Spanner crab, sake vinegar jelly, brown butter emulsion, pea flower and horseradish from Sepia, Sydney. Photo: Dominic Lorrimer
Grilled oyster from Igni, Geelong. Photo: Josh Robenstone
Uni, koshihikari rice, salted yolk, fish maw, sweet prawns, umami broth from Quay, Sydney. Photo: Brett Stevens
Schnitty sanga from Fleet, Brunswick Heads. Photo: Kate Nutt
Marron, Geraldton wax and watercress from Orana, Adelaide. Photo: Aaron Fenwick
Slow-roasted parsnip and apple mousse, Brae, Birregurra.
Scallop dish from Wildflower, Perth. Photo: Supplied
Yabby jaffle from Monster Kitchen & Bar, Canberra. Photo: Lee Grant
Apple truffle strudel from Esquire, Brisbane. Photo: Michelle Smith
Salted red kangaroo and bunya bunya from Attica, Melbourne. Photo: Jane Holroyd
Roasted Murray cod grenobloise from Restaurant Hubert, Sydney. Photo: Supplied
Pad Thai from Long Chim, Perth.
Poulet vin jaune d’Australie from Bar Brosé, Sydney. Photo: Dominic Lorrimer
Paperbark-grilled fish from Paper Daisy, Cabarita Beach. Photo: Supplied
Whole slow-roasted lamb shoulder, Cumulus Inc, Melbourne. Photo: Earl Carter
Of course you’re not planning to die any time soon, but we thought you should know how good the Australian dining scene is right now, just in case.
So here’s a handy glovebox guide to 17 of the most exciting dishes that are happening across the country. Diversity being our middle name, they jump from Japanese-inflected seafood, slow-roasted meats and Australian natives to retro snacks that make drinking even more fun. Together, they represent a new era in Australian gastronomy. Pace yourself. There’s a lot to get through.
Roasted Murray cod grenobloise
Where: Restaurant Hubert, Sydney
Why: An impeccably farmed Australian freshwater fish famed for its subtle, snow-white, flaking flesh is wood-roasted and served whole by classics-with-a-twist chef Dan Pepperell. Bathed in a classic French sauce of brown butter, capers and onions and served by candle-light. It’s a real “event” dish, a magnificent thing in keeping with the nostalgia of this sprawling basement bistro and bar.
Salted red kangaroo and bunya bunya
Where: Attica, Melbourne
Why: It’s never a dull moment dining at the highly awarded Attica, as Ben Shewry builds the experience into a unique and almost interactive experience. This is the standout dish, a mind-bending drama queen of salted Uluru kangaroo fillet teamed with purple carrot, native currants, fermented cabbage and a lush bunya bunya puree that is both astringent and lush, primeval and elegant.
Poulet vin jaune d’Australie
Where: Bar Brosé, Sydney
Why: Because Analiese Gregory is a rising star who brings originality, freshness and great wine-friendly flavours to this long, narrow Darlinghurst bar. And because the busty Holmbrae chicken is bathed in a ladleful of glossy, winey sauce (not the celebrated yellow wine of the Jura but Gregory’s own blend of Pennyweight Oloroso, Tom Shobbrook’s Il Chicco, and shao hsing), enriched with foie gras butter and crisp chicken-in-a-biskit shards.
Slow-roasted parsnip and apple mousse
Where: Brae, Birregurra
Why: Former Mugaritz head chef Dan Hunter created his ground-breaking regional restaurant as “a place to interact with nature and eat from the land”. In his hands, the humble parsnip takes on a new life as a naturally sweet dessert – slow-roasted until it is a crisp, hollowed-out shroud, filled with parsnip and apple mousse under a fizz-wizz of tart, dehydrated apple.
Spanner crab, sake vinegar jelly, brown butter emulsion, pea flower and horseradish
Where: Sepia, Sydney
Why: Because the Queensland spanner crab meat is cooked in butter at 70C to keep its moisture, then dressed in walnut oil and rolled in a very fine sheet of sake vinegar and sake jelly, served on a brown butter creme fraiche and finished with pea flower petals and dehydrated pea dust. Complexity reduced to simplicity: pure Martin Benn.
Apple truffle strudel
Where: Esquire, Brisbane
Why: It makes you rethink the apple. Stanthorpe pink ladies are rotor-sliced, gently cooked, dried, fried and formed into a crisp apple rose, served with a truffle jam made from Malmsey wine, beef stock and fresh Manjimup truffles and a rich mascarpone Chantilly cream. And no, it’s not a dessert.
Uni, koshihikari rice, salted yolk, fish maw, sweet prawns, umami broth
Where: Quay, Sydney
Why: Peter Gilmore says this is a great representation of his cooking right now, being full of texture and powerfully harmonious flavours. The nutty koshihikari rice is enriched with Port Phillip Bay sea urchin butter, topped with crisp fish maw made from the swim bladder (fish maw) of northern barramundi, served with an intense umami broth made from 30 different ingredients.
Raw Shark Bay saucer scallops with sesame cream
Where: Wildflower, Perth
Why: In this glass-and-steel cube atop boutique hotel COMO The Treasury, chef Jed Gerrard serves raw scallops from Shark Bay, 800 kilometres north of Perth, on a white sesame cream with a gel of apple juice and native basil. An additional apple, wild fennel and chardonnay “snow” falls at the table.
Where: Paper Daisy, Cabarita Beach, NSW
Why: Forget your fish of the day; this is the fish of the year. At this charming beachside boutique hotel Ben Devlin layers blue-eye trevalla in both soft and crisply cooked caramelised onions, seaweed and lemon myrtle, encases it in a sheath of paperbark and grills it over hot coals. It is, quite simply, a great Australian dish.
Where: Igni, Geelong
Why: Chef Aaron Turner (formerly of Loam) is back with a bang at this tucked-away 50-seat treasure down a Geelong laneway. With luck, the opening volley of snacks will include this take-your-breath-away oyster with seaweed and oyster plant, served warm in a porcelain oyster shell.
Where: LuMi, Sydney
Why: It could be small coins of spelt ravioli holding hot buttery pumpkin puree, or soft capsules of paper-thin agnolotti encasing nonna’s tomato sugo, but it will be extraordinary, as Federico Zanellato packs elegance, power, structure, acidity, balance and finesse into the very idea of pasta.
Where: Fleet, Brunswick Heads
Why: In this tiny restaurant, Astrid McCormack and Josh Lewis redefine how we dine with personal warmth and quietly captivating small courses. The downy-soft, white-bread “schnitty sanga” pairs crumbed sweetbreads and anchovy and mustard mayo in a shock of crisp/soft, hot/cold.
Marron, Geraldton wax and watercress
Where: Orana, Adelaide
Why: In Australia, it makes perfect sense for a Scottish/Italian chef with French training to champion indigenous Australia and its powerful, resonant ingredients. That’s how we roll. Hence the relentlessly restless Jock Zonfrillo marries delicate Kangaroo island marron or Coorong mullet with the lime/lemongrass shock of Geraldton wax in this luxurious, evocative dish.
Where: Franklin, Hobart
Why: It’s all about the 10-tonne wood-fired Scotch oven in this minimalist concrete-clad, wine-oriented, Tasmania-first restaurant. Uncompromising chef/owner David Moyle roasts whole local pigeons to a bronzed caramel, pressing the bones to extract goodness for the accompanying (very pinot-friendly) sauce.
Where: Monster Kitchen & Bar, Canberra
Why: Yabbies + horseradish + creme fraiche + chives + lemon juice + gruyere + buttered bread = one hot, crisp, toasty yabby jaffle. Chef Sean McConnell takes comfort food to new heights at Hotel Hotel’s free-wheeling, all-day restaurant.
Where: Long Chim, Perth
Why: When David Thompson does pad Thai, it’s done properly. So the usual mindless office lunch order is, instead, beautifully eggy, with springy rice noodles, crunchy bean shoots and sweet prawns, with three types of chilli and the traditional white sugar on the side.
Whole slow-roasted lamb shoulder
Where: Cumulus Inc, Melbourne
Why: Sharing the eight-hour slow-roasted lamb shoulder at Melbourne’s best workaday bistro is a rite of passage. Inspired by a humble worker’s meal in La Rioja in Spain, Andrew McConnell cooks the shoulder sous-vide for eight to 12 hours, then roasts it until the crust caramelises and the meat falls from the bone at the very sight of a fork. Festive, celebratory and delicious.