Australia is not only home to the world’s oldest living culture, but boasts incredible diversity and beauty, creating a host of ‘bucket-list’ experiences all over the country. These range from the vast spaces of wilderness in this huge country and immense natural biodiversity, to the best beaches to swim and relax, the finest surfing – not to forget mountains and enchanting forests and the breathtaking underwater world of the largest coral reef. And if that’s not enough for you, then welcome to some of the absolute best restaurants in today’s culinary scene.

Photo courtesy of Petty ellliot & Australia Tourism Board/NOW!JAKARTA

When it comes to cooking ingredients for tasty food, Australia has it all. More than 16,000 miles of coastline provides an amazing variety of seafood. On the coastal strip and inland, immense acreages of agricultural land have been developed for livestock, orchards, and grains. A mediterranean-style climate ensures fine wines and olives among an array of other fresh produce to flourish. 

As a young country built by the hard work of its settlers, it is not surprising to see the influence of many other cuisines from around the world contributing to a fascinating culinary scene from food markets to fine dining. It’s a trend that is still very evident today. Combining a strong interest in home cooking and the value of local fresh produce with a clutch of exciting, cutting-edge chefs working with native ingredients, Australia literally offers a perfect recipe for a culinary experience. This explains why there is such an interest in the many food festivals and events spread from coast to coast and has encouraged top chefs from around the world to come a long way to establish restaurants in Kangaroo country. 

Heston Blumenthal moved his entire team from the Fat Duck in Bray, England to Melbourne for six months in 2015. Heston’s ‘Dinner’ in Melbourne is only the second of his restaurants outside the UK. One year later Rene Redzepi, chef and owner of world famous ‘Noma’ in Copenhagen mothballed the Danish operation and moved his entire team to Sydney for 10 weeks. 

In April last year, Australia’s second largest city, Melbourne was chosen to host the World’s 50 Best Restaurant Awards. It is only the third city to be selected after London and New York and grabbed the attention of hundreds of visiting journalists and top chefs around the world, as well as a global audience watching the live-streaming of the ceremony. 

I believe it is fair to say that Australia has made the TV cooking contest Masterchef its own, particularly Junior Masterchef, so expect future generations of budding cooks and chefs from Down Under to be making their mark in giving us exciting new ideas for meal times. Television, while an excellent medium, is no substitute for first hand experience. There is no better way to sample the full range of food and drinks that Australia has to offer than to visit farmers markets and food festivals. Here are four recommendations to include in your travel plans for 2018. 

Taste of Sydney
8-11 March

A celebration of Sydney where cuisine and culture collide. The Taste Festival is an annual feast for all senses, a celebration of Sydney’s vibrant food culture, set in stunning surrounds at Centennial Parklands, lasting for four summer days in March. 

Photo courtesy of Petty ellliot & Australia Tourism Board/NOW!JAKARTA

In 2018, for the first time, Taste of Sydney will pair the city’s favourite chefs with creative counterparts – from fashion designers and sculptors to graffiti artists and illustrators and curate exciting culinary collaborations unique to the festival to celebrate the city’s 10th birthday.

The organisers promise a ‘sophisticated playground for art and entertainment enthusiasts, culinary connoisseurs, gig-goers and passionate producers, with good vibes and great taste’.

Melbourne Food & Wine Festival
16-25 March 2018

Photo courtesy of Petty ellliot & Australia Tourism Board/NOW!JAKARTA

Celebrating its 26th anniversary, the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival will welcome many top international and local leading chefs.  The festival features wine tastings, food trails and the World’s Longest Lunches, a series of events using long table settings in beautiful surroundings with dishes prepared using the best local produce. 

It also offers a good opportunity to learn more about food sustainability from ZeroFoodPrint, founders of the global sustainable restaurant movement . ZeroFoodPrint works with many of the world’s most celebrated restaurants, including Noma in Denmark and Benu in the USA, to help them drive down their  carbon footprint. Co-founders Chris Ying and Anthony Myint from the USA will share their experience and knowledge with local restaurants, giving us all an opportunity to participate in something truly special.

Tasting Australia in Adelaide
13-22 April 2018

Photo courtesy of Petty ellliot & Australia Tourism Board/NOW!JAKARTA

If you want to experience the many and diverse regions of South Australia in one place, from the cool-climate Adelaide Hills to the Mediterranean Barossa Valley, then head to Tasting Australia. The event doesn’t just celebrate the state as Australia’s wine capital. It also features premium producers of local cheeses, meats, fruits and vegetables, micro-breweries, bakeries and food trails. Guests can join workshops, try a number of one-off dining experiences with local and visiting chefs on offer across all across the state. Do make a time to drive south to the unusual and magnificent Kangaroo Island, home of the best beach in Australia, some superb local crustaceans and the best honey ice cream I have ever tasted.

Margaret River Gourmet Escape
15-18 November 2018

This is perhaps one of Australia’s most spectacular wine regions, thanks to its location next to the coast. Margaret River is as popular with surfers as it is with connoisseurs of wine and good food.

Just a four-hour drive to the south of Perth, it makes for a relaxing escape after visiting Western Australia’s capital. Vineyards open their doors to host everything from food talks to special lunches in cellars. There are beach barbecues, discovery lunches in a forest and a Gourmet Village featuring international celebrity chefs sharing their expertise, tastings and also live music.

There is plenty of time to make plans for your travel this year to Australia.  In the meantime, I’d like to wish you all a very happy, healthy, adventurous and prosperous 2018.

Petty Elliott

Petty Elliott

Petty Pandean Elliott’s fascination for food and cookery goes back over 13 years when she began holding modern Indonesian cooking classes for her friends in the UK. Petty participated in the BBC Masterchef competition in 2001. In Jakarta, she has been an active food writer for the past 10 years and thus far has published 2 cookery books. She regularly collaborates with leading hotels and restaurants to promote modern Indonesian food paired with wine and local cooking ingredients.