La Favola Flat Lay image

THE SPOONING AUSTRALIA TOP 20 RESTAURANTS OF 2018

Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail

A huge apology for the delay in the release of my Top 20 for 2018 but I was determined this/last year not to release the list until I had actually written all the required reviews. Also, in previous years I have split cafes, burgers and restaurants but for 2018 it is all about the best food/ venues in the one list. What food did I like the best in my culinary travels? Which venue experiences most took my fancy? What was unique and what was something I have thought about again since visiting? Where did I return multiple times?

Why was number one number one? Well – that was the only place I have returned to many times over the year. Sure it’s not a multiple chef hatted Bennelong style restaurant, but I’m not about only loving the most fancy restaurants I can find. Grandmas at street food stalls cook food as appealing as René Redzepi and when you speak to the best chefs in the world, most of them will have a Street Food stall in their top 3. Hawker Chan got a hat for his street food stall for a reason!

POINTS OF NOTE:

Please note I do not include previous year’s venues in my Top 20. They are still awesome venues and you can check some of the recent lists out here:


I also do not include clients, sorry guys – have to remain neutral. As such a huge special mention to The Hotel Alexandra in Leura and the Manjit’s chain of restaurants and Urban Tadka – two Indian clients I manage or managed in 2018 that both ended up with Australian Good Food Guide Chef Hats for 2018. Call to discuss social media management and/or content creation. #cheekyplug

I need to also point out something about being a food and restaurant reviewer/critic/blogger. You might venture to a restaurant I love and have a bad experience, I might venture to something you loathed and have a marvellous time. Every experience is different and can come down to things like how did the waiter sleep last night? What I am trying to say is don’t judge my experience in comparison to yours, I could love the meal because coriander and brussel sprouts are two of my favourite thing and they might make you stomach turn. My writing is my food journal of my experiences, I just hope yours echos mine when you get to visit my suggestions.

But enough babbling – let’s get to the itty gritty……..


– The Top 20 Restaurants of 2018 –


The Smoking Panda Meal Spread image
The Smoking Panda Meal Spread image

20        The Smoking Panda – Sydney CBD

Comments from initial review:

If you haven’t ventured to THE SMOKING PANDA yet you need to amend this culinary discrepancy ASAP. You need to go there with some cash, drink an ample amount of wonderful Old Fashioneds, and compliment these amazing drinks with some Chinese inspired snack food that will blow your mind!

Why is it on the list?

It was a surprising venue. From the outside it’s an old unattractive pub I have walked past a thousand times, on the inside, a Chinese themed saloon that had cool fish tanks with clownfish and jellyfish. The food was amazing and the amount of Old Fashioneds they can make just boggles the mind. Everything was a surprise and I loved that.


19        Pins on Lurline – Katoomba

Comments from initial review:

PINS ON LURLINE is near perfection. The food, the location, and the historical venue are a marvel and worthy of a visit to the Blue Mountains. 

Why is it on the list?

PINS ON LURLINE was one of those beautiful old country venues that makes food for your soul. The venue itself was in an old historic house and the food was a work of art from the chefs.


Saddles Mt White image
Saddles Mt White

18        Saddles – Mt White, The Central Coast

Comments from initial review:

Put it this way, if I ever get married before I hit the retirement home, this is the place I will be wed. The venue, the service, the remote location, and the food – all big ticks from me. It is less than an hour from Sydney’s CBD, so really, no excuse for a lunch trip but make a booking, it’s the “it” place to go on the Coast at the moment.

Why is it on the list?

SADDLES makes the list because of its sheer audacity. The John Singleton owned venue he built so he could have an “office” near his home with nice food. It is just stunning and the saddles are a highlight. Never did he imagine the venue would become so bloody marvellous. You just can’t beat eating the incredible food from SADDLES while overlooking the incredible man-made view.


Burger Point Marsden Park Double Marvin Glazed Hacked Monster Burger image
Double Marvin Glazed Hacked Monster Burger

17        Burger Point – Marsden Park

Comments from initial review:

The only letdown of BURGER POINT for this food pig Northern Beaches dwelling fatso is the location. Marsden Park is a bitch to get to from Manly for a regular burg fix. But I love it that much I have returned and will keep on returning and looking for excuses to head out West. 

Why is it on the list?

Burger porn – pure and simple. Consistently the best burgers I ate last year. The Filipino influence was also impressive with some great Ube desserts.


16        Alpha – Sydney CBD

Comments from initial review:

ALPHA is near the top of the food chain for Greek Fine Dining in Sydney. It isn’t going to break your bank and the food will surely impress as much as the venue. It still creates the traditional food your Yia Yia would make if you were Greek, it is just being interpreted by Peter Conistis, who the SMH describes as the Pioneer of Modern Greek Food.

Why is it on the list?

Some of the best Greek food I have eaten – just loved this place. And what a venue, so elegantly appointed.


Gumshara Super Mega Ramen Noodle image
Super Mega Ramen Noodle

15        Gumshara – Chinatown

Comments from initial review:

I only just discovered Gumshara offers cook-it-yourself packs of the ramen to take home. I shall be visiting with a big esky sometime soon. But for my Super Mega Ramen fix this will only be happening at the Gumshara store in Haymarket – it is ramen perfection made from years of mastering the art of ramen by Chef Mori Higashida. If you get a chance to meet Shingo while you are there say hi – he is a wonderful funny gentle soul who literally knocked on the door years ago as he wanted to learn the craft. He is now one of the chefs at Gumshara. Don’t let the food-court dissuade you, this restaurant is a gift from the ramen gods.

Why is it on the list?

I never expected Ramen, especially from a food court, would give me a culinary/ spiritual reaction. The Super Mega Ramen Noodle is a dish I still dream about. Bring on winter so I can smash many a bowl in 2019.


Bistro Papillon Escargots de Bourgogne image
Escargots de Bourgogne

14        Bistro Papillon – Sydney CBD

Comments from initial review:

If French food is your jam then BISTRO PAPILLON is your digs. Wonderfully bohemian mid 20th Century French in design and atmosphere with traditional food that impresses as much as the waitstaff. I will be returning to this place for more of the decadent cuisine all washed down with even more French wine and martinis.

Why is it on the list?

The most French place I have ever eaten – am yet to visit France itself, but this is what I imagine. The food, the wine, the atmosphere, and my crush on the waiter demanded this make ths list. Lols


13        Pony – The Rocks, Sydney

Comments from initial review:

PONY DINING is a marvellous Australian Restaurant in Sydney’s The Rocks that embraces the influences of the kitchen staff offering multicultural flavours to compliment their Argentinian Wood Fired Grilled meats. If you visit ensure you get that Kangaroo – will change your life, as will the steaks.

Why is it on the list?

Best kangaroo dish, best steak and best bone marrow or 2018 – the end.


The Lucky Bee Whole Snapper image
The Lucky Bee Whole Snapper image

12        The Lucky Bee – Woy Woy, The Central Coast

Comments from initial review:

For most Sydneysiders Woy Woy is a little far to travel for a meal but THE LUCKY BEE demands a weekend on The Central Coast, in fact the food on the Central Coast demands a long weekend. My Top 20 Restaurants of 2018 (list out soon) has FOUR restaurants from The Central Coast on it. It’s time to take notice a little north of Sydney. UPDATE: The venue advises they are on the train line – a day trip to The Lucky Bee is easily achievable.

Why is it on the list?

Rupert and Matty, the owners, basically. And everything they have done. It might also have something to do with Barbra Streisand’s favourite bao, the best cocktails of 2018, and the single best whole fish I have ever eaten. I loathe whole fish but will return to The Lucky Bee just for this! Oh and throw in the festive atmosphere of the venue and it’s a winner.


Umi Sushi and Bar Spicy Grilled Cheese Scallops image
Spicy Grilled Cheese Scallops

11        Umi Sushi – Haymarket, Sydney

Comments from initial review:

UMI SUSHI AND BAR is an exceptional all rounder Japanese venue that gave us the best of the best of a taste experience. It was my second best Japanese dining experience of 2018 just behind a Chankonabe feast in the snow in Hokkaido earlier in the year. 

Why is it on the list?

The closest in Japanese feasting since I was in Japan. The freshness of the sashimi was a big plus and anyone that serves me truffled smoky tuna belly or foie gras sushi is a winner. And the presentation of the sushi boat was theatrical presentation at its finest.


Stowaway Bar Big Elvis image
Big Elvis

10        Stowaway – Freshwater, Sydney

Comments from initial review:

STOWAWAY BAR is one of the best bars in Sydney. But is it just a bar with food this good? It fits no predefined category and plays to its own, incredibly clever, stylised and humorous, tune. This funky-assed Beaches institution demands a journey to the Northside folks. Take transport, get elegantly and responsibly trollied!

Why is it on the list?

This prohibition style bar is all about fun. Epically fun staff, fun drinks and fun food – the kind of place people only dream about as being their local.


Woy Woy Fishermen's Wharf image
Woy Woy Fishermen’s Wharf

9          Fisherman’s Wharf – Woy Woy, The Central Coast

Comments from initial review:

Woy Woy Fishermen’s Wharf isn’t just a Restaurant and Seafood Market, it’s an experience and an institution that feels as much a part of Woy Woy as Pelican Island and Brisbane Waters. The new renovations and their sublime, but simply prepared, seafood elevates this place to one of the best seafood establishments in NSW.

Why is it on the list?

Some of the finest sustainable seafood and views I have experienced. I also love Pelicans and they rule the roost.


8          Sake Manly – Manly

Comments from initial review:

SAKÉ Manly was not without faults but the view, the service and the technical expertise of the modern Japanese food ensures this will make my Top 20 Restaurants of 2018. It just slipped in being the last venue I dined at before the NYE celebrations. Saké Manly is a special occasion restaurant, no normal person can regularly afford a meal this expensive but I do look forward to returning.

Why is it on the list?

Japanese fine dining with the best views in Sydney. It’s a special occasion long lunch venue with views that make your draw drop.


Evening Star Hotel Drunken Pork Belly image
Drunken Pork Belly

7          The Evening Star Hotel – Surry Hills

Comments from initial review:

I fell head over heels in love with Gweilo, now EVENING STAR HOTEL. It deserves respect for the pseudo dystopian Asian design and the mouth-watering innovative Hong Kong street food fusion from Chef Gee. I cannot wait to return.

Why is it on the list?

The somewhat dystopian Asian design and epic food made me fall in love with this place. It was like dining in a Bladerunner/ Astro Boy Bar – of course I would love it.


Wheeler's Seafood Restaurant Salmon image
Salmon

6          Wheeler’s Seafood – Pambula, The South Coast

Comments from initial review:

WHEELER’S SEAFOOD RESTAURANT is as close to a perfect seafood restaurant as I could have hoped for in 2018. It might be a little out of the way at nearly 7hrs from Sydney but if you find yourself down South then you need to make this marvel a destination stop. Stay local, eat lots of oysters, and drink too much wine while devouring some of the best seafood in NSW.

Why is it on the list?

Mum’s favourite venue of 2018. A technically perfect dining experience with food that I still dream about.


5          Tequila Mockingbird – Paddington

Comments from initial review:

TEQUILA MOCKINGBIRD is calling your name people, it yearns for long boozy meals matched with impressive Latin American cuisine that will make you swoon and order that extra mezcal. Adiós!

Why is it on the list?

Best brussel sprouts and best lamb shoulder of all time. Heavenly.


BOMBINI Oysters image
Oysters

4          Bombini – Avoca, The Central Coast

Comments from initial review:

Bombini is a superb destination restaurant in the Avoca area. It helps if you are staying locally and get transport because you want to take advantage of their fine grog. This is a long lunch venue, a place to stay for 4+ hours with friends slow dining and taking in the wonderful tropical surrounds. For dinner I would lean more towards the vibe of the pizza bar but the food is awe inspiring wherever you are in the Bombini Homestead.

Why is it on the list?

We had a perfect long lunch at Bombini – the venue, the food, and the grog was marvellous but it’s the memories that topped it!


3          La Favola – Newtown

Comments from initial review:

Chef Fabio Stefanelli brings years of fine-dining expertise to LA FAVOLA. What we get on good old King Street Newtown is fine dining pasta perfection in a “fast food” environment. Not only some of the finest pasta I have eaten in the last year but some of the best I have eaten in my life. I cannot wait to return for more food and one of their Gnocchi Classes. Bon appétit!

Why is it on the list?

Perfect Italian food in a fast food environment. Everything was a taste sensation and La Favola had the cleanest kitchen and most authentic Italian staff that I have ever seen. Everything was made fresh and the passion in Chef’s cooking comes out in the taste. Returning here ASAP!


Entrata Duck Ravioli image
Duck Ravioli

2          Entrata – Glenhaven

Comments from initial review:

ENTRATA RESTAURANT and BAR has been the best surprise venue of 2018. A wonderful Italian oasis at Glenhaven that has technical Italian food that honours the food’s history while redefining it in a modern world. Currently my favourite food of 2018, it will take a lot to beat this place. It’s time for a road trip people!!

Why is it on the list?

Technically perfect Italian food. The duck ravioli with pomegranate foam is one of the best meals I ate in 2018 and every dish had fine dining skill that deserves Chefs Hats.


1          Ho Jiak – Haymarket

Comments from initial review:

Ho Jiak serves Malaysian Cuisine like comfort food you get to eat in their family home. The technique in the cooking is top notch and the Malaysian flavours may cause your eyes to roll into your head, your toes to curl and for you to scream out “yes yes yes.”

Why is it on the list?

Ho Jiak is the only venue I have returned to FOUR TIMES!! I was invited twice and paid twice. I can’t get enough of their Malaysian perfection. Char Kway Teow is my all time favourite food and Ho Jiak seduces me with it every time. And Sang Wong Dan is a dish I have also ordered on every visit. Just divine.


WRAP UP:

My favourite restaurant was Malaysian, Aussie Restaurants tied with Japanese restaurants with one fifth of the list each but if I combine Asian eateries they make up 30% of the total list. Italian venues came in at third favourite cuisine of the year with seafood just behind. What I did notice is my tastes are definitely multicultural as is out fine country and the food it represents. Happy eating folks and may our bellies remain full and our drinks overflowing.

Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail
THE SPOONING AUSTRALIA TOP 20 RESTAURANTS OF 2018Spooning
2

2 comments on "THE SPOONING AUSTRALIA TOP 20 RESTAURANTS OF 2018"

  1. Paula Morgan on

    Right now I am pretty happy I bought a house in Woy Woy to move to at some point. Totally agree on Ho Jiak. It never disappoints.

    • So jealous!! I lived in Terrigal for a year and then Copacabana for 6 months and loved living on the Coast so much – and now – it’s a foodies dream :). Went back to Ho Jiak two weeks ago to take the parents – so delicious!!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *