Kombucha, kimchi and their fermented friends have become staples on the menus of healthy cafés across Australia but now fermented ingredients are arriving on plates at our finest restaurants. Fermentation is a process that uses salt, whey or a bacterial starter to convert carbohydrates to acids or alcohols, adding a tangy, savoury flavour to any plate of food and improving our gut health. Here, nine dishes with fermented elements to try around the country.
Crudo at Garum
Guy Grossi’s latest venture at the Westin Perth takes its name from a fermented Italian ingredient. “Garum” is made by salting and fermenting fish in clay pots. It was used in Ancient Rome but at Grossi’s Restaurant, it’s used to add umami to several dishes, including the crudo, where it’s drizzled over raw tuna, orange, sorrel and beetroot.
480 Hay Street, Perth; (08) 6559 1870
Cold-smoked morwong at The Agrarian Kitchen Eatery
At The Agrarian Kitchen Eatery in the Tasmanian town of New Norfolk, chef Ali Currey-Voumard tops this delicious fish, caught locally in Bass Strait, with fermented beetroot, horseradish and kefir cream, a fermented milk product that tastes a little like sour cream. It’s not always on the menu – the shifting offering is dependent on what produce is available from the market and farm – but Currey-Voumard is an advocate of fermentation and always features an ingredient or two.
11a The Avenue, New Norfolk; (03) 6262 0011
Potato bread at Ester
At Ester in Sydney’s Chippendale, Mat Lindsay’s fermented potato bread – blistered, warm and speckled with salt – is served with kefir cream, dashi jelly and trout roe. It’s a highlight of any meal here. The mash is fermented for up to four days to achieve its signature earthy flavour.
46-52 Meagher Street, Chippendale; (02) 8068 8279
Kangaroo tartare at Matilda 159 Domain
It’s all flame and coals at Scott Pickett’s Matilda, located in Melbourne’s South Yarra, but this dish doesn’t go anywhere near the heat. Instead, the diced meat is served with fermented red peppers. “The lacto fermentation releases the hidden savoury flavour of the capsicum,” says Pickett. “It gives the peppers a flavour that’s very different to their normal, natural sweetness.”
159 Domain Road, South Yarra; (03) 9089 6668
Image: Gareth Sobey
Black angus tri-tip at Automata
Meat and veg is a staple on Australian tables, but at Automata in Sydney’s Chippendale, chef Clayton Wells serves this cut of beef, from the bottom of the sirloin, with fermented pumpkin, pepitas and a burnt onion marmalade.
5 Kensington Street, Chippendale; (02) 8277 8555
Robarra barramundi at Hill of Grace Restaurant
The Hill of Grace Restaurant overlooking Adelaide Oval serves seasonal South Australian produce, including pan-fried, springwater-raised barramundi served with fermented corn and crisp chicken skin.
Audi Stadium Club, Level 3, Eastern Stand, Adelaide Oval; (08) 8205 4777
Smoked eel at Oakridge winery
At Yarra Valley winery Oakridge, chefs Matt Stone and Jo Barrett like to do everything themselves, including ferments. The smoked eel entrée is paired with house-fermented grains and beansas well as salsify and brussel sprouts.
864 Maroondah Highway, Yarra Valley; (03) 9738 9900
Slow-cooked wagyu beef tongue at Bentley Restaurant + Bar
“The fermentation process really brings out the acidic notes in saltbush,” says chef Brent Savage of Bentley Restaurant + Bar in Sydney’s CBD. “Fermenting it reduces the saltiness and enhances the naturally earthy flavours.” He adds it to this dish, along with a relish made of muntries (an Australian cranberry).
Corner Pitt and Hunter streets, Sydney; (02) 8214 0505
Duck breast at Aubergine
At Canberra’s special occasion diner Aubergine, chef Ben Willis adds Asian touches to delicious duck breast. Flavours oflack garlic and eggplant braised with seaweed are accented by perfect curls of fermented daikon.
18 Barker Street, Griffith; (02) 6260 8666