When out-of-towners visit the big smoke, they’re more than likely looking to soak up the vibrant dining culture. But it’s not because they can’t get it back home. Australia’s regions are home to some of the country’s must-visit restaurants where farm-to-table sustainability is often on the menu.
Biota Dining, Bowral
It’s a little hard to say exactly what Biota Dining will serve up on any given day. The menu is entirely dependent on whatever local farmers and growers have to offer, with a wine list leaning towards smaller Australian producers. The elegant simplicity of Biota’s accommodation has country chic touches like tree stump bedside tables.
Paper Daisy, Cabarita Beach
Sitting roughly halfway between Surfers Paradise and Byron Bay, Halcyon House at Cabarita Beach is where you’ll find the award-winning Paper Daisy. Executive chef Ben Devlin, 2014 young chef of the year, has helmed the seaside restaurant since it opened, taking Paper Daisy to two-hat status in the process with his ‘sophisticated simplicity’ focusing on producers in the region.
The French Pan Tree, Yamba
Head further south down the NSW coast, a couple of hours past Byron Bay, and pull up in Yamba at The French Pan Tree. Here, the “short based menu” is continually evolving as the kitchen team hitting up the Yamba farmers market and friends’ vege gardens for organic fruit, vegetables and flowers. Seafood comes straight off the local trawlers.
An acclaimed wine region, it won’t come as much surprise to learn that Mudgee also does pretty well for itself in the food stakes. Pipeclay Pumphouse owner and chef, Andy Crestani, is all about nurturing the land for his paddock-to-plate menu. Located at the Robert Stein Vineyard, you’re as likely to spot free-range pigs grazing as you are to catch the grape harvest.
Head over the NSW border from Albury into north-west Victoria and you’ll soon hit Beechworth. Inside a former bank building built during the gold rush, you’ll find Provenence, the creation of husband and wife Michael Ryan and Jeanette Henderson. Ryan hones local, seasonal produce into a menu that reflects his fascination with the techniques and tastes of Japan.
A couple of kilometres outside the village of Birregurra (population 828) in the Ottway hinterland sits Brae. Regenerative techniques are employed to ensure the organic hillside farm will continue providing well into the future. The olive grove supplies the oil, free-range chickens provide eggs and the honey comes from Brae’s own bee colony. Guests are encouraged to stay and interact with the land in their zero-emission suites, each with a skylight for stargazing.
Wickens at Royal Mail Hotel, Dunkeld
Serving a five or eight course menu harvested from the 1.2-hectare kitchen garden, Wickens is all about involving diners in their meal. No matter where you’re seated, you’re afforded a view of the kitchen, even more so if you choose the chef’s table right in the heart of the action. Alternatively, turn your attention to the stunning mountain vista of the southern Grampians.
Ezard at Levantine Hill
After enthralling Melbourne’s hospitality scene for over 20 years with dining institutions like Ezard and Gingerboy, Teage Ezard’s most recent venture is something of a tree change both in flavour and locale. The Asian influences of his earlier restaurants step aside for a classic European sensibility, surrounded by the vineyards of Levantine Hill rather than the high rises of the CBD.
In the Lockyer Valley in the south east of the state, Homage stakes a claim to being ‘hyper-local’. With 12,000 acres of farmland to keep the pantry stocked, head chef Ash Martin is committed to a paddock-to-plate philosophy. Anything he can’t grow for himself, he’ll source from the neighbours.
NuNu, Palm Cove
In typically laidback Queensland fashion, NuNu describes itself as barefoot luxury. Set on the beachfront under a grove of palm trees, you can see why. The tropical setting, looking across the Coral Sea, is the inspiration for the food. The menu pays tribute to the tropics of far north Queensland with dishes like reef bug schnitzel.
Spirit House, Yandina
Speaking of tropical paradise, Spirit House is as close to idyllic as you could hope for. Step into the leafy lagoon-side jungle setting and you begin to be transported to South East Asia. The modern Thai menu finishes the job with produce from local farmers and fishing fleets.
The Agrarian Kitchen Eatery, New Norfolk
Inhabiting a former mental asylum, don’t be fooled by the clean white walls of the Agrarian Kitchen Eatery. The produce from local farmers (and their own farm and cooking school) is said to still have dirt on it when it arrives in the kitchen. Whole carcasses hang, waiting to be trimmed to order. Food is cooked over flame in the woodfired oven, grill and hot-smoker, made using bricks from the building.
Line & Label, Port Lincoln
Harvesting food daily from the gardens and orchards around the 24-acre estate of Peter Teakle Wines vineyard, Line & Label crafts dishes designed to showcase the best produce from the Eyre Peninsula. So you could well find fresh oysters from nearby Coffin Bay or the snout of an ocean jacket fish on the menu, updated by Executive chef Josh Harris every six weeks.
Cape Lodge, Yallingup
The Margaret River region isn’t exactly wanting for incredible food and wine. If you’re looking to get your hands greasy, opt for the monthly cooking class at Cape Lodge, followed by a long table lunch (or visit for lunch only if you don’t fancy yourself as much of a cook). The Sunday chef harvest dinner brings together local and estate grown ingredients.
Pee Wee’s at the Point, Fannie Bay
Having been around for the best part of two decades, Pee Wee’s is something of a Top End institution by now. The waterfront reserve was once a naval camp and the award-winning kitchen is all about NT’s best ingredients, like wild caught saltwater barramundi.