Down Under On A Platter

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Restaurateur Rachel Goenka rates Australia as the next gastronomic destination... “There is a culture there that is based entirely on food. With top-notch produce from both land and sea, the culinary rules are being bent to create a style of their own.” She invites Hi! Blitz readers on a gourmet trail with her.


Australians celebrate food— you can see this across all their cuisines. They respect the ingredients and are so inventive, it is almost intimidating. One can expect surprises from even the most humble restaurants, not just the hatted ones. Whether you want a fresh seafood platter, a racy Riesling, a modern Asian fusion meal or a crocodile sausage, Australia is the place you will get it all.


Sydney


Caminettos
If you are looking for a slice of Italy in Australia, Caminettos is worth trying. Tucked away in The Rocks, Caminettos is a well-kept secret—and for a reason! Sandstone cliffs provide a sublime backdrop and the food is to die for. Everything about this little café screams Italy.


Aria
This is Chef Matt Moran’s flagship restaurant. The ambience has subtle hints of romanticism with picturesque views of the Opera House, waterfront and Harbour Bridge. The food is simple and rustic, beautifully presented and the flavours are simply sublime.


Quay
This multi-award-winning restaurant by Peter Gilmore has all the requisite elements for an unforgettable dining experience— views of the Harbour Bridge and Opera House and food that can only be described as beauty on a plate.


Muum Maam

By day, this street-style tuck shop serves quick and delicious meals from a cart; by night, Muum Maam serves classic Thai cuisine in a relaxed, cool environment. Seasonal ingredients, the freshest of fresh produce (like the coconut milk that is extracted fresh on the premises daily) and authentic Thai flavours are certain to delight any palate. For appetisers, sample the ‘crying tiger’ wagyu beef with chilli, ground roasted rice and tamarind dipping sauce. For the main course, try the ‘Pad Cha’ wok fried barramundi fillet with red chilli paste, snake beans, baby corn and basil and lime leaves. The roasted duck red curry is a must-have, paired with stir- fried morning glory, soybean paste, chilli and garlic.


Manly

Garfish

Jump onto a ferry and head to Manly just to experience the seafood at Garfish.?With an elegant, cosy ambience and friendly service, this is every seafood lover’s paradise. The wood oven adds a delicious smoky flavour to the sweetness of the seafood. The trout tartare with enoki mushrooms, bay bugs and roasted lobster with lemon garlic aioli get my vote. For mains, try the crispy fried barramundi with nahm jim (Thai dipping sauce).


Hunter Valley

Roberts Restaurant

Set in one of Australia’s premium wine regions, Roberts Restaurant is the perfect choice for those seeking the best that the Hunter Valley has to offer with regard to fine food and wine. Roberts is nestled between a vineyard and a fruit orchard and the food is exceptional. I’d recommend the tempura ricotta filled with zucchini flowers, pine nuts, currants and basil pesto sauce for starters; spanner crab pasta with lemon, garlic, chilli flakes and Parmigiano Reggiano for mains, with a side of roasted butternut pumpkin with toasted cashew praline and rosemary oil; and vanilla panna cotta with fresh pomegranate, pomegranate molasses and lavender honey for dessert.


Port Douglas

Nautilus

Expect modern Australian cuisine dished out in an elegant and gorgeous outdoor setting. The food at Nautilus is inspirational. The vanilla marinated tiger prawns and chilled cantaloupe and ginger soup come highly recommended. The mud crab is available in a variety of sauces, but I would recommend the chilli and lemongrass one. Vegetarians are in for a treat as well with the goat cheese tart with rocket, artichoke hearts and aged balsamic reduction. The taro gnocchi (asparagus veloute?, summer greens, shaved truffled pecorino and truffle oil) is simply divine. For dessert, try the caramel banana crumble with macadamia nuts, coconut sorbet, hot chocolate sauce and candied chilli.


Ospreys

Ospreys offers a unique and delicious experience that sees you perched up in the treetops overlooking the Coral Sea while the forest comes to life with birds and wildlife. The local produce is married to ingredients harvested fresh from the private gardens. Besides delectable wholesome mains, the restaurant also has a great selection of fresh salads and hot and cold tapas. The poached chicken wings with sticky orange and sesame glaze is light and delicious. Must-haves here are the goat cheese and macadamia nut round, drizzled with local Julatten honey, oven-baked and accompanied with a trio of tapenade, wild rocket and toasted Turkish bread and the seared Atlantic salmon served with spiced puy lentil and consomme? of locally grown roma tomatoes, finished with a sticky tomato chilli jam. Skip the standard blueberry and opt for the mango cheesecake instead, with pistachio crumbs, passion fruit coulis, mango and kaffir lime sorbet and macadamia sugar bark.


Hamilton Island

Mariners

Overlooking the marina with a fabulous sampling of the Whitsunday Islands’ seafood, the cuisine at the Mariners is simple yet delectable. The wagyu beef with wasabi dressing is melt-in-the-mouth delicious, while the jungle curry provides an adequate amount of sweet and savoury flavours. Diners are spoiled for choice with the hot and cold seafood platter options. And I wouldn’t leave here without trying the caramelised pear tatin.


coca chu

Perched above the shores of Catseye Beach with stunning views of the Whitsundays, coca chu is Hamilton Island’s answer to the perfect Southeast Asian restaurant. The food is scrumptious, with unapologetic servings paired with palate-popping flavours. The ox cheek is a different but delectable twist to the conventional Thai curry. But whatever you decide to order (and trust me everything is delicious), do not miss out on the son-in-law eggs, which are an Aussie take on the traditional Thai cuisine.

This article first appeared in August 2013 issue of Hi! BLITZ magazine

Down Under On A Platter

Liveinstyle

Restaurateur Rachel Goenka rates Australia as the next gastronomic destination... “There is a culture there that is based entirely on food. With top-notch produce from both land and sea, the culinary rules are being bent to create a style of their own.” She invites Hi! Blitz readers on a gourmet trail with her.


Australians celebrate food— you can see this across all their cuisines. They respect the ingredients and are so inventive, it is almost intimidating. One can expect surprises from even the most humble restaurants, not just the hatted ones. Whether you want a fresh seafood platter, a racy Riesling, a modern Asian fusion meal or a crocodile sausage, Australia is the place you will get it all.


Sydney


Caminettos
If you are looking for a slice of Italy in Australia, Caminettos is worth trying. Tucked away in The Rocks, Caminettos is a well-kept secret—and for a reason! Sandstone cliffs provide a sublime backdrop and the food is to die for. Everything about this little café screams Italy.


Aria
This is Chef Matt Moran’s flagship restaurant. The ambience has subtle hints of romanticism with picturesque views of the Opera House, waterfront and Harbour Bridge. The food is simple and rustic, beautifully presented and the flavours are simply sublime.


Quay
This multi-award-winning restaurant by Peter Gilmore has all the requisite elements for an unforgettable dining experience— views of the Harbour Bridge and Opera House and food that can only be described as beauty on a plate.


Muum Maam

By day, this street-style tuck shop serves quick and delicious meals from a cart; by night, Muum Maam serves classic Thai cuisine in a relaxed, cool environment. Seasonal ingredients, the freshest of fresh produce (like the coconut milk that is extracted fresh on the premises daily) and authentic Thai flavours are certain to delight any palate. For appetisers, sample the ‘crying tiger’ wagyu beef with chilli, ground roasted rice and tamarind dipping sauce. For the main course, try the ‘Pad Cha’ wok fried barramundi fillet with red chilli paste, snake beans, baby corn and basil and lime leaves. The roasted duck red curry is a must-have, paired with stir- fried morning glory, soybean paste, chilli and garlic.


Manly

Garfish

Jump onto a ferry and head to Manly just to experience the seafood at Garfish.?With an elegant, cosy ambience and friendly service, this is every seafood lover’s paradise. The wood oven adds a delicious smoky flavour to the sweetness of the seafood. The trout tartare with enoki mushrooms, bay bugs and roasted lobster with lemon garlic aioli get my vote. For mains, try the crispy fried barramundi with nahm jim (Thai dipping sauce).


Hunter Valley

Roberts Restaurant

Set in one of Australia’s premium wine regions, Roberts Restaurant is the perfect choice for those seeking the best that the Hunter Valley has to offer with regard to fine food and wine. Roberts is nestled between a vineyard and a fruit orchard and the food is exceptional. I’d recommend the tempura ricotta filled with zucchini flowers, pine nuts, currants and basil pesto sauce for starters; spanner crab pasta with lemon, garlic, chilli flakes and Parmigiano Reggiano for mains, with a side of roasted butternut pumpkin with toasted cashew praline and rosemary oil; and vanilla panna cotta with fresh pomegranate, pomegranate molasses and lavender honey for dessert.


Port Douglas

Nautilus

Expect modern Australian cuisine dished out in an elegant and gorgeous outdoor setting. The food at Nautilus is inspirational. The vanilla marinated tiger prawns and chilled cantaloupe and ginger soup come highly recommended. The mud crab is available in a variety of sauces, but I would recommend the chilli and lemongrass one. Vegetarians are in for a treat as well with the goat cheese tart with rocket, artichoke hearts and aged balsamic reduction. The taro gnocchi (asparagus veloute?, summer greens, shaved truffled pecorino and truffle oil) is simply divine. For dessert, try the caramel banana crumble with macadamia nuts, coconut sorbet, hot chocolate sauce and candied chilli.


Ospreys

Ospreys offers a unique and delicious experience that sees you perched up in the treetops overlooking the Coral Sea while the forest comes to life with birds and wildlife. The local produce is married to ingredients harvested fresh from the private gardens. Besides delectable wholesome mains, the restaurant also has a great selection of fresh salads and hot and cold tapas. The poached chicken wings with sticky orange and sesame glaze is light and delicious. Must-haves here are the goat cheese and macadamia nut round, drizzled with local Julatten honey, oven-baked and accompanied with a trio of tapenade, wild rocket and toasted Turkish bread and the seared Atlantic salmon served with spiced puy lentil and consomme? of locally grown roma tomatoes, finished with a sticky tomato chilli jam. Skip the standard blueberry and opt for the mango cheesecake instead, with pistachio crumbs, passion fruit coulis, mango and kaffir lime sorbet and macadamia sugar bark.


Hamilton Island

Mariners

Overlooking the marina with a fabulous sampling of the Whitsunday Islands’ seafood, the cuisine at the Mariners is simple yet delectable. The wagyu beef with wasabi dressing is melt-in-the-mouth delicious, while the jungle curry provides an adequate amount of sweet and savoury flavours. Diners are spoiled for choice with the hot and cold seafood platter options. And I wouldn’t leave here without trying the caramelised pear tatin.


coca chu

Perched above the shores of Catseye Beach with stunning views of the Whitsundays, coca chu is Hamilton Island’s answer to the perfect Southeast Asian restaurant. The food is scrumptious, with unapologetic servings paired with palate-popping flavours. The ox cheek is a different but delectable twist to the conventional Thai curry. But whatever you decide to order (and trust me everything is delicious), do not miss out on the son-in-law eggs, which are an Aussie take on the traditional Thai cuisine.

This article first appeared in August 2013 issue of Hi! BLITZ magazine

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