Melbourne Top End Dining on the Rise at The Age Good Food Guide Awards

The restaurant "hats" have been awarded at Melbourne's foodie night of nights. Two regional Victorian restaurants, one in the backstreets of Geelong and another in Western Victoria, have taken out the top gongs at this year’s The Age Good Food Guide Awards 2017.

Birregurra’s Brae, run by celebrated chef Dan Hunter and described as being “Victoria’s most detail-oriented but also relaxing restaurant”, has taken out Restaurant of the Year, while Igni in Geelong picked up two awards, the Santa Vittoria Regional Restaurant of the Year and the Citi Chef of the Year award for co-owner and chef Aaron Turner. This is Igni’s first appearance in the Guide (since opening in early 2016), and sees the triumphant return of Turner to the stoves (he previously ran Loam in Drysdale, which was Regional Restaurant of the Year in 2012).

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The World Loves Melbourne  feels The Age Good Food Guide maintains a credibility and integrity to give honest assessments of restaurants (in a world of sponsored posts). Having visited many of these restaurants we think they get it "right".

It's not an easy feat to be awarded a hat, let alone two or three. The judges/reviewers are not exactly giving hats away; you really need to earn one. Having dined at Embla earlier this year, which was pitched as a "wine bar", we couldn't help but think it was a standout restaurant in it's own right. Certainly one of our favourite dining experiences of the year so far, and we are delighted Embla has received a hat (to accompany The Town Mouse).

Ôter was also an exciting dining experience this year for us with its French savvy, and is a restaurant we felt deserved a hat. IDES exudes genius with Peter Gunn in innovation overdrive, and we are thrilled to see them rewarded since launching out on Smith St. Also congrats to Dinner by Heston Blumenthal, another memorable dining experience this year, coming in as a 2 hatted restaurant. Interesting, as Dinner by Heston Blumenthal achieved World's Best 50 with a restaurant in two locations (London and Melbourne) as a significant achievement. You don't see this every day and we know of no other dual location restaurants on the World's 50 Best list. So maybe there was a case to discuss 3 hats around this restaurant. Attica is also in the World's 50 Best list of course, and has been a restaurant we've dined at twice recently with rave reviews.

And for the sake of the Melbourne scene, which has been somewhat paled by Sydney in recent times in terms of "top end", it's a joy for there to be 3 city restaurants (Vue De Monde, Attica, Minamishima) with 3 hats, plus regional Brae also with 3 hats. Sydney here we come (The Bridge Room, Quay, Sepia) - not that there's any rivalry.

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This year’s People’s Choice Award has gone to Ezard @ Levantine Hill in the Yarra Valley, proving destination dining is as important as ever with the Victorian dining public. The number of regional restaurants awarded two hats out of a possible three has also increased from five to seven.

Now in its 37th year, The Age Good Food Guide, Victoria’s dining bible, has visited and independently reviewed more than 500 restaurants, cafes and bars throughout Victoria.

Three Melbourne restaurants have received three chefs’ hats (denoting a score of 18 or more out of 20)– Attica, Vue de Monde and last year’s Restaurant of the Year, the quietly seductive Japanese restaurant Minamishima. Last year, only Attica received three hats.

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The coveted Best New Restaurant award has gone to CBD wine bar Embla, from the team behind Carlton’s Town Mouse, and reflects the blurring of the line between restaurant and bar.

The prestigious Young Chef of the Year titlechosen by industry veterans Alla Wolf-Tasker, Philippe Mouchel and Frank Camorra, was awarded to Jarrod Di Blasi from the two-hat Melbourne restaurant Ezard, a chef they said “they would hire in a heartbeat”.

In a departure from previous years, only restaurants scoring 14 or more out of 20 are reviewed in the forthcoming Guide. Editor Roslyn Grundy said: “This sets a new benchmark for restaurant quality and reflects the increasingly high standards in the Australian dining scene. It allows us to focus on the exceptional restaurants, and devote more space to cafes, cheap eats, bars and unsung suburbs, where many of us are spending our dining dollars today.”

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All the awards, hats and top tips for dining over the coming 12 months will be in The Age Good Food Guide 2017, on sale from Tuesday, September 13 for $14.99 with The Age, while stocks last. 

It can also be ordered online at for $24.99, which includes delivery. This year, all book purchases will receive free access to the new Good Food app, which brings together thousands of reviews from The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age and the Brisbane Times Good Food Guides.

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The Good Food app is free to download, with access to geo-location and booking functionality, powered by Dimmi. Full reviews, scores and hat ratings are available exclusively via in-app purchase for $9.99 or free with all Good Food Guide book purchases.

On the drinks front, Wine List of the Year has gone to Andrew McConnell’s Fitzroy wine bar Marion, Regional Wine List of the Year to Provenance in Beechworth, and Champagne Taittinger Sommelier of the Year to Jordan Marr of new Melbourne laneway restaurant Oter.

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Heartbreaker, “the ultimate union of wild dive and high-end bar”, has taken out Bar of the Year, and the Donlevy Fitzpatrick Award, which honours the unbeatable combination of restaurant-quality food in a bar setting, has gone to Bar Liberty in Fitzroy.

This year’s Food for Good Award, only in its second year, has gone to StreetSmart Australia, which, since 2003, has raised more than $2 million for people at risk of homelessness through donations at cafes and restaurants.

Hospitality veteran Caterina Borsato, of long-running CBD basement restaurant Caterina’s Cucina e Bar, is a worthy recipient of the Citi Service Excellence Award, while Frenchmen Jean-Paul Prunetti and Geraud Fabre, of the perennially popular France-Soir, have received the Vittoria Legend Award for their outstanding contribution to the industry.

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New to the Guide this year is the Cafe of the Year award, acknowledging a cafe with integrity, dedication and damn good coffee. Melbourne CBD newcomer Higher Ground is the inaugural recipient.

Hem 27, fitted out like a swish Saigon street stall, has won Best Cheap Eat.


A total of 16 awards were presented, recognising the talent, depth and diversity of Victoria’s restaurant scene.

●     Vittoria Coffee Restaurant of the Year: Brae (Birregurra)

●     Best New Restaurant: Embla (Melbourne)

●     People’s Choice Award: Ezard @ Levantine Hill (Coldstream)

●     Citi Chef of the Year: Aaron Turner, Igni (Geelong)

●     Young Chef of the Year: Jarrod Di Blasi, Ezard (Melbourne)

●     Santa Vittoria Regional Restaurant of the Year: Igni (Geelong)

●     Food For Good Award: StreetSmart Australia

●     Best Cheap Eat: Hem 27 (Flemington)

●     Cafe of the Year: Higher Ground (Melbourne)

●     Citi Service Excellence: Caterina Borsato, Caterina’s Cucina e Bar (Melbourne)

●     Vittoria Coffee Legend (for an outstanding long-term contribution to the industry): Jean-Paul Prunetti and Geraud Fabre, France-Soir (South Yarra)

●     Bar of the Year: Heartbreaker (Melbourne)

●     Donlevy Fitzpatrick Award (honouring restaurant-quality food in a bar setting): Bar Liberty (Fitzroy)

●     Champagne Taittinger Sommelier of the Year: Jordan Marr, Oter (Melbourne)

●     Wine List of the Year: Marion (Fitzroy)

●     Regional Wine List of the Year: Provenance (Beechworth)

The Age Good Food Guide and Awards are presented by Vittoria Coffee and Citi. 


Hatted restaurants:


City & suburbs

Three hats

Attica (Ripponlea), Minamishima (Richmond), Vue de Monde (Melbourne)

Two hats

Circa (St Kilda), Cutler & Co (Fitzroy), Dinner by Heston Blumenthal (Southbank), Estelle by Scott Pickett (Northcote), Ezard (Melbourne), Flower Drum (Melbourne), Grossi Florentino Upstairs (Melbourne), Lume (South Melbourne), Matteo’s (Fitzroy North), The Press Club (Melbourne), Rockpool Bar & Grill (Southbank), Saint Crispin (Collingwood), Spice Temple (Southbank), Woodland House (Prahran)

One hat

Amaru (Armadale), Anchovy (Richmond), Bacash (South Yarra), Bar Lourinha (Melbourne), Bistro Guillaume (Southbank), Cafe Di Stasio (St Kilda), Cecconi’s Flinders Lane (Melbourne), Centonove (Kew), Coda (Melbourne), Cumulus Inc. (Melbourne), Dandelion (Elwood), Donovans (St Kilda), Easy Tiger Smith St (Collingwood), Elyros (Camberwell), Embla (Melbourne), Epocha (Carlton), European (Melbourne), French Saloon (Melbourne), The Grand (Richmond), Highline at the Railway Hotel (Windsor), Ides (Collingwood), Il Bacaro (Melbourne), Kappo (Melbourne), Lee Ho Fook (Melbourne), Longrain (Melbourne), Maha (Melbourne), Marion (Fitzroy), Merricote (Melbourne), Mister Jennings (Richmond), MoVida (Melbourne), Noir (Richmond), Nora (Carlton), O.My (Beaconsfield), Oter (Melbourne), Pei Modern (Melbourne), The Point Albert Park (Albert Park), Rosetta (Southbank), Sarti (Melbourne), Supernormal (Melbourne), Tipo 00 (Melbourne), Tonka (Melbourne), The Town Mouse (Carlton), Union Dining (Melbourne)



Three hats

Brae (Birregurra)

Two hats

Fen (Port Fairy), Igni (Geelong), Lake House (Daylesford), Provenance (Beechworth), Royal Mail Hotel (Dunkeld), Stefano’s (Mildura), Ten Minutes by Tractor (Main Ridge)

One hat

A La Grecque (Aireys Inlet), Catfish (Ballarat), Eleonore’s (Yering), Ezard @ Levantine Hill (Coldstream), Gladioli (Inverleigh), The Good Table (Castlemaine), Healesville Hotel (Healesville), Kazuki’s (Daylesford), Masons of Bendigo (Bendigo), Montalto (Red Hill South), Paringa Estate (Red Hill South), Patricia’s Table (Milawa), Pickled Pig (Warrnambool), Port Phillip Estate (Red Hill South), Public Inn (Castlemaine), Simones (Bright), Source Dining (Kyneton), Tani Eat & Drink (Bright), Terrace Restaurant (Wahgunyah), Tulip (Geelong)

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