Brae In Regional Victoria Is The Good Food Guide's Restaurant Of The Year In Its First Year Of Opening

Dan Hunter (seated, right) on the balcony at Brae. Photo: Colin Page

Dan Hunter’s new regional restaurant, Brae, in Birregurra, 90 minutes southwest of Melbourne, has been named The Age Good Food Guide restaurant of the year on Monday night, less than 12 months after it opened.

It’s the third time the award has gone to a restaurant outside the capital city. Brae also received three hats, continuing the accolades Hunter previously received as chef at the Royal Mail Hotel in the Grampians. The latest honours follow on from Brae being named best new and best regional restaurant in the Gourmet Traveller awards last week.

An elated Dan Hunter told Business Insider he was thrilled to take out the top honour on debut.

“It’s great recognition for my amazing team, who’ve worked so hard to get Brae up and running over the past year. “My biggest thanks are to my wife, Julianne. She’s an essential part of Brae’s success,” he said.

“It also shows that you can create a great restaurant outside of the capital city.”

Hunter’s $180 set price multi-course menu draws many of its ingredients from the surrounding gardens which his chefs help maintain, as well as produce from local farmers. The menu changes daily and subtly, as the seasons evolve.

Melbourne chef Andrew McConnell was named the 2015 chef of the year for the third time since 2007, and Supernormal, one of seven restaurants he runs, was named best new restaurant.

Age Good Food Guide coeditor Janne Apelgren said McConnell created “iconic” restaurants.

“McConnell has this innate ability to predict how Melburnians want to eat, even before we know ourselves. From his zeitgeist-capturing no-bookings pioneer Cumulus Inc, it’s little surprise to see the pan-Asian Supernormal take out the best new restaurant award,” she said.

She described Brae as “a benchmark in contemporary fine dining”. Tulip in nearby Geelong was named the new regional restaurant of the year, while Jim McDougall in Stefano’s Cellar, Mildura, was declared regional restaurant of the year.

The Chinese institution, Flower Drum, 39 years on, is one of three city restaurants awarded the top rating of three stars alongside Shannon Bennett’s Vue de Monde and Ben Shewry’s Attica, while Flower Drum’s veteran chef and owner, Anthony Lui, received the Vittoria Coffee Legend Award.

There are six two hat restaurants and 59 one hat restaurants.

Banjo Harris Plane at Attica was named sommelier of the year, while the wine list award went to The Point Albert Park, Bellota in South Melbourne was recognised for best short wine list, and the Lake House in Daylesford was honoured with regional wine list.

Guide co-editor Roslyn Grundy said traditional techniques such as pickling and fermenting were among the biggest dining trends of the year and dishes such as carpaccio and Southern American barbecue had growing ubiquity on menus, and indigenous ingredients such as wallaby, lemon myrtle and finger lime are growing in popularity, while cafe dishes such as burgers and souvlaki are appearing on restaurant menus. The ingredients chefs seemed to obsess over in the past year include coconut, superfoods, seaweeds and succulents.

The business side of the industry means that two sittings are now the norm for many popular restaurants and Italian is our most popular food style, accounting for nearly one in seven restaurants listed in the guide.

The inner city suburb of Fitzroy gets culinary bragging rights for the most entries with 22 (neighbouring Fitzroy North has another 10). In equal second are Richmond and St Kilda with 16 entries each.

Grundy said restaurateurs had also followed the fashion industry by opening cheaper, louder, more youthful spin-off places to eat.

“Jimmy Grants, Hellenic Republic, Meatball & Wine and Huxtable’s Huxtaburgers all went forth and multiplied, with diners in 2015 seeking a casual night out with friends rather than the full bells-and-whistles experience,” Grundy said.

2015 marks the 35 edition of the Age Good Food Guide and features four restaurants, Abla’s, Flower Drum, Vlado’s and Florentino, which were also there in the 1980 first edition.

The Age Good Food Guide 2015 is on sale from August 26 for $24.99.

The 2015 award winners

Vittoria Coffee Restaurant of the Year: Brae, Birregurra
New Restaurant of the Year: Supernormal, Melbourne
La Maison du Thé Regional Restaurant of the Year: Jim McDougall in Stefano’s Cellar, Mildura
New Regional Restaurant of the Year: Tulip, Geelong
Citi Chef of the Year: Andrew McConnell
KitchenAid Young Chefs of the Year: Joshua Pelham, Estelle Timothy Martin, The European
Champagne Pol Roger Sommelier of the Year: Banjo Harris Plane, Attica
Donlevy Fitzpatrick Award: Ombra, Melbourne
Innovation Award: Rooftop Honey
Sustainability Award: Lance Wiffen, Sea Bounty
Citi Service Excellence Award: Angie Giannakodakis, Epocha
Vittoria Coffee Legend Award: Anthony Lui, Flower Drum
Where to Eat Now Award: The Town Mouse, Carlton
Best Gourmet Getaway: Lake House, Daylesford
Local Hero: Mister Bianco, Kew
Wine List of the Year: The Point Albert Park, Albert Park
Best Short Wine List: Bellota, South Melbourne
Regional Wine List of the Year: Lake House, Daylesford
Best Drinks List: Nieuw Amsterdam, Melbourne

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