Innovative Restaurants in Australia
Australia has an abundance of herbs, berries, seeds, nuts and other native plants that have been part of the Australian Aboriginals’ diet for thousands of years. Now, chefs in Australia are really beginning to see how these “gifts from the earth” can be used to present new culinary creations.
You gotta love restaurants that use ingredients that have been around for ages to come up with new cuisine. Each of these restaurants in Australia puts a spin on the usual to offer guests some of the most innovative dishes the world has ever seen. Which of these restaurants have you tried?
When you come to this restaurant in Sydney, expect to be offered “Australia on a plate.” Chef-owner Kylie Kwong has become known for her Australian-Chinese cuisine, and visitors will see an array of dishes that integrate Australia’s native ingredients with the classic dishes of Kwong’s Cantonese heritage.
Kwong was an early and very vocal advocate of bio-dynamic and organic produce and she has committed to buying Fair Trade products. The hoisin and oyster sauces Billy Kwong uses are free of any industrial additives. The sparkling water served to guests is carbonated on-site. You won’t get those plastic water bottles here.
Billy Kwong is also one of the few carbon-neutral restaurants in Australia.
We recommend the red-braised caramelized wallaby with black beans and chili. For something lighter, try the wontons (prawn and cricket!) paired with sweet chili sauce. For your no-meat days, get the saltbush pancakes.
Address: Shop 1, 28 Macleay Street, Potts Point, NSW 2011
Contact: +61 2 9332 3300
Chef David Chang’s mission statement when he opened Momofuku in Sydney was to use the bounty of Australia – and that the restaurant does with such skill and creativity we hope there are more Momofukus around the continent. Momofuku Seiōbo is actually the first restaurant outside the United States opened by Chang, who is considered one of New York’s top gastronomic greats.
Momofuku Seiōbo brings together classical Western degustation and the concepts, ideas and techniques of Japanese multi-course eating. This is a place to dine in leisure during a very special occasion. Chang hopes the Australian food industry (not just the restaurants but “everybody in this country”) eventually starts cooking what they have right in their own backyard – wallaby and kangaroo included.
So what do your order in Momofuku? Seafood lovers will find a new favourite in the sweet marron (a freshwater crayfish) with seaweed. For dessert, you won’t go wrong with the ice cream with a twist–it’s got wattleseed meringue for an addicting crunch.
Address: 80 Pyrmont St, Pyrmont NSW 2009, Australia
Contact: +61 2 9657 9169
Attica in Melbourne constantly finds itself in “world’s best restaurant” lists and for good reason. It makes the most of what the vast Australian pantry of native ingredients has to offer, with owner-chef Ben Shewry foraging for wild weeds as well as seaweeds regularly to include in Attica’s sumptuous dishes.
Top recommendations when dining in this award-winning restaurant are the “Native Fruits of Australia” plate, filled with poached quandongs, Illawarra plum, lilly pilly, muntries,Davidson’s plum, candied rosella flower and muntries; and the Flinders Island wallaby, which is finished off with Bunya pine shavings, chicory, ground berries, begonia and and exquisite puree of macadamia nut.
Address: 74 Glen Eira Rd, Ripponlea VIC 3185, Australia
Contact: +61 3 9530 0111
Aside from its seasonally inspired dishes, what’s interesting about Charcoal Lane in Melbourne is that it also operates as a Mission Australia social enterprise program. This means that it provides on-the-job skills, training and experience in hospitality for Aboriginal youth, who then would have more livelihood opportunities in the hospitality industry. When you dine in Charcoal Lane, you support this program that gives back to the community.
Top favorites here include the main course of salt-bush lamb (crusted with dukkah) with pepper-leaf couscous and lilly pilly. For dessert or a quick snack, there’s the steamed apple and muntries berry pudding.
Address: 136 Gertrude St, Fitzroy VIC 3065, Australia
Contact: +61 3 9418 3400
Orana’s chef Jock Zonfrillo was actually born in Scotland, but with the way he works with Australia’s bounty you’d be glad he decided to stay here. Orana in Adelaide makes use of native ingredients such as kangaroo (of course!), marron, mountain pepper, sea succulents, finger lime, bush honey and even green ants. There have been raves all around for its crisp-fried saltbush leaves, Kangaroo Island scallops with ice-plant, Wagyu beef with bittergrass and fresh mudcrab with sandpaper fig and wild pea.
Orana was recently given the coveted “Best Restaurant Of The Year” award in 2017’s Gourmet Traveller Restaurant Awards. It’s the first time the award was given to a restaurant outside Melbourne and Sydney. The 10-table restaurant first opened its doors in 2013 and has earned a reputation for highlighting native Australian ingredients in its menu.
Address: 1/285 Rundle St, Adelaide SA 5000, Australia
Contact: +61 8 8232 3444
At the World’s 50 Best Restaurants Awards held in London in 2015, Sepia was chosen as “The One To Watch,” thanks to owner-chef Martin Benn’s creative, inspired and unique cooking. You have fresh Australian produce coupled with an exquisite Japanese aesthetic that will make you come back for more.
If we get the chance to take a look at Sepia’s POS system for restaurants, we will surely see the bestsellers there: the poached spanner crab with citrus dashi and smoked bone marrow. You can also go for the spanner crab with sake vinegar jelly, brown butter emulsion, horseradish and pea flower.
Address: 201 Sussex St, Sydney NSW 2000, Australia
Contact: +61 2 9283 1990
Meldrum’s Pies in Paradise
Pies. In. Paradise. When in Cairns, you really ought to drop by Meldrum’s Pies in Grafton Street and buy yourself an entire shelf of the various renditions of the Aussie pie. Meldrum’s Pies has been a favorite since 1972 for many reasons: steak and mushroom in creamy pepper sauce, pumpkin gnocchi and tuna mornay, and chicken and avocado, among others.
Address: 97 Grafton St, Cairns City QLD 4870, Australia
Contact: +61 7 4051 8333
Here’s a bonus list of three more innovative restaurants to try in Australia and what to order there:
- Bentley Restaurant + Bar (Sydney) – kangaroo fillet with riberry sauce, aerated chocolate (topped with fig leaf ice cream and lemon aspen)
- The Prairie (Adelaide) – Feral Mixed Grill (kangaroo fillet, camel sausage, emu, creamy mash), quandong crumble pie
- Biota (Bowral) – molasses-glazed beef with saltbush, leek and native berries; cuttlefish with oyster creme and sea lettuce emulsion
What’s your favorite Australian dish? Which of these restaurants strike your food fancy? What do you look for in Australian cuisine?