The rules were simple: the venue had to have opened in 2017, or December 2016 at a stretch, with major revamps also getting a hall pass.

RESTAURANTS

Supernormal Canteen, St Kilda
Katya Wachtel, Melbourne editor
I couldn’t convince any of my friends to share the duck heart yakitori here with me, so I went it alone. Thank god no one joined me – I would have had two (or more) to myself. These simple, no-frills morsels-on-a-stick are smoky, sweet and surprisingly light for an offal dish.

Etta, Brunswick East

Nick Connellan, directory editor
Etta's menu is packed with dishes worth talking about, such as the tamari-roasted pumpkin with sunflower cream. So I almost feel guilty choosing bread and butter. But the three times I visited Etta, I ordered a second serve every time. The bread has a malty crust and steaming, pillowy inside. And the faintly caramel-y butter – I'd like to see that sold in ten-kilo buckets at Costco.

Emily Paulin, national social media editor
People always tell you to not fill up on bread. Don’t listen, especially here. It’s humbly listed as "sourdough and burnt butter" but it’s a work of carb art: a crisp, malty crust with wholesome, cushiony insides. It hits your table hot, accompanied by a big scoop of fluffy, salty butter with hidden notes of caramel. Combined, it’s whipped, warm and wonderful and at just $2 per serve, I’ll have three of those, thanks.

Shukah, Windsor

Tim Grey, writer
Shukah taught me something about myself I didn’t know: I love Armenian. The hummus with nutty brown butter and plentiful, cloud-like flatbread, could be all Garen Maskal served and I’d be happy. His charred octopus with olive salsa and labne is a bonus.

Thomas Beecher, writer
I had a real wow moment trying Armenian food for the first time. A lot of flavours and styles and influences go into it, drawing from Eastern Europe and the Mediterranean. Chef-owner Garen Maskal tops his hummus with a handful of chickpeas floating in a pool of burnt butter. It has a comforting peasant feel.

Mayfair, CBD

Nick Buckley, Melbourne assistant editor
Is 12.30am too early for breakfast? A giant crisp-bottomed crumpet here is capped with spanner crab, bottarga and trout roe, lightly dressed with Keens Curry-spiced mayonnaise. Butter and honey can go in the bin.

Aleksandra Bliszczyk, writer
Dry-aged duck breast at Mayfair. While the rich orange sauce beautifully contrasts the pungent flesh, and the charred vegetables are sweet and smoky, the skin on the duck steals the show. Ever had duck crackling? It’s even better than it sounds.

Ramblr, South Yarra
Anna Webster, writer
Roast chicken with garlic cream, grilled leek and jus gras – this dish fell off the menu when Nick Stanton and co. revamped Ramblr a few months back, and it’s a shame it did. Everyone raves about Philippe Mouchel’s roast chicken but I reckon Stanton’s is up there. The garlic cream was especially good; thick and rich with no trace of bitterness – the perfect passenger.

Ryne, Fitzroy North
Hilary McNevin, writer
When Donovan Cooke told me he was opening Ryne, my first question was, “Will there be pigeon?”, referring back to his days at Est Est Est. I was lucky enough to eat there on opening night and it was on as a special. Carefully cooked rare, with artichokes and a jus that's a testament to the craft, skill and time taken to prepare it – good sauces are timeless.

Long Chim
Nick Connellan, directory editor
Last time I was in Thailand, I ate larb almost every day. That combination of slightly oily chicken mince, addictive chillies and fresh herbs is incredibly satisfying. Predictably, David Thompson's incendiary version is up there with the best I've ever had.

Camus, Westgarth

Caroline Clements, special projects
The Turkish delight soufflé with baklava and halva ice cream – three key flavours I love separately, but wouldn’t have thought to put together in one mouthful. It was a sweet puff of nutty, rose petal bliss.

Anna Webster, writer
I don’t normally like soufflés, but I do love the Turkish delight soufflé at Camus. It should be too sweet for me, but it’s a sweetness is balanced by the halva ice cream. And where normally I find soufflés a bit wispy, like puffs of nothing, this one has a bit more structure to it. It’s spongy and custardy and delicious.

Sunshine Social, Sunshine
Nick Connellan, directory editor
Sunshine Social's nostalgic concept is welcome at a time when fine-dining chefs are opening sandwich shops and every cafe, restaurant and pub in the city seems to be pushing its menu in more sophisticated directions. The rotisserie chicken is good. The not-too-rich gravy that comes with it, perfect. Bonus points for the genuine community feel.

Wee Man’s Kitchen at Tallboy and Moose
Luke Robertson, writer
I hadn’t tried haggis before visiting Wee Man’s Kitchen. Haggis pakora, the Indo-Scottish fusion version here, has a fried, crunchy outside with a spicy and soft haggis filling and a curiously named “pink sauce” for dipping. The rest of the menu is full of things recognisable only to Scots. For a kitchen in a brewpub serving fried food, chef Chris Orr has managed to avoid cliché and embrace fun.

Cutler & Co., Fitzroy
Anna Webster, writer
It’s an old venue but it had a revamp/overhaul, so it counts. The abalone katsu sandwich, with bulldog sauce: tender abalone, crumbed and slapped between two round slices of soft white bread with Japanese BBQ sauce.

Saxe, CBD
Tim Grey, writer
Joe Grbac’s tender octopus and pan-fried grouper tastes, surprisingly, of chorizo, and is one of my year’s clear highlights. Joe’s food is understated in a way you can only achieve once you master your craft completely.

Annam, CBD
Thomas Beecher, writer
Annam is an instant classic. Jerry Mai is like the Indiana Jones of Southeast Asian hawker food: she spends a part of the year eating her way across Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia, which inspired such wonders as her Chaing Mai pork sausages and charcoal-grilled Kingfish. Mai's deep-fried ice cream in caramel sauce is like a symphony to my childhood.

Takeaway Pizza, Preston
Kate Shanasy, writer
A giant slice of American-style pizza never tasted so interesting, unusual and satisfying. How the Dexter guys create such complex flavours from what's usually considered an ordinary dish I just don't know. I'll be spending many summer nights here.

Bhang, Brunswick
Nick Connellan, directory editor
Get the deep-fried spinach leaf entree. It's not clever or hard to make, but it's one of the best beer snacks ever.

Osteria Ilaria, CBD
Anna Webster, writer
Baby octopus with ’nduja: I didn’t order this dish the first time I went to Osteria Ilaria. How good could it be? Fortunately I ordered it the second time I went, and have ordered it every time since. The baby octopi are charred until their tentacles are black at the tip, and then dressed in this red, spicy salami sauce, so impossibly good an extra order of bread is required to mop it up. Or a finger.

Che, Fitzroy
Hilary McNevin, writer
A cheese and corn empanada – yep, this simple little parcel has me and my children hooked. Chef Alejandro Saravia opened Che as a homage to the charcoal chicken joints he loved in his native Peru. Puffed up and plump, it’s all gooey cheese and sweet nibs of corn in crispy pastry.


BARS

Longsong, CBD

Katya Wachtel, Melbourne editor
Longsong feels like nowhere else in Melbourne. That's reason enough to spend your nights here. So is the whipped smoked snapper. To make it, David Moyle and co. cure a snapper tail, smoke it, then whip the cooked flesh with bread and oil. It’s dusted with seaweed, topped with plump pearls of roe, and served with paper-thin house-made crisps that don’t detract from or dominate the silky smoky dip – they’re the perfect shovels.

Tim Grey, writer
Dave Moyle served up a plate of Balmain Bugs cooked over fire and dressed only in a fish sauce so funky I thought it was butter – since then I’ve been putting fish sauce into everything, without quite the same effect. The trick is that Dave knows when to get out of the way of a perfect bit of seafood, just amplifying or framing something for maximum deliciousness.

Arlechin, CBD
Hilary McNevin, writer
It’s hard to decide between the Bolognese Jaffle or the Midnight Spaghetti at the Grossi’s beautiful new bar, but I’ll settle on the latter. Eating the pasta tossed with garlic, salty capers and rich tomato sugo in the early hours catapulted me back to my own days in hospo, when pasta, sugo and salt made for comforting meals after 12-hour days and double shifts.

Above Board
Nick Connellan, directory editor
I'm always surprised how little trust people have in recommendations from their waiters and barstaff. Apart from the chefs, these people know the menu and product better than anyone. My advice for Above Board: tell barman Hayden Lambert what sort of things you like, then let go entirely. Otherwise, you're just likely to ruin a great cocktail.

The Moon, Collingwood
Nick Buckley, Melbourne assistant editor
If people are going to be honest with themselves, Aperol tastes like sugar and not much else. It also stains clothes. The Moon has swapped in Caperitif, an obscure South African aperitif for the year's best spritz.

Aleksandra Bliszczyk, writer
Its lentil pate would fool most liver eaters. It’s a deeply rich spread of umami and boozy tang – a very moreish wine bar snack.

Bar Josephine
Luke Robertson, writer
My favourite way to drink is sitting at the bar with a friend, chatting to the bar staff, enjoying great booze. Bar Josephine is this place. Owner Aaron Donato told us he's a failed writer and wanted a bar he could sit and write in. I’ve never been able to write there, because the staff are so nice and their beer list so good. It’s low-key vibes with high-class beers.

Wildflower, Marrickville, Sydney
Nick Connellan, directory editor
Wildflower's Amber Ale #4 is hard to find in Melbourne, but not impossible. (These shops are a good place to look.) Good beers are mostly about balance: #4 is the most balanced beer I've ever had. Imagine three pieces of string tied in a knot, then pulled so tight the individual strands become impossible to distinguish. That's how this tastes. I can't isolate any particular characters from #4; it seems as pure as salt. It's also unique and incredibly drinkable. Mark down 2017 as the year that Tasmania's Two Metre Tall finally got a serious competitor in the farmhouse-style beer category.

Vintage Spirits Menu at the Everleigh
Luke Robertson, writer
When the Everleigh revamped it also launched a Vintage Spirits Menu. I’m a sucker for the weird and unusual, and that includes incredibly old drinks. Getting a taste of the 1930s Black and White Blended Whisky was a real treat. The oldest whisky I’ve ever tried, it was surprisingly vibrant, leathery and smooth.

CAFES

Hector’s Deli, Richmond
Callum McDermott, writer
Six months after eating it, I shouldn’t still be thinking about a sandwich. But I am, thanks to the wagyu pastrami at Hector’s Deli. Although plenty of cafes in Melbourne claim to be showcasing elevated ingredients through a back-to-basics approach, Hector’s Deli is one of the few actually accomplishing it. It’s just pastrami and sauerkraut between some bread, so why do I want it for lunch every day? Head to Richmond to find out. Soon.

Piccolina Gelateria, Collingwood
Aleksandra Bliszczyk, writer
Experts and Italians say pistachio is the best flavour for determining the quality of the gelato. Sandra Foti’s traditionally made, stretchy, buttery pistachio gelato is made with 100 per cent pistachio butter – not a nut blend or nut essence. It’s salty, sweet, and superbly nutty.

Acoffee, Collingwood
Nick Connellan, directory editor
One of my favourite things about summer is getting to drink cold brew, iced lattes and iced filters again. Everything Acoffee does is good, but the iced latte is a thing of beauty. It's served in a delicate, beaker-like glass, with a crown of fluffy milk, frothed cold, using a coffee plunger.

Light Years, Hawthorn East
Caterina Hrysomallis, writer
The chef here recommended I go for the miso scrambled eggs: shitake mushrooms, spring onion, charred corn, seaweed and nori; all on top of silky, perfectly cooked miso scramble. Knowing I can’t have this dish whenever I feel like it (and knowing I shouldn't dare try to replicate it) makes it taste that much better whenever I go back.

Brother Alec, Thornbury
Tim Fisher, editorial director
Another not-new venue we can include on a technicality due to a recent refurb, Brother Alec has become, to my mind, the template for what a good cafe can do for its community. Six years old and getting better and better, its menu is a regularly changing mix of familiar cafe comfort food and more adventurous dishes, put together by a kitchen team that clearly loves what it does. The coffee is reliably excellent, staff are always smiling, and the breakfast roll is one of the best bacon sarnies in the entire city.

... AND A ONE-OFF

On the Bend/On the Mend, Thornbury
Luke Robertson, writer
The inaugural coffee and beer festival at 3 Ravens combined local coffee with local beer. For the event, Small Batch created a drink featuring blood plums, hop syrup, tonic, mint, and their Candyman coffee blend. They finished it off with a spritz of hop syrup on top, for a spicy, citrus aroma. I slept horribly that night. Worth it.