Matt Pre­ston: His ver­sion of the culi­nary State of Ori­gin

For­get the Cane Toads ver­sus the Cock­roaches. This foodie re­gion bat­tle is the true head-to-head clash

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - CONTENTS - MATT PRE­STON

THE big­gest state ver­sus state stoush right now isn’t the State of Ori­gin, but a bat­tle be­tween two of Aus­tralia’s fastest grow­ing gourmet re­gions.It’s a skir­mish for top culi­nary brag­ging rights, and to make things in­ter­est­ing, Queens­land and NSW have united against Vic­to­ria.

So don’t de­lay – drive your way around two of the most ex­cit­ing culi­nary des­ti­na­tions in the world right now.

COAST TO BAY

Where: The strip of beau­ti­ful coast­line from the party play­ground of the Gold Coast to laid­back By­ron Bay in North­ern NSW is fast earn­ing a rep­u­ta­tion for food that is as good as the waves. Main at­trac­tions: My pick of places to eat here is Fleet, which ranks at No.21 in the de­li­cious. 100 list for NSW. Astrid McCor­mack and Josh Lewis’s restau­rant in Brunswick Heads is a labour of love.In the kitchen, Lewis cre­ates in­no­va­tive dishes (such as chicken wings with oc­to­pus and kohlrabi), while McCor­mack com­mands the floor with her won­der­ful wine knowl­edge and hospitable tone.

Pa­per Daisy (de­li­cious. 100 No.24) is also push­ing the en­ve­lope in terms of beau­ti­ful food, like coal-roasted fish with fin­ger lime and curry leaf. It’s an easy 20 minute drive from Gold Coast Airport.

Also wor­thy of a men­tion is Fins in South Kingscliff, the foodie des­ti­na­tion of Ban­ga­low, Dar­ren Robert­son and Mark LaBrooy’s Three Blue Ducks On The Farm just out­side By­ron, and the coastal restau­rant Beach By­ron Bay.

On the Queens­land side of the bor­der, there are Jake Preg­nell’s bright, panAsian plates at Rick Shores at Burleigh Heads, in­no­va­tive Ja­panese at Coolan­gatta’s O Sushi or lunch at Rain­bow Bay Surf Club. Pro­duce stars: This area has it all – av­o­ca­dos, pineap­ples, fin­ger limes, Nim­bin Val­ley pecans and brie plus that culi­nary rar­ity, tem­peh, and lo­cally made miso at By­ron Bay’s fa­mous farm­ers’ mar­ket. More laid back, and rather spe­cial is the farm­ers’ mar­ket at New Brighton, which has the ex­cel­lent No­madic Kitchen cooking break­fast. Wine: A great gourmet re­gion needs top restau­rants, pro­duce, ac­com­mo­da­tion and wine. Winer­ies are the only miss here.The Gran­ite Belt around Stan­thorpe is home to Queens­land’s wine in­dus­try but it’s a cou­ple of hours away. Stay: With the re­open­ing of Rae’s on Wat­e­gos in By­ron Bay after a ma­jor re­fur­bish­ment by Syd­ney-based in­te­rior de­signer Tam­sin John­son, and the buzz on the pho­to­genic Ha­ly­con House at Cabarita Beach, there are high-end lodg­ings plus Airbnb op­tions aplenty.

GEELONG & SURROUNDS

Where: Once known as G-troit given Geelong’s re­liance on the now-de­funct Ford fac­to­ries, this re­gion orig­i­nally grew rich off the sheep’s back. Now it’s food, wine and restau­rants that are help­ing make it an emerg­ing culi­nary lo­cale. Main at­trac­tions: The jewel in the crown is one of the world’s great restau­rants, Brae, ranked No.2 in the de­li­cious. 100 list and No.44 in the World’s 50 Best.It’s the per­fect place to start an eat­ing tour of the re­gion.

Stay in one of the beau­ti­ful suites on site and en­joy Dan Hunter’s bril­liant food with menus us­ing sea­sonal pro­duce.

Geelong it­self is no slouch with Igni pick­ing up the No. 4 rank­ing in the de­li­cious. 100 for Aaron Turner’s in­ven­tive cooking over coals. I still dream about the chicken skin wafers with tarama and the smoked mus­sels bar­be­cued in­side a zuc­chini flower. Given the buzz after the re­cent World’s Best awards in Mel­bourne, Igni is a con­tender to join Brae on the list next year, al­beit it in the 50-100 cat­e­gory.

The love for Brae and Igni does risk ob­scur­ing other ex­cel­lent places in the area.So don’t for­get such eater­ies as Geelong’s Gla­di­oli (No.24 in the de­li­cious. 100), its sis­ter restau­rant Tulip, plus the more ca­sual Fly­ing Brick Cider Com­pany on the road out to the coast, which has fare such as slow-roasted lamb shoul­der. Pro­duce stars: There are mus­sels from Por­tar­ling­ton, snap­per at Queen­scliff, toma­toes, olives and goat’s cheese from The Bel­lar­ine, chick­ens from Ban­nock­burn and the Pen­ny­royal Rasp­berry Farm whose jam is a thing of leg­ends.And that’s just the tip of a very big pro­duce ice­berg.

Geelong is sur­rounded by mar­ket gar­dens and farm gates sell­ing ev­ery­thing from pota­toes and pump­kins to hot­house-grown let­tuces and cap­sicums. Farmer’s Harvest Marcus Hill and Magic Meadow sea­sonal boxes sold around Geelong are great stops for lo­cal pro­duce. Also stop by Bel­lar­ine Com­mu­nity Farm­ers’ Mar­ket in Ocean Grove and White Fish­eries in Drys­dale. Wine: Bel­lar­ine pinot noirs (Mer­merus, Curlewis) and chardon­nays and pinots from just north of Geelong by the likes of Ban­nock­burn, Leth­bridge and Farr are noth­ing short of mag­nif­i­cent. Stay: If the rooms at Brae aren’t grand enough for you, check out Campbell Point House on The Bel­lar­ine which is a grand, French-style man­sion, or the lux­ury, self-con­tained apart­ments at Devlin Apart­ments in Geelong.

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