FBi Radio announced its nominees for its SMAC (Sydney Music Arts and Culture) Awards this week. I’m really thrilled with the shortlist for Best Eats, which was (with much difficulty, given all the amazing contenders!) narrowed down to this line-up of local greats. With some co-conspirators at FBi, we’ve nominated the following talents. Here are the bios I scribbled:
As the restaurant’s dynamite-stick lights suggest, ACME is a blast. There’s a baloney sandwich that overrules all of your school kid lunches and a blazing linguini dish with burnt chilli and garlic that looks like it got in a firefight and won. Award-winning chef Mitch Orr’s menu is defiantly #notanitalianrestaurant territory, and his restaurant manager Cam Fairbairn will give you TV-watching recommendations while offering the cheeriest service in the biz. It’s all delivered over a hip-hop soundtrack that’s as sharp as ACME’s A-grade offerings.
Andy Bowdy Pastry
Once the “lord pastry master of Hartsyard”, Andrew Bowden (aka @andybowdy to his 30,000+ followers on Instagram) has gone solo to create cakes that are literally next level – stacked spectaculars constructed from Milo mousse, caramelised popcorn, salted chocolate fudge, torched meringue, malted milk crumb or other sweet-tooth-conquering splendours. He’s also dished out cheesecake soft serve with apple pie, peanut crumble and salted bourbon caramel on Cockatoo Island for Underbelly Arts and cherry-glazed donut with hazelnut praline, cherry jam and Nutella soft serve at Gelato Messina’s dessert bar. Even your dentist would be won over by Andy’s epic sweets.
It didn’t take as long as The Avalanches’ second album but Automata’s much-stalled opening was worth all the delays. Clayton Wells’ restaurant at The Old Clare Hotel was a knockout as soon as it opened. This young chef throws down surprise after surprise – from an incredibly strong snacks game (storm clams with rosemary dashi and Parmesan tapioca with Japanese mustard) to a walnut ice-cream with freeze-dried blood plum and aged mirin. The menu has a dependency on seaweed that we’re totally OK with, and a drinks list that’s as smart and progressive as the futuristic industrial interiors.
What does the acclaimed team from Bulletin Place do after their Sydney bar keeps winning award after award? Open a new venue that’s as awesome and forward-thinking as their original joint, of course! Dead Ringer is no lazy duplicate though. It’s a fun hybrid between drinking establishment and quality restaurant, with a cocktail list that includes a yuzu-spiked take on Bacardi Breezers and a hot toddy dunked with Gelato Messina’s burnt butter and sage gelato. Tristan Rosier’s food is worth your attention too – with a category-destroying dip made of creamed almonds (RIP hummus) and a Golden Gaytime remix with chocolate custard, malt biscuit and honeycomb.
The queue that gathers in front of this rustic Redfern canteen doesn’t lie. There are plenty of reasons to line up for Scout’s Honour – the chicken salad and potato chip sandwich is one, the roasted veg sambo is another, the stack of just-baked biscuits and muffins conquering the counter is a third. The fact they can turn their slow-roasted lamb shoulder lunch box into an accommodating vegan meal is just another of Scout’s Honour’s magic tricks. Grab a takeaway order and the staff will even pop a bonus piece of fruit into your bag, like a super-thoughtful parent. What’s not to love?
I’m happy that it’s a great mix of appetite-pleasing establishments – from the best restaurant that I think has opened this year (Automata) to the place I’ve bought the most/favourite work lunches from in 2015 (Scout’s Honour, where I have a well-timed train-hopping game just to pick up my order to skate back to the office and time) and one very talented, meringue-torching pastry chef who is busting out his cake spectaculars from Gelato Messina’s Rosebery HQ.
You have until until December 18, 2015 to vote for your favourite and you could win a BOSE Soundtouch 10 wireless music system and Soundlink wireless headphones in the process. The SMAC award winners will be announced on Tuesday January 12 2016, in a ceremony that will be broadcast live on FBi 94.5FM.