Mark Durden-Smith, it’s fair to say, doesn’t capture headlines quite as frequently as the Hestons, Nigellas, Jamies and other mononymous figures of the food world. But at last night’s World’s 50 Best Restaurants awards at Melbourne’s Royal Exhibition Hall, Durden-Smith, the ceremony’s host, was unquestionably the star of the show.
Armed with a seemingly endless supply of self-deprecating gags (among his many memorable one-liners I’m looking forward to stealing and repurposing as my own: “I will practice my God-given right to mispronounce restaurants’ names.”) and thematically apt introductions (a colleague of his that was presenting an award was described as “executive crumpet”), he was an excellent counterpoint to the seriousness of the main event: a countdown of the world’s 50 best restaurants, as chosen by the award’s academy of voters.
If you weren’t one of the 800(ish) people at the event last night, following the #worlds50best hashtag across social media platforms would have kept you in the loop. For the first time in the awards’ 15-year history, the ceremony was also screened live at Federation Square. While the broadcast and Insta stories afforded multiple camera angles of fine dining’s night of nights, technology didn’t capture everything. These are some of the things you might have missed.
How Australia Fared at the Awards
As reported by Broadsheet, Australia – and more specifically, Victoria – now has two restaurants in the influential restaurant list following the debut of Brae at number 44 and Attica climbing one place to 32. There are distinct Aussie twangs elsewhere in the list. Nahm, the Bangkok fine-diner opened in 2010 by Sydney-born Thai food authority David Thompson, came in at number 28, while The Ledbury, the London restaurant from Newcastle-born Brett Graham, polled at number 27. New York restaurant Eleven Madison Park took out the number-one spot.
Wylie By Name and Nature
Wylie Dufresne’s guest lunch at The Town Mouse the day of the awards was one of April’s hottest tickets in town and the former WD-50 chef didn’t let guests down. In addition to being able to taste signatures like shrimp grits and hapuka with smoked mashed potatoes, guests were also the first to taste the doughnuts Dufresne will be serving at his new Brooklyn café, Du’s Doughnuts. If the yield of the hot doughnut dusted with powdered strawberry and served with lemon verbena ice cream is any indication of what’s to come, Du’s Doughnuts should do very well indeed.
Why Chefs Love Victor Arguinzoniz
Victor Arguinzoniz, the man behind Spain’s all-wood, all-fire Asador Etxebarri (last night his restaurant came in at number six) and the mentor of Firedoor’s Lennox Hastie, is regarded as something of a chef’s chef. Not one that enjoys the glow of the spotlight, Arguinzoniz kept his time in Melbourne brief and, so the rumour goes, was in town long enough to stand up when Etxebarri’s name was read out in the countdown and then go back to his hotel in preparation for his return flight. All while travelling with nothing more than a backpack across his shoulder. To quote the youth of today, such a boss.
As you’d expect of a wine bar across the road from QT Melbourne (home of all the 50 Best chefs this week), Embla once again resembled a living, breathing restaurant guide last night. While Daniel Smith from The Clove Club (number 26) was spinning (vinyl!) records in the kitchen, others weren’t as enamoured with his music choices. An unnamed Mexican chef (hint: his name rhymes with Enrique Olvera from Pujol) was asking about changing the playlist. While he was seen behind the turntables, we’re unsure if he was successful in getting the record changed. Eric Ripert from New York seafood restaurant Le Bernardin (number 17) was also in attendance.
The After-After Parties
To paraphrase a popular catch-cry, what happens at the after-party usually ends up on Instagram. While team Rockpool took care of catering duties at the after-party immediately following the event ceremony, celebrations continued at a number of venues including another Rockpool-affiliated bash at The Alfred. We don’t want to ruin the surprise (yes, there’s dancing on furniture) but if what the internet tells us is true, guests had a good time last night.
David Thompson Likes It Hot
The chef line-up at this morning’s All-Star Yum Cha, the awards’ official recovery brunch for visiting chefs and media at QT Melbourne, read like a who’s who of Asian food in Melbourne. Among the restaurants in attendance: Anchovy, Lee Ho Fook, Ricky & Pinky and the aforementioned David Thompson. As those that have dined at Long Chim will be all too aware, Thompson isn’t one to tone down his cooking, and so it was with his contribution to the party: “beef stir-fried with chillies, holy basil, deep-fried eggs and rice”, or, as a friend dubbed it following the eye-stinging amounts of chilli released in the air during the dish’s preparation, the modern Thai classic “crying hungover guest”. If we didn’t know any better, we’d say the (at-times-mischievous) Thompson might have even enjoyed making guests squirm, a rare act of non-hospitality in a week in which Australia has rolled out the red carpet for its international guests.