The restaurant industry is a fickle beast and survival isn’t always easy. Places come and go, concepts change, chefs depart – but the very best in the business demonstrate they are on the money from day one. These places opened their doors to the public in the last 18 months and clearly have staying power. We have no doubt they will leave an indelible mark on their respective dining landscapes over the coming years.
This was one of the first meals we had in 2012 while visiting friends and family in London. Phoning up three months in advance for a weekday lunch, we managed to secure a table and somehow bypass the five-month waiting list. Housed in the glorious surrounds of the Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park, Dinner’s tables are some of the most coveted in the world. It probably has something to do with Heston’s mega-popularity, and the fact that diners can hang out in one of the city’s best hotels for a few hours. There are two menus available at lunch – both consisting of dishes that have been inspired by recipes from between 1500-1700 – a la carte and a three-course set menu for only $40. This establishes it as one of the greatest bargains of the year – excellent service, views over the park, a glimpse into the mechanics of the cavernous kitchen (which includes rows of spit-roasted pineapples) and great wine by the bottle from $30, you can’t go wrong.
We all know last year was the year of the Mexican wave, but only a few new openings were worth a repeat visit. What sets this Lonsdale Street place apart is the cool LA-meets-Latin surrounds (brightly coloured water jugs, enamel mugs, neon Ghostbusters memorabilia, full-size pinball machine and DJ decks spinning out a mix of funk and soul). Well-priced tacos, tasty lamb ribs and awesome margaritas all go down a treat, too.
Head chef Casey and the Rockwell team pop up yet again (we included them in our dude food round-up, too). Leading the pack when it comes to meaty sandwiches, the sheer simplicity of this place sees diners keep on coming back for the great cooking (how they make veggies taste so good is beyond me) and mouth-watering range of craft beers. Teaming up with touring chefs and hosting the odd DJ night, this is the direction I see the Melbourne dining scene heading in the next few years.
How a place I never intended to visit ended up being on this list is beyond me. On arriving in Melbourne, this Acland Street institution was always talked about in hushed tones, with the words ‘fine dining’, ‘French-informed’ and ‘special occasion’ being thrown around. Not my scene and the kind of place you go in knowing you will be a whole lot poorer by the time the bill arrives. Well done to the Melbourne Pub Group for taking a massive chance when coming up with a new concept. I have taken many a visitor here to graze on deliciously flavourful offerings from the Street Food section of the menu. The pork buns with mango are to die for. Literally.
Melbourne’s answer to London’s Lima and Ceviche (both currently storming the UK’s restaurant scene) is finally here, having opened in an unassuming spot on Carlton North’s Rathdowne Street. Once a milk bar, the exposed brick dining room is now home to an Argentine cafe – think empanadas, pisco sour, ceviche, malbec. The team has great South American food heritage having worked in Gaucho and Floridita back in London and this place is bound to get a cult following once the word gets out. Check out our full review here.
Got a favorite New Restaurant? Let’s build a list! Tell us about your favorite spot (and why it’s great) in the comments section below.