From an elaborate farmstay feast to a glass of organic natural wine, check out all the hottest trends in the Australian food and wine industry.
One year on from The World’s 50 Best Restaurants in Melbourne, Australia’s food and wine scene continues to evolve. With regional restaurants, farmstays, natural wines and food cooked with fire, the latest culinary trends sweeping the nation are all about authenticity.
Top notch regional restaurants
Regional Australia has a new wave of restaurants rivaling their big city siblings. By tapping into the best produce of their region, these countryside eateries are creating a new kind of Australian regional cuisine.
Leading from the front is Victoria’s Brae, hovering around halfway on last year’s World’s 50 Best Restaurants awards. It’s heavily supported by other outstanding establishments in the state: Laura, Oakridge, Provenance, The Royal Mail, The Lake House and Doot Doot Doot.
Around Byron Bay in northern New South Wales comes Harvest, Paper Daisy, Fleet and Three Blue Ducks, while further south, foraging and seasonal change adds enticing options to the menus of Muse, St. Isidore, Margan, Biota Dining, Bannisters and Clementine.
South Australia boasts Maxwell, The Summertown Aristologist, Appellation and Hentley Farm Restaurant which showcase the stunning produce of the region. Meanwhile The Long Apron and Harrisons by Spencer Patrick are hotspots in regional Queensland, while Cullen Wines and Vasse Felix are taking the stage in Western Australia. Canberra’s Pialligo Estate and Tasmania’s The Agrarian Kitchen Eatery are superb examples of the Australian “Agrikitchen” movement, with each establishment now growing their own produce. Head on down and get a taste of authentic Australian regional fare.
Australian wines are heading down a brave, enthralling new path, looking to the past to bring natural, small-batch, organic and biodynamically farmed grapes to the future. Processed in the winery with minimal intervention (no additives), they’ve fast become some of the most joyous young wines on the planet. The formation of The Natural Selection Theory, a group formed by Shobbrook, Lucy Margaux and Jauma Wine, is credited with kick-starting the movement. The trio started producing natural wine in a warehouse in Sydney before relocating to South Australia, which is now the epicentre of Australia’s natural wine revolution.
The Adelaide Hills region in South Australia is perhaps now the largest natural wine producer on the planet. Local producers include Ochota Barrels ( named in the top 100 wineries on the planet by Wine & Spirits Magazine), Commune of Buttons (whose wine maker Jasper Buttons was named 2016 Best New Act at the Young Gun Wine Awards), Ngeringa (a biodynamic wine producer making a name for its unusual varietals), and Gentle Folk (whose small scale batches generally sell out as soon as they’re available).
The natural wine revolution is sweeping across the nation. In Victoria, Latta Wines, Cobaw Ridge, and Chevre Wines are flying the natural wine flag. Meanwhile legendary WA wine producer Vanya Cullen of Cullen Wines was the first Australian winery to be certified carbon neutral, which lead to being named 2008 Woman of the Year in UK magazine The Drinks Business.
But you don’t need to go to the source to sample fruits of their labour because Australia is getting swept up in a natural wine bar revolution – perhaps the perfect wine to share with food and friends. In Sydney, a swag of venues such as Where’s Nick, The Dolphin, Love Tilly Devine, Dear Saint Eloise, Poly and 10 William Street are serving natural and experimental wines to hoardes of savvy locals.
Further south in Melbourne, the smart, sophisticated spaces of Smalls, Embla, Bar Liberty, Neighbourhood Wine are singing the same tune, while in South Australia’s City of Churches (Adelaide) La Buvette, Lost In A Forest, Africola and Summertown Aristologist are proudly championing the hero natural wines of their state. Brisbane (Gauge and Gerard’s Bar), Perth (Lalla Rookh, Wines of While and Petition Wine Bar) and Hobart (Franklin and Ettie’s) are in on the act too.
Cooking with fire
Australian chefs are returning to our most elemental roots, utilising Australia’s unique ingredients over the most natural heat source on the planet: wood. In the heart of Sydney, chef Lennox Hastie’s Firedoor is arguably the lead champion of the trend, but you’ll find further evidence at several prominent nearby restaurants including Ester, Stanbuli, Porteno, Fred’s and Three Blue Ducks.
In Victoria, chef Neil Perry AM’s Rockpool Bar & Grill (Melbourne, Sydney and Perth) helped ignite the state’s own firebugs Igni, Atlas Dining and Thai-inspired Long Song. Meanwhile Queensland (Blackbird), Tasmania (Agrarian Kitchen Eatery ) and South Australia (Shobosho) are keeping the home fires burning too. This is honest and open cooking with only the elements to rely on.
Farm stays with fabulous feasts
There are few things more relaxing than leaving the big smoke and absorbing the natural beauty of Australia. In recent years, this experience has been made even more magnificent with the rise of farm stays that deliver a feast to be reckoned with. Australia’s regional landscape is now dotted with exceptional eat-and-stay locations, some also operating as Agrikitchens, where chefs utilise the land to grow the produce they cook in their kitchen.
Fly into Melbourne then hit the road for a short trip to feast at Provenance, The Royal Mail or The Lake House. From Canberra, take a short trip to the east coast of New South Wales and enjoy the wines and vibes of Cupitt in Ulladulla. From Sydney or Canberra, you can enjoy the luscious greenery of the Southern Highlands at Biota Dining. Amongst the vines in the famous Hunter Valley region you'll find Margan, or Sydney's north coast holds Jonah’s, Cottage Point Inn or Bells at Killcare. Head to Adelaide’s hills to embrace the glorious harmony of the land and plate at The Australasian Circa 1858, or retreat to Foragers Field Kitchen and Cooking School in Western Australia’s truffle region to feast on a communal table. If cooler climates take your fancy, Red Feather Inn and Stillwater showcase Tasmania’s excellent produce in heritage surrounds.
Wine first, food second
There has been a real coming of age in Australia’s dining sector, where venues with a uniquely Australian vibe have begun to put excellent wine as their first priority. Food menus are often now designed to complement the perfect drop, rather than the other way around. In these venues, tablecloths have been ripped from tabletops, the formalities of finer dining left on the coat rack and patrons encouraged to ‘choose their own adventure’ in surrounds that have all the swagger of a wine bar, but offer food to rival the nation’s finest restaurants, too.
Fancy a tipple and a nibble in Sydney? Head to WYNO, Monopole, Continental Deli Bar and Bistro, Hubert, Alberto's Lounge, Bibo Wine Bar or Johnny Goes Italian. Melbourne wine bar wizards Denton Wine Bar, Marion, Bar Liberty, and Arlechin strike a fine balance between dining and imbibing with all the energy and earnestness of conviviality. South Australians have caught onto the quaffing and grazing craze at laidback venues such as Press Food and Wine, Udaberri, La Buvette, The Summertown Aristologis and Hogget Kitchen. Not to be outdone, Queensland (Enotecca 1889, Gerard’s Bar, and La Lune), Western Australia (Lalla Rookha Bar, New Normal and Petition), and Tasmania (Dier Makr and Fico Bistro & Vino) have their share of “snack and sip” purveyors, too.
Wine + design experiences
A series of high-end conceptual art and design experiences is currently sweeping Australia’s vineyards, the most hotly anticipated of which is the avant-garde d’Arenberg Cube at the d’Arenberg winery in South Australia’s McLaren Vale wine region. This multi-storey feat of architecture will house public and private tasting rooms, virtual fermenters, bars and a restaurant in a structure resembling a half-solved Rubik’s cube. The cube is crowned with 16 hydraulic umbrellas which open in a playful, choreographed sequence of movement.
The d’Arenberg Cube joins several other “wine + design” experiences around the nation, including the brand new, $50 million sculpture park, cellar door and fine dining restaurant at Point Leo Estate vineyard, on Melbourne’s Mornington Peninsula, which opened October 2017. Featuring over 50 large-scale contemporary works from sculptors such as Tony Cragg, Zadok Ben-David and Inge King set against ocean views, vines, cattle and native gardens, the vineyard also boasts a stunning, barrel-shaped main building housing an oversized cellar door and 110-seat destination restaurant.
Mornington Peninsula is also home to Australia’s hottest new vineyard hotel, the whimsical 46-room Jackalope. Named after a mythical creature, the hotel fuses art, design, food and storytelling in a visually stunning experience that has just been shortlisted at the World Architecture Festival.