrigo pepper, quandong and lemon myrtle. For dessert, a signature that has been Orana's menu since day one: set buffalo milk in pool of wild strawberry juice and eucalyptus oil.

Seeking inspiration and knowledge through interacting with Aboriginal communities is central Zonfrillo's mission, but he's determined to make a two-way street. His Orana Foundation is conducting

$1.25 to build assess foundation food are

Innovation the what is experience says. "ingredients

that foundation preserving that I take." Above, Jock set with

million South Australian government grant) a native-food database, run flavour trials, and viability of commercial production. The aims to bring recognition to traditional cultures, and ensure that Indigenous communities benefiting from any future commercial enterprises. Professor Andrew Lowe, Director of Food at the University of Adelaide, will drive research. He believes it's a crucial extension of presented at Orana. "It's a special, emotional to get a sense of Australia by eating," he Orana is blazing a trail that can push these native into the mainstream."

Zonfrillo concurs. "The restaurant is just a billboard promotes this food," he says. "Developing the is the crucial next step in capturing and Indigenous food knowledge and to sharing everyone. I aim to give back more than Orana, Upstairs, 285 Rundle St, Adelaide, SA,


at Lindsay will not particularly enjoy winning this award. At least not the part where he has to get up and accept it and talk to people. Ester, the restaurant he in Sydney in 2013, is his preferred stage, and here that he has won a loyal following of regulars. The cooking at Ester could be said to reflect Lindsay's personal humility in its more restrained moments (oysters warmed in the wood-fired oven long enough to pop their tops, then dressed horseradish; a dessert of young-coconut sorbet sake that's almost haiku-like in its concision), it also shows exuberance and generosity, it's in the smoked oil and egg butter that distinguish his beef tartare or the lush texture of signature blood sausage "sanga".

to Ester, his own, yet while food, he and

the new progress, laconic Here do the such an drive packed St, works with a wood-fired oven and came the first restaurant where the kitchen was after many years working at Billy Kwong, these influences are essential parts of his style is all his own. At the end of this year his partners will open a spin-offeatery on Commonwealth Street in Surry Hills. The menu for restaurant, like the name, is still a work in but you can rest assured that Lindsay's charm will be its defining quality.

is a chef very much content to let his work talking. Little wonder that he is considered inspiration by his fellow cooks, whose votes award. And little wonder Ester plays to a house, day in, day out. Ester, 46-52 Meagher Chippendale, NSW, (02) 8068 8279 .


f a

published shy from It reveals, shows It Because


Igni f you want to know Igni's backstory, about how a restaurant in the backblocks of Geelong became one of the most exciting places to dine in Australia, read Aaron Turner's recently book. His account (see page 80) doesn't from grisly details, personal or professional.

as he says, "the shit that glossy television don't show you".

also speaks to the idea of suffering for your art.

what Turner does is art. And while his mind go to dark places, the food at Igni never does.

clever, playful, innovative, pleasurable with avour combinations and beautiful plating.

loses sight of the delicious.

Much has been written about the signature that start a meal at Igni and that's as it should play of texture alone in the chicken skin with tarama and scampi roe, magpie goose

speak and

a concrete lighting. of occasion

Hamilton, They about for lists dislikes, In a handle find a day and "It mistakes ANDREW








the region, accompanied by a lick of fire smoke from the kitchen's central grill.

pleasure in the dining room, too, box softened with sheer curtains and good It's calm and unpretentious but has a frisson that's an essential part of the mix.

Turner's business partners, Jo Smith and Drew add to the room's warmth and serenity. make dining easy, even for those freaked out lack of control in a place that eschews menus of ingredients and requests for likes and and where no two tables get the same dishes.

book, Turner speaks about trying to get on exactly what he's trying to do at Igni, "to service beat and rhythm that is different every cook our way through flavours and textures". won't be perfect, it will never be free of


believe there are two kinds of people in the world," says waste activist and restaurateur Joost Bakker, a past recipient of this award and an OzHarvest ambassador. "People who and people who change the way we live. Ronni Kahn is definitely one of those rare people who is truly game-changer. Dynamic, driven, highly intelligent and most importantly street-smart.

"What impresses me most is her ability to cut through bureaucratic bullshit while also understanding change takes time. Patiently grinding away at those energy-sapping processes that would make almost anyone else give up in despair.

"Today it's hard for us to comprehend how cult it really was to simply rescue food an idea simple, pure, logical and practical, an idea that just makes sense. Before Ronni's work this was a legal minefield, made so by a raft of different legislation different states around Australia.

"Ronni's passion comes from deep. Her family I believe, a catalyst for her work, and fuel her motivation for improving the world. To date, more than 60 million meals have been created for the people who need it most, made with 20,000 tonnes of food waste intercepted by her brilliant organisation, OzHarvest.

"I also believe Ronni's ability to access people heading up some of Australia's largest companies and make them aware of the compounding and massive ect tiny changes can have has also resulted in overhauls to systems that not only reduce food waste, also the non-food waste generated by existing food systems, such as plastic bags.

"Ronni's story is a brilliant example of what be achieved with perseverance. OzHarvest's momentum continues to build, and I can't wait to see ideas grow and create an even more positive ect, and in the process feed the people in our community who desperately need it."


Ronni Kahn OzHarvest


Josh Niland Saint Peter, Sydney

roving that hard work and humility, dedication to craft, respect for ingredients and innovative technique can all co-exist (along with waste-consciousness, and a social-media presence), Josh Niland cuts a hell gure in the trade when he's not too busy, is, cutting fillets from fresh Yamba anchovies surgical precision, ageing familiar fish to rare succulence and making rock stars of bycatch Saint Peter, the restaurant he opened in this time last year, immediately raised the for seafood cookery.

Niland's skills didn't spring from nowhere; he the years with fish-whisperer Steve Hodges at Face as a young (or, rather, even younger) chef, how to prep and cook just about everything swims in the sea. But one of the things that him so impressive is his thirst for more knowledge, and his exploration is relentless, his ever-changing, delving into the possibilities ageing fish, or making its offal delicious. And Niland's creativity is quite something to see flight, whether he's stuffing the heads of baby to make outre Scotch eggs for brunch, cauliflower in eel skins, making a sauce for trout with its bones, head and liver. And just you thought it was all sounding too easy he to seamlessly integrate native plants into mix with his beloved local fish catch and do things with food waste along the way. All this he's only 28. We can't wait to see what happens he cracks 30. Saint Peter, 362 Oxford St, Paddington, NSW, (02) 8937 2530

nspired by hip Parisian wine bars and Melbourne landmarks Gerald's Bar, there's a grounded, personalised touch at Bar Rochford. Co-owner Smith points to a clientele that suits, students, mums and There's no hint of velvet It's a welcoming, friendly that joins people together than pushing them apart. Rochford's wine list highlights technique as much as edgier, competition. Cloudy offerings from Domaine in France's deep south or Tom Shobbrook sit beside organic sauvignon from the Loire and Canberra Beers range from Melbourne hoppy Bridge Road IPA. And list is a strong, albeit less complement. "I didn't cocktails to overshadow our wine, so we've opted for back, stirred-down classics last century," Smith says. Ploy (an alumnus of Sydney's and Nomad) put in the early Rochford's menu, focusing and sustainably farmed

produce. extended takes charcuterie, terrines carrots or Smith among artisans. Michael drop offprominent and emerging distillers

the 1920s more or Deco glow bar set As the jazz and louder, there crew at bar. Bar Canberra, Louis Couttoupes has since that vision as the kitchen more prominence, serving South Coast oysters and right through to plates of local with buttermilk and almonds, spatchcock with hay and tarragon.

finds common cause a milieu of energetic local Farmers Emily Yarra and Kobier of Brightside Produce heirloom vegetables weekly, local chefs run pop-ups takeovers, and Canberra's brewers, winemakers and are well represented. Rochford's refurbished digs in Melbourne building would than hold their own in Fitzroy Darlinghurst. '70s lampshades and pendants radiate a sepia-tinged across a space around a central with battleship-green stools. afternoon drifts into evening and of needle on vinyl (soul, blues in particular) grows stirring the crowd to dance, can be few doubts that the Rochford are raising the Rochford, 65 London Cct, ACT, (02) 6230 6222

what things will, but you feel A rare 31 Fitzroy Re s t a u r a n t a w a r d s


Chris Young

Cafe Di Stasio, Melbourne


here's nowhere else like it", says Chris Young, of Cafe Di Stasio, the restaurant institution he now calls home. Young has plied his trade in Melbourne since the early on it was at the likes of the Adelphi and Ezard before he teamed up with chef Strode at Pomme, spent a lengthy stint at Jacques Reymond, and detoured through China, while studying different modes of service.

For all the variety, Young says it still mostly down to intuition and the ability to judge a situation quickly. "That's certainly the case here a particular eccentricity and uniqueness to place that's a pleasure to be part of." Watch him and you may conclude that those at the top of service game possess a natural ability, an affinity the work's true rhythm.

Sure, he's quick and intuitive enough to make he's reacting to almost invisible, and can make appear or disappear from a table seemingly at but Young's real talent is a witty charm that makes feel comfortable, noticed, even appreciated.

gift, and one worth savouring. Cafe Di Stasio, Fitzroy St, St Kilda, Vic, (03) 9525 3999 .

t a u r a n t a w a r d s


here are three wine lists at Kisume. Each is very good; together they provide a wine experience you want sink into and savour. A core list of 30 pages features a range of drinks: wine on tap from some of Victoria's top boutique producers and a lovely selection by the bottle, mostly Australian, most under $100. If you feel like splashing out, there's a more serious list: 30 pages replete with verticals of big-name wines from Australia and around the world.

Then there's the Chablis Bar, with booklet of wines from the famed Burgundian region, from Petit Chablis Grand Cru. It's a quirky idea, but it has paid off: Chablis now accounts for third of all wine sales at Kisume.

The wine team is headed by some the best in the business: GM Philip Rich, late of Prince Wine Store, and group somm Jonathan Ross, formerly Eleven Madison Park in New York. It helps that their boss, Chris Lucas, also has a passion for wine, particularly Burgundy a passion that's infused throughout the list. All three of them. Kisume, 175 Flinders La, Melbourne, Vic, (03) 9671 4888 PHOTOGRAPHY

















n paper, it sounds easy.

Just take a chef from one of the world's best-liked restaurants, bring her to Australia, connect her with the finest bespoke producers, set her up in a stunning kitchen of her own in a lovely, comfortable room, backed by superb front-of-house staffand a dizzyingly good cellar. Of course, for chef Danielle Alvarez and the team from Merivale it's been years of hard slog. Alvarez moved here from the US for the job in July 2014. Before that she worked at Chez Panisse, an experience that profoundly influenced her cooking. Fred's, she says, is a collaboration between her kitchen and the farmers who grow the produce. "Whatever they want to grow dictates what we have on the menu," she says. "They're the base of everything we do." Again, easy to say; it's making it a tasty reality that's the challenge. But, then, that's exactly what makes Fred's so magical: it all feels not just effortless, but like it was meant to be, with a team unified under a leader with rare command of her craft. Fred's, 380 Oxford St, Paddington, NSW, (02) 9240 3000


t's been a wild ride," says Caitlyn Rees. "But it's been exhilarating." It's with this contagious enthusiasm and confidence that Rees works the floor at Fred's in Sydney, a place teeming with customers as excited to drink Rees's wine as they are to eat Danielle Alvarez's Mediterraneaninflected fare. The plan was for a small wine selection. One list. Easy. Now Fred's has three: a 10-pager of bottles, and two by-the-glass selections, which Rees wrote in collaboration with Merivale group master sommelier Franck Moreau. The lists are progressive yet approachable. There are skin-contacts, pet-nats and lesser-known local labels, but you can also drop handsome penny on big names from Burgundy and Bordeaux, if you choose. And Rees is constantly updating all three. While one of the lists is meant to a daily rotating selection, the others aren't. But, thanks to the wine-loving guests at Fred's, they're constantly selling out of wine. "We have the most amazing guests who want to drink good wine all the time," says Rees. "And with such a high volume of people through the door, wines that normally stay the list for a long time are flying out the door." Her knowledge of the ever-changing lists is impressive and she talks wine with charm and ease. It's the story behind the wine the people, the country, the climate that Rees finds truly engaging, so prepare to be dazzled as she takes you on a journey from BK Wines the Adelaide Hills to areni noir, grown in Armenia in the foothills of Mount Ararat. This is Rees's first head sommelier role, but she's no stranger to pulling corks, having done so at a roster of some of Sydney's best wine-focused establishments, including The Wine Library, Felix and Momofuku Seiobo. The simple take-home message here: when it comes to engaging service and suggesting the perfect bottle, Caitlyn Rees has you covered. Fred's, 380 Oxford St, Paddington, NSW, (02) 9240 3000 .


Caitlyn Rees

Caption Text:
A question has gnawed at Jock Zonfrillo for the past decade: what is Australian cuisine? Trying to answer it, the Scottish-born chef, who has called Australia home since 2000, foraged for inspiration where too few chefs had looked. He visited scores of Aboriginal communities, from the Kimberley in Western Australia to Nauiyu at Daly River in the Northern Territory, to ask elders about harvesting, cooking techniques and eating traditions, and to taste. Zonfrillo decided a cuisine that spoke of Australia today must not only celebrate native ingredients and Indigenous peoples' mastery of them, but include introduced foods, such as lamb and beef, that also shape the Australian appetite. Research and relearning were essential to unpicking the question, but putting the pieces together and coming up with an answer took time, too. Zonfrillo's intimate Adelaide restaurant, Orana, opened in 2013, and in the years since, the answer has emerged most clearly in dishes where native ingredients find a happy meeting place with familiar fare: fermented Davidson's plum on Spencer Gulf prawn; lemon ironbark, Geraldton wax, native honey and green ants with Coorong mullet. It's Australian food as we've never eaten before confident, assured and original. It moves a bold step beyond Zonfrillo's training at The Restaurant Marco Pierre White in London, his time at Forty One in Sydney, and at Penfolds Magill Estate Restaurant in Adelaide, where the genesis of his ideas for a new Australian cuisine began to take shape. When Penfolds baulked at the radical departure he had planned for Magill, Zonfrillo understood that his leap forward had to happen in his own restaurant. Fortunately for Adelaide, he remained RESTAURANT OF THE YEAR Orana Adelaide

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