Australian best restaurant lists can get tad repetitive in Australia. Quay generally gets a nod, as does Vue de Monde, and you could bet your top-of-the-line Thermomix that the winner will come from inner Sydney or Melbourne.
Except this year. This year you would have lost that bet.
Gourmet Traveller has named Adelaide’s 10-table restaurant, Orana, as the winner of the 2018 Restaurant of the Year – the first time in 20 years the title has been given to a venue outside the aforementioned culinary capitals.
At the helm is owner and head chef Jock Zonfrillo, a Scottish-born bloke dedicated to introducing urban diners to the ingredients and traditions used for centuries by Indigenous Australians.
On his menu at the moment, for example, is a dish of kangaroo, avocado, lilly pilly, kutjera and sandalwood nut.
But for the 41-year-old, the restaurant (which offers a 18-20 course degustation for $175) is secondary to his true purpose: the Orana Foundation.
The organisation, which is partly funded by the South Australian government, works in collaboration with the University of Adelaide to study and promote traditional ingredients and food cultures in a way that benefits Indigenous communities.
At the moment, this involves the creation of skills training and employment opportunities in promoting and harvesting native ingredients and the creation of a Native Australian Foods Database to document their source, properties, cultural relevance and uses.
“The restaurant is just a billboard that promotes the food,” Zonfrillo said. “Developing the foundation is the crucial next step in preserving Indigenous food knowledge and to sharing that with everyone.
"I aim to give back more than I take.”
Details of the winners are in the September issue of Gourmet Traveller, out today, August 24.