Can Melbourne keep up this pace? That was the over-arching sentiment last night – or perhaps more accurately, this morning – after the first “official” day of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants madness (eventually) came to a close. With every new chef, restaurateur and media figure arriving in town ahead of Wednesday night’s World’s 50 Best Restaurants awards ceremony, Melbourne is looking more and more like a living, breathing international restaurant guide (never mind the fact that the month-long food love-in that is the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival continues to rage). Here’s a wrap of what’s happened in the last 24 hours.
Talking the Talk
Broadsheet editors from Sydney and Melbourne attended last night’s World’s 50 Best Talks at Margaret Court Arena. Granted, introductory videos featuring Led Zeppelin and other anthemic rock soundtracks did little to dispel the theory that chefs are the new rock stars, but last night’s line-up featured some big hitters. On stage was Jordi Roca from El Celler de Can Roca (Girona in Spain, number 2 in the 2016 World’s 50 Best Restaurants List), Daniel Humm and Will Guidara from Eleven Madison Park (New York, number 3), Grant Achatz from Alinea (Chicago, number 15) and Gaggan Anand from Gaggan (Bangkok, number 23). Roca had lost his voice, leaving wife and fellow pastry chef Alejandra Rivas to play the role of megaphone as he whispered his answers in her ear. In the audience was Mark Moriarty, winner of the international S.Pellegrino Young Chef of the Year award in 2015, who had the spotlight literally shone on him as he spoke for a few minutes from his stadium seat. Achatz, a member of the committee that selected the young Irish chef as that year’s winner, told the audience Moriarty’s winning celeriac dish would be at home at any of the panel’s own restaurants. In a good stroke of fortune for Melbourne, Moriarty is currently working at Cutler and Co.
Team Momofuku Came to Melbourne
“[Momofuku] Ko is, pound for pound, the best restaurant in New York right now.” So goes the opinion of Aaron Arizpe: American food journalist, curator for invitational New York pop-up restaurant, Chef’s Club, and an avid watcher of the city’s – and the world’s – restaurant scene. Last night, Sean Gray, executive chef of Momofuku Ko (number 58 in this year’s list and the flagship New York fine diner of David Chang’s Momofuku empire) teamed up with Momofuku Seiobo’s Paul Carmichael for a collaborative dinner at Le Ho Fook and the hits came thick and fast. Among the (many, many) standouts: Ko’s famous pineapple dashi enriched with basil oil, basil seeds and diamondback clams; giant king prawns grilled over charcoal, split and brushed with a peppery Puerto Rican-style sofrito and served with the creature’s sea urchin-stuffed heads and a sort-of tater tot made with cassava and crowned with sturgeon roe. Joining the guests in the restaurant’s upstairs dining room was Massimo Bottura and wife Lara Gilmore of reigning World’s Best Restaurant, Osteria Francescana. While the Italian chef wasn’t quite as mobbed as he was when dining at Sydney’s Firedoor, some guests still asked the chef for a photo.
The CBD’s Wine Bars Got Crushed
The decision by Dave Verheul, Christian McCabe and the rest of the Embla brain’s trust to extend trading hours appears to have been a good one. As all the various functions around town wound down, guests – including best chefs from Peter Gilmore (whose restaurant Quay was the first Australian restaurant named on this year’s list) to Achatz – migrated to the Russell Street wine bar in search of good times. If the regular queues that popped up outside Embla last night are anything to go by, it’s safe to say that arriving earlier rather than later is a good idea for those planning on sampling the bar’s wood-fired and lo-fi wine pleasures. It was a similar story at That’s Amore with Giorgio De Maria, Pasi Petanen and Zoltan Magyar hosting plenty of their peers through the evening. Last night, supply issues meant those lardo-draped sardines were off the menu (in their place, the Finnish “tacos” made famous during Petanen’s Café Paci pop-up, a special treat for visiting Helsinki-based food journalist, Kenneth Nars) but they’re back on the agenda this evening.