In Food + Drink

If Michelin Existed In Australia, These Restaurants Would Be On The List

Australia is yet to be recognised by the Michelin-star system, but these restaurants are all worthy candidates for the honour.

If you’ve ever wondered why a tire manufacturer sets the global standard for international gastronomy, you’re not alone. Devised in 1900, the Michelin Guide began as a multi-platform recommendation tome for European motorists. In the ’30s, the guide’s rating system honed in restaurants and quickly became a worldwide authority. Today, a Michelin star remains the crème de la crème of restaurant benchmarks.

Which is all well and good if you’re operating in Europe, Asia or America. Despite Australia’s meteoric rise as a dining destination– “the biggest food explosion I’ve ever seen in any country” to quote Heston Blumenthal – our restaurants are still outsiders to the Michelin standard.

What if Australia was part of the club? Would our starting line-up make the cut? Here’s our projected roster of the local heroes we believe are deserving of star status.

01.

Brae, Birregurra

Who needs Michelin when you’re in the World’s Best 50? Arguably the current voice of international gastronomy, the WB50 ranked Birregurra’s Brae #44 this year, giving revered chef Dan Hunter even more props after he raised Dunkeld’s Royal Mail Hotel onto the international map a few years back. Brae’s $220 degustation menu – a true taste of Victoria – is one of the most desired gastronomic adventures on the planet right now.

4285 Cape Otway Rd, Birregurra VIC 

Cured hapuku with orange, celeriac, pickles. Photo: Brae/Instagram

02.

Attica, Melbourne

Also cutting the World’s Top 50, is Melbourne’s cherished and ever-performing Attica. New Zealand-born Ben Shewry can add this year’s #32 placing to an already expansive list of accolades. A witty, playful menu resting heavily on native ingredients sourced from a nearby garden plot in Melbourne’s Ripponlea Estate, Attica is a Michelin shoe-in.

 74 Glen Eira Rd, Ripponlea 

Crab and Eleven Basils at Attica. Photo: Attica

03.

Ester, Sydney

Since 2013, this wood-fired, concrete-walled den in Chippendale has been overhauling the local Sydney food scene with its casual and on-trend fare. Seasonality drives Ester’s menu, with a excellent wine selection to match – a refreshingly laid-back and minimalist offering next to the nation’s showier hotspots. It’s a consistent favourite of Sydney chefs and food writers with good reason.

46/52 Meagher St, Chippendale 

The bar and dining room of Ester. Photo: Ester

04.

Tetsuya, Sydney

Offering Zen-inspired tranquility in the CBD, Tetsuya’s fusion of French technique and Japanese philosophy has proven a winning recipe for longevity in the often-brutal restaurant world. Chef Tetsuya Wakuda has nurtured some of Australia’s hottest present-day kitchen talent. Allow plenty of time for his ten course degustation menu, with highlights including confit of petuna ocean trout served with kombu, celery and apple. If mollusc aficionado Gordon Ramsay is to be trusted, Tetsuya’s oysters are a must-try.

529 Kent St, Sydney 

Tetsuya’s signature ocean trout dish. Photo: Tetsuya’s

05.

Sepia, Sydney (from 2018: Melbourne)

Three Michelin-starred chef (and beloved occasional Bourdain sidekick) Eric Ripert once ordained Sepia as one of the top five dining experiences in the world. Though bad news for Sydney, Melbourne foodies have much to celebrate about, with chef Martin Benn’s exemplary Japanese flavours on the verge of teaming up with Chin Chin’s Chris Lucas for a Victorian relocation.

201 Sussex St, Sydney 

One of the dishes from Sepia’s degustation. Photo: Sepia

06.

Orana, Adelaide

Adelaide is the next Australian hub set for culinary revolution, with Orana leading the pack. Scottish chef Jock Zonfrillo’s Rundle St setup is a celebration of Australia’s unique produce and its aboriginal roots, featuring upscale colloquial gems including charred kangaroo and saltbush with buffalo curd and garlic.

1/285 Rundle St, Adelaide 

Potato damper from Restaurant Orana. Photo: Restaurant Orana

07.

Quay, Sydney

Most pundits, Michelin-trained or not, would apply star status to anywhere serving something as exquisite as Quay’s eight textured chocolate cake. Chef Peter Gilmore’s seasonal snow egg also heads Quay’s showpiece dessert list – but it’s the playful, creative menu prior that warrants this restaurant’s prospective Michelin status, and the spectacular setting overlooking Sydney Opera House certainly doesn’t do it any disservice.

Overseas Passenger Terminal, Hickson Rd, The Rocks 

Quay’s main dining room. Photo: Quay Restaurant

08.

Momofuku Seiobo, Sydney

The Star’s Momofuku Seiobo may have radically changing focus with the arrival of executive Paul Carmichael and his Barbados-inspired fare, but David Chang’s first foray outside home city NYC remains a boon for Sydney’s food scene. Book ahead for the acclaimed tasting menu ($185) or snag a walk in seat at the bar for a highlights reel of dishes, and pours from the natural-wine driven beverage list.

The Star, 80 Pyrmont St, Pyrmont

Marron at Momofuku Sydney. Photo: The Star/Instagram

09.

Sixpenny, Sydney

The boutique 35-seat setup offers a biodynamic, artful, and non-pretentious dining experience showcasing delicious fresh produce from the restaurant’s garden. Helmed by chefs Daniel Puskas and James Parry, Sixpenny is elegant and painstakingly detailed – not to mention well worth venturing out of the CBD for.

83 Percival Road, Stanmore

Sixpenny’s roasted leg of mutton with burnt onion, alfalfa & spinach. Photo: Sixpenny/Facebook

10.

Automata, Sydney

Housed in Chippendale’s Old Clare Hotel, Automata has received ongoing props for its impressive clipped degustation offerings. At around $90 for the latter (an extra $60 for wines), chef Clayton Wells’s energetic menu is also considerably friendly on the back pocket – one of the most unique and evocative culinary displays from arguably the best chef in the country right now. Take note Singapore bound travellers; Well’s second solo venture, Blackwattle, is set to open overseas later this year.

5 Kensington St, Chippendale 

Dishes on Automata’s five course carte change regularly. Photo: Automata

11.

Esquire, Brisbane

Smack bang in the middle of Brisbane’s business district, Esquire couldn’t be more different to its surrounding steak-and-seafood restaurants. Offering the most progressive and cutting edge fare in the state, executive chef Ryan Squire’s modern and minimalist restaurant is also the most awarded. Expect up to 25 small courses, all executed with painstaking care, and stunning views of the Brisbane river.

145 Eagle St, Brisbane 

New season tender ginger, sheep milk, white cocoa & saffron from Esquire. Photo: Esquire/Instagram

12.

Vue de monde, Melbourne

It’s a hard life at the top, but Shannon Bennett’s showpiece venue 55 floors up in Melbourne’s Rialto Vue de monde’s excels at altitude. The $10 million, kangaroo-leather fit out and incredible panoramic views cement it as one of the nation’s most memorable dining experiences.

Level 55, Rialto, 525 Collins Street, Melbourne

(Lead image: Dish from Quay Restaurant. Photo: Nikki To)

Vue de monde’s 55-storey high dining room. Photo: Vue de monde

Published 27 June, 2017