Here are the local venues that cleaned up the Golden Plate Awards, celebrating the best of regional Victoria’s hospitality industry

Here are the local venues that cleaned up the Golden Plate Awards, celebrating the best of regional Victoria’s hospitality industry

Kadota Daylesford
Kadota Daylesford
Kadota Daylesford
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One of the key takeaways from the 34 finalists last night is the way hospitality spaces have served the community despite the hardship of the past two years.

For the past 19 years, the Golden Plate Awards judge the best hospitality in regional Victoria for their excellence – whether that’s food quality and presentation, customer service, use of local produce, availability of local beverages, coffee quality, ambience and/or value for money. The awards are a reminder of how truly blessed we are with the quality of hospitality in regional Victoria.

This year’s awards looks at eateries and wine bars in regional Victoria that were nominated by a member of the public between March and June this year, a tricky time for hospitality generally.

Held on Monday night at Flying Brick Cider Co on the Bellarine, a sell-out crowd of over 200 of the State’s top culinary achievers witnessed the region’s hospitality sector excel, awarding almost 20 venues from across North, Central, Southern and Western Victoria with state titles.

The key takeaways

  • Golden Plate Awards announced state winners this week, celebrating the best of regional Victoria’s hospitality industry.
  • This year saw 34 finalists from across North, Central, Southern and Western Victoria vie for the 19th Regional State Golden Plate Award.
  • Geelong and the Bellarine rose to the top once again alongside Ballarat with a slew of beloved venues taking our state titles.

Keep up with the latest in local good news via our website.

Daylesford newcomer Kadota took home gold, winning the prestigious Golden Plate culinary award last night. The love child of globetrotting Daylesford wunderkind Aaron Schembri and partner Risa Kadota, who met while slinging hospitality in Japan, this venue wowed the judges with its technical brilliance to take out the coveted State Golden Plate stealing it away from the Geelong/ Bellarine region after many years.

“Delivering delicious Japanese flavours using local ingredients must be a challenge, but it seems to have been met head-on. Every plated element sung with bright flavour and had a purpose beyond simple consumption,” judges said.

“Presentation reflected colour contrasts, asymmetry and negative space, plating elements that add visual appeal and interest to marry with the outstanding depths of flavour and stunning dishes of shapes, colours and materials.”


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Geelong and the Bellarine rose to the top once again with a slew of beloved venues taking our state titles, including the newly refurbished Malt Shovel Tap House take out the Best Hotel Title in the biggest field in 10 years, King of the Castle wowed the judges with their coffee skills to take out the Best Coffee Award, and The Range at Curlewis taking out the Exemplar Award for Excellence in attracting tourism to Regional Victoria.

Armed with a recipe for success, previous Golden Plate winner Jack Rabbit Restaurant out of the Sharp stable and under the helm of Executive Chef Dwayne Bourke beat off strong competition to take out Best Customer Service and Best Contemporary Dining while their young Trainee Chef Will Edwards took out the honours of Apprentice of the Year.

“The kitchen team at Jack Rabbit continue to set the bar for the region, the menus are that well written it makes it near impossible for guest to make a final decision on what to order. There is contemporary culinary tricks, hard to source ingredients, flavour combinations that you read twice to believe but still a strong respect for classic cooking. A menu like this is not quickly written, it requires an enthusiastic team with a strong skill set and a great understanding of flavours and textures.”

Geelong’s famed 1920s Prohibition-style cocktail bar, The 18th Amendment, are clearly onto a winning recipe too with the Ballarat venue claiming the title for Best Cocktail Bar or Cellar Door, while the Geelong venue came in second. Raising the bar on cocktail offerings, creating venues like we have never had before, Camorra and his team continue to innovate and deserve to be recognized for their outstanding contribution to the Australian bar industry.

Looking to the Bellarine, chefs from across the state voted Drysdale Cheeses as the best regional producer for quality Service and Value while Lard Ass in Ocean Grove took out a close second.

People’s Choice Award this year, with well in excess of 500 votes went to Five Flags in Castlemaine with Surf Side Café in Ocean Grove a close runner up.

When presenting his wrap up of the 2021 year, lead judge David Veal remarked on the exceptional field of venues in this year’s awards ‘one of the best on record’.

“The judges have eaten in excess of 900 meals around regional Victoria in the past 6 months to discover the best of the best. The industry has faced many tough challenges this year with lockdown after lockdown and then the U-Turn on vaccination status for the Hospo workers which has left the industry reeling. It is a credit to this industry to see the resilience it has shown and the ability to shine on through it all.”

Head Chef at the Criterion Clunes Doug Kerr took out the revered Peter Watson Memorial Best Chef prize from a star studded line up of 8 of the best chefs in the state who all went head to head in a mystery box cooking competition last week at Comcater Melbourne.
Comments from the judges included “In such a highly contested class of chef the bar was always going to be set high. What set Doug apart was the ability to wow us with his creativity with the ingredients in his Mystery box. Textures, flavour and flair he created in 45 minutes were near to perfect ”

Below is a rundown of the regional Victorian venues that took our first and second places for the Golden Plate awards 2021. Consider this your ‘must-try’ list for 2022.

State Winners 2021

State Golden Plate Winner
Kadota Daylesford

State Winner Best Unlicensed Café – Higher Society Ballarat
Highly Commended Unlicensed Café – Queenscliff General Store

State Winner Best Licensed Café- Drive Café Ballarat
Highly Commended Licensed Café – Blank Space Newtown

State Winner Best Hotel – Malt Shovel Tap House Geelong
Highly Commended Hotel -Five Flags Castlemaine and Brougham Arms Bendigo

State Winner Best Cocktail Bar or Cellar Door- 18th Amendment Bar Ballarat
Highly Commended Cocktail Bar or Cellar Door – 18th Amendment Bar Geelong

State Winner Best Casual Dining-Kadota Daylesford
Highly Commended Casual Dining Bistro Terroir Daylesford

State Winner Best Contemporary Dining-Jack Rabbit Restaurant Bellarine
Highly Commended Contemporary Dining Merne at Lighthouse

Peter Watson Memorial Best Chef- Douglas Kerr Criterion Clunes
Highly Commended Chef – Alex McIntosh Sou West Brewery

Apprentice of the Year -Will Edwards Jack Rabbit Restaurant
Highly Commended Apprentice – Brandon Kite Five Flags Hotel

State Winner Best Customer Service- Jack Rabbit Restaurant Bellarine
Highly Commended Customer Service – 18th Amendment Bar Ballarat

State Winner Best Coffee- King of the Castle Geelong West
Highly Commended Coffee – Parade Espresso Bar Ocean Grove

State Winner Outstanding Front of House –Martin Fairhurst Bistro Terroir Daylesford
Highly Commended Front of House Jess Cardoman 18th Amendment Bar

State Winner Best Value- Bistro Terroir Daylesford
Highly Commended Value- Criterion Clunes

State Winner Best Menu of Local Food –The Shared Table Buninyong
Highly Commended Best Local Food – Drive Café Ballarat

State Winner Best Cellar of Local Wine /Beer/ Cider – The Shared Table Buninyong
Highly Commended Cellor of Local Wine/ Beer /Cider – Kadota Daylesford

People’s Choice State Winner – Five Flags Hotel Castlemaine
Highly Commended People’s Choice Surf Side Café Ocean Grove

Exemplar Award for Tourism Excellence The Range at Curlewis
Highly Commended Exemplar Award – The Q Train Queenscliff

Chef Choice Local Produce Award- Drysdale Cheeses
Highly Commended Chef Choice Producer Award- Lard Ass Ocean Grove

Forte sends its congrats to all winners, and thanks for the coffee, replenishment and service over the years. Oh, and for giving regional Victoria another thing to be proud of.

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