Restaurant awards are the nation’s silliest private party
Restaurant award season is finally over. But I’m wondering if anybody really cares outside those who won gongs from the Sydney Morning Good Food Guide this week, The Age version last week and Gourmet Traveller the week before.
Certainly, there has barely been a blip in the blogger or Twitter sphere.
Once again, the old-media appointed arbiters of taste have taken one for the team by eating the finest foods known to Aussies with the usual predictable conclusions: plenty of excellent but very very expensive restaurants in Sydney; only two of these in Melbourne plus lots of very good moderately priced restaurants; not much else in Australia. Forget Tasmania.
Let’s face it, only a small elite will ever eat in the top rated 100 restaurants in Australia. And quite probably only a small elite will really get what is served on the plate.
A while back I was at lunch at the Plunkett Fowles winery 90 minutes from Melbourne as part of a yet another Victorian Government funded food festival. Sitting next to me was a bloke who worked at the local abattoir and had been up since 3am shooting pigs.
He was there because lamb pie was on the menu and that’s what he really wanted to eat. And I reckon he is where the everyman Aussie stands. Of course, being the self confessed food wanker that I am, I recognised this pie as a Pithivier, its shape and elaborate lid styled on miner’s hat from the town of the same name just south of Paris.
But poncy sounding food doesn’t sell in the country, I was told.
What food this bloke wants is something he understands and at a value price with a decent drop of red. But few restaurants really offer this. And this may be why, according to everybody I speak to in the restaurant business, that it is screwed financially.
So desperate are restaurants that two leading Victorian industry figures and a member of the local Victorian Government funded tourism body have suggested that top restaurants collude to maintain or increase prices. Yep, they want to rip-off punters.
What I see is that restaurants have got greedy. Meanwhile, the public has moved on. They’ve got over high priced meals and wine that costs double or triple what you’d pay in bottle shops.
Instead they are turning to cafes, where for the good ones business is booming. Nowadays it costs $20 for a starter and over $30 for a main in a good restaurant and usually over $40 for what usually turns out to be the worst value bottle of wine on the menu (the mark-up is always highest on the 2nd cheapest bottle of wine).
Cafes, in contrast are now starting to move up the culinary scale of sophistication. A meal costs $15 to $20 with a cup of coffee for $3. Or, hells bells, a glass of wine nearer to $5 than $10.
Given the choice in these tight times, between staying home and being miserable I know which I’d choose. Yesterday it was the $15.50 lamb kebab with smoked eggplant.
Anyway, here is my barometer of what the eating public is really interested in other than food awards, based on an incomplete survey of blog comments and web stats.
1. What not to eat. We’re fed up with the hegemony of restaurant critics telling us to eat offal. Sorry, offal is awful.
2. Burgers. Whether it be from Neil Perry of Ronald McDonald, Australia holds the burger close to its heart.
3. Pizza. Easy to understand and eat.
4. Tapas. Casual dining with friends nibbling on lots of small dishes. And healthier than wedges with sour cream to boot.
5. Izakaya. The big new trend in Melbourne coming to a place near you soon. Basically, a Japanese pub meal, BBQ’d skewers and some sushi. The Japanese version of tapas with beer, wine or sake.
6. Whether Sydney is better than Melbourne.
7. If Anthony Bourdain is gay.
8. Neil Perry’s pony tail.
Oh, and if you do run a restaurant and wonder why you haven’t won any accolades, remember the time you made the pass at the restaurant critic’s wife?
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