Wednesday, 27 December 2017

All The Hats I've Eaten - 2017

The release of the 2018 Good Food Guide in mid-October means it's time to tally up All The Hats I've Eaten.

Last year the tally was 21 hatted restaurants. This year I've got to...


This includes 11 new entries... two of which are actually old experiences, added due to the list going from state-based to nation-wide. But the other nine I managed to get to for the first time in 2017.


Three: Quay

Two: Aria, Bentley Restaurant & Bar, The Bridge Room, Icebergs Dining Room & Bar, Momofuku Seiobo, Monopole, Rockpool Bar & Grill, Tetsuya's

One: The Apollo, The Bathers' Pavillion, Billy Kwong, Kepos Street Kitchen, Spice Temple


Two: Automata

One: Felix, Glass Brasserie, Hartsyard

As the Good Food Guide is now national, I've included the state location beside the restaurant.

0. Bentley Restaurant & Bar (NSW)
Yeah, this is on the 2015 list, so it's a BONUS ENTRY!

My previous visit was to the old Surry Hills site, whereas my 2017 return was to their current Sydney CBD location. It's a grand spot in the old Radisson Blu Hotel, but this isn't without its downsides... like an ancient air conditioning system that had broken during a February heatwave. The food was superb, and the staff did their best in the tropical heat, but it made the dining experience difficult to fully enjoy.

1. Saint Peter (NSW)
A tiny fish restaurant in Paddington, where the seafood on the menu includes the exact source of its location, usually just up or just down the coast. They keep it simple and allow the fresh seafood to shine. There isn't much like it around.

2. Sixpenny (NSW)
Let's just say it must be two-and-a-half hats, because there's not much missing from this experience. My only criticism would be that a five savoury to three sweet course ratio is one too many desserts in a degustation for my liking, even if they are all very good. We were there for a birthday, so they presented a bonus cake, making it a slightly sickly 5:4. Because we were the last to leave they gave us a loaf of their delicious bread on the way out too.

3. 1889 Enoteca (Qld)
This is one of the two older interstate experiences I've added to my tally.

Now when I go to Queensland, it's with three kids in tow, and fine dining isn't happening. But six years ago, anything was possible. This is a nice little Italian restaurant, in the style of the good (non-tourist) ones you find in Rome, with the walls lined with bottles of wine from top to bottom, and serving classic Roman fare.

4. Bistro Rex (NSW)
Went here with a Doctor, and we shared about six entrees over a few glasses of wine. Plenty of places in Sydney doing this French brasserie style now, but this is a strong example.

5. Cafe Di Stasio (Vic)
The other pre-kids interstate experience added to my list.

We were in St. Kilda late on a Monday night, it was bucketing with rain, and we just walked in without a booking. My wife claims she knew its reputation and we went there by design. I recall a happy accident where we only realised later we'd entered a (back then) two hat restaurant. This is classic Italian, where the waitstaff wear bow ties and they brush the crumbs from your table between courses.

6. Caveau (NSW)
Wollongong represent!

I've been meaning to go to the only hatted restaurant in God's country for, I don't know, about 12 years. We finally got there, unfortunately after the original owner-chef had just moved on, but the standard is still pretty good. Some dishes didn't quite hit the mark, but it's not through lack of effort or ambition.

That ambition was one reason I didn't have the heart to tell the head chef that a couple of his dishes missed the mark when, in a nice old school touch, he came by at the end of the evening to say hello to each of the tables.

The other reason: cowardice.

A word of advice - ask to sit on the ground floor when you book, the upstairs is weird with small rooms and so quiet you can hear the conversations on other tables.

7. The Dolphin Hotel (NSW)
This is pretty good Italian food, but I don't really get the concept of a loud, heaving gastropub earning one hat. Where's the ambience?

8. Eightysix (ACT)
This was a private booking for a bucks party lunch, where the restaurant put on a very solid degustation, and allowed BYO. The result was 14 large glasses of wine for eight courses. When I read the customised menu, I really regretted starting with a hair-of-the-dog beer. I got through my 15 drinks, managed to fly home immediately after, and even helped get the kids to bed that night. It shows the benefit of food with alcohol, as I've been left a dysfunctional mess by far less booze many times.

9. Monster Kitchen & Bar (ACT)
The previous night at the bucks party kicked off at this place. It was pretty good. I can't recall any further details.

10. Sake Restaurant & Bar, Double Bay (NSW)
I normally prefer my Japanese food on tiny plates circling around on a conveyor belt, but this was a decent experience. I have to disclose we went on a set menu defined by a voucher, so it may not be the true experience.

11. Three Blue Ducks, Rosebery (NSW)
I've only been at brunch, but if they have a hat, I'm counting it!

The kitchen is run by a former Masterchef winner, from back when they started a season as legitimate amateur chefs, instead of having practised advanced techniques at home for twelve months before episode one.

If you're prepared to wait (and wait, and wait...) for brunch it's a good option.

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