From foraging for your own dinner to reviving ancient winemaking techniques, 2020 is all about taking food and wine back to its roots.
Unpretentious, authentic and pared back - the latest trends on the Australian culinary scene can just as easily be used to describe the passionate Aussies that are leading the charge. It’s all about going back to basics by getting your hands dirty, rediscovering age-old techniques and championing sustainable practices and the dedicated local producers that put quality above all else. Get a glimpse into how Australia is looking to the past for the latest trends.
Foraging for your own dinner
The rise of culinary tourism gives visitors an authentic taste of place, with everything from urban foraging to oyster shucking. It shares the story of a destination by putting local produce in the hands of visitors, who can experience its provenance in a unique and intimate way.
Step into the wild to gather ingredients from the local surrounds before indulging in a campfire cooking session and exquisite lunch that showcases the flavours of the Southern Highlands. Located just under a two-hour drive south of Sydney, this stunning region is home to Biota, an award-winning regional restaurant that offers Gather and Cook adventures with chefs.
In Tasmania, jump on board with Pennicott Wilderness Journeys for their Seafood Seduction Tour. You’ll shuck oysters straight from the sea and cheer on your guide as he dives for abalone and sea urchin. Back on board, you’ll enjoy an incredible seafood feast with the fruits of your morning gatherings. Rock lobster, abalone, sea urchin, mussels, oysters, sashimi, salmon - all paired with a gourmet spread of fresh local bread, salads and artisan cheeses, and matched with premium local wines.
In Coffin Bay, in South Australia’s Eyre Peninsula, Oyster Farm Tours will take you wading out into the crystal blue waters for a hands-on shucking lesson and taste of fresh Pacific and native Angasi oysters straight from the clear, rippling waters.
Winter in Australia is truffle season and the climatic conditions near Canberra and in the Margaret River region are ideal for growing the prized black Perigord truffle. Be led by highly trained truffle dogs through a forest of trees in search of the “black diamonds”. After you find the perfect truffle, settle in for a delicious lunch that showcases the delicacy. Tours and degustations are available at the Truffle Farm in Canberra and the Truffle and Wine Co. in Manjimup from June to August.
You can still experience an immersive food foraging experience without leaving the city on an Aboriginal Bush Food Experience tour in Sydney’s Royal Botanic Gardens. You’ll learn about the plants growing in the garden and how they have been used by Aboriginal people for thousands of years. Use traditional methods to gather and prepare food, learn how to identify seasonal bush foods and taste bush food-inspired recipes.
Australian distilling is no longer a new trend, but shaking up the industry is a recent increase in trendy distilleries cropping up in urban areas. Now you can experience top quality gins, vodkas, whiskies and rums on a tour, tasting or masterclass without ever leaving the city limits.
Sydney started it all with the opening of Archie Rose, which was shortly followed by a spattering of others taking their own spin on spirits. Manly Spirits Co. creates botanical vodka and whisky blends inspired by its beach location, while Poor Toms Gin Hall is the quintessential experimental hipster outfit. In Surry Hills, you’ll find Brix Distillers creating spiced rums just minutes from the city centre.
Melbourne’s Starward led the way in Victoria with its approachable take on a modern Australian whisky, matured for three “Melbourne years” in Australian wine barrels; the result is distinctly Australian - whether served neat or in a cocktail. Little Lon Distilling Co., housed in Melbourne centre’s last remaining single-story house, makes small-batch gins that raise a tipple to the delightful deviants that once trod the lurid laneways of the city’s north-east corner. Brogan’s Way, in the suburb of Richmond, is proudly led by a female master distiller who got her start as a medical laboratory scientist. The gins created here heavily feature unique Australian botanicals and are designed to challenge the conventional ideas of what gin should be like.
Adelaide may be best known for its surrounding wine regions, but that hasn’t stopped budding alchemists from experimenting with small-batch gins and rums. Prohibition Liquor Co. was inspired by the bootleggers of the prohibition era, but they’ve taken the artisan route to create a premium product. Twenty Third Street Distillery on Melbourne is a new outlet for the Renmark stalwart, allowing city dwellers to experience the craftsmanship behind the resurrected distillery (originally built in 1914) in the Murray River region.
In Perth, be sure to visit Whipper Snapper Distillery to taste their handcrafted range of premium whiskies. They use 100 per cent local grains, showcasing their commitment to provenance. The team started with the production of moonshine and have since expanded their range to include traditional moonshine, barrel-aged moonshine and a bourbon-style whisky.
A shift to sustainability with sophistication
With a shift towards zero-waste, a wave of new sustainable restaurants are curating their menus to make the most of their seafood, meat and produce. The best part? They’re doing so in a classic Aussie, no-fuss style that showcases the food at its finest - fresh, simple and unpretentious.
In Sydney try St Peters for sustainable seafood served simply and beautifully, while Acre Eatery is a farm-to-table restaurant located just minutes from the city centre. Acre operates on an ethos of transparency, seasonality and traceability. Suppliers are local farmers and producers, and the menu is designed around what’s in season, meaning you’ll be served beautiful food that hasn’t travelled far to reach your plate.
Just an hour from Melbourne, in the picturesque wine country of the Yarra Valley, you’ll find Oakridge Restaurant, where Co-Executive Chef’s Matt Stone and Jo Barrett construct their seasonal menus based upon the thriving ingredients in the Oakridge Kitchen garden, as well as wild produce they discover on foraging and fishing excursions around the region. Taste wines at the cellar door before settling in for a delicious long lunch.
Set on an 80-acre farm in Byron Bay, the team behind Three Blue Ducks create every dish with a goal to nourish the community with ethical, authentic, quality food and hospitality. Many of their ingredients come from The Farm, while others are sourced locally, always with a preference for sustainable farming practices, organic and spray-free. The food is hearty and full of flavour and the venue is laid-back. Book a table in the restaurant or bring a picnic blanket and purchase a hamper filled with meats, cheeses, dips, bread and other goodies to enjoy in the gorgeous fields of The Farm.
Queensland’s Sunshine Coast has recently been thrust into the foodie spotlight with a range of exciting restaurants and craft breweries that have begun to pop up, many of which were showcased at the region’s inaugural food festival, The Curated Plate. Brouhaha Brewery, located in the rich produce hub of the hinterland, is focused on keeping their practices as sustainable as possible. After brewing, grain by-products are sent to feed Maleny Wagyu cows, which are then hand-selected for the Brouhaha kitchen (with offcuts even going to create a Brouhaha dog food). A local butcher also flavours Maleny Wagyu with Brouhaha Stout to make sausages. It’s a snout-to-tail mentality that means nothing goes to waste. The flavours that feature in the beer are even derived from local produce, such as raspberries, strawberries and citrus fruits and their unique coffee stout uses locally-brewed coffee.
Orange, or amber, wines represent the resurgence of ancient winemaking techniques and lost skills that have been rediscovered by today’s winemakers. With its pastel shade, you could be forgiven for mistaking it for a rose. It couldn’t be more different. In simple terms, they are white wines that have been made using the same processes as reds - with extended skin contact. This results in a full-body, intense flavour that more closely resembles a red wine than a white. This makes them ideal for food pairings, and the novelty is taking the wine-drinking world by storm.
They’re generally made on a small scale, so head to Australia’s wine regions and seek out small cellar doors to taste some of these unique drops or quietly pass an afternoon in one of the hip city wine bars specialising in boutique wines.
Marion, in Melbourne’s Fitzroy, offers an extensive wine list, including some exciting Australian amber wines that pair up nicely with the venue’s ever-changing menu, while The Moon in Collingwood will require a sense of adventure, but the wine list and bar snacks promise to please.
In Adelaide, head to Leigh Street’s Pink Moon Saloon. With an exterior somewhat reminiscent of a Swedish sauna, the interior is just 3.6 metres (just under 12 feet) wide and divided into three spaces. Settle in at the front bar to experience what’s on offer from Australia’s winemakers, including a great selection of orange and amber wines.
The newest range of craft beers
The craft beer scene in Australia has been growing steadily for a few years now and as breweries perfect their craft it’s no wonder we’re seeing a rise in unique offerings. From sour and nitro beers to vegan breweries, these trends are quickly becoming a ‘hop topic’ in Australia.
Wayward Brewery in Sydney has had its 'Sourpuss' Raspberry Berliner Weisse on the menu for a while now and you won’t struggle to find a seasonal sour or menu staple on the list at most local breweries. However, one of the biggest game-changers in sour beer has got to be Wildflower Brewing & Blending in Marrickville. The beers are barrel aged with wild yeast, giving them their tartness.
Local brewers are also experimenting with nitro beer, which involves carbonating the beer with a 70/30 mix of Nitro/CO2 before it gets poured from the draught through a nitro line and special tip on the tap that slows down the pour and aerates the beer. It’s still in its infancy but you can find breweries like 4 Pines in Manly and Stone and Wood in Byron Bay experimenting with it.
Beer enthusiasts know there are four key ingredients that go into making beer - malt, hops, water and yeast. As none of these ingredients are animal-derived, it may not be clear why vegan beer is suddenly a thing. The trend is growing in response to some producers using certain additives for clarity and texture (such as fish-derived products and lactose). In Sydney, head to Yulli’s Brews for vegan beer paired with a vegetarian menu. Melbourne’s Moon Dog has a mostly-vegan range of craft beers best tasted from the comfort of their soft couches.
Sleeping between the vines
While Australia’s wine regions are blessed with beautiful hotels and bed and breakfasts that allow you to spend a few nights in total luxury, the latest trend in accommodation is luxe glamping tents tucked right in the vines. Just under a four-hour drive west of Sydney is the wine region of Orange, where you’ll find cool-climate wines, fresh produce and clean mountain air. Stay at Nashdale Lane to wake up to misty views of Mount Canobolas before a day out wine tasting. Near Bendigo, just an hour north of Melbourne, you can settle into Balgownie Estate to stay in one of their luxury glamping tents with private decks that offer views of the vineyards or bushlands. They offer bell tents as well as luxe, open-plan safari tents with all the modern conveniences. At Sanctuary by Sirromet you can stay amidst the grounds of Sirromet Winery just 30 minutes from Brisbane, while a three-hour drive south of Perth you’ll find the Margaret River region. This premium wine region offers more than its fair share of great cellar doors to visit, so opt for something a bit different with a stay amongst the olive groves at Olio Bello.