The World’s 50 Best Restaurants Awards stormed Melbourne last week, with a series of events culminating in the epic ceremony that took place under the soaring ceiling of the Royal Exhibition Building on Wednesday, April 5. On a lilac-lit stage, New Yorkers Daniel Humm and Will Guidara’s Eleven Madison Park was named World’s Best Restaurant, claiming the crown from Italian favourite Massimo Bottura of Osteria Francescana.
The list is dominated by the restaurants of France, Spain, South America and the USA, but the local crowd were waiting with bated breath for the call of two names: Attica and Brae. Dan Hunter’s regional restaurant Brae launched with much fanfare some three years ago and has quickly established itself as one of Australia’s best. In 2016 it made the World's 50 long list at #65 and this year jumped up to #44, but despite rumours that Brae might outrank fellow Victorian Attica in this year’s 50, Ben Shewry’s menu of native Australian flavours maintained its standing as the best in Australasia at #32.
But enough about the awards, because we're here to talk about the food. In hosting top culinary talent from around the globe, how did we feed our international guests? And was it representative of our country’s cuisine?
In a word it was… large. In keeping with the decadence of the evening, which concluded with chefs Daniel Humm, Dominique Crenn, Massimo Bottura and Neil Perry jumping on top of a bar to shower partygoers with Champagne, the event was accompanied by an impressive selection of snacks.
Centre stage at the ceremony was ‘The Table’ by Rockpool Dining, where a whole tuna fish awaited its fate as sashimi and a Cape Grim cow’s rib was being cut up to cook over coal. Behind The Table there was trellising woven with raspberries for guests to pluck from the stems.
In addition to the help-yourself banquet of seafood such as marron, rock lobster, abalone and scallops, meat such as kangaroo and Cape Grim beef, and bush foods like finger lime, saltbush and warrigal greens, there were also roving canapes showcasing these native Australian ingredients. WA scampi was served tartare-style on a delicate rice crisp, Spencer Gulf king prawns came with kombu butter and toasted nori was topped with tuna and swordfish.
To wash down the all-Australian plates there were matching spirits and wines. The iconic dry riesling of Grosset was the highlight from the whites and it wouldn’t be a ‘Strayan event without shiraz, which on this occasion was from Clonakilla in Canberra. Providing the stiff drinks was the Melbourne Gin Company, which formed the base of killer negronis and rosemary-topped G&Ts.
It's hard to define our country’s diverse produce, dining and wine, with its multiple influences and appropriations, but it was great to see native ingredients used well at this food industry night of nights. Plus, our guests seemed to enjoy themselves...
Want to learn more about native Australian ingredients? Check out our A to Z guide. Keen to cook with them at home? Try this wine-matched menu from Lyndey Milan.