Destinations are often defined by their culinary offerings and unique local produce, so when it comes to multicultural gourmet experiences, there’s really nothing like Australia. By Lauren Arena
In the Great South Land eating goes beyond the plate, with copious fine dining establishments, remarkable wineries and cellar doors, expert caterers, and interactive cooking schools.
In the Northern Territory, the Sounds of Silence dinner at Ayers Rock Resort showcases the magic of Australia’s Red Centre with an outback feast under the stars. As well as a traditional Indigenous dance and didgeridoo performance, the evening showcases local wine and native bush tucker with dishes such as crocodile, kangaroo, barramundi and quandong. For a more intimate experience, there’s the Tali Wiru dining experience atop an isolated dune where no more than 20 guests can enjoy a refined four-course dinner with magnificent views of Uluru and the distant domes of Kata Tjuta.
Just 10 minutes from Port Douglas, in Tropical North Queensland, the Flames of the Forest dining experience caters for a variety of groups, from 10 to 850 guests, for an evening banquet in Australia’s tropical rainforest. Here a spectacular setting lit with candles and flames is accompanied by lavish menus and pyrotechnic displays.
Trekking through South Australia, you can’t go past the infamous Barossa Valley, home to many of Australia’s bold red wine varieties, where world-renowned Shiraz and vintages like Penfolds Grange are lovingly produced. With more than 80 cellar doors and 150 wineries, this gourmet hotspot is the perfect place for a scenic detour. Likewise, nearby McLaren Vale, Clare Valley and the Adelaide Hills are as renowned for their red and white wine varieties as they are for their cellar doors and gourmet food offerings.
Both Sydney and Melbourne are abuzz with prestigious fine-diners, modern bistros and vibrant street food. Overlooking Sydney Harbour, award-winning venues such as Quay and Aria serve innovative, modern Australian cuisine that rivals the uninterrupted views of the Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge. There’s also Sean’s Panorama, Pilu at Freshwater, and Icebergs Dining Room & Bar, which all provide paddock-to-plate dining experiences in pristine beach-front locations. Meanwhile, Melbourne’s intricate laneways and historic arcades inspire a distinctly urban café culture and are filled with hidden culinary gems.
For those who want an experience they can really sink their teeth into – and inspire a little team-building in the process – there are several interactive cooking schools dotted around the country.
In Tasmania, 45 minutes from Hobart, The Agrarian Kitchen offers hands-on cookery classes that focus on the provenance of food. Groups forage through the organic and heirloom vegetable garden to create contemporary dishes that showcase the best of fresh, seasonal produce. Classes like ‘Mutton Dressed as Lamb’ and ‘The Whole Hog’ are intimate and thorough with both butchery and cooking skills put on show.
Freycinet Marine Farm, along Tasmania’s East Coast, also treats groups to an authentic agricultural experience with tours that see participants donning wetsuit waders and scouring the wetlands for oysters that are then freshly shucked and washed down with a glass of champagne.
At the Sydney Fish Market, Sydney Seafood School offers a variety of classes for both large and small groups. Classes commence with a demonstration before guests get their hands dirty cooking with octopus, abalone, sashimi and sea-snails. Workshops are led by top Australian chefs with courses available for all skill levels.
In Western Australia, in the remote East Kimberley region, the Faraway Bay Bush Tucker and Camp Oven Cooking School provides groups with a unique opportunity to learn about the gourmet delights hidden within the pristine Kimberley wilderness. Guided bush walks encourage guests to look for ingredients like native lemon grass, bush passion fruit and rock figs. Boabs, kangaroo, and a huge array of freshly caught fish are also on the menu and much of the cooking takes place on an open fire at Eagle Lodge, overlooking the tranquil waters of Faraway Bay.