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
Leading from the front is Victoria’s Brae, named No.44 in the world according to last year’s World’s 50 Best Restaurants awards. It’s heavily supported by other outstanding establishments in the state: 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 and Bistro Officina, and Clementine.
South Australia boasts 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, organically 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).
Cooking with fire
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 Franklin) and South Australia (Africola and 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
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 Hentley Farm or 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 showcases Tasmania’s excellent produce in heritage surrounds.
Wine first, food second
Fancy a tipple and a nibble in Sydney? Head to WYNO, Monopole, Continental Deli Bar and Bistro, Hubert, 10 William Street, Bibo Wine Bar or Johnny Fishbone. Melbourne wine bar wizards Marion, Bar Liberty, Embla, Smallsand 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
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, which opened in April 2017. 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.