Fine dining?

hugh hori

At 23, he was running a top-end restaurant. At 27, he secured three hats in the Good Food Guide. At 28, Hugh Allen reckons he’s just getting warmed up.


It’s a humid autumn evening that would seem oppressive in most cities, but this being Melbourne, we’re just grateful for the warmth. The setting is Yarra Botanica, a big barge bar on a brown river, which is packed for the 2023 Melbourne Food & Wine Festival’s opening night. The mayor’s here, a minister too, but mostly it’s celebrity chefs. Matt (sans cravat) Preston holds court by the bar. Andrew McConnell is just arriving. George Calombaris is just leaving. And off to the side stands the leader – or leading light, at least – of the next generation.

Hugh Allen is distinctive by his unassuming sartorial choices – a baggy blue shirt, almost dorky black sleeveless vest, scuffed-up Hoka sneakers – but he pulls it off. Possibly because of that unfathomably handsome face – piercing pale eyes, peering out through floppy blond fronds – perhaps because he’s a bona fide wunderkind.

He’s only just turned 28, yet his resume includes a teen apprenticeship served a few hundred metres away at Neil Perry’s Rockpool Bar & Grill on Southbank, then an award-winning turn under mentor Shannon Bennett at Melbourne institution Vue de Monde, plus a fertile stint in Copenhagen alongside the great René Redzepi at the world’s most influential restaurant, Noma. He returned home at 23 and took over from Bennett at Vue, which should probably now be called “Hugh de Monde”. After all, it took Allen only a few years to lead that legacy restaurant back to the top of the local food chain, in 2022, at age 27, securing three hats in the 2023 The Age Good Food Guide, the top accolade held by only a handful of restaurants each year.

But here’s the thing – he’s only getting started…

Click here for the full story from Good Weekend on Saturday April 8, 2023

Photography by Kristoffer Paulsen