Hungry for a beautiful dining experience? You’ve come to the right place. The 2017 shortlist of the Eat Drink Design Awards, highlighting the most well-designed, architecturally innovative restaurants across Australia and New Zealand, has just been announced. It reveals a lot about current trends in Australian dining. “At the moment, Australians are searching for thoughtful and authentic moments in restaurant design, which is reflective of the public being more savvy about what good design is,” explains panel member and editor of Artichoke magazine, Cassie Hansen. Of course, there’s more to a great restaurant than good looks – these six experiences offer excellent food, too.
Workshop Brothers, Melbourne
Workshop Brothers opened earlier this year, but this isn’t the first cafe for its owners; they also run a Workshop Brothers in Melbourne’s CBD, which serves coffee and pastries to the same standard as the rest of city’s world-class cafe scene. Their newly opened eatery in the upmarket suburb of Glen Waverley is an example of the increasing emphasis Australian restaurants place on artisanal design, says Hansen. “From durable materials and joinery to carefully detailed shelves and custom-made light fittings, we’re seeing a lot of emphasis on excellent craftsmanship.” The playful decor, inspired by the retro Chinese eateries of the owners’ childhoods, is matched by an all-day, Chinese-inspired menu. Don’t miss the Sweet Hong Kong Waffle with its memorable pumpkin caramel flavour.
MEZZ Kitchen & Bar, Melbourne
“We’ve seen a lot of millennial pink and hanging plants in projects, which comes down to venues trying to supply their customers with those Instagrammable moments,” Hansen observes. With its thickly roped swing chairs, garden drapery and photogenic menu (check out the pancake stack topped with edible flowers, passionfruit drizzle and a sugar dusting), Melbourne’s MEZZ Kitchen & Bar is “a destination in itself”. It’s located inside the biggest shopping mall in the Southern Hemisphere, Chadstone – the size of 10 football fields and home to major global luxury labels such as Chanel, Céline, Louis Vuitton, Balenciaga and Valentino as well as popular retail chains and local designer labels. Admire the jungle-printed tiles and watch the chefs at work in the open gazebo kitchen.
Mode Kitchen & Bar, Sydney
Mode Kitchen & Bar opened in Sydney this year to high-profile reviews that deemed its produce-driven menu “simple”, “uncomplicated” and of “beautiful quality”. Its Mid-century surrounds, located inside the grand, atrium-style reception area of Four Seasons Sydney, are similarly artful: behind the restaurant’s striking façade you’ll find a Deco microcosm of brass, timber, polished service and classic cocktails. “The design idea is centred around 1920s grand hotels and you can see this reflected in the material palette (marble, polished brass and fluted glass), but also in how they’ve designed the spaces,” Hansen explains. The oversized bar, made of burnished bronze and honey-coloured Spanish marble slabs, has a single-height bar top so that guests and staff can interact better – common in the grand hotels of Europe.” Natural light, soft leather furnishings and a 200-strong Australian wine list offer local context and modernity.
M&G Café and Bar, Gold Coast
M&G Café and Bar is part of a new six-star redevelopment at The Star Gold Coast – comprised of eight bars, seven restaurants, a casino, hotel and 17-storey luxury accommodation tower (yet to be completed). M&G’s design and menu reflect Australia’s current obsession with “bistronomy” – accessible, produce-driven dining presented in artful surrounds without the pomp and flourish of traditional fine dining. “This modern interpretation of a classic Parisian bistro features a beautiful vaulted ceiling, which gives the bar presence and intimacy,” Hansen says.
Vasse Felix, Margaret River
One of Australia’s most storied wineries in one of Australia’s most prestigious wine regions, Vasse Felix, in Western Australia’s Margaret River, already had the ingredients for a memorable food experience, with a long-standing, multi-award-winning on-site restaurant deemed by prominent Australian reviewer John Lethlean to be “the benchmark winery restaurant in Australia”. Recently redeveloped, the restaurant’s new incarnation acknowledges the other major trend in Australian restaurants, says Hansen: holistic design – “from the wine glasses to the graphics to the interior itself.” Its palette and materials also reflect the area, capturing “the darker, moodier qualities of the West Australian South Coast. A high level of craftsmanship reflecting the passions and level of craft from the winemakers.”
Goonoo Goonoo, Tamworth
Goonoo Goonoo Station, is a luxury Outback playground on a heritage-listed pastoral village and working cattle farm, with seven private villas (in restored heritage cottages) and an impressive purpose-built restaurant, Glasshouse. This state-of-the-art eatery sits between two repurposed heritage buildings, encapsulating the popular tendency to fuse heritage buildings with cutting-edge, futuristic architecture. “The clean palette of modern materials contrasts and reflects the textured and weathered fabric of the original woolstore and shearing shed,” says Hansen. You’ll find Goonoo Goonoo Station near Tamworth – an Outback city worth visiting.