Australia may be “down under”, but it’s right on top of the food trends on the global agenda for 2014.
There is a new energy to Australia’s food and wine scene that is leading the way in global trends for 2014. Here are a few of the hottest new experiences on offer in Australia for 2014, as told by leading food writer Jill Dupleix and a panel of Australia’s biggest food and wine influencers.
Kylie Kwong, Eveleigh, NSW
Australian-Chinese chef Kylie Kwong suggests more chefs and restaurateurs will be cooking and eating edible insects as a healthy and available source of protein. “Insects are delicious, sustainable to produce, super high in nutrition, an excellent alternative to protein and, for me, a very deep part of my traditional Chinese heritage,” says Kwong. She is leading the way at her Chinese restaurant Billy Kwong in Sydney by serving adventurous diners stir-fried crickets with chilli and blackbean, and Cantonese fried rice with roasted mealworms, crushed wood cockroaches and chilli cricket sauce.
Australians are getting more Australian in the way they eat, looking closer to home for a real taste of their sunburnt country. Wild plants such as iron-rich warrigal greens that indigenous Australians have known and enjoyed for centuries are now readily available at farmers markets. Wallaby and kangaroo have been the hit proteins at Australian-themed dinners by and for visiting chefs such as Copenhagen’s Rene Redzepi, and the country’s beautiful, austere, acidic native muntries and quandongs are on the menus at Melbourne’s Attica, 2013’s highest new entry (at number 21) on the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list, and Peter Gilmore at Sydney’s Quay (number 48).
Australia’s most awarded chef, Neil Perry of Rockpool, has long been a champion of Asian-Australian flavours. “I think we integrate Asia better than anywhere in the world, unhindered by cultural ties and traditions,” he says. “We’re a part of Asia, after all. For me, that is what sets us apart.” His Sichuan-inspired Spice Temple restaurant has been joined by dozens of hot new modern Asian diners, most notably the Merivale Group’s Mr Wong, a vast urban Cantonese temple of yum cha and Peking duck banquets.
fermentAsian, Tanunda, SA
Terry Durack, Australia’s leading restaurant critic, says hipster Asian food is coming, whether we like it or not, as Asian food continues to evolve and be celebrated in a uniquely modern Australian way. “Expect mash-ups of hot dogs with kim chi, “salt ‘n’ pepa” squid, Peking duck burgers, Korean short rib bings (Chinese pancakes) and Singapore Slang cocktails,” he says. “We understand Asian food, we’ve grown up with it. Now we’re applying great produce to it and understanding what bits and pieces of tradition and authenticity we need to keep, and what we can do without.”
Piadina Slowfood, Lonsdale Street, Melbourne, VIC
Joost Bakker, artist, environmentalist and now café-owner, wants Australian restaurants to aim for a zero-waste future. He has recently built the world’s first zero-waste café in one of the atmospheric laneways that criss-cross the heart of Melbourne. Locally grown organic grain is milled onsite for baking, biodynamic milk for coffee comes in returnable stainless steel pails, and the Gaia food-dehydrator turns all food waste into clean, nutrient-rich fertiliser overnight. That fertilizer then goes back to farmers to feed their crops.
Need breakfast at 3pm? Make sure you wake up in Australia. “Australia’s sunny-side-up cafes are going from strength to strength,” says critic and industry observer Terry Durack. And the best-sellers in almost all these cafes is the egg and bacon roll, baked egg shashouka (eggs poached in spicy tomato sauce) and crushed avocado and lime on sourdough toast, available at any hour of the day.
The “beer garden” is creeping back. See Australia’s bright young things gather al fresco at The Garden in Perth or the Cowraramup Brewery in Western Australia’s Margaret River wine-growing region. See them in the Bali Bar in Darwin, the Brisbane Hotel in Queensland or Sydney’s The Norfolk, reclining on chic black-and-white striped banquettes clutching tomato cans filled with bloody Mary.