So far this year, my restaurant reviews for the Good Food section of The Sydney Morning Herald have covered a Vegas-style big-night-out restaurant at Barangaroo with no fewer than four kitchens, a tiny inner-urban pizzeria, a Nigerian home-style kitchen, a breezy wine bar on Sydney’s northern beaches and a roadhouse diner in the Blue Mountains. Next up, Mexican and Japanese.

It’s a similar mix for my fellow reviewer on The Age, Gemima Cody, who – while in and out of lockdown – has rated a taqueria in Geelong, Andrew McConnell’s glamorous CBD opening, a plant-forward diner in Westgarth, Three Blue Ducks at a Tullamarine surf park and Ben Shewry’s Attica Summer Camp in the Yarra Valley.

Illustration by Simon Letch.

Illustration by Simon Letch.Credit:

If this crazy mix sounds all over the shop, you’re right. Hospitality itself has been deeply disrupted over the past 12 months and reviews hold a mirror up to the changes, reflecting and refracting. Now everything is on the table. That said, the choice of which restaurant to review is something I spend a great deal of time thinking about, even though it might look effortless (it does, doesn’t it?).

My very nice editors don’t tell me what to cover next; they leave that to everybody else. My barista, next-door neighbour, my butcher, random hospo industry folk, produce suppliers and social media all serve up a constant buffet of suggestions for my forward list. Readers, too (email address below, you know what to do).


Sometimes a place makes my nose twitch like a cartoon bloodhound on the scent. I’ve reviewed several places on the basis of a single Instagram post of a dish whose pixels have screamed, “Eat me, I’m yours!” Then again, I’ve just added one restaurant to the list that I discovered by walking past the front door while the chef was outside on a ladder, painting the signage: the pedestrian equivalent of Instagram.

So how to narrow it down? When in doubt, I go back to why I do this in the first place. Sheer personal greed, obviously, but mainly to help people find a good place to eat. Which place is going to be of the most interest? What story does it tell? How does it fit into our new world? Then I just go to the one I want to go to the most. Works for me.

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