The Sydney Morning Herald Good Food Guide awards were held in Sydney last night (21 November), with 10 Canberra restaurants receiving recognition for their fine dining excellence.
It’s the first time the guide has awarded the much-coveted hats since the 2020 guide was released in late 2019 as pandemic restrictions, lockdowns and huge disruptions to the industry made it impossible for judges to visit and critique the restaurants fairly.
Local fine dining favourite Pilot has picked up two hats for the first time.
Pilot will be getting used to winning awards with the Ainslie restaurant recently taking out Gourmet Traveller’s pick for best restaurant in the ACT for the second year running. They don’t have much time to rest on their laurels as the team is working hard to open a second venue – Such and Such – later this year.
Pilot is only the third Canberra restaurant to earn two hats: Aubergine was consistently awarded two hats for several years running, and Ottoman earned them in the 2018 guide (but were back to one in following years).
Aubergine closed earlier this year, and Ottoman has been closed since 2021 but teased that a relocation would be announced in 2022, leaving Pilot as Canberra’s only double-hatted establishment for now.
Nine other local restaurants have picked up a single hat each.
Onzieme in Kingston and Mu Omakase in Civic are both newcomers to the Canberra dining scene, opening in mid to late 2021 amid lockdowns and dining restrictions. To be awarded a hat is a huge achievement for any restaurant, and to do so in the face of so many obstacles is quite remarkable.
The list also includes Canberra hospitality veterans Italian & Sons who have received a hat for the fifth time.
Despite a trend for suburban dining options, Civic is still a hot part of town with Terra, Raku and Bar Rochford all picking up a hat, as well as Rebel Rebel down the road in New Acton. Outside the city, XO in Narrabundah and Pavilion Dining at Pialligo Estate also picked up a hat each.
For the first time the Good Food Guide also handed out “hearts” to restaurants that are a little more casual but still serving exceptional food. This was done in a bid to showcase restaurants that are more affordable and accessible for most diners, who still want to experience great food without dropping several hundred dollars on a meal.
Diners will need to purchase the Good Food Guide magazine to see who received a heart.
While awards aren’t the be all and end all for what makes an excellent fine dining experience, 10 hatted restaurants should be enough to convince any doubters that Canberra’s food and wine scene is thriving at the highest level.