Hunter Valley hospitality legend Robert Molines has been named NSW Restaurateur of the Year at the 2020 NSW/ACT Restaurant & Catering Awards for Excellence.
The awards were announced at a gala dinner at The Venue, Alexandria on December 7 on a night that celebrated the innovation and resilience of the hospitality industry in what has been a most difficult year.
Mr Molines said he was surprised to receive the award, and paid tribute to his wife and business partner Sally, who has been by his side since they took over Happy Valley Restaurant in Pokolbin in 1973, through to their current restaurant Bistro Molines at Mount View.
"I said it was a mistake, there should have been an 's' - the award should have been for Sally and Robert Molines," he said.
"I also thanked all of my past and present staff, because it's been a journey.
"It's not just about these amazing accolades; everyone is motivated by the love of what we do."
Pokolbin's EXP restaurant was also among the major award winners, named Regional NSW Restaurant of the Year, after taking out the regional contemporary Australian restaurant (formal) category.
Eremo Restaurant at Spicers Guesthouse was named best Italian restaurant in regional NSW, and The Gates Restaurant at Leogate Estate won the best restaurant in a winery award.
Pokolbin's Restaurant Cuvee received an honourable mention in the regional restaurant caterer category.
Other Hunter Region winners were Nagisa Japanese Restaurant (best Asian restaurant); The Galley Kitchen at The Anchorage Port Stephens (best restaurant in a hotel/resort); Commonwealth Hotel, Cooks Hill (best restaurant in a pub/club/tavern); The Wild Herring at The Anchorage Port Stephens (best seafood restaurant); and Vines Restaurant at Hollydene (best tourism restaurant), Sprout Catering (best event caterer and caterer of the year), while Vines Restaurant at Hollydene took home the consumer vote award.
Restaurant & Catering CEO Wes Lambert congratulated each of the winners on behalf of the association, recognising their significant contributions to the hospitality sector across NSW and the ACT.
"The NSW/ACT Awards for Excellence is one of the most important nights in the state's hospitality calendar. It is always such an amazing experience to recognise some of the state's finest hospitality businesses who showcase the very best our industry has to offer," Mr Lambert said.
"We are tremendously lucky to have so many absolute gems in the hospitality sector spanning the width and breadth of the Premier State.
"After suffering so much this year, it is incredible to be able to bring the industry together for such an iconic night."