Parisian-inspired Kingston cult favourite Onzieme has been named the ACT’s best restaurant less than two years after opening its doors.
Onzieme’s surprise win at the prestigious Gourmet Traveller Restaurant Awards in Sydney this week ends a two-year winning streak by Ainslie’s Pilot restaurant.
“I thought we’d been invited because they needed bums on seats or something,” Onzieme owner and chef Louis Couttoupes admits. “It just blew us out of the water. I messaged all the guys straight away and they were all over the moon. I don’t think they, and I certainly didn’t think in a million years we would be named best restaurant in the state. I still find it hard to believe, to be honest.”
Louis credited Onzieme’s meteoric rise to his committed team of staff, both front and back of house, with special mentions for both his partner and bartender Brett Nebauer.
“[My partner] has been instrumental in keeping the place ticking along, making it look the way it does and giving creative direction to the overall vibe of the place,” Louis says.
“Brett has really given life to downstairs in a way I never dreamed of [referring to the underground wine bar located beneath Onzieme, 11e Cave].
“He’s hands down the best cocktail bartender in Canberra and he’s just made something that’s unique and really fun, especially in the Inner South.”
Despite Onzieme opening to the backdrop of pandemic-era lockdowns and dining restrictions in late 2021, the Kennedy Street venue was an instant hit. It has since been shortlisted in Gourmet Traveller’s Best New Restaurant category and awarded hats by the Australian Good Food and Travel Guide and Sydney Morning Herald Good Food Guide.
“The reception in Kingston has been overwhelming,” Louis says. “There have been a number of regulars who have become friends and just really embrace the kind of venue we want to be.”
Onzieme’s name, meaning ‘one of 11’ in French in reference to Paris’ lively 11th arrondissement shopping and dining district, may lead some to believe that “kind of venue” is French.
Not so, Louis explains. While the restaurant’s approach to food and casual atmosphere were influenced by time he spent in Paris, Louis stops short of calling it a French venue.
“We want it to be the kind of place where it can be your local everyday – ‘I don’t feel like cooking and I can come in two or three times a fortnight and have something different every time’ or it can be a special occasion place,” Louis says. “Unfortunately with places such as XO closing, there are not many places pitching at that level left in the Inner South anymore.”
Louis says it’s this “bit of everything for everyone” approach that allows people from all corners of the Inner South to embrace Onzieme and call it their own.
“So many people have reached out and said congratulations and are just really enthusiastic about their place in Kingston getting this award,” he says.
“Thanks to everyone who’s been involved in the place from day one. It’s got us where we are and hopefully bigger, better things from here on in.”
Onzieme is at 35 Kennedy Street, Kingston, open Tuesday to Saturday from 6 pm. Offshoot 11e Cave opens on the same days from 5:30 pm.