Industry insiders were shocked when
Aria wasn't named best new restaurant.
Brisbane restaurateurs have fried Monday night's industry awards after several shock winners.
Some of the city's leading chefs have criticised the Savour Australia Restaurant & Catering Awards for Excellence for making what they argued were many wrong decisions and questioned whether the public would take them seriously.
They were most surprised by a little known modern Australian cafe - Drift Cafe, which occupies the old Oxley's site on the river at Milton - beating famed chef Matt Moran's riverside Aria to be named best new restaurant.
Drift owner David Moore said he was surprised and "shocked" to beat Mr Moran, but believed his team was worthy of the accolade.
"I think a lot of people expect that a well-known restaurateur or a celebrity chef will win but it comes down to how good does he run the business?" Mr Moore said.
"Just because I haven't got the celebrity status or the [reputation] throughout Australia doesn't mean that I can't provide any more than Matt Moran can provide.
"[The award] is judged on a number of criteria and that goes down through everything from answering the phone to paying the bill to the service quality."
Mr Moore has previously won two Restaurant and Catering awards.
"I may not have the profile that Matt Moran does but I certainly have the runs on the board, a lot of people don't know that," he said.
Chefs and restaurant owners interviewed by brisbanetimes.com.au were also surprised by Bravo Bar B Que in Fortitude Valley taking out best steak restaurant ahead of John Kilroy's Cha Cha Char Wine Bar and Grill; Viale Canova at Clayfield being named Best Italian Restaurant; and Brisbane's Customs House taking home Best Contemporary Australian Restaurant – Informal (50 - 100 Seats).
E'cco owner and chef Phil Johnson threatened to boycott next year's awards.
Mr Johnson, an internationally acclaimed chef, was beaten by Customs House but said it was not "sour grapes" that had him sizzling over the winners.
Numerous winners were undeserving, he said, and it was "unfathomable" that Aria was beaten by a cafe unheard of in the industry.
"[Aria] is a professional, well run restaurant; it's pretty staggering," Mr Johnson said.
"The awards have probably left me cold and I very much doubt I'll enter again.
"It's not about winning but if the awards can't throw up the right winner I just have to question how it's being done.
"I don't think the awards ever really reflect what's happening in the industry. They run hot and cold.
"And for that I can't every believe how the public would take it seriously."
Highly regarded new Fortitude Valley tapas bar Ortiga also did not appear in the awards on Monday night.
But owner Simon Hill said he had chosen not to self-nominate because the judging criteria went against what he was trying to achieve at the restaurant.
"The way the Restaurant and Caterers Awards are judged causes them to sometimes throw out results that are completely opposed to market perception," Mr Hill said.
"The judging criteria favours restaurants that are not idiosyncratic, specialised or different and as odd as it sounds this is exactly what we are trying to achieve.
"Criteria such as scope of menu, range of items on menu, menu explanations, value for money and so on can skew the results to favour the restaurant that is, say, cheap, has lots of varying menu items and easy-to-read menu terminology.
"And while you could mount a pretty good argument in favour of those criteria, the fact remains that the rest of the food writing/critic industry and in my opinion the general public are after quite the opposite."
Last month, Ortiga and Aria were two of six Queensland nominations for the prestigious Gourmet Traveller Restaurant Awards, the most of any state.
At the Restaurant & Catering Awards on Monday, Restaurant Two received the top gong as restaurant of the year.
Chef and owner David Pugh said he was "over the moon", but admitted if the judges had visited before he employed a new manager earlier in the year his restaurant would not have won.
The award would help fill more tables but, he said, at the end of the day customers would judge for themselves.
"It's all subjective," Mr Pugh said.
"It's been said before, on any given day the judges come in and make an appraisal of a restaurant and if ... they come on a bad night or day it's goodbye.
"You can't afford to rest on your laurels."
Mr Pugh said he was surprised by Aria and Cha Cha Char's results, but said it was not uncommon for smaller, suburban establishments to create memorable experiences.
It took only a few small glitches, such as spilling wine or a grim waiter, to disappoint the judges.
"When you come in with a reputation like Aria ... everything goes under the microscope," Mr Pugh said.
"[But] even though Aria didn't win best new restaurant last night, it's still one of the best places to go to.
"The fact there's another good new restaurant out there [Drift Cafe] should be supported."
In the case of 11-year-old Cha Cha Char, the judges may have viewed Bravo as being "fresher", Mr Pugh said.
"You can't expect to win awards year in, year out if you're going to offer the same thing," he said.
Mr Pugh said he applied that theory to himself and would not expect to again win next year.
Restaurant and Catering Industry Association chief executive officer John Hart defended the awards.
He said the marking system had been created by a mathematician and was "squeaky clean".
"I trust these results implicitly," Mr Hart said.
"It's absolutely as clean and objective as you can possibly make it.
"And if it says that there's a new restaurant that got a great score and that beat Aria then so be it."
Mr Hart said the system was used to review more than 2500 restaurants nationally each year.
Establishments were judged anonymously against 55 or 66 criteria and the results were posted to the association.