The Age Good Food Guide is back after a three-year hiatus caused by pandemic lockdowns and restrictions. And local restaurants have received high praise in the latest edition of the Guide.

The Guide shows Victoria’s regional areas have had an explosion of quality restaurants. Eleven regional restaurants, including two in Daylesford, were awarded two hats, compared to only six regional restaurants in 2019. The number of one-hat restaurants in regional Victoria has nearly doubled, including one in Daylesford and another in Hepburn Springs.

Kadota owners, Risa Kadota and Aaron Schembri.

Kadota Daylesford was awarded two hats. The restaurant prides itself on creating lovingly crafted Japanese flavours using seasonal local artisan ingredients. Kadota is the passion project of owners Aaron Schembri, a Daylesford local, and Risa Kadota who met while working at some of Japan’s finest restaurants. “We are so proud to be awarded 2 hats in the Age Good Food Guide this year, thank you to our wonderful guests that have supported us every step of the way,” they said in a social media post. “And a massive congratulations to our team that have relentlessly done the best we can regardless of the circumstances that we have been in, in the past 2 years.”

The iconic Lake House Daylesford was also awarded two hats. Known for its impeccable service, sophisticated atmosphere, inventive menu and for using local produce of the highest quality to create beautiful and delicious food, the restaurant has long been at the top of the list in the Daylesford and Hepburn Springs area. “Congratulations to our team of true industry professionals who consistently deliver,” they said in a social media post. “And congratulations to our fellow regional destinations. What a line up this year!”

Beppe Kitchen and Bar in Daylesford was awarded a single hat. Located in the ca 1860 Athens Hotel, the restaurant was recently Mercato but a makeover has made Beppe a contemporary neighbourhood trattoria. Their seasonal menu has a traditional Italian influence reflecting the strong Swiss-Italian migrant influence in Daylesford and Hepburn region.

The Surly Goat in Hepburn Springs was also awarded one hat. Located off the main drag and around the corner in 10th Street, the restaurant is a hidden gem. They offer a daily fixed-price menu of 8 to 10 items featuring produce from local small scale regenerative suppliers who provide much of their fruit, vegetables, dairy, eggs and meats. Like other local hatted restaurants, they offered thanks to their staff and customers and congratulations to all of the other regional restaurants. “Strong representation for Central Victoria. So happy to be in your company!”

For the first time, the Good Food Guide also included “Hearts” to restaurants that didn’t score a hat but were highly recommended by reviewers. Local restaurants that received hearts included The Oxford Dining Room at the Bellinzona Hotel in Hepburn Springs, Sault Restaurant in Sailors Falls, and Bar Merenda in Daylesford.

“The Age Good Food Guide awards are, for many, the most esteemed awards in the food and drink category in the state, and I certainly agree,” said Steve Wroe, CEO of Daylesfor Macedon Tourism. “‘Food and drink’ is one of the key regional brand pillars for the Daylesford and Macedon Ranges region. We have has always punched above our weight in this category, but in 2022, I reckon we have eclipsed any other year. By winning two spots in the ‘two hat’ category, we cement our position as the state’s premier ‘foodie’ destination.

“Lake House has always been a star performer, but it was such a thrill to see Kadota get the accolade as well. Aaron is a Daylesford boy, and he and his wife Risa have really created something magical. I have been lucky enough to dine there on a couple of special occasions, and I can say that the award is well-deserved. Big congrats to the one hat award winners as well. The Surly Goat is my ‘date night’ destination and David does great things. Beppe is where I take my Italian-speaking mother when she visits. Well done to Sam, Liam and the team there. Bravo to Sault, The Oxford Dining Room and Bar Merenda on their ‘hearts’ as well. All at at the top of their game.”

The Age Good Food Guide 2023 Awards ceremony was held at The W Hotel in Melbourne on Monday night . Restaurant critics were likely to be delighted to be back in the limelight doing what the do best. Support agencies have tended to focus on the hardships encountered by workers in the industry itself and forgotten about the impact on the poor critics who have been unable to get a good meal.

Make the lockdown blues a thing of the past. Get out and enjoy one of these great restaurants as soon as you can.