The Australian Hot 50 Restaurant Awards

The Australian last night celebrated the country’s hottest, must-visit restaurants as the winners of The Australian Hot 50 RestaurantAwards were revealed at an industry dinner at The Darling hotel in Sydney.

Queensland’s hottest, must-visit restaurant was revealed as Esquire. We will have to wait until this weekend (Saturday 28 July), when a special issue of The Weekend Australian Magazine will be published, detailing the winners and revealing the complete list of the nation’s Hot 50 restaurants.

Attended by some of the nation’s culinary elite, including chefs and restaurateurs Peter Gilmore, Tetsuya Wakuda, Lyndey Milan, Maurice Terzini and Christine Manfield, the awards dinner recognised a number of aspects of distinction, from design to dishes.

Guests were treated to a menu prepared by guest chefs Dan Hunter of Royal Mail, Stefano Manfredi of Balla, Mark Best of Marque and Ben Greeno of Momofuku Seiōbo.

It was a big night for the Sydney newcomer, Momofuku Seiōbo, as it took out top honours as Australia’s Hottest Restaurant, despite having only opened in October 2011.

The Weekend Australian Magazine’s restaurant critic, John Lethlean, led the judging panel of food writers Necia Wilden and Simon Thomsen, along with expert contributors in a number of states. Lethlean said Momufuku Seiōbo really was a must-visit experience.

“Momofuku Seiobo embodies everything these awards are about,” Lethlean said.
"Energy, creativity and unpredictability underpinned by the fundamentals of a great restaurant experience – superb produce, precise and sympathetic cooking, proper service, an appreciation of the role of wine in great dining and, of course, proper hospitality.

“We were looking for restaurants on the cutting edge of Australian dining that are really doing something different. We looked at every aspect, from the food and service to the wine list and restaurant design. We wanted to find the hottest restaurants that epitomise Australian dining and where it’s heading. We are really proud of the awards; they are a great representation of the Australian culinary landscape.”

In addition to a team of expert judges, The Australian opened up the judging to the public for The Australian People’s Choice Award, with the prize going to Melbourne’s Hare & Grace.

The winners of The Australian Hot 50 Restaurant Awards 2012 were:

Hottest Restaurant 

Momofuku Seiōbo, Sydney

Hottest by State 

NSW: Momofuku Seiōbo

VIC: Moon Under Water

SA: Press* Food & Wine

QLD: Esquire
TAS: Garagistes

WA: Restaurant Amusé

Hottest Wine Experience 
Tetsuya's, Sydney

Hottest People’s Choice 
Hare & Grace, Melbourne

Hottest Value 
Press* Food & Wine, Adelaide

Hottest Service
Sixpenny, Sydney

Hottest Design
Neild Avenue, Sydney

Hottest Classic 
Café Di Stasio, Melbourne

Hottest Chef 
Andrew McConnell

Hottest Dish
TIE Quay, Sydney (Smoked and confit pig cheek, shiitake, shaved scallop, Jerusalem artichoke, juniper, bay)

Restaurant Amusé, Perth (Egg, mushroom, pine nut, smoke)

The Weekend Australian Magazine editor, Christine Middap, said that she was thrilled with the enthusiasm from the industry for the awards and the diversity of The Australian Hot 50 Restaurant Awards list.

“The talent that has been showcased and celebrated as part of the Awards has been phenomenal. We set out to find those restaurants that are pushing the boundaries and exciting patrons with something different and unique, and as a result have come up with a spectacular list,” Middap said.

The Australian Hot 50 Restaurant Awards – key criteria:

1: The Hottest Restaurant: the place where everything clicks: the food, the service, the wine list, the design. But it’s more than that: this restaurant must embody the criteria of innovation, individuality and personality. It must have an assured touch, and a well-defined sense of place. This is the restaurant that says something about Australian dining, where it’s at and where it’s heading.

2: The Hottest Restaurant – by state: criteria as above.

3: Hottest Chef: the chef at the top of his/her craft. We look for imagination, innovation, technique, an intelligent approach to current trends, in touch with his/her diners’ wants.
4: Classic restaurant: It’s not all about the new. The hottest classic restaurant is one that’s highly successful, well-regarded, consistently excellent and continually evolving with the times. It just happens to have been around a fair while.

5: Hottest Design: Celebrates function, innovation and comfort; not necessarily big budgets. This restaurant must have an unrivalled sense of style with a determined nod to its location.
6: Hottest service: The place that best understands the notion of hospitality and delivers it over and over again, under all circumstances. This award recognises that great service isn’t something delivered by just one person but by a team.

7: Hottest Wine Experience: Because these days, the wine list is the least of the restaurant wine experience. What matters most is the restaurant’s overall wine culture, reflected in the quality of its wine service and the appeal – and appropriateness – of its wine list. A mere document is meaningless unless it is backed up by knowledgeable, engaging, personable staff who demonstrate sensitivity to diners' level of knowledge – and their budget.

8: The Hottest Dish: Technically accomplished and beautifully presented, but with an added twist of excitement and surprise.

9: Hottest value: The place delivering the biggest bang for your buck. Not necessarily cheap; showing a generosity of spirit across menu and wine list. Hospitable. No up-selling, no hidden traps. The place you leave feeling happy to have parted with your money.

10: Hottest People’s Choice: Readers’ choice via online polling.