Two pillars of the Canberra food and wine scene have been shortlisted as finalists in the Gourmet Traveller 2023 Restaurant awards.
Onzieme owner and chef Louis Couttoupes opened the Parisian-inspired restaurant on Kennedy street in Kingston in October 2021. He had already amassed something of a cult following and a stellar reputation behind the pass at Bar Rochford and then at pop-up blackboard restaurant Kiosk. As a result, Onzieme was booked out before it even opened and it quickly established itself as the hottest table in town.
It may come as no surprise to Canberra foodies that Onzieme is a finalist for this prestigious award, but for Louis and his team, it was a bit of a shock.
“We were caught by surprise, and pleasantly so!” he told Region.
“We weren’t expecting it at all.”
Opening a new business as Canberra emerged from lockdown was a challenging endeavour. Changing restrictions kept the team on their toes, but their hard work has seen the risk pay off.
Bar Rochford co-owner Nick Smith also expressed surprise at their inclusion as a finalist for best wine bar.
“We’re a bit older now – we will have been open for seven years in March – so it’s pretty surprising to be included as an older bar,” Nick said.
Bar Rochford previously won Best Bar in the 2018 Gourmet Traveller Restaurant Guide Awards, so being a finalist again is a testament to the consistently good service they’ve maintained over the years and their ability to keep the menu and wine list fresh and interesting. As well as attracting positive attention, the team at Bar Rochford is well aware of the potential challenges awards can create.
“It can put a lot of pressure on the business … It definitely changed the pace of the bar in 2017.”
Both businesses expressed their gratitude to their customers who have made it possible for them to do what they do best, even through the challenges of COVID-19. And while awards are special, it’s the ongoing support of Canberrans that sustains them in the long term.
“While it’s really nice to have the recognition, winning awards is not something I try to set as a target,” said Louis.
“I just want a nice local restaurant that people can come and enjoy, so it’s just nice that other people think so too!”
The team at Bar Rochford offered their congratulations to the team at Onzieme, saying they were excited to see more Canberra restaurants being recognised as the food scene continues to grow.
“There’s so much cool stuff happening in Canberra at the moment, not just the two places that were nominated.”
The Gourmet Traveller Restaurant Awards winners will be announced at a gala in Sydney, and published in the October issue of Gourmet Traveller magazine.
Onzieme is at 35 Kennedy Street, Kingston, open Tuesday to Saturday from 6 pm until 11 pm.
Bar Rochford is on the first floor of 65 London Circuit, Civic, open Tuesday to Saturday from 5 pm until late.