Want to experience the true taste of Australia? These 14 local eateries are taking iconic dishes – from the sausage sandwich to the lamington – and giving them a fine dining twist.
Fish and chips – Stokehouse Q, Brisbane
Few things are better than fish and chips, wrapped in white paper and eaten on the beach under the watchful gaze of hopeful seagulls. Well, nothing except the fish and chips at Brisbane’s glamorous Stokehouse Q. The daily catch is encased in a crunchy soda batter and accompanied with triple-cooked chips, seaweed salt and tartare sauce – and the lack of beach, sand and seagulls is made up for by Stokehouse dining room’s prime riverfront position.
Sidon Street, South Bank; (07) 3020 0600
Veal parmigiana – Capitano, Melbourne
It’s the best parmigiana you can find, which in a city with as many Italian restaurants as Melbourne is quite a compliment. At $65 it’s certainly a commitment but Capitano’s version is impressive: a bone-in piece of veal generous enough for two to share, coated in fried crumbs, topped with melting rounds of mozzarella, acid-sweet tomato sugo and finished with a scattering of basil leaves. Just add salad and a glass of red.
421 Rathdowne Street, Carlton; (03) 9134 8555
Damper – Restaurant Orana, Adelaide
Damper, a doughy bread cooked in the coals of a fire, has become the symbol of the Outback. At his native ingredient-focused Adelaide restaurant Orana, chef Jock Zonfrillo has turned it into a modern classic – potato damper smoked over hot coals and served at the table with a side of lamb fat-infused butter. Zonfrillo might be Scottish, but he certainly knows how to eat like an Australian.
Level 1, 285 Rundle Street, Adelaide; (08) 8232 3444
Lamington jaffle – Bad Frankie, Melbourne
By combining two local favourites – jaffles and lamingtons – this Melbourne bar has created a cult item. If translations are needed, a lamington is a classic Australian dessert: a sponge cake sandwiching a layer of jam, rolled in chocolate icing then dusted in coconut. A jaffle is a hot, crimp-edged toasted sandwich. By joining the two, Bad Frankie has created a hot, molten-centred dessert treat that goes excellently with one of the bar’s signature cocktails peppered with native botanicals.
141 Greeves Street, Fitzroy; (03) 9078 3866
Whipped emu egg sabayon – Attica, Melbourne
Australia’s highest-ranked restaurant on the World’s 50 Best list boasts a tasting menu full of native ingredients, whether it’s the play on a Vegemite scroll, the ant-encrusted lamington or the occasional possum sausage served off the barbecue in the courtyard garden. But our favourite is the emu egg sabayon, sweetened with native sugarbag honey and served over a Daintree chocolate sorbet inside the dark green shell of an emu egg.
74 Glen Eira Road, Ripponlea; (03) 9530 0111
Potato cake – The Agrarian Kitchen, near Hobart
The potato cake (or potato scallop, if you’re in NSW, Queensland or Western Australia) is more commonly seen as an accompaniment to fish and chips but at Rodney Dunn’s nationally acclaimed restaurant The Agrarian Kitchen, a short drive into the Derwent Valley from Hobart, it’s a headline act. A hero of paddock-to-plate cooking, Dunn takes a locally grown King Edward potato, encases the slices in a thick sourdough batter, sprinkles it with salt flakes and puts a mild Indian-spiced tomato kasundi on the side.
11A The Avenue, New Norfolk; (03) 6262 0011
Prawn cocktail – Iki-Jime, Melbourne
The prawn cocktail reached its peak at 1970s dinner parties, but it remains a fixture of restaurant menus across Australia. At Iki-Jime, a sustainable seafood restaurant from the same group as fashionable fine diner Vue De Monde, fat Mooloolaba king prawns are poached then dressed with wasabi and tomato powder, cured duck egg yolk and lemon rind, with fresh citrus pops of finger lime.
430 Little Collins Street, Melbourne; (03) 9691 3838
The Pavlova - Rockpool Bar & Grill, Melbourne, Sydney and Perth
Debate continues to rage over whether the dessert of meringue, whipped cream and fresh fruit was invented in Australia or New Zealand (one thing in agreement: it was first made in honour of prima ballerina Anna Pavlova, who visited both countries on her 1920s tours) but one thing is for certain: the pavlova at Rockpool is the best you’ll find, with light, fluffy, crisp-edged meringue topped with luscious vanilla cream and passionfruit curd.
66 Hunter Street, Sydney; (02) 8099 7077
Crown Complex, 8 Whiteman Street, Southbank, Melbourne; (03) 8648 1900
Crown Perth, Great Eastern Highway, Perth; (08) 6252 1900
Scallop pie – Bennelong, Sydney
Image credit: Nikki To
The scallop pie originally comes from Tasmania, but it’s taken Sydney restaurant Bennelong, housed inside the Opera House sails, to elevate it to an art form. Take a seat at the “Cured & Cultured” bar, home of more accessible snacking options from highly awarded chef Peter Gilmore, and tuck into a buttery pastry spilling creamy scallop filling, all the while enjoying some of the best views in Sydney.
Bennelong Point, Sydney Opera House; (02) 9240 8000
Blood sausage sandwich – Ester, Sydney
The favourite item from an Aussie backyard barbecue – a charred beef sausage wrapped in white bread with tomato sauce – gets a lift from Ester’s Mat Lindsay thanks to a sausage made from minced pork belly, rice, pine nuts and pig's blood, roasted in the wood oven then delivered to the table on steamed, spongy white bread topped with caramelised onions and mustard aioli. As the restaurant says, “The recipe offers a fresh, modern-day spin on a traditional sausage variety that has lost its ‘cool’ persona over the last decade. An Australian sausage masterpiece!”
46-52 Meagher Street, Chippendale; (02) 8068 8279
Roti with Vegemite curry – Sunda, Melbourne
The roti is pure Malaysia but the Vegemite curry sauce has its heart in Australia. The salty, umami-rich Australian breakfast spread made from brewer’s yeast cleverly adds a rich base to the fragrant curry sauce bright with kaffir lime and curry oil. It’s an idea chef Khanh Nguyen says came to him while working at Noma, one of the world’s top restaurants, where they made their own version of Vegemite. Only 20 serves of this item are made every night, so get in early.
18 Punch Lane, Melbourne; (03) 9654 8190
Avocado tostada - Odyssea, Perth
Avocado on toast – more fashionably known these days as smashed avocado – is the most beloved brunch dish of Australians everywhere. As is appropriate for a nation where every person consumes an average of 3.5kg of avocado each per year, any self-respecting café does its own version of smashed avocado, but Odyssea’s is particularly good with its combination of crispy tortillas, whipped fetta, dukkah and a poached egg.
187 Challenger Parade, City Beach; (08) 9385 7979
Golden Gaytime bao – Brother Hen, Melbourne
It’s almost impossible to find an Australian who doesn’t love a Golden Gaytime. Released as an ice-cream on a stick in 1959, the combination of toffee and vanilla-flavoured ice-cream dipped in chocolate and finished with a biscuit crumb has now been turned into a dessert bao by Brother Hen. Expect a cinnamon sugar-dusted fried bao filled with Golden Gaytime and Nutella with honeycomb pieces.
154 Pascoe Vale Road, Moonee Ponds; (03) 9370 5326
Curried kangaroo tail – Dinner by Heston Blumenthal, Melbourne
Fancy eating one of Australia’s native symbols? Kangaroo meat is trending on menus around the nation, including at English chef Heston Blumenthal’s Melbourne restaurant. The dish known as “Rice & Flesh” might sound confronting but in person it hits luxe heights with kangaroo tail slow braised in red wine, with subtle curry spices set into a luscious saffron risotto. Based on a 14th-century recipe, it adds an authentically Australian note to England’s medieval past.
Level 3, Crown Towers, Southbank; (03) 9292 5779