Eat Pray Love: In Australia, What’s the Difference?

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Vue De Monde, Melbourne
Vue De Monde, Melbourne

After eating my way across Melbourne and Cairns during Dreamtime Australia 2013, I’ve come to the conclusion that food is the official religion of Australia. Forgive me if I conjure Mary Shelley here, but I have to say, “It’s alive!” Australian cuisines are almost cerebral—they infiltrate your mind and pillage your senses.

My initial meeting with Australia’s prized foodie culture began on a flight with Virgin Australia from LAX to Sydney, where I kept almost robotically reordering Luke Mangan’s lemon ricotta pancakes with mascarpone, pineapple, maple syrup and mint.

At Vue de Monde in Melbourne’s Rialto building, Shannon Bennett’s tea tree smoked salmon pearls and emu jerky, served mostly on stone and wood slabs, was almost too beautiful to eat, but somebody had to do it. I spoke with Ben Huggins, Vue de Monde’s events head chef about the ‘elemental’ presentation and he said it coincided with the restaurant’s locally sourced, seasonal ingredients such as pepper berries from Tasmania.

Central Pier, Docklands
Central Pier, Docklands

A smorgasbord of Italian fare sprawled for the picking during a lunch at Central Pier, Docklands, and a dinner at Flames of the Forest, an amazingly modern rainforest venue with room for 850 guests, offered a bold introduction to kangaroo loin infused with lemon myrtle and topped with homemade fig chutney.

Of course, Australian meetings and events are useless without giving your groups a healthy addiction to Pavlova, a satisfying dessert that is sure to get the Aussies and Kiwis feuding. Flames of the Forest’s Pavlova, with vanilla bean chantilly cream & passion fruit coulis, silenced our table. For a modern beachside venue, checkout family operated Captain Baxter in St. Kilda. The restaurant offers a huge kitchen and cocktail bar—an a la carte menu with a local and international slant supports local family producers and suppliers, but what attracts most is the resort-style ambiance and clean views of Port Phillip Bay.

Of course, this is just the tip of the iceberg of Australia’s fare. Whether shucking oysters directly from the bay or an elegant dinner set against Uluru, a sandstone rock formation in Northern Territory, your groups will undoubtedly be ‘born again.’

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