Last week’s Good Food Guide AwardsThe hospitality scene’s rock stars are heroes. There is still so many great things to be celebrated.
Here’s another offering of our favourite Melbourne eating and drinking experiences.
MOST EXCITING EXPANSION Awarded
Frankie’s Tortas & Tacos
Frankie’s Tortas & Tacos is a rare restaurant that is both small in stature and large in output. The Fitzroy food stand opened three years ago and quickly sold out of its al pastor tortas (Mexican sandwiches stuffed with hot grilled pork, Oaxacan cheddar, salad and hot sauce).
Frankie’s are always a thrill. Just around the corner, you can become a fully-fledged forty-seaterThe burger joint is an old Johnston Street burger restaurant that still has its food-truck roots, but with a dash neon-lit LA diner aesthetic.
The new digs allow the team to step into boozier territory, too, with mezcal negronis, tepache seltzers and hard-to-find Mexican lagers. The tribute to the discontinued Choco Taco is here with Billy Van Creamery caramelchilli ice cream –Ellen Fraser.
BEST VIBE Award
The term “good times”It’s a common phrase to use these days, but this rolling Italian bar slash diner is well-deserved. 1800 LasagneThe classic Italian hospitality is done right. It’s charismatic and confident in a room that feels as if it’s always been there.
Beyond-friendly staff pour Montenegro spritzes, amaretto sours and filthy martinis, while tunes are 100 per cent algorithm-free – local record store owners and occasionally a live jazz band are in charge.
You will be fueled up for the dance floor with big bowls of pasta. The rest of the menu is well-organized enough to ease any worries about what to order. Order one of everything and relax. –Ellen Fraser.
BEST TRICKED-UP JUNK FOOD Awarded
McScallop at Serai
Chefs who are keen to showcase their playful side have made gussying up fast-food classics a badge for honour. It’s also a boon to diners who pretend they have never been tempted but actually have a working knowledge of the drive through process.
This leads us to Ross Magnaye’s McScallop SeraiThis combination of a fried scallop, a rich crab fat sauce, papaya pickle, and a toasted pandesal bread has won our hearts. Please do not take it off the menu –Larissa Dubecki.
MEATIEST MENU Award
Some people don’t like meat and some eat no meat. If you don’t like raw meat, or if you are a sprout-doubtin’, lettuce-lynchin’, or blood-hungry, a restaurant that serves sausages is the place for you. “appetises”You will be sent to gout jail with a mixed grill. You will need Vlado’s Steakhouse in Richmond. It’s possible. Six decades of packed service proves it. Good salad, too –Frank Sweet.
Keso gelato at Kariton Sorbetes
Are cheese and crackers okay in ice cream? If Footscray’s Kariton SorbetesIf keso gelato can be trusted, it is absolutely delicious. This store is nostalgia overload for the Filipino community, who appreciate the crushed Skyflakes crackers (similar to Saladas) mixed through the bourbon vanilla and cheddar base. Salty bursts are provided by grated cheddar and roasted cashews. This gelato is for the rest of us. –Sofia Levin.
Di Stasio, Carlton: Chic green and white striped staff uniforms Photo: Luis Enrique Ascui
RESTAURANT COUTURE Awarded
Di Stasio Carlton
What about classic starched black and white? Forget it. It’s not necessary. Di Stasio Carlton, the staff uniforms – an insouciant mix of crumpled linen and crisp green and white stripes – not only match perfectly with the emerald-coloured glassware, they also transport diners to some sunny spot in Italy.
You can think of it as helping to combat staff shortages. After all, who wouldn’t want a chic look while they wait tables? –Larissa Dubecki.
Entrecote has a vodka and caviar trolley. Photo: Eddie Jim
BEST UPSELL AWARD
Caviar bump at Entrecote
The caviar bump can be found in many restaurants, however. Entrecote’sThis is the OG. It’s hard not to grab a trolley and spoon $32.90 worth of sturgeon eggs onto your fist.
There is a dedicated “bump master”The restaurant consumes four kilograms of the stuff per week because of its swagger and spiel. A table ordered six bumps last week and expects the excess to skyrocket as Christmas nears. You can take our money. –Sofia Levin.
Red Hill gets heat from Tedesca Osteria’s hearthPhoto by James Broadway
AL PACINO METHOD ACTING Award
Brigitte Hafner is the leader in commitment to the cause. Any visitor to Tedesca OsteriaHafner’s charismatic heart and dazzling style will quickly make you realize that regional dining is the hottest ticket.
It might look more like a controlled forest fire to the untrained eye, which is why her all-black, ash-stained outfit and occasional burn marks at the end of each service. We are grateful for her sacrifice. –Larissa Dubecki.
MOST SPECTACULAR FLIGHT UNDER THE RADAR Awarded
Shokkan’s crustacean dip will please marrons. As flavour-packed as it is Cheetos-hued, served with feather-light fish-skin crackers, it’s a dish that exemplifies what this pop-up izakaya is all about: complementary textures, amped up flavours, and we-could-hang-it-on-the-wall level plating.
Throw rare and unusual sake pairings into the mix – maybe a cherry-scented red rice junmai genshu from Kyoto – and a hushed, earth-toned space that seats just 14, and you’ve got yourself one seriously special dining experience. Imagine how the Shokkan will change from its testing phase inside. fine diner Gaea(by the same crew), to its space next year –Ellen Fraser.
HANDHELD ANCHOVY CAANAPE AWARD
Nick and Nora are married
This was a title that MoVida’s famous finger food, Cantabrian Anchovy with Smoked Tomato Sorbet, held for a long time. But there’s a new big little fish in town.
At Nick and Nora’s, the cocktail bar from the Speakeasy Group (Eau de Vie, Boilermaker House), there is a white anchovy on lightly curried egg with a strip of lardo, all sitting on a piece of toast.
The roaring 1930s bar is named after Nick and Nora Charles, the authors of Dashiell Hammett’s murder-solving team. It would be a crime to not order this drink with your next glass. –Paul Chai.
The Royal Oak Hotel in Fitzroy North was remodeled. Photo: Eddie Jim
STRONGEST REBRAND AWARD
Royal Oak Hotel
The team behind the local haunts of the Marquis of Lorne Union House and Mount Erica are masters of subtle pub renovations and have once again succeeded at the Royal Oak Hotel in Fitzroy North.
A sympathetic renovation, a paint job and a new menu have turned this 1871 mainstay from not to hot, with a new tribe discovering its vintage dining room and glorious new circular bar embellished with nostalgic ’70s branding. It makes us wonder which other retro gems deserve a jolt back to life –Michael Harry.
GREATEST END TO A MEAL Award
Attica, Petit Fours
Even the most experienced degustation diner will reach maximum density by Ben Shewry’s decadent 10-course tasting menu. Attica. The cart, a tall, red-colored cart made of dazzlingly shiny red is then brought to the table with reverence. Boby trolley is the iconic 1970s Italian design, often seen on film sets or in artist studios.
Shewry has filled the modular drawers with carefully crafted petits quatres in a variety of shapes, including macabre chocolate skulls and scarlet lips. Choose as many as you can fit in – it’s the A La (Red) Carte –Michael Harry.
BEST BREAD AWARD – PART 1
Best bread, huh? Hmmm. Toughie. Could it be the internet-breaking focaccia that was popularized by Hope St Radio Ellie Bouhadana? Or is it the blindingly white Woolworths roll with its blanket of sweaty cheese and bacon?
What about bread-ish foods that start with “pan”Or “pain”? Is All Are Welcome’s panettone a bread? Lune’s pain au chocolat – is that in contention? Pinoy Foodies’ purple ube pandesal?
If it is flour, water, and heat, then might it be the delicate, bing that envelopes each carving Flower Drum Peking duck?Or Xuan banh Cuon’s more delicate-still banh cón, for that matter.
If the only criterion for determining whether it’s a beloved staple that brings joy every table, then maybe you are the winner. –Frank Sweet.
BEST BREAD AWARD – Part 2
It is said that you can judge the quality of a meal by its bread service. This is true at Gray and Gray Bread and WineThe $75 set menu begins with two different breads, accompanied by three. “fats” (pictured, right).
It’s a good thing that Northcote’s restaurant is under the same owner as All Are Welcome Bakery next-door.
Breads change often, so you may find Finnish rye bread, barbari Persian flatbread or focaccia. You can make your own condiments with chicken schmaltz preserved carmel butter, Georgian masoni with preserved persimmon, or salo (pork oil). –Sofia Levin.
FLAME-GRILLED EAT AWARD
Every culture has its own interpretation of barbecue, but the most outrageously delicious version I’ve eaten this year was at Turkish spot KÖMÜR, a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it shopfront in Ascot Vale.
Its specialty is the Adana kebab, where rich lamb mince is speared on a shish and smoked over coals, then served with crepe-thin flatbread and glistening salads and dips – heavy on the onion, sumac and garlic – plus sticky chicken wings, charred lamb cutlets, and crisp falafel.
A platter for two (90 pesos) could feed four. You can also BYO wine to the monolithic Dan Murphy’s across the street. –Michael Harry.
KEENEST CROSS PROMOTION Award
The Que Club
The concept has been tried before at bottleshops such as Carwyn Cellars, but Brunswick’s barbecue joint is a new take on it. The Que ClubThe retail experience is truly immersive, with dining tables right next door to the recipe books, barbecues, and pots and pans you need to make true American cuisine. “que”.
The restaurant imports, wholesales and retails all the barbecue kit and when you take a bite of the legendary smoked Angus brisket, you’ll have to summon all your willpower not to buy a smoker and wheel it home with you –Paul Chai.
Pearl Diver’s Sea and Shell’ martini. Photo: Penny Stephens
DIRTIEST MATINI AWARD
Sea and Shell at Pearl Diver
Writing words is a challenge. “martini experience”Your menu, but Pearl Diver Cocktails and Oysters at the CBD exceeds expectations.
Ask for the Sea and Shell bar if you prefer your martinis salty. They use a custom vodka made with wakame and oyster shells produced by local distillery Saint Felix, opt for Maidenii coastal vermouth, add a dash of olive oil and serve it frosty with a spherified Sicilian liquid olive in an oyster shell. That’s dirty! –Sofia Levin.
APRES SKI AWARD
Mount Buller took advantage of its pandemic downtime to develop a range new apres ski attractions, including Harry BurnsIt is located on the slopeside of Snow Pony’s former home.
It’s a When Harry Met Sally-themed Asian-fusion restaurant, where you will definitely want what everyone else is having. Seek out the crisp tempura eggplant with tom yum mayonnaise, fried shallots, coriander and chilli, and the lemongrass-infused sticky date pudding and start with a passionfruit yuzu margarita –Paul Chai.
Loosie’s Mornington Photo: Dave Le Page
FAVE PLAYLIST Award
Loosie’s Diner & Bar
“The soundtrack is everything. It takes you out of that daily vibe,”Clint Hyndman is co-owner of Loosie’s Diner & BarMornington’s hidden gem of rock’n’roll. He curates playlists that are integral to the Loosie experience.
Think garage bands like The Sonics, a few Ramones and a touch of Townes van Zandt or Little Richard. The music is even piped into the bathrooms so you’re never jolted out of that rollicking vibe –Jane Ormond.
TheGood Food Guide 2023Magazines on sale for $9.95 at supermarkets and newsagents thestore.com.au.