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  • Writer's pictureThe Beagle

Eurobodalla restaurants retain their hats

It is good news for South East diners that both the The River Restaurant and The Sandbar in Batemans Bay have received Australian Good Food Guide Chef Hat Awards for 2023 This is the second year for The River Moruya having made their Chef Hat Award debut in 2022.

The Sandbar now claims their sixth year. Both restaurants scored a 13 in 2022 under the Chef Hat rating system. The 2023 score of 14 was awarded to The Sandbar and 12 to The River. The Australian Good Food & Travel Guide has long been acknowledged as Australia's most comprehensive restaurant, accommodation and travel authority encompassing not only all major metropolitan areas but many of the smaller townships that lie in between. Founded in 1977, two years of comprehensive research and compilation saw the release of Australia's first national restaurant, accommodation and travel guide in 1979. Originally inspired by the Michelin and Gault Millau guides of Europe, the earliest guides carried the title: 'Guide Bonvoyage' In the interest of uniformity, a standardized point criteria assists inspectors in their critique. Each establishment must meet the minimum requirements and receive a rating score equal to or above that of the corresponding rating, standardizing the ratings throughout Australia and further ensuring that irrespective of where or who is rating an establishment, the rating will be consistent with international standards. 'Chef Hats' are awarded for consistent culinary excellence. AGFG Chef Hats are awarded for the food alone. Other considerations such as setting and décor, service and wine are represented by the crossed fork-and-spoon options Inspectors do not provide commentary when rating establishments rather they submit a straightforward score out of 20 based on the food alone. This is based on the traditional French rating system. Since the guide's inception in 1977, a score of 20 has never been awarded and seldom have restaurants been awarded a 19. Without giving too much away, below are some of the key areas of appraisal.

Six Attributes for Success

  1. Ingredients: The integrity and use of first rate ingredients is essential. How true ingredients are to their individual flavours highlights a chef's confidence in the produce they are using. Quality ingredients however do not always necessitate that they be the most expensive. In fact the ability to take an inexpensive ingredient and turn it into something exquisite requires great skill and is a way of identifying true talent. The use of local and seasonal ingredients is also a consideration. Ingredients alone, however, do not make for award winning food, rather it's the way those ingredients are brought together as a harmonised whole that deliver truly outstanding results.

  2. Taste: Technically flavours have to be amazing, but balance is critical! Dishes that are over-complicated and pretentious often do not fare well with diners or inspectors. Chefs must consider the whole menu carefully ensuring that individual ingredients and their effects on each other combine harmoniously. Great chefs consistently demonstrate an aptitude for bringing out the integrity of ingredients and successfully marry those flavours as a complete dish. Too many unrelated tastes on a single plate are confusing to the palate. Everything on the plate has to have reason. Simple can also be special. In many instances simplifying dishes would see restaurants more likely to win an award.

  3. Presentation: The sight of food elicits a range of physiological and cognitive responses. According to the ancient quote attributed to Apicius (1st century AD) and echoed by great chefs the world over: "The first taste is always with the eyes.” Food presentation is therefore second to none in eliciting initial anticipation... Multiple functional neuro-imaging studies have examined the brain responses to visual food stimuli. As to the core brain regions that are activated in response to viewing food, one effect is undeniable. Like so many other behaviours the enjoyment of food is guided by the visual. Presentation then is of foremost importance in establishing a diner's first impression of the awaiting meal. Hint: Don't over garnish!

  4. Technique: Individuality is at the heart of great cooking. A chef's creativity and individual interpretation of a dish is what makes for an exciting and memorable experience. Throughout Australia, indeed throughout the world, there are an abundance of keen cooks with great ideas but true creative mastery requires dedication and discipline. The execution of a concept goes beyond just imagination and demands talent, teamwork and leadership. Great chefs deliver dishes that are clever without being convoluted – dishes that inspire and intrigue. While wild imagination and unbridled originality are certain to make a chef be noticed, Award winning food must not be so innovative that a diner is unable to identify what is on the plate.

  5. Value: AGFG inspectors are mindful in their evaluations to measure restaurants by what they are attempting to be. Nouveau cuisine, for example, can not be measured in the same way as traditional country style cooking - the personalities of the two food styles are too unrelated. While nouveau cuisine erupts with originality and finesse, food portions are characteristically less generous. Country style cooking on the other hand typically rewards diners with hearty traditional recipes at comparatively inexpensive prices. How is one therefore compared against the other considering their heterogeneous food focus and style? The answer lies in whether the quality of the experience fits the price and meets with customer expectations. Again balance is of underlying importance.

  6. Consistency: Of utmost importance is consistency of quality, though consistency of technique, presentation and taste are also of decisive significance. Far too often restaurants do not perform in this essential area. Award winning restaurants effectively synchronize their entire operation and successfully repeat their efforts time and time again. Consequently this managed permanence inspires confidence, forming the foundation of effective relations both at an emotional (venerability) and logical (predicability) level. Lack of consistency is not just a loathing of restaurant reviewers, it is equally abhorred by regular diners.


NOTE: Comments were TRIALED - in the end it failed as humans will be humans and it turned into a pile of merde; only contributed to by just a handful who did little to add to the conversation of the issue at hand. Anyone who would like to contribute an opinion are encouraged to send in a Letter to the Editor where it might be considered for publication

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