FARE

As our hunger for food-fo­cused ex­pe­ri­ences grows along with our aware­ness of the pol­i­tics of food, canny pur­vey­ors are cre­at­ing 360-de­gree des­ti­na­tions, draw­ing crowds from near and far, writes SHANNON HAR­LEY.

Sunday Herald Sun - Stellar - - On Sunday - Find your ideal mar­ket des­ti­na­tion at de­li­cious.com.au.

Back in 1900, French broth­ers An­dré and Édouard Miche­lin launched a guide for trav­ellers that in­cluded ho­tels and restau­rants dot­ted across France. They weren’t in­ter­ested in find­ing the coun­try’s best gruyère souf­flé; they hoped the guide would boost motoring and thus sales of their tyres. And just like that, fu­elled by travel and an en­tre­pre­neur­ial spark, the Miche­lin Guide was born.

In Aus­tralia, af­ter fam­ily, food is one of the ma­jor rea­sons we travel. Greater aware­ness of our re­spon­si­bil­ity as con­sumers – the sig­nif­i­cance of prove­nance and sus­tain­abil­ity, eth­i­cal ques­tions – and in­ter­est in con­nect­ing with a lo­ca­tion through what we eat and drink com­plete the pic­ture that has turned food into a des­ti­na­tion draw­card. It’s no sur­prise, then, that food-cen­tric des­ti­na­tions are on the rise, as well as restau­rants that aug­ment your food ex­pe­ri­ence by of­fer­ing more than dining.

One such ven­ture is The Grounds in Syd­ney. It was some­thing of a trailblazer when it first opened in Alexan­dria in 2012, com­pris­ing a café and lush court­yard, bak­ery, pâtis­serie, cof­fee roaster, florist, kitchen gar­den, chooks and even a res­i­dent pig un­til Kevin Ba­con re­tired just last week. It holds reg­u­lar mar­kets, oc­ca­sional yoga events, and work­shops cov­er­ing every­thing from cof­fee cup­ping and cake dec­o­rat­ing to in­door-plant styling.

The idea be­hind the des­ti­na­tion was to build spa­ces for guests to in­ter­act and re­con­nect, say the own­ers, cre­at­ing a multi-faceted venue so guests could take home ‘amaz­ing mem­o­ries’. The cen­tral café, mean­while, was de­signed with the idea of Sun­day fam­ily lunches in mind, but you’ll need to be pre­pared for some se­ri­ous queue­ing the whole week­end.

Then there’s the point that some­how food just tastes bet­ter in con­text. This is most cer­tainly the ex­pla­na­tion for why baguettes al­ways taste bet­ter in France. Shannon Ben­nett’s Burn­ham Beeches in Vic­to­ria’s Dan­de­nong Ranges of­fers this lo­ca­vore ex­pe­ri­ence in venues that go far be­yond some­where to lunch. Burn­ham Bak­ery and the ad­join­ing Pig­gery Café in the re­stored sta­bles and pig­gery are set on a sprawl­ing es­tate dom­i­nated by an Art Mod­erne man­sion and sur­rounded by green­houses, or­ganic veg­etable gar­dens, a flock of egg-lay­ing emus and a truf­fière. Ben­nett says plans to re­de­velop the prop­erty’s man­sion into a six-star ho­tel com­plete with a spa and fine-diner, a mi­cro­brew­ery and Ja­panese steak­house will com­plete the ex­pe­ri­ence: “In terms of pro­duce, our in­tent is to be en­tirely self-suf­fi­cient.”

It’s a sim­i­lar story in north­ern New South Wales at The Farm Byron Bay, the work of Emma and Tom Lane and Syd­ney’s Three Blue Ducks crew. Their pad­dock-to-plate op­er­a­tion has been so well re­ceived it draws a crowd on par with the lo­cal Bluesfest. The res­tau­rant, bak­ery and pro­duce store are set on a 33-hectare work­ing farm, com­plete with a macadamia or­chard, 700-odd Bond Brown chick­ens, pig pens and veg­etable gar­dens. Lunch can be chased with a farm­ing work­shop or a horse­back tour.

Fur­ther afield, Italy’s Eataly, a global net­work of mas­sive mar­ket­places that fea­ture re­tail food out­lets and restau­rants, re­cently launched per­haps the most am­bi­tious food des­ti­na­tion in the world. Fico opened late last year in Bologna with the lofty goal of be­ing the ‘world’s largest agri-food park’, ac­cord­ing to founder Os­car Farinetti. Eataly’s food halls have al­ready ex­ported the coun­try’s great­est hits far be­yond its shores, but Fico goes a step fur­ther, aim­ing to teach peo­ple where their food comes from. From how to make parme­san to un­der­stand­ing sea­son­al­ity, the 10-hectare park shows the jour­ney from farm to fork. The com­bi­na­tion of work­ing farms and fields, pro­cess­ing plants that cover every­thing from olive oil and craft beer to moz­zarella and hands-on ac­tiv­i­ties such as cook­ing classes and truf­fle hunts have the in­ten­tion of of­fer­ing a more re­al­is­tic pic­ture of la dolce vita than stand­ing in line at The Uf­fizi ever could.

With per­haps more modest de­signs, Mel­bourne’s Prahran Mar­ket is a lo­cal favourite for good rea­son. The vi­brant hub goes be­yond stalls of top pro­duce and spe­cialty foods to eat­ing ex­pe­ri­ences such as Maker & Monger, which dishes out cheese treats such as raclette and fon­due from an an­tique cart, to the more up­scale Wil­son & Mar­ket. It rounds out the ex­pe­ri­ences with work­shops on the likes of food styling, and dance classes and pet­ting zoos for the kids.

So when did eat­ing be­come such an ad­ven­ture? The rise of food mar­kets has seen them in­creas­ingly viewed as des­ti­na­tions and must-vis­its – think Tsuk­iji in Tokyo, La Bo­que­ria in Barcelona and Bu­dapest’s Great Mar­ket Hall (back home, David Jones also has am­bi­tious plans for its food halls). When we’re on hol­i­day, we don’t go to Tsuk­iji for gro­cery shop­ping; rather, mar­kets are where you’ll find the lo­cals. While the orig­i­nal flâneur sat in Paris’s cafés, to­day they’re more likely found at the fish mar­ket or over here, per­haps at the lo­cal emu farm.

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