Sure, I get to eat at some fancy places but more often than not it's the simple stuff that really speaks loudest. From Italian wine bar to new school Spanish bodega and cheap and cheerful Viet, I list my top five spots for the year.
My pals at 3AW's A Moveable Feast program got in touch recently to see if I would come on the show and share my favourite dining experiences of the year. Ross and Kate are good sports and their listeners are a super engaged bunch, so naturally I said yes.
When I'm reviewing restaurants for work, I'm used to judging venues against a fairly strict set of criteria. So when the show's producer, Mark 'Scorcher' Davidson, asked me to list places that just made me smile – no rules – it presented a rare, and fun opportunity.
You can listen to the episode HERE to get my full list, but I'll just say that I got a massive kick out of this process, and here's why...
One of the restaurants that I mentioned in my Top 5 is a very modest, family-run Vietnamese place in Preston called My Tho. It's a regular haunt of mine, and somewhere my partner and I eat at a couple of times a month – it's close to home, the owners are friendly, it's super affordable and reliably delicious.
A few weeks after mentioning My Tho on the radio we popped in for dinner. I casually asked the owner, Tam, if she listens to the radio very often. Immediately, her face lit up. "It was you!" she exclaimed with visible joy, before going on to tell us how huge that radio mention had been for her humble little business.
This is a place where the owners live upstairs, where you see their kids doing homework or eating dinner on one of the back tables in the restaurant; where you see members of their extended family working in the kitchen and helping out on the floor; where babies are passed from aunty to uncle to cousin to customer, depending on who's got a free set of hands in the moment.
Adding My Tho to my mix of favourite places of 2017 meant a huge influx of new business for what is a fairly young restaurant, run entirely by one family. Tam tells me that they had people coming in from as far away as Brighton, Templestowe and even Ballarat after hearing about it on the radio.
When I drove past one day a few months later I saw some tradesmen erecting a bright, shiny new sign to the front of the shop. It made my heart burst. Business is going great and they couldn't be happier. Gotta love a tangible outcome.
After hearing about it from me, 3AW's Scorcher popped in to see for himself a few months later, which Tam tells me caused yet another wave of hungry new diners to make their way to Preston. Read Scorcher's review of My Tho HERE and if you head in yourself, make sure you say hello to gorgeous Tam.
366 High Street, Preston