When Aus­tralians aren’t cook­ing, they’re dis­cov­er­ing new ways to eat out. For a na­tion ob­sessed with food, the vast of­fer­ing is only get­ting bet­ter. Wel­come to the age of fun din­ing. LINDY ALEXAN­DER re­ports

Sunday Herald Sun - Stellar - - Contents -

Serv­ing up top lo­cal pro­duce and tal­ent, it’s no won­der Aus­tralia’s en­joy­ing a din­ing boom.

We’ve all heard of the min­ing boom, but there’s a new ex­plod­ing in­dus­try in Aus­tralia, and this time what’s pulled from the ground ends up on our din­ner plates. We’re ex­pe­ri­enc­ing a ‘din­ing boom’: as a na­tion, we now spend $45 bil­lion each year on eat­ing out and the av­er­age Aussie does so two to three times a week.

Head­ing out to eat has be­come a hobby in Aus­tralia, and while all gen­er­a­tions take part, adults un­der 34 are par­tic­u­larly en­am­oured, spend­ing more than $100 a week din­ing at restau­rants or or­der­ing in. “Ac­cord­ing to re­search we com­pleted at News­corp [pub­lish­ers of de­li­cious.], mil­len­ni­als would rather at­tend a food fes­ti­val than a mu­sic fes­ti­val,” says Ker­rie Mc­cal­lum, edi­tor-in-chief of the de­li­cious. brand.

Din­ing out has be­come an egal­i­tar­ian ex­pe­ri­ence. “All Aus­tralians should be able to cel­e­brate our thriv­ing din­ing scene and in­cred­i­ble pro­duce,” Mc­cal­lum says. “Fine din­ing is not the only way to en­joy won­der­ful food, and even though that will al­ways be im­por­tant, Aus­tralians have a var­ied ar­ray of needs when they eat out. It may be they want to eat well with their chil­dren, or find a place they can take the en­tire fam­ily for a grand­mother’s 80th.”

Mc­cal­lum sug­gests the re­cent din­ing boom is due to sev­eral fac­tors. “Firstly, our pro­duce is sec­ond to none – the vast range of what is avail­able in Aus­tralia is in­cred­i­ble, from the earth to the dairy to the pad­dock to the sea. Chefs have this amaz­ing bounty to work with, and that’s pro­duc­ing high­qual­ity meals, from ca­sual ex­pe­ri­ences to fine din­ing.”

Aus­tralia’s pro­duce is in high de­mand in­ter­na­tion­ally, as well. The ris­ing mid­dle classes in Asia have boosted for­tunes of re­gional Aus­tralia. While iron ore and coal ex­port prices took a hit in 2017, the healthy gains in dairy, ce­real and fish have seen the 2013 pre­dic­tion of bil­lion­aire pack­ing and re­cy­cling en­tre­pre­neur An­thony Pratt – that a din­ing boom would fol­low the min­ing boom – be­come a re­al­ity.

Mc­cal­lum be­lieves that, be­cause Aus­tralia is un­bound by a tra­di­tional cui­sine, we’re not con­stricted in the kitchen. “It means chefs here have the free­dom to be cre­ative and write their own rules,” she says.

Matt Mo­ran, the chef and owner of Aria, Chiswick, North Bondi Fish and other restau­rants with the Solo­tel Group, says peo­ple are be­com­ing more en­gaged with food, and he at­tributes the bur­geon­ing eat-out scene to con­ve­nience, great weather that en­tices peo­ple out­side, and the qual­ity pro­duce avail­able. “Good food is so ac­ces­si­ble nowa­days. We have such cul­tur­ally di­verse din­ing on of­fer, so it never gets dull, and it’s avail­able at a wide range of price-points,” he says.

It’s not only peo­ple’s cui­sine pref­er­ences that are met when they eat out, but also their de­sire for shared ex­pe­ri­ences. “Peo­ple want so­cial so­phis­ti­ca­tion,” says John Fink, cre­ative di­rec­tor of The Fink Group, which owns Quay, Otto, Ben­ne­long (pic­tured) and Fire­door.

“Peo­ple might want fine din­ing, or some­thing ca­sual, or even a restau­rant with the theatre of Syd­ney’s Fire­door, but at the end of the day, I think ev­ery­one wants to go out and en­joy them­selves. And now you can do that wher­ever you are in Aus­tralia.”

For Justin Hemmes, chief ex­ec­u­tive of Merivale, a com­pany that owns more than 65 restau­rants, bars and pubs, the role of so­cial me­dia has played a part in where peo­ple choose to eat.

“Eat­ing out is the great­est form of en­ter­tain­ment at the mo­ment, and so­cial me­dia and the in­ter­net have played a huge role in that,” he says. “See­ing amaz­ing dishes on In­sta­gram un­doubt­edly whets the ap­petite.”

We are also be­com­ing more dis­cern­ing about what we ex­pect from eat­ing out. “Cus­tomers are very knowl­edge­able,” says Hemmes.

“Eat­ing out in Aus­tralia is such a great so­cial ex­pe­ri­ence,” he says. “There are in­ter­est­ing peo­ple, there’s great de­sign, and ex­cep­tional food and drinks. Fif­teen years ago, eat­ing out was re­served to Thurs­day, Fri­day or Satur­day nights only. Now peo­ple are eat­ing out seven days a week and at such a va­ri­ety of fan­tas­tic restau­rants.”

With more than 40,000 restau­rants and cafes across the coun­try, we are spoilt for choice. So how do we nav­i­gate our way through the myr­iad op­tions?

This ques­tion is part of the rea­son be­hind this week’s launch of our de­li­cious. Eat Out plat­form on­line. “We have built the most com­pre­hen­sive guide to eat­ing out in Aus­tralia be­cause we know there is a de­mand for it,” says Mc­cal­lum. “We want to make it as easy as pos­si­ble to find a good feed from a source peo­ple trust. And we have the net­work and the cred­i­bil­ity of great lo­cal crit­ics to be able to do this.

“Head on­line and search for what­ever you are crav­ing, wher­ever you are, at any time. Best of all, you can get in­volved – leave a re­view, read how chefs re­spond to the crit­ics, and en­joy!” Look­ing to eat out? Use the site the ex­perts use and visit de­li­ for Aus­tralia’s best guide to eat­ing out. With thou­sands of re­views and list­ings, you can search, lo­cate and dis­cover the right place, what­ever you are crav­ing.

SERVES YOU RIGHT We’re more dis­cern­ing about what we ex­pect when we eat out, and this in turn raises the bar. Pic­tured: Ben­ne­long

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