26 September 2019
Harvest Restaurant in the Byron Bay hinterland is renowned for its use of Indigenous food.
Here, head chef Alastair Waddell nominates his top five NSW restaurants for exploring the vast and varied flavours of Australia’s native ingredients.
In beautifully bucolic Bowral, you’ll find locals and the Sydney weekender crowd enjoying James Viles’ innovative and precise fare. Not just a chef, but also a hunter and gatherer, James connects with “the forest lands of the NSW Southern Highlands to produce a unique dining experience”, says Alastair. One of his go-to dishes at Biota is the Flinders Island wallaby stew served with myrtle damper.
“Chef Jay Barratt’s menus include wild and native ingredients that he’s been working with throughout his career,” says Alastair. “At Paper Daisy he showcases them in dishes such as fish baked in local kelp, and tiger prawn and bush tomato spaghetti. He also includes strawberry gum, lemon aspen and anise myrtle through the dessert menu.” Paper Daisy has showcased Indigenous ingredients with a deft touch since opening, and with Jay at the helm, that tradition is set to continue. Spend a night or two at this chic surfside hotel or simply come for a long lunch or incredible dinner to sample Jay’s elegant riff on bush tucker.
Alastair’s own kitchen makes the list for a must-try bush food experience, with both lunch and dinner menus including a range of native Australian ingredients. Additionally, each Wednesday evening diners can book into Wild Harvest, a four-course concept dinner designed by Alastair and the restaurant’s forager and wild foods expert Peter Hardwick. “We forage coastal succulents and seaweeds, such as sunrose and sea purslane, as well as wild greens like sow thistle, chickweed and plantain,” Alastair explains. “Peter also prepares a range of vinegars using unique ingredients such as charred kelp and pandanus.”
Pipit, located in the under-the-radar coastal town of Pottsville, has been drawing food lovers from near and far since its May 2019 opening. Ben Devlin, the former head chef of the celebrated Paper Daisy at Cabarita Beach, steers clear of red meat, but lamb and beef are not missed thanks to his ingenuity with local and native flavours. “Ben Devlin’s food is fantastic and he is a real advocate for using the best ingredients we have locally from producers and from the land,” says Alastair. “He uses seaweeds in his cooking, and showcases acacia in a fantastic dessert of spent beer grain parfait, custard apple and wattleseed ganache.”
Much-celebrated chef Peter Gilmore has long sought unique ingredients to add depth to his intricate dishes. His landmark restaurant, Quay, is destination dining at its finest and Peter uses this platform to showcase native flavours. “Peter and his team make use of our incredible Australian seafood, producing dishes full of ocean flavour and umami richness at both his Quay and Bennelong restaurants,” says Alastair. “These dishes are enhanced with foraged seaweeds such as codium and sea lettuce and a selection of coastal succulents that bring moisture and salinity, and complement seafood incredibly well.”
For more information on planning your trip to New South Wales, head to VisitNSW.com