A frontline report from the R&CA Awards for Excellence, 2005.
Melbourne had put on a big show for the Restaurant & Catering Awards for Excellence, 2005, and 700 people turned up to love every piece of it. A shoulder-to-shoulder crush of tuxedos and evening frocks outside the Palladium at Crown on the evening of Monday 17 October nibbled on steamed dumplings, spring onion cakes and barbecue pork puffs courtesy of the Flower Drum.
The numbers were impressive. More than 2000 restaurants were judged to create a list of finalists, and more than 120 restaurants and caterers were there to hear the winners. When the doors opened at half past six, guests were ushered in to a massive black and white-themed ballroom. Chandeliers hung on black cloth from the ceilings. White linen covered the chairs and black tablecloths were offset by elegant black and white crockery. The walls were lined with white curtains, back-lit with cold blue light, and framed by black drapes.
Diners were greeted by master of ceremonies Michael Pope, whose face was well-known from his various TV appearances, acting jobs and theatre and cabaret appearances over the past 20 years. He immediately established Victoria’s credentials for hosting the event. “The 1956 Olympic Games were known as the ‘friendly games’ because of the catering staff, and then there’s the Yarra River—not many people know that Yarra is an Aboriginal word for consommé,” he announced, tongue-in-cheek.
Guests of honour for the evening included Fran Bailey, Federal Minister for Small Business and Tourism; John Pandazopoulos,
Victorian Minister for Tourism and Major Events; and Melbourne Lord Mayor John So.
John Pandazopoulos welcomed guests to the dinner, acknowledging the important role restaurateurs play in contributing to tourism in Victoria and indeed around the country.
“We’re facing all sorts of competitive pressures around petrol and other issues, but if we didn’t offer great service we wouldn’t have a sustainable industry,” he told the crowd. “If owners aren’t driving that, it doesn’t flow on to staff. So every person in this room is helping drive that message of excellence.”
R&CA President Con Castrisos gave an outline of the successes for the past year, and some of the things people can look forward to in the coming months, including the rolling out of the Savour Australia brand which “will show Australian restaurants are the place to be”. He also warned the crowd about the threat of increasing wage costs, which can’t be sustained in the services industries.
Early starters in the race for winning were New South Wales restaurants, with the gongs for Asian Restaurant and Chinese Restaurant going to The Malaya, King Street Wharf, Sydney and Lees Fortuna Court Chinese Restaurant in Crows Nest. It set the tone for a busy night for New South Wales—or at least, for board members of Restaurant & Catering New South Wales who were on hand to accept awards on behalf of winners who weren’t there on the night. Sydney and New South Wales regional restaurants picked up a third of all the awards on offer.
Victoria dominated the fine dining end of the spectrum, with Vue de Monde picking up Fine Dining Restaurant and Restaurant of the Year, and Interlude in Fitzroy picking up Modern Australian Restaurant. The West Australians beat everyone on the catering front, with awards for Corporate Caterer, Industrial/Institutional Caterer, Site Caterer, Venue Caterer and Caterer of the Year all heading across the Nullabor.
A full list of winners appears on the following pages, along with some happy snaps from the night.
Axis Restaurant, Yarralumla—Informal Dining Restaurant
New South Wales
The Malaya, King Street Wharf, Sydney—Asian Restaurant
Ripples Café, Milsons Point—BYO Restaurant
Bambini Trust Café, Sydney—Café Restaurant
Lees Fortuna Court Chinese Restaurant, Crows Nest—Chinese Restaurant
Tommy’s By The Beach, Port Macquarie—Entertainment Restaurant
Marque Restaurant, Surry Hills—European Restaurant
Truffle Group, Sydney—Event Catering
Deck 23, Dee Why Beach—Family Establishment
Rajdhani Indian Restaurant, Kincumber—Indian Restaurant
Buon Ricordo, Paddington—Italian Restaurant
Three Weeds, Rozelle—Pub/Tavern/Club Restaurant
Highland Heritage Estate, Orange—Restaurant in a Winery
sailors thai, The Rocks—Thai Restaurant
Maleny Manor, www.malenymanor.com.au—Best Website
Lure Restaurant, The Coro Hotel, Milton—New Restaurant
Lure Restaurant, The Coro Hotel, Milton—Seafood Restaurant
Gold Coast Convention and Exhibition Centre, Broadbeach—Function/Convention Centre
Cha Cha Char Wine Bar and Grill, Brisbane—Steak Restaurant
Cha Cha Char Wine Bar and Grill, Brisbane—The George Mure Memorial Award for Excellence in Professional Development
Chiangmai Thai, Broadbeach, Nobby Beach—Themed Restaurant
Chianti Classico, Adelaide—Breakfast Restaurant
The Grange@Hilton Adelaide, Adelaide—Hotel/Motel Restaurant
GoodLife Organic Pizza Adelaide, Adelaide—Pizza Restaurant
Vue de monde, Melbourne—Restaurant of the Year
Vue de monde, Melbourne—Fine Dining Restaurant
Interlude, Fitzroy—Modern Australian Restaurant
Stefano’s, Mildura—Tourism Restaurant
Quat Quatta Receptions, Ripponlea—Wedding Caterer
Ogden IFC – Perth Concert Hall, Perth—Caterer of the Year
Coast Café, West Perth—Coffee Shop Tea Room
Leonie’s Catering Services, Bunbury—Corporate Caterer
Royal Perth Hospital Catering Department, Perth—Industrial/Institutional Caterer
ESS Village Mount Keith—Site Caterer
Eminem Modern Turkish Cuisine, Leederville—Specialty Cuisine Restaurant
Ogden IFC, Perth Concert Hall, Perth—Venue Caterer