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Sep 6, 2010 03:16 PM

Sydney Good Food Guide winners and losers

Sydney GFG is out. Carnage at the top which probably reflects Terry Durack's influence. Tetsuya and Bilsons from 3 to 2, Pier (after a deliberate change in direction) 3 to 1. A few hangers-on from glories past lost their remaining star - Galileo, Bathers, L'Etoile.

A Chow favourite, the Four in Hand in Paddington, is up to 2 as is newcomer Sepia. Marque best restaurant for second year running.


Three Hats: Marque, est., Quay

Two Hats: Aria, Assiette, Becasse, Bentley Restaurant & Bar, Berowra Waters Inn, Bilson's, Bistro Ortolan, Buon Ricordo, Claude's, Four in Hand Dining Room, Guillaume at Bennelong, Icebergs Dining Room and Bar, Lucio's, Pilu at Freshwater, Rockpool, Rockpool Bar & Grill, Sepia, Tetsuya's, Universal

One Hat: Ad Lib Bistro, Altitude, Arras, Astral, Billy Kwong, Bird Cow Fish, Bistro Moncur, Bistrode, The Boathouse on Blackwattle Bay, Bodega, buzo trattoria, Cafe Sopra, Catalina, Etch, Fish Face, Flying Fish, Golden Century, Jonah's Whale Beach, Koi, Longrain, Mad Cow, Manly Pavilion, Omerta, Ormeggio at the Spit, Oscillate Wildly, Otto Ristorante, Pendolino, Pier, Restaurant Balzac, Sailors Thai Restaurant, Sake Restaurant & Bar, Sean's Panaroma, Spice Temple, Yoshii.


Two Hats: Lochiel House (Kurrajong Heights), Rock (Pokolbin)

One Hat: ashcrofts (Blackheath), Bacchus (Newcastle), Bamboo Restaurant and Bar (Casuarina Beach), bells at killcare (Killcare), Bistro Molines (Mount View), Caveau (Wollongong), dish (Byron Bay), Darley's (Katoomba), Eschalot (Berrima), Fins (Kingscliff), Italian and Sons (Canberra), Lolli Redini (Orange), Muse (Pokolbin), Neila (Cowra), No. 2 Oak Street (Bellingen), Ottoman Cuisine (Canberra), Restaurant Como.

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  1. I'm in two minds about the results. I agree with the demotion of Tetsuya since it lacks the excitement I think necessary for a 3 hat, but does est really represent exciting food?

    Yet what's more apparent is that GFG want to make a point about be a bastion of good taste. So it's relishing its demotion of certain restaurants. I'm not surprised there are many angry restauranteurs.

    Pier is a good example. I very recently ate there (pictures on my blog) and thought the food & experience excellent. It's certainly a two hat establishment. Demoting it to 1 hat just smacks of sour grapes.

    additional thoughts?


    6 Replies
    1. re: fergal76

      I'm sure those who live in Sydney will be better positioned to comment than I, but looking in from afar it looks like a recalibration of the scale - a correction of grade inflation over the past few years. I think there are a few glitches this year, but it will sort itself out next time round. Haven't eaten as est but I understand your comment.

      The fact remains that good to very good two hat standard is now Sydney's forte. To me, Quay is the benchmark Sydney 3 hat.

      1. re: mr_gimlet

        Always interesting to hear everyone's opinion when such food guides are released. Has anyone dined at Rockpool recently? There was talk in The Australian last week that they thought it would be bumped back up to 3 hats but failed to happen. I really enjoyed the food there a few months ago, service off to a bad start with my cocktail dropped on my foot and a menu folder handed to me without a menu inside, but was better thereafter.

        That restaurants come and go from being seen by a few as being at the top (or not) is no suprise. Nobody will ever agree as to what is best, so with that in mind I always look forward to having a read of such guides to get varying perspectives.

        1. re: ausrules85

          I went to Rockpool about a month ago and definitely thought it was worth 3 hats. The food was more exciting than Quay for me.

          1. re: Camw

            Agreed. Quay has some fantastic dishes (notably the lobster 5 ways), but the mains are rather subtle (forgettable?) and something of a weak link.
            On the other hand, Rockpool's mains are well-seasoned with assertive flavours.
            There's no denying the great produce and technique at both restaurants, but Rockpool seemed to have that little bit extra.

      2. re: fergal76

        I must agree that the Pier downgrade seems spiteful, it may have deserved a drop but one hat seems odd based on Fergal's blog review.That said it won't put me off heading there.

        Overall I thought it was time we saw some changes. Some good promotions with the Four in Hand and Sepia heading up, but some odd awards with Sake for example to a one hat was at odds to our experience are there are many better Japanese places which don't even make the guide.

        1. re: PhilD

          Interesting to see Tesuyas drop, having finally made it there last month (I do live in the uk so not easy, review below) I thought it was as good as some fo the three michelin star places I have eaten at, albeit tasting menu vs set lunch, so maybe a little of an unfair comparison.

          That said I am kind of happy to see people willing to drop restaurants down as feel that michelin could maybe review some of their scoring over here, none more so that Waterside Inn for me (lunch visit), a vert tasty feed, but three star?

          I ate at Est years ago and was nonplussed by it, would love to have visited Quay when in Sydney but alas the weak english pound didn't allow

      3. Yay for Buon Ricordo (2 Hats) - I had some of the best pasta dishes ever, anywhere in the world, right there :-)

        BTW, why's Golden Century such a fixture on GFG's winners' list? Although it's #1-rated in Chinatown, I tasted some of the most tepid, uninspired Chinese cooking in there (their Tasmanian king crab cooked 2 ways notwithstanding). Granted they've got some really fresh seafood, but soy sauce & other ingredients used there are sub-par and won't pass muster in HK or Singapore. Sydney's got so many other restaurants more deserving of a 1 Hat.

        9 Replies
        1. re: klyeoh

          I have got to agree with you on the SMH Chinese selections, I am generally under-whelmed by the hatted places and find most satisfaction with less "renowned" places that represent the new wave.

          1. re: PhilD

            Any in particular (of the non-hatted Chinese places) that you'd like to recommend?

            1. re: LulusMom

              I wish I did, I enjoyed Chefs Gallery but I wouldn't send a visitor. I did like "Chairman Mao" (Hunan) which could be worth a visit. Billie Kwong is fine but I haven't been tempted to rush back - does that tell a story. I need to try Spice Temple.

              But I tend to find most of the Chinatown GFG ones very samey and the Dim Sum fairly uninspiring. After living in HK maybe my expectations are set too high, but even some of the places in London now would give the standard Sydney Chinese restaurant a run for their money and that is saying something!

              1. re: PhilD

                Eeek - that *is* saying something (this from my limited experience of London's Chinese food). Now living in Chapel Hill (a sweet, small college town in the southern US), there is close to nothing, although we've been lucky to have a really good Szechuan place for a few months. I was hoping to find something while in Sydney.

                Aside from Chinese, any other places you'd recommend? Price not an option, but nothing stuffy? We'll have a very polite and adventurous (food-wise) 4 year old with us.

                1. re: LulusMom

                  Sichuan at Red Chilli
                  Uighur at Uighur Cuisine
                  Xiaolongbao at Din Tai Fung
                  Live seafood at Golden Century
                  Yum Cha (A la carte) at East Ocean
                  Yum Cha (Trolley) at Zilver

                  Spice Temple is OK as well.

                    1. re: anarcist

                      Very under-whelmed by a recent Spice Temple meal.

                      1. re: PhilD

                        Ooh, full review please as we are getting one down here.

          2. I just moved to Sydney from New York and am looking for a restaurant guide website similar to that of New York magazine's. That is, a site where I can find restaurants using a variety of filters: price, location, critics pick, atmosphere, cuisine, etc.

            Can any one recommend a good site for this? The best I've found so far is urbanspoon, streeteats and timeout but none of them really quite do it for me.


            2 Replies
            1. re: emmagr

              Hi emmagr,
              When you purchase the 2011 Sydney Good Food Guide (or the iPhone app), there is a sleeve inside that gets you access to There, you'll find generally the same content as what is in the guide (plus some user-added content). The website provides some facility to search, filter, etc; however, I think that the most flexible interface is the iPhone app itself. From the iPhone app, you can search for what is around you, what is open now, ratings, etc. I also use the urbanspoon application and urbanspoon site, as they tend to offer some other perspectives - or at least some pictures of the food or menus. As a last option of where to avoid, I'll mention the NSW Food Authority Name & Shame list - where you can see which places have relaxed their embrace on quality. is somewhat flexible, and all of the content is user-generated, so be sure to consider the potential perspective when reading the reviews.

              That's where the majority of my on-the-spot research comes from, hopefully you'll find it helpful. Bon appetite!



              1. re: Syd.FoodGuy

                I tend to find the GFG as the most reliable but it has quirks and bias. I often bump it up against Time Out which is getting a bit stronger and is useful for an alternative perspective. Gourmet Traveller is another useful resource and adds a third dimension (albeit a little more conservative). I use Urbanspoon and Eatability for reference info like opening hours if others sources are vague but I find the reviews to be too variable with lots of uninformed comment, obvious bias or strange expectations.

                I find the Chowhound board can be good, lots of knowledge in the background which can answer questions although little in terms of posts.

            2. The real failure is to forget Lotus, which deserves one hat for sure! You should check out their new menu, it's off the hook... And that burger, wow.

              3 Replies
              1. re: J_A_A

                Great chef and menu, pity about the service - no restaurant that doesn't have my table ready for the time of my booking deserves a star. And some of the waitstaff could do with a good kicking, but that's lots of Sydney.

                Move Mr. Hong to somewhere that is a restaurant first and foremost where he can show us what he can do with a professional kitchen and front of house team.

                1. re: mr_gimlet

                  The service is a bit casual I agree, but Dan's food is really amazing, and many places don't have great service and still have a hat...
                  I mean Mad Cow... Come on!

                  1. re: J_A_A

                    Got to go with Mr.G here, IMO the place has far to much attitude even for Sydney. My thoughts from my last visit: