The Brisbane Times Good Food Awards were on again earlier this year, with many newcomers, seasoned regulars and unexpected winners showcasing their talents for the judges. A lot of regional winners outshone their city competitors, and we saw non-city kitchens take 32 hats and Brisbane venues taking 29. Many competitors were very strong, while some restaurants lost their hats this year. Overall, the quality of those included were quite competitive, but who won?
Vittoria Coffee Restaurant of the Year
Esquire offers contemporary fine dining that pleases visitors in every way. From the stunning plate that is presented to the great service, it is really no wonder that Esquire won this award. The menu here at Esquire changes daily, as they believe the seasonality and availability of ingredients should dictate what appears on the menu.
According to Good Food Gift Card, if the food isn’t enough to astound you then the river views to one side and the hustle and bustle of the kitchen to the other will keep you captivated. Esquire was awarded three hats this year, and all were well-deserved.
Citi Chef of the Year
Josue Lopez, GOMA Restaurant, South Bank
This award is used to acknowledge chefs who are using their skills and craft to make a true difference to the way people dine, both today and in the future. Josue Lopez is head chef of GOMA’s flagship restaurant, as well as their other outlets GOMA Cafe Bistro and QAG Cafe. Lopez has worked hard over the years and, although a young contender, has shown that his skills and focus has enabled him to be dedicated to his craft. He is dedicated and has great attention to detail, making him the Chef of the Year.
Young Chef of the Year
Ollie Hansford, Brisbane
To engage with the upcoming stars of the cooking world, the award for Young Chef of the Year aims to acknowledge those who are heading towards great achievements in their future cooking careers. Young chef Ollie Hansford works at Gauge Restaurant and has shown his true potential; he has been described as competent, charismatic and confident.
The English-born chef is 27 years old, and is in his first position as head chef. He has a way of using traditional techniques in modern cuisine dishes, and was a finalist last year for this category. He won this year due to how much he had evolved and grown over a small space of just a year. Hansford had some stiff competition, but shone through to win the award.
Best New Restaurant
The Catbird Seat Bistro, East Brisbane
With so many new restaurants and eateries opening up everywhere, it can be hard for newly opened restaurants to make a name for themselves. However one place that has made a name for itself is The Catbird Seat Bistro. Owner-operated, this exciting new addition to Brisbane has many ticks to all of the right boxes, including flattering lighting, attention to detail and a smart casual feel, just to name a few.
It may be one of the smaller places to dine in Brisbane, but what they lack in size certainly make up for it in style and contemporary meals to please your tastebuds.
Santa Vittoria Regional Restaurant of the Year
Wasabi Restaurant & Bar, Noosa
This award is often associated with restaurants that are not within the city, whether it be in the hinterlands or on the beach. This year, the award went to Noosa establishment, Wasabi Restaurant & Bar. Having won this award previously, Wasabi is a force to be reckoned with in this category. They provide modern Japanese cuisine and go to great detail in all aspects, from the food on the plate and rare vegetables grown on owner Danielle Gjestland’s farm, to their friendly staff who farwell you at the door when leaving. Overall, this restaurant have truly earned this award.
Wine List of the Year
Aria won this award in 2013, and have again succeeded this year. Aria offers a stunning wine list that not only provides a delicious drop with your meal, but that also compliments the food and offers an adventure of tasting as an experience in itself. They have something for every palate, and even have some rare classics, old drops, and hard-to-get cult wines.
Their head sommelier, Ian Trinkle has created a wine list that is constructed with direction and purpose to provide a generous list for all tastes. The by-the-glass selections are available in 30, 75 and 150 ml pours, so there really is an option for everyone.
Champagne Pol Roger Sommelier of the Year
Shawn Gomes, II Centro
In recognition of an individual wine waiter who shows enthusiasm, experience and expertise when dealing with customers and wine choices, this award went to II Centro’s Shawn Gomes. Having won this award once previously, his second win was due to his ever-expanding knowledge as well as his way of engaging with all customers in a friendly and non-condescending manner.
Whether you are new to the wine game or are an avid wine drinker, Gomes has a knack for interacting with all consumers, which is why he was well deserving of the accolade this year.
Citi Service Excellence
Francois Le Saveant, Moda Restaurant
To recognise an individual who has provided an outstanding level of service, this award went to an individual who had shown that his passion for the industry was absolute. He had set the bar high amongst his peers and, with his exquisite charm and grace, he makes it his personal mission to ensure everyone enjoys their time whilst dining out.
Best Cheap Eat
Bird’s Nest Yakitori, South Brisbane
A venue that provides wallet-friendly meals but retains it’s quality and attention to detail is none other than Bird’s Nest Yakitori, situated in South Brisbane. The casual atmosphere may throw you off, but this eatery is actually high quality as well as great value. Traditional Japanese food is the game, and the decor is both fun and refreshing. Japanese beer, a great sake list and late night hours are even more reasons why Bird’s Nest Yakitori won this award.
Best Bar with Food
Gerard’s Bar, Fortitude Valley
Gerard’s is not just a bar, but is a great venue that also offers excellent food. From bar snacks to small meals, Gerard’s delivers in a way that you can enjoy a drink as well as a meal without having to change hotspots during the day or night. Their burgers are of excellent quality, and will give other burgers in town a run for their money. Pates, terrines, Spanish preserves and cheeses are also available, as well as some of their impressive selections of Spanish jamon, wild boar salami and more.
Drinks List of the Year
Black Bird Bar & Grill, Brisbane
For the second year running, Black Bird Bar & Grill have made known that their drink’s list is one of the most impressive. There is literally a drink to suit all tastes and all can be experienced and enjoyed whilst overlooking the river. They have utilised some classic cocktail recipes onto their list, as well as aperitifs and digestives. Even hard-to-find spirits have made it to Black Bird Bar & Grill. Visiting here for a drink and not being able to find a drink that appeals to you is almost impossible.
Vittoria Coffee Legend
Philip Johnson, E’cco Bistro
When searching for an individual worthy of such a title, a key person that came to mind was one who has been within the hospitality industry for more than 20 years. With such experience and expertise, Philip Johnson has been through many different life events and circumstances that many others would simply hang up their apron to. Johnson opened E’cco in 1995, and since then has dedicated his time and efforts to providing good food, writing cookbooks, and donating his time to charity. Philip Johnson is truly deserving of such a title.
Food for Good
Mark Rotolone and Vanessa Diana, Vine Restaurant, New Farm
When Mark Rotolone and Vanessa Diana lost their four year old son, Ari, to mitochondrial disease, they coped with their loss by raising awareness about this debilitating illness, and to help raise funds for research. The couple knew they could do this through food, and so set about creating “Ari’s Safari”, a dinner event which raised $21,000. Mark and Vanessa are now looking at organising a second Ari’s Safari and making it an annual dinner to help raise funds for the Australian Mitochondrial Disease Foundation.
People’s Choice Award
Indulge Cafe, Bundaberg
It isn’t just the locals who are impressed with this small cafe located in Bundaberg. Open for both breakfast and lunch, Indulge Cafe offers fresh and local produce that showcases the true backbone of the local area. You’ll see on their menu that you can order a meal that features “Bill’s Amaroso Tomatoes”, “Rick’s bacon”, or even “Brucie’s passionfruit”. If it isn’t sourced from a local farmer, it’s then made in-house. Everyone walks away from this delightful cafe fascinated by the obvious passion and talents of owner/chef Amanda Hinds and her team.