Updated: Dec 30, 2022
Much like the States, Australia is a bit of a melting pot of food and culture. We found that the cuisines along the coast were generally more elevated and creative than inland areas. It makes sense - over 85% of the population lives within 30 miles of the coast. Australia has roughly 26 million people. By comparison, California alone has 39 million! If you spread everyone out across Australia, each person would get his/her own 74 acres (even though most of that is arid outback). The best restaurants rose to the top. Through greater competition emerged stand-out chefs. We were happy to partake in sampling what Australian cuisine had to offer.
Here are the restaurants that will stay in our happy memories (this list will be updated as we go):
Ozmosis, Cairns, Queensland
Bulahdelah Bakery, Budahleah, NSW
5 Little Pigs, Huskisson, NSW
Boneless Vegetarian Cafe, Bermagui, NSW
Island Whole Foods, Cowes, Victoria
Cafe Transylvania, Hallam, Victoria
Hoppa and Joe, Fairfield, Victoria
New Mexico, Sydenham, Victoria
Particle Cafe, Avondale Heights, Victoria
Don’t get us wrong, it was a rollercoaster! With the hidden gems come the duds. For every great find, you experience a few ”I won’t ever be back”s. Food either blew us out of the water, or it felt like the proverbial equivalent of falling face-first. There was very little gray area. We want to give a shout out to some of the dishes that blew our minds.
Our first meal still stands as the best. We had breakfast at a place called Ozmosis, in Cairns, Queensland. The restaurant we wanted to try was closed, so we walked a couple blocks down the street and happened upon Ozmosis by accident. This dish was fried polenta, romesco, seared mushrooms spiced with ‘Nduja, baked cherry tomatoes, wilted spinach, pesto and tomato sauces, topped with a Parmesan-crusted burrata, micro-greens, and edible flowers. It was to DIE for.
At the same place, we also ordered the açaí bowl, which was also amazing and reminded me of breakfast in Kauai.
Top it off with fresh-squeezed juice. Australia is known for its amazing juice combinations. We appreciated the quirky honeybee paper straw. We have yet to see a plastic straw in Australia. People in this country take pride in protecting their environment. Such little simple ideas go a long way.
Some of the memorable breakfasts: chia pudding, crumpets, avocado toasts galore, fluffy eggs, ”toasties” or breakfast sandwiches, eggs over gnocchi and beef bourguignon (yes, for breakfast!), “sticky chai” or leaf-steeped chai, and veggie pancakes.
It’s also the first country we’ve been to where you routinely get ice cream with your pancakes! If we asked for that in the States it would put us in the adventurous-but-crazy category. I’m sure the dentists here are making a killing.
Another honorable mention goes to “5 Little Pigs“ in Huskisson, New South Wales. Easily the best scrambled eggs and hashbrowns we’ve ever had, and we’ve eaten a lot of both. The potatoes were baked with salt and vinegar and then fried. You won’t find white processed bread here. You get hearty, thick slices of bakery bread every time you order toast.
Then there are the Australian staples, or the comfort foods we find EVERYwhere. Starting with meat pies. The Aussie plain “pie” is an extension of the British recipe with slow-cooked steak or beef cubes mixed with gravy. The meat-gravy is poured into a pastry shell, also referred to in the States as a “pot pie.” Variations include adding cheese, bacon, mushrooms, or topping it with mashed potato, like a Shepherd‘s pie. The combinations are endless.
What we call an appetizer in the States is an entree here. It makes a lot more sense, because you’re “entering the main meal.” One of the favorite entrees features halloumi, a traditional Cypriot cheese from a mixture of goat’s and sheep’s milk. It has such a high melting point that it is easily fried or grilled. If you like salty, tangy cheese, this is the starter for you.
Left to right: staple meat pie fresh out of the oven, halloumi cheese paired with figs and balsamic glaze, and Bundaberg ginger ale
Bundaberg drinks are as common in Australia as Coke or Pepsi in the U.S. Family-owned and operated since 1960, the ale was made from ginger on a small farm. Once the kids in the family grew up to take over the company, it launched worldwide and became an instant success. It’s ginger ale on another level.
Our AirBnB hosts in Newell Beach, Queensland, gave us an assortment of fresh fruit one night, all locally-sourced. Left to right: lychee, papaya, mango, passion fruit, dragonfruit, pineapple, and homemade dried mango.
We are warming up to vegetarian and vegan food, after a lifetime of carnivorous behavior. Here were a few delightful surprises and some of the more creative dishes.
Health food is not as readily abundant in Australia as it is in California. We are still figuring out the culture here. You have to really search for fresh fruits and vegetables when you’re not near a city or populated area. That being said, when you do find it, the food is incredibly tasty.