Australian dining experiences to put on your must-visit list right now.
By Anthony Huckstep
From the ambitiously artistic to the perennial crowd pleaser, the Australian dining scene has welcomed a horde of incredible new restaurants in recent months. Here, seven of the most outstanding dining experiences around the nation.
The original Chin Chin in Melbourne swept the city off its feet almost a decade ago with an intoxicating mix of jubilant atmosphere and tempting Thai treats perfect for sharing. Chin Chin Sydney, housed in a 100-year-old heritage-listed warehouse, is overflowing with the same exuberance. Join the queues outside or clink cocktails at GoGo Bar next door before hitting the boisterously colourful dining room for a serious spice journey through the fragrant fare of South-East Asia. Crisp-skinned, melt-in-your-mouth flesh of pork belly gets a kick from the restaurant’s signature scud chilli death sauce; green papaya salad delivers a sweet, sour and sharp sensation; while salmon smeared in red curry benefits from gentle cooking inside a banana leaf. Bring friends or family and feast on the energy of one of the city’s best big nights out.
On the banks of Sydney’s latest destination dining precinct, Barangaroo, comes perhaps the most ambitious culinary venue for Australia’s biggest city. Celebrity chef Matt Moran’s three-level Barangaroo House is leading Australian cuisine down a new path. City skyline views from the rooftop set the scene for soirée-style casual eatery Smoke; while the energetic House Bar on the ground floor offers some of Australia’s best beverages. But it’s the sprawling first-floor fine-dining restaurant Bea that sees Moran and ex-Vue de Monde (Melbourne) head chef Corey Campbell put Australia on a plate with stellar produce and a dedication to simplicity. Think roast spatchcock with preserved lemon and riberry; seared kangaroo with munthari (muntries) and blueberries; and a berry pavlova to finish off. Barangaroo House has all the enthusiasm and energy of the Australian way of life, with some of the best food and service in town.
It’s won a string of accolades in just a few months and once you step inside this multilevel, contemporary play on Japanese cuisine you’ll understand why. Descend into the basement dining room of Kisumé to be tempted by an array of dishes from the hot kitchen such as crisp miso and lime beef tartare, and flathead with wasabi yoghurt. Or sit at the sushi counter at ground level for arguably the best omakase (chef’s choice sushi and sashimi) in town. A landmark establishment by the Lucas Group (responsible for the aforementioned Chin Chin restaurants, among others), it oozes Melbourne sophistication paired with the enthusiasm of a wine bar atmosphere. And if wine is your thing, there’s a first-floor Chablis bar to whet your whistle before or after dinner.
Australia’s geographical location has produced a proliferation of South-East Asian-inspired restaurants that embrace both the Australian contemporary dining aesthetic and our extraordinary produce. Longsong is the perfect example of how local cuisine can take cues from South-East Asia, in particular Thailand, but deliver a fantastical Australian feast accessible to all. Ascend to the first-floor restaurant and start with one of myriad signature cocktails in the smart casual bar. Then enjoy the wood-fired fare from celebrity chef David Moyle. Saltbush and horseradish add spark to dry-aged beef tartare; while wild fennel and lemon complete a beautifully grilled river trout. Wood-grilled duck joins an acidic ally in plum sauce; while peas and lovage help a whole John Dory tell its culinary story.
Doot Doot Doot
Just a short drive south of Melbourne, you’ll find the stellar Jackalope Hotel, housing one of the most exciting regional restaurants to open in 2017. Doot Doot Doot may have an odd name, but there is nothing odd about this fine-dining experience. The food is either grown in the kitchen garden or produced in the region, allowing chef Guy Stanaway to deliver a real expression of what it means to eat locally on the Mornington Peninsula. Enter a sleek, sophisticated dark-brown space where tabletops and leather banquettes sit beneath a breathtaking glass installation by designer Jan Flook, featuring 10,000 globes resembling wine glasses. Cherry and kingfish virtually dance on the plate; pickles and vermouth add a tempting twang to the earthiness of barramundi; and tonka bean rounds out the sweet seduction of new-season mangoes. With a winery onsite, and rooms to stay overnight, this has fast become a must-visit destination.
d’Arenberg Cube Restaurant
A trip to the vineyards of McLaren Vale has suddenly become about more than wine – d’Arenberg Winery owner Chester Osborn has gifted the region an extraordinary architectural wonder. The d’Arenberg Cube is a convention-defying structure inspired by the complexities of winemaking, reminiscent of a half-turned Rubik’s Cube. On its five quirk-filled levels, you’ll find a number of striking installations including a “fruit room” where walls are covered floor-to-ceiling in pieces of just that; a 360-degree “video room” showcasing various artistic interpretations of the world on enormous curved cinema screens; a peepshow where visitors can watch an extravagant 1920s dinner party through peepholes in, variously, an oven, fridge and cupboard; and a convention-challenging restaurant. The daily changing, degustation-only menu is an ode to all things local and seasonal, but the artistic is balanced with the downright delicious thanks to the expertise of Michelin star-trained chefs Brendan Wessels and Lindsay Dürr. Order from a list of 400 world-class wines, including the full d’Arenberg museum range and collection. Afterwards, ascend to the rooftop bar for post-prandial reinforcement and views of the surrounding area. One of the most fascinating dining experiences currently on offer down under.