Melbourne's Attica has been named Australia's best restaurant

Brae chef and owner Dan Hunter and Attica’s Ben Shewry. Source: Tourism Australia

When Ben Shewry’s Attica was awarded restaurant of the year at the inaugural national Good Food Guide awards, the chef and owner – wearing a jacket, t-shirt, shorts, white socks and basketball sneakers – took to the stage and began talking about emotional intelligence.

His thank you speech was one more sign that the New Zealand-born chef is an original thinker who’s shown he’s not only one of Australia’s greatest cooks, but also one of the world’s finest.

Shewry’s attire was a nod to Helping Hoops, the Melbourne-based charity he devotes any spare time in his demanding career to, helping disadvantaged kids through basketball.

It was a good night at Sydney’s The Star for Shewry and his suburban Melbourne restaurant, already ranked one of the world’s 50 best. Attica was just one of six restaurants nationally awarded three hats, while one of his team, former MasterChef contestant Kylie Millar, was named the Josephine Pignolet young chef of the year.

The new national guide, which includes Tasmania and South Australia for the first time, was parsimonious with its three-hat accolades, dropping Melbourne fine diner Vue de monde and Sydney’s The Bridge Room from a cohort which now features Sepia and Quay in NSW, Attica, Brae and Minamishima in Victoria and Brisbane’s Urbane.

The award for Sepia was bittersweet for chef Martin Benn and his partner Vicki Wild, who will close their Sydney restaurant early next year after eight years and relocate to Melbourne.

The new guide features more than 500 restaurants from around the country, with more than half awarded “hats” – the Australian version of Michelin stars – in the national edition, which originally began 38 years ago as The Age Good Food Guide.

Josh and Julie Niland’s Sydney seafood restaurant Saint Peter was named best new restaurant while Daniel Puskas of Sixpenny in Sydney was named chef of the year.

Arlechin, a quintessential late-night Melbourne laneway bar you’ll find by looking for the mural of spaghetti and bright red lips painted on the brick wall beside the entrance, was named bar of the year. It is the brainchild of the legendary Grossi family of Grossi Florentino fame.

Rodney Dunn’s cooking school turned diner in regional Tasmania, The Agrarian Kitchen Eatery, was named regional restaurant of the year and in an emotional moment for the more than 800 people gathered for the awards at The Star, Cantarella Bros CEO Les Schirato named the late British-born Jeremy Strode, from Sydney’s Bistrode CBD, as the recipient of the the Vittoria Legend Award.

Schirato said Strode’s cooking style, legendary kindness, willingness to share knowledge and outstanding long-term contribution to the industry over 27 years cooking in Australia were key factors supporting his legendary status.

It was a good night for South Australia, with Nikki Friedli of Adelaide’s Africola receiving the service excellence award, and the Orana Foundation, set up by Orana chef Jock Zonfrillo to preserve the food heritage of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders and integrate native foods into the broader culinary culture, receiving the “food for good” award.

But Adelaide’s Orana, recently named Australia’s best restaurant by Gourmet Traveller, didn’t do enough to impress the judges at the Good Food Guide, who gave the restaurant two hats instead of three.

Spanish-born Raul Moreno Yague from Osteria Ilaria in Melbourne was declared sommelier of the year, Aria Brisbane was given wine list of the year and The Summertown Aristologist, on the outskirts of Adelaide, received regional wine list of the year.

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