The days of wandering into a great restaurant for nothing more than a good meal are well and truly over. More than ever patrons now look for aesthetically inventive, creative spaces in which to dine. For the past eight years the Eat Drink Design Awards have assessed Australia’s most stunningly designed venues across six categories – and this year’s winners have just been announced.

“We saw a lot of Italian influences and a lot of mid-century influences as well,” juror Cassie Hansen tells Broadsheet. She says the use of earthy greens and textured stone such as terrazzo and marble are “reflective of a connection to nature and bringing all those greenery elements inside our interior spaces”.

Five of the winners are in Victoria, including Best Restaurant Design winner Di Stasio Citta. Designed by Hassell, its brutalist lines and light, video and art installations by renowned artists such as Reko Rennie and Shaun Gladwell helped the restaurant edge out the competition. “This is one of the interiors that could almost win on a world scale,” Hansen said. “It’s going to be around for 10, 15, 20 years, a real standout winner.”

Best Bar Design went to Blacksmith Lake Mulwala in the Riverina district of NSW, designed by The Stella Collective. The bright space is full of earthy elements contrasting against the clean, tiled lines of the bar. There are black details across the space, making it a fresh yet minimal oasis in the lakeside town of Mulwala.

Best Café Design was awarded to Studio Esteta’s design for Via Porta in Mont Albert, Victoria. The sweeping benches of the grocery area and stools along the coffee bar are reminiscent of the venue’s owners’ Italian heritage, and the earthy palette and stone floors echo Italy’s cobbled laneways. “So much time has been spent in designing every last element,” said Hansen.

There was a tie for Best Hotel Design: Drifthouse in Port Fairy in south-west Victoria, designed by Mulitplicity, and The Calile Hotel in Fortitude Valley, Brisbane, designed by Richards and Spence were declared joint winners.

Drifthouse – a small boutique hotel – uses repurposed wood and stone from a nearby quarry to imbue common spaces such as the reception area with a luxurious feel while retaining the intimacy expected of a six-suite hotel. “It does so well for such a regional location, the sort of design you expect in a city centre,” said Hensen. Unexpected pops of print and colour in the suites and bathrooms contrast against the otherwise muted palette.

Further up the coast is The Calile Hotel, a 175-room hotel that gives visitors a sense of escapism in the middle of the CBD. “[It’s] just extraordinary,” says Hansen. “Every single corner you look at has been well detailed.” The hotel is bright, pink and sunny, with cool stone tiles to remind patrons of wide-open spaces while offering respite from the weather.

The clean lines of Piccolina Gelateria in Collingwood, Melbourne, designed by Hecker Guthrie, picked up the award for Best Retail Design. The ice-creamery has concrete walls and a green-tiled counter. “[It has a] beautifully restrained interior that nodded to the history of gelato,” says Hansen.

Best Identity Design went to Lagotto in Fitzroy North, Melbourne. Designed by Studio Ho, Lagotto uses bold typography and imagery of a lagotto dog (an Italian breed) across the textiles and artwork.

Best Installation Design went to The Magic Box by Liminal Objects with Van Tuil. The Magic Box may seem like a simple barrel, but its design challenged the jurors’ idea of what a “space” can be. “Incredibly clever design – it’s a piece of furniture that creates a space,” says Hansen. It uses Tasmanian oak to create the smooth lines of the barrel, and was designed to showcase Tasmanian whisky. Layers of the barrel slide open to reveal a whisky bottle display and drink preparation surfaces.

In another win for Victorian hospitality, dining heavyweight Cumulus Inc was inducted into the Eat Drink Design Awards Hall Of Fame for its timeless design.

“Our Hall Of Fame looks for venues that are well designed and have been around for more than 10 years, where the design hasn’t been changed. [Cumulus Inc] is a Melbourne icon, to this day the design feels fresh, as it did 10 years ago.”

A full list of shortlisted venues and a schedule of talks coinciding with the awards can be found here.