It’s that time of year when we begin to take stock. How to start the New Year right with resolutions to break by January 3rd. Here at This Magnificent Life, we reflect on where we’ve been and what we ate. Here is our list (in no particular order) of our finest dining experiences of 2017. And, because we always live life to the max – here’s our Top 11 Restaurants.
Home Hill Winery
Beautifully sited at Ranelagh, in the picturesque Huon Valley, the Home Hill Winery is just thirty minutes south of Hobart. The venue is beautifully sited and simply designed with glass and light everywhere, looking onto perfect vine rows and low hills.
Just the previous day The 2015 Home Hill Kelly’s Reserve Pinot Noir had been awarded the 2017 Wine of the Show at the Australia & New Zealand Boutique Wine awards.
Delicious mains of spicy, peppered lamb loin with white beans and confit red onion and confit duck with Le Puy lentils were served with the trophy winning wine – carefully and strictly dispensed. A splendid lunch to welcome us to Tassie. www.homehillwines.com.au
Frogmore Creek Estate
TML was absolutely charmed by Executive Chef Ruben Koopman’s food. His CV includes working with Raymond Blanc, Marco Pierre White and Albert Roux at their Michelin-starred restaurants.
The Frogmore Creek Methode Traditional 2010 Cuvee was a truly excellent sparkler to elevate anticipation as we ordered. We started grandly with a plateful of oysters from nearby Pittwater whose waters we could see from the verandah. Followed by a Sunday roast of wallaby with micro Yorkshire puddings, onion marmalade and kimchi!
A finishing splurge of Black Forest chocolate semifreddo with coffee mousse cigars. To drink? The fresh bright and red-grapey Frogmore Creek Pinot Noir 2016 and the more serious and earthy Storm Bay Cabernet/Merlot from 2011. www.frogmorecreek.com.au
Tasting Counter (full review to come in 2018)
First up what it isn’t. No tips or gratuities. You buy ‘tickets’ online. No menu (it is called the Tasting Counter). A u-shaped kitchen bench instead of tables. No wine list – The sommelier pours well-considered drops. Chefs serve you as they imaginatively craft each plate only centimetres away.
Do we call it progressive, innovative, experimental or simply unconventional? Certainly, it is a game-changer for Boston and Chef/owner Peter Ungár’s environmentally conscious, 100% natural philosophy is evident in every aspect – from menu to restaurant design. Located adjacent to a brewery on an industrial estate in Boston’s suburban Somerville, the unassuming exterior doesn’t give much away.
Welcoming bites include the most delicate morsel of sourdough puff with mascarpone, onion and Gruyere – perfection. Tiny Gremolata dumplings sit in a froth of soured cream, sea urchin and preserved lemon with hen of the woods. Then two more elegant courses and a cleansing Schisandra berry tea follow. After a wondrous dessert, the elegant parting morsels include a jewel-like cranberry fruit chew.
And at the end of it all, you just say thank you and go. No tip, no credit cards. And to remember this remarkable lunch you leave with a tiny menu with the matched wines also listed. Genius. https://tastingcounter.com/
Lunching at the incomparable Noosa Waterfront Restaurant & Bar on a warm, sunny, Noosa afternoon makes you wonder, “What did I do right to end up here?”
Former Lindoni’s chef Andrea Ravezzani’s menu features unfussy Italian classics with a modern Aussie edge. The proof is on the plate – the talent here is inestimable.
We start with Ruggeri Quartese Prosseco (DOC) and golden zucchini ‘chips’ made crunchy courtesy of panko and Parmigiano with a side of fennel and yoghurt dip. Fraser Island Spanner Crab ravioli tossed in crab butter with tomato is sublime – fragrant of the sea and very, very Naples. The Fish of the Day was flame-grilled snapper cooked to just translucent with a scattering of baby vegetables.
The prettiest dessert on the menu was unforgettable – Miele e Lavanda was a local honey and vanilla gelato with chunks of honeycomb, a sprinkle of feuillantine, lavender snow and almond clusters. https://www.noosawaterfrontrestaurant.com.au
Maybe it should be in Memphis but it’s Downtown Nashville that’s home to the Sun Diner. Filled with the Million Dollar Quartet and Sam Phillips memorabilia this gem is snuggled up next to the Johnny Cash Museum. Open 24/7 breakfast is always good for those pulling an all-nighter or the jet-lagged.
Without a green smoothie or chia bowl in sight, this menu is all about restoring humanity to the sleep deprived. Short Rib Hash is fresh potato hash infused with beer braised short ribs and caramelised onions topped with fried eggs, Béarnaise and provolone.
The servings seem too much to conquer but we demolish the hash and the magnificent Breakfast Tacos: braised pork belly, scrambled eggs, home fries, chipotle ranch and pico de gallo. After more than twenty hours on a plane, this was just what the doctor ordered. www.sundinernashville.com
SHARE by Curtis Stone
Since being fired from Celebrity Apprentice and a stint as one of Oprah’s cutie-pies, Chef Curtis Stone has extended his empire to hit television shows, two Beverly Hills restaurants and Princess Cruises.
Changing the mindset of perennial cruisers and their love of the familiar is no easy task; from SHARE’s mid 20th century Scandi fit-out to the mod-Oz menu, it is a new direction in dining.
Tomatoes and burrata are sublime and a testament to the ship’s F&B staff. Course three is a choice of the Cavatelli or oddly multi-cultural Thai pork curry filled ravioli in lemongrass cream with a Mexican flourish of chilli and chicharrones. Somehow it works. A butter poached lobster tail, resting on roast potatoes and crispy pancetta in a delicate white onion soubise is off the charts with perfectly cooked sweet lobster in an awe-inspiring sauce. http://www.princess.com/
What to do when the world’s best restaurant you booked months ago drops to number two on the coveted World’s 50 Best Restaurant list? No one likes settling for second best. So we decided not to. For us, Osteria Francescana was still going to be the ultimate. Punto.
Our table was ready and waiting, beautifully set in front of a spectacular Damien Hirst spin painting. What was about to grace our plates though, was even more spectacular.
Massimo Butturo himself presented his famous, three colour risotto. He insisted each colour doesn’t really taste good individually but mix them together… Of course, I thought ‘I’m sure they taste great by themselves’ and so I tried them all separately and then together and well, you know, he was right. Funny that.
There were foie gras lollies, ‘Camouflage Pigeon, the famed Five ages of Parmigiano and “Oops I dropped the lemon tart”.
And after 12 courses we actually weren’t that full. We were there until 5 pm. 4 ½ hours but everything was so leisurely. All in all a magical, unforgettable experience made even more memorable by our conversation with the man himself. www.osteriafrancescana.it
You’ve been in houses with bigger dining rooms. It seats just 60 and you all sit around the kitchen watching your meals come to life. Some diners actually sit up at the preparation tables. A huge cooking space with flaming grills and braziers and a pizza oven is the glowing focus of the room.
Head Chef Danielle Alvarez and her brigade of women coax the fires like magicians to bring to life their mission statement, “honouring and elevating seasonal produce by using both old-world and innovative techniques.”
The lamb à la ficelle, a leg hung by a string in front of the coals, carved and served in juicy slices with a grilled lamb chop on spring vegetables. The wood-oven fired fougasse is served with soft butter and oil that is as remarkable as the crisp bread itself. www.merivale.com.au/freds
Bacchus South Bank
Through fads and fashions, some restaurants remain at the top of their game. Now with Executive Chef Massimo Speroni at the helm, Bacchus at Brisbane’s Southbank is a fine dining gem with service to match.
Sommelier Andrew Giblin is on-hand to guide you through the award-winning wine list. He is always on a quest to find something different, something better and his knowledge and ability to food-match is second to none.
A concentration of flavour and sheer artistry make Textures of Beetroot and the exquisite Kingfish with grilled corn, sour cream and lime excellent starters. A delicious dessert of sweet apple – puree, mousse and caramelised wins in the art of plating. https://www.bacchussouthbank.com.au
The Beauty Shop Restaurant
The Cooper-Young district in Midtown Memphis is home to some of the Bluff city’s hippest restaurants and bars. Welcome to the new Memphis.
The Beauty Shop Restaurant is the spot where Priscilla herself came to keep her 60’s do shatterproof. Eat brunch, lunch or dinner in a beauty shop pink dining room, underneath a vintage Belvedere hair dryer in glass brick booths.
The menu is Modern American with more than a nod to Tennessee: Beauty Shop Grilled Romaine with maple glazed bacon, blue cheese dressing and rosemary spiced pecans or Pork & Peach with muddled blueberry vinaigrette, grilled sweet corn and cotija aioli. Cake is the must-have dessert here with traditional favourites like Red Velvet and Strawberry outstanding. www.facebook.com/pg/beautyshoprestaurant
The Restaurant at Winvian Farm
Connecticut is full of surprises. The woodlands, the villages, the history all combine to make something unlike the rest of continental America. Winvian Farm is no less surprising.
The family-owned Relais and Chateaux resort is built around a 1795 saltbox house. Eighteen individually themed cottages, a working farm, dining room and acclaimed spa make up the 18-acre resort.
Chef Chris Eddy calls the Restaurant at Winvian Farm’s cuisine ‘seed to table’. Fresh, non-GMO ingredients are harvested daily from the farm’s greenhouses and organic gardens and it shows. The delectable poached eggplant with miso and cilantro with three squash soup is perfectly matched with a crisp, ripe Henri Bourgeous Sancerre 2015.
The open fireplace and warm, earthy aromas scream fall. The unctuous lamb and perfectly pink duck both love the intense Don Tomasi Cabernet Sauvignon Nero d’Avolo – an indigenous Sicilian varietal. Service is above and beyond. Magnificent! https://www.winvian.com
Reviewers: Ian MacTavish, Bonnie MacTavish and Liz Bond.
Disclaimer: Some of these experiences were hosted.