Food & Drink

Brae: Australia’s Top Restaurant Wins Again

Victorian restaurant Brae celebrates another year of being Australia’s best restaurant following Australian Financial Review’s annual ‘Top 100 Restaurants’ announcement on Monday, July 2.

Brae restaurant owner and head chef Dan Hunter, along with Brae’s restaurant manager Simon Freeman, accepted the win graciously.

“It’s very nice to be appreciated,” Dan said. “It’s very nice that our peers – people who have the same issues, concerns, desires, wishes, problems that we have – all consider that our restaurant is something worthy of an award such as this.”

“I don’t think you ever expect to win things, and you certainly don’t think you expect to win it again.”

Dan Hunter on the microphone, with Simon Freeman, Terry Durack and Jill Dupleix in the background. Image: Monique Louise Photography

Brae is a hidden gem, tucked away in Victoria’s Otway Ranges. Dan Hunter works with organic produce from the restaurant’s own small farm – from vegetable plots, orchards, olive groves, beehives and a chicken coop – to produce an ever-evolving 15-course menu deeply rooted in its landscape.

“It’s very hard to be excellent without putting in time,” Dan said. “People should be rewarded for the time put in. But it takes time to achieve excellence.”

“We don’t expect one of the Australian swimmers to win gold at the Olympics without training at the maximum.

“We work in the environment of excellence.”

As well as winning Australia’s top restaurant, Brae also won Australia’s top service team as well as the top restaurant in Victoria.

Australia’s ‘Top 100 Restaurants’ are chosen by Australia’s top chefs and restaurateurs from an overall list of 500 restaurants compiled by the Australian Financial Review’s top critics and editors.

“Because the restaurants on the list are voted by the chefs themselves, it makes for a really dynamic, creative group of restaurants; very diverse,” said Jill Dupleix, Australia’s Top Restaurants (ATR) director.

“That’s the fun of it – they don’t have one particular style they consider to be the best.”

Terry Durack, also director of ATR, said the newly awarded top ten “are a hoot” while praising the winner.

“Big nights out at Attica and Momofuku Seiobo mixing it with fun and fire at Africola in Adelaide, Ester in Chippendale and Embla in
Melbourne.”

“I love that the top restaurant in Australia has more chooks than it has guests,” said Durack. “The tight service team under the evangelical Simon Freeman is sourced as locally as the food, and the way the experience unfolds is like theatre in the round.”

ATR Directors, Terry Durack and Jill Dupleix. Image: Monique Louise Photography

While Brae takes the top spot for their second year in a row, it’s worth noting that at least a fifth of the restaurants on this year’s list are new.

South Australia wine regions and the state capital has seen a growth in top 100 winners this year compared to last year, going from six restaurants to 14, while Tasmania rose from two to five – which is a nod to ‘the MONA effect’.

The top 100 list also saw a growth in regional restaurants, increasing from 14 in 2017 to 18 in 2018. This highlights the growing tourism potential of Australia’s top wine-growing regions.

Interestingly, while Jimmy Shu’s Indian/Thai diner Hanuman won top restaurant in the Northern Territory, there were no spots on the top 100 given in Australia’s top end.

Without further ado, here are the other nine top 10 restaurants following Brae:

#2 Ester, Sydney, NSW

#3 Saint Peter, Sydney, NSW

#4 Attica, Melbourne, VIC

#5 Africola, Adelaide, SA

#6 Momofuku Seiobo, Sydney, NSW

#7 Sixpenny, Sydney, NSW

#8 Embla, Melbourne, VIC

#9 Sepia, Sydney, NSW

#10 Fleet, Brunswick Heads, NSW

For the full top 100 list, click here.

Restaurant ambience. Sound Capture: sarahmariealice, Freesound.org

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