Rocker, Sydney, New South Wales
A few of the dining experiences making waves among Australians this month.
By Anthony Huckstep
Published: 20 June, 2017
Local produce, native ingredients and contemporary, relaxed settings: the Australian dining scene welcomes several major newcomers this month, most notably Melbourne’s Kisumé, from the masterminds responsible for the city’s most financially successful restaurant of all time. Where will you eat on your next trip to Australia?
Sydney and surrounds
As the ripples of Pacific blue wash up on our most famous beach, Bondi, take a short stroll up the hill to the epitome of casual contemporary Australian cuisine at Rocker. It’s here you’ll find a menu of the produce de jour, cooked simply by chef Darren Robertson who shot to fame off the back of Three Blue Ducks in Bondi’s sibling beachside suburb Bronte. In true Robertson style he lets the produce star first and foremost but underpinned by the considered craft of European cookery. In classic Australian, casual cafe meets industrial chic surrounds of timbers, tiles and polished concrete softened by greenery enjoy a tipple of Australian vino before sharing a feast that raises the bar on everyday eats. Chicken liver parfait arrives with chicken skin and pickled plums. Braised ox tongue licks at long, thick ribbons of papperdelle, while a ball of vanilla ice cream tops salted rye and treacle tart.
Australian cuisine has a wonderful natural, relaxed nature to it, spawned by generations of chefs whose approach was to put best-in-class produce ahead of technique and ego. You’ll find that on offer in Sydney’s Manhattan-esque neighbourhood Potts Point at Antipodean, where award-winning chef Grant King celebrates the very best of local artisans, fisherman, winemakers, brewers and even ceramicists in a smart monotone space of black decor, windows veiled in transparent black curtains and concrete walls. Of course, all the colour and energy is on the plate. Fermented squash and pepperberry add spark to creamy raw kangaroo. Pickled muntries (a native cranberry) add a twang to South Australian jamon, while marigold ice cream with torched mandarin will challenge some and please others. This isn’t the first restaurant for King in this location; the chef earned his stripes with breath-taking gastronomic feats at its previous incarnation, Gastro Park. King’s culinary journey has manifested in more than a name change and restaurant renovation: Antipodean is a gloriously relaxed display of what it means to eat in Australia in 2017.
Melbourne and surrounds
From the crew behind a suite of successful restaurants, including Melbourne’s most successful restaurant ever, Chin Chin comes a modern Australian look at Japanese in a multi-level, multi-experience venue in Melbourne. Kisumé is smart, sophisticated, oozing energy and a little bit more grown-up than its rowdier sibling. But it looks to be just as popular. A hot kitchen in the basement delivers an Australian spin on the traditional izakaya where one can imbibe and dine one everything from King crab and quail egg gyoza to grilled kingfish and pork ribs. At street level a sushi bar gets serious about the latest catch of the day where a posse of sushi chefs artfully craft into bite size jewels from the sea right before your eyes. You can order a la carte, but better to let the chef decide with a classic omakase menu – one magnificent morsel at a time. With a classy chablis bar and private dining room on the top floor, it’s a venue that embodies the nature of Melbourne’s dining culture as much as it respects the singular focus inherent in Japanese cuisine: busy, confident, polished and a great night out.
Adelaide and surrounds
The Pot Food and Wine
It might be quaint and housed in a particularly pretty corner of the suburb Hyde Park, but Adelaide institution The Pot Food and Wine (formerly The Melting Pot) has been given fresh new life with an interior face lift, name change and most significantly, a new chef. The restaurant has long been an integral part of South Australia’s culinary landscape, often championing the virtues of young chefs to great success, but just when locals thought the hub of their community couldn’t get any better along comes Adelaide’s 2016 Chef of the Year, Emma McCaskill, who previously helmed the kitchen at acclaimed Penfolds Magill Estate. Get settled in a smart-casual space, and let McCaskill entice you with a menu that garners influence from both middle eastern and Asian cuisines, while proudly championing the incredible produce found in South Australia. Whole baked flounder coated in togarashi lands with a lemon cheek, while roasted baby Brussells sprouts are lovingly tossed with Brasil nuts, raisons and black vinegar. Meanwhile pickled plum, laver emulsion and roasted Jerusalem artichoke decorate a glorious coal roasted duck breast. Simple food with a backbone of solid technique that delivers big flavour: what more could you want?
Canberra and surrounds
The exuberance of youth has its pitfalls, but occasionally the stars align and the next generation make the old guard stand up and take notice. At Pulp Kitchen head chef Josh Lundy might be at the tender age of just 22, but he’s delivering food with the maturity far beyond his years. Recently purchased by the team behind nearby eightysix, a raucously popular member of Canberra’s dining scene, Pulp Kitchen has been gifted a clever refurbishment that not only opens up the dining room, but delivers the theatre of an open kitchen for the very first time. As a result there’s an alluring energy to the atmosphere that whets your appetite before you’ve even looked at a menu. Enjoy bistro food free from the chains of heavy, cloying European classics here; this is typical of the modern Australian bistro, serving up light, considered fare dedicated to produce of the Canberra region. Grilled cos lettuce and morels partner a blushing Griffith rack of lamb. Risotto gets influence from Japan – cooked in dashi and clam juice, while kale and anchovy add an exclamation to beautifully roasted chook. Just leave room for a wobbly, velvety lemon tart with cream.
Brisbane and surrounds
Set amongst a throng of antique stores and housed in a heritage listed building located in the shadows of the monolithic ‘Gabba’ cricket ground, new Brisbane restaurant Detour is riding the new wave of Australian dining that confidentially celebrates our native ingredients with newfound casual panache. It’s a stunning space: lofty ceilings, brick walls, timber benches and copper throughout add a sense of luxury and industrial edge in equal measure, much in the same way as the eccentric food, served by chef Damon Amos who previously turned gastronomy on its head with molecular morsels at one of Brisbane’s most celebrated restaurants, Public. Gunpowder coats a blackened and cured salmon that benefits from a green curry sauce and a few black ants for good measure. A large cracker houses emu tartare, egg yolk and smokey habanero, while sweet potato, lychees and coconut result in a modern on a Hawaiian curry. This is dining circa 2017, brave yet familiar food that arrives with flair and expects you to get your hands dirty. Fabulous.
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