Dining Out in Australia – Trends You Need to Know

In addition to several fine dining restaurants that specialize in the unique Contemporary Australian Cuisine, choice aplenty can be found in the several casual restaurants and cafes as well as markets and street eateries in the Asian food courts that can be found around the country.

Culinary Heritage

Contemporary Australian cuisine is rich in diversity thanks to increasingly diverse (read ‘ethnic’) ingredients that have been subtly incorporated into various dishes. The new generation of chefs, both Australian and expat, are highlighting their influences and celebrating their culinary heritage.

Again it’s the ubiquitous Asian heritage — Thai and Vietnamese in particular — that influences Australia’s culinary culture the most. Chefs have taken to texture in a huge way incorporating crunch, crispiness, snap and graininess in their dishes like never before. The chefs are redefining and refining the contrasting surfaces and consistencies with the balancing of textures now down to a fine art.

Shared plates

The thing to be aware of when it comes to dining out at casual restaurants down under. These are usually mentioned in the menu with clear instructions that require you to “order plates to share” or the option of “small plates and large plates.” It goes without saying that the large plates are huge and the small plates often piled high with large portions!

Not ideal for couples (you can’t try enough) nor groups where members are either picky or allergic. In the first instance, it can be a turnoff when you order too much of something you don’t end up liking and the latter can end up in mutiny while figuring out how to split the bill…

Serving Sizes

Along with huge shared plates, the serving sizes of single plates at casual restaurants in too are so massive that are often mistaken for shared plates.

Common wisdom dictates that large sizes are to justify the inflated pricing with mid-range restaurants matching finer dining restaurants.

The Australian ‘dego.’

The ‘dego’ or degustation menu, an Aussie term for a multi-course tasting menu is par for the course when it comes to dining out in Australia. The ultimate expression of a chef-driven restaurant, the ’dego’ has the chef offer a series of ‘bites’ on plates, to be sampled with your hands, before moving on to the more substantial main course.

The top end chefs of Australia are experts at portioning dishes and are a lot more confident about not overfeeding guests. Thankfully they don’t subscribe to the idea of stuffed = happy.

Matching Drinks

Often when dining out in Australia, the ‘dego’ has matching ‘drinks’ on offer too. These include the obvious pairing of an ‘Aussie BBQ’ with a big, full-bodied beer as a pairing. It is recommended to replace this default option with an Aussie red (a MacLaren Vale cabernet sauvignon or Barossa shiraz) especially for the ‘ladies.’

Impudence and the mismatched choice of wine are on full display at many fine restaurants. It appears that instead of serving well-matched wines, some sommeliers seem to be in competition with the chefs in the kitchen.