COLUMN || The Best of Australia's Destination Dining

While Australian cities have a wealth of great places to dine, nothing quite beats taking to the open road on a food adventure. 

Royal Mail Hotel, Dunkeld. IMAGE: supplied.

Royal Mail Hotel, Dunkeld. IMAGE: supplied.

Remember the days when eating in the country rarely stretched beyond sausage rolls and pub grub? Oh, how times have changed. Today, regional restaurants confidently go head to head with their urban counterparts for industry awards and international recognition, which means no matter which direction from the city you head, there’s a good chance you’ll hit culinary gold.

Dining room at Brae, Birregurra. IMAGE: Colin Page. 

Dining room at Brae, Birregurra. IMAGE: Colin Page

For my Australian Traveller column this month I made a list of some of the country's best off-the-beaten-track dining destinations so that you don't have to. Coolamon, Federal, Poowong - they're all in there! You're welcome!

READ THE FULL STORY ON AUSTRALIAN TRAVELLER HERE.

FEATURE || Strangers, Secrets and Seriously Good Food

Would you risk a night out dining with strangers? I did, and here’s what I found.

I thought I knew the back streets of Fitzroy well. I’ve walked these Melbourne streets countless times, but on this particular night I’m taking detours and seeing things I’ve never seen before – all because of a text message from a stranger.

It pinged on my phone early in the day from an unknown number. “Hi Leanne. We’re looking forward to seeing you tonight,” it read. This was followed by a set of precise instructions detailing where I needed to be at 6pm and how not to get lost, signed off with a cheeky ‘x’. It’s was all feeling very blind date-isa and I had to admit, I kinda liked it.

Keen to know what happened next?

 

 

READ THE FULL STORY ON AUSTRALIAN TRAVELLER HERE.

http://www.privatediningroom.com.au

COLUMN || The Art of Aperitivo Hour

Long before they became fashionable in Australia, aperitivo drinks established themselves as a beverage genre especially close to my heart. So I wrote a story about them for my Eating Out column.

Negroni at Fatto, Melbourne. IMAGE: supplied.

Negroni at Fatto, Melbourne. IMAGE: supplied.

I still remember the first time I ever tried a spritz. It was late summer in Verona, northern Italy, circa 1999 when my admirably well-versed Aussie-Italian cousin, Fiona introduced me to the joys of drinking bitter, fizzy things while eating salty snacks and observing the passing parade of well-grooed locals in Verona's Piazza Bra.

Almost 20 years later, I'm still loving a spritz (always Campari, never Aperol), annnnnnd a Negroni, an Americano, a Cocchi on ice, a vermouth and soda. There's just something so laidback, lighthearted and social about aperitivo drinks. It's never about getting smashed and it's always something – a bit like coffee – you do with a friend as a way to catch up.

Aperol Spritz at Fatto, Melbourne. IMAGE: supplied.

Aperol Spritz at Fatto, Melbourne. IMAGE: supplied.

NEWS || 6 Hotel Bars Worth Staying in For

While hotels are forever falling over themselves to impress with infinity pools, pillow menus, refurbs and celeb chef collabs, sometimes all you really want is a good bar where nobody knows your name.

Flaggerdoot bar at Jackalope, Mornington Peninsula. IMAGE: supplied.

Flaggerdoot bar at Jackalope, Mornington Peninsula. IMAGE: supplied.

I'm excited! Why? Because my lovely editor at Australian Traveller magazine has given me MY VERY OWN COLUMN! (I've always wanted to add "columnist" to my bio, so this is awesome).

Every month I'll be writing about the intersection of my two favourite things: food and travel. This means finding interesting stories, new angles and fun things to write about in the worlds of food and travel, not just in Melbourne but all around Australia (I'd love your ideas, so email me!).

The Clare Bar, The Old Clare, Chippendale. IMAGE: supplied

The Clare Bar, The Old Clare, Chippendale. IMAGE: supplied

To kick things off, I've just written my first piece, a handy listicle on the best in-house hotel bars around Australia. And let me tell you, you can forget about cheesy piano muzak and sleazy businessmen, hotels bars ain't what they used to be. 

READ THE STORY HERE! 

INTERVIEW || Sharing my Travel Tips with Herb Lester

On day one of my first New York trip, I traipsed Manhattan on foot, then stopped for lunch at Russ & Daughters Cafe on the Lower East Side. Two years later, I’m still thinking about it – along with a few other places I shared here with my mates at Herb Lester.

Russ & Daughters Cafe, New York City. IMAGE: supplied.

Russ & Daughters Cafe, New York City. IMAGE: supplied.

Remember when I wrote my travel guide/love letter to Melbs, An Appetite for Melbourne for UK publisher Herb Lester Associates? That was the beginning of a lovely friendship and I've continued to admire their wonderful work, which is always, always witty, pretty and worth collecting.

So it's only natural that I should say "yes" when ole Herb asked me for a run-down of my fave local  and international haunts for the Herb Lester Journal recently.

Joshua Tree National Park, CA. IMAGE: www.visitcalifornia.com

Joshua Tree National Park, CA. IMAGE: www.visitcalifornia.com

From Northcote to the Lower East Side and Los Angeles, Tokyo to Varanasi it's a list of some of my local haunts and most memorable travel spots.

 

READ THE FULL STORY AT HERB LESTER HERE.

http://www.herblester.com

RESTAURANT REVIEW || Camus, Northcote

Melbourne newcomer, Camus combines Moorish spice and classic French technique with a big dose of heart.

Front bar at Camus. IMAGE: supplied

Front bar at Camus. IMAGE: supplied

Twentieth Century philosopher, Albert Camus, once penned an existential essay, The Myth of Sisyphus, about a man’s futile exercise of pushing a boulder up a mountain over and over just to see it roll back down (over and over).

In High Street, Northcote, there’s a big hill (Rucker’s Hill), but no such wearying challenges for the strip’s prospering flock of cafe owners and restaurateurs. The place is positively buzzing – on both sides of the slope, and the Algerian-French accented Camus is one of the strip's brightest new stars. 

I recently donned my hat and wig to check it out for Australian Traveller magazine. In true North African style, the food was aromatic, generous and super tasty. If you love Moorish flavours you should totally get over and give it a try.

Camus' Turkish delight shuffle with pistachio baklava and halva ice-cream. IMAGE: supplied.

Camus' Turkish delight shuffle with pistachio baklava and halva ice-cream. IMAGE: supplied.

WANT THE FULL STORY? CLICK HERE >>>

 

CAMUS

61 High Street

Northcote. Vic.

 

HOURS: Dinner Wed-Sun, 6pm–late; Lunch Fri-Sun, midday-3pm.

w: camusrestaurant.com.au

FEATURE || Stephanie Alexander – On a Mission

Armed with a passion for giving kids a proper taste of real food, Stephanie Alexander has revolutionised food education in Australia. 

IMAGE: Earl Carter

IMAGE: Earl Carter

I recently interviewed Australia's doyenne of home cooking, Stephanie Alexander for East&Co. – a super well-designed lifestyle mag that I edit and produce a lot of content for in my day job.

During our chat, Stephanie shared stories about her childhood on the family farm in Rosebud and gave me a sense of how her legendary passion for all things home-grown developed. She also recanted tales of being a chef and restauranteur in 1970s Melbourne, providing some insight into how she got that trademark feisty spirit of hers.

IMAGE: Earl Carter

IMAGE: Earl Carter

As the founder of the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Foundation, Stephanie has changed the way that kids (and their families) look at food. Her ethos of "pleasurable food education" has influenced the minds and palates of thousands of young Aussie school kids. We talked about that too.

Keen to read the story?

CLICK HERE >>>

stephaniealexander.com.au

 

 

 

 

HOTEL REVIEW: QT Melbourne

A new boutique hotel in an old Melbourne cinema is full of surprises (and one of the best beds I've ever slept in).

IMAGE: QT Melbourne (supplied)

IMAGE: QT Melbourne (supplied)

Known for their quirkiness, QT Hotels seem befitting of a city like Sydney (where you’ll find the flagship), but I wasn’t convinced that their cheeky, OTT brashness would translate here in Melbourne.

So when the new QT Melbourne hotel opened in September, I went and checked out for Australian Traveller magazine to find out once and for all.

When it comes to first impressions, QT Melbourne has a particularly strong game. For a start, you can’t miss those shiny copper-capped entrance doors, even from half a block away. 

On arrival, we were greeted outside by two perfectly coiffed young women. Their flawless make-up and megawatt smiles set the scene for what is to be a suitably theatrical hotel experience."

Rooftop bar, QT Melbourne. IMAGE: supplied

Rooftop bar, QT Melbourne. IMAGE: supplied

 

The upshot? QT Melbourne is a heap of fun and has brought some much-needed personality to the city’s boutique hotel scene. The dining is great and the rooftop bar is just what Melbourne needed.

Although I'm not sure I could endure the exuberant, always-on energy of the place for more than three days, it makes a great weekend stay for visitors or staycation spot if you're a local.

KEEN TO KNOW HOW IT WAS? READ THE FULL REVIEW HERE..

 

 

QT MELBOURNE

133 Russell St, Melbourne VIC

www.qthotelsandresorts.com/melbourne

 

Tamsin's Table: exploring Gippsland's Secret Garden

A day spent at Tamsin’s Table in south-west Gippsland, is like dropping in on the nurturing, food-loving country aunt you always wished you had.

The Poowong hills surrounding Tamsin Carvan's Gippsland property. IMAGE: Brenner Lowe.

The Poowong hills surrounding Tamsin Carvan's Gippsland property. IMAGE: Brenner Lowe.

Back in September, I had the great pleasure of realising a dream and spending a day at Tamsin's Table, a self-sufficient farm, creative retreat and foodie's paradise located in the lush green hills of west Gippsland.

Every weekend, owner Tamsin Carvan opens the doors of her beautiful hilltop farmhouse to a handful of visitors who come for a range of hands-on workshops and seasonal lunches.

Depending on the time of year you might spend the day baking bread, learning the art of floral arrangement, bottling the summer harvest, or just enjoying a languid lunch at Tamsin’s shared table (cooked by Tamsin with produce straight from her garden).

Tamsin Carvan preparing hand-made pasta in her kitchen. IMAGE: Brenner Lowe.

Tamsin Carvan preparing hand-made pasta in her kitchen. IMAGE: Brenner Lowe.

Or, like me, you might come for a watercolour painting class followed by a gorgeous shared lunch.

“People come here seeking something real,” explains Tamsin. “They value experiences over ‘stuff’. And they tend to love eating, too!”

I wrote about my day at Tamsin's in a feature for Australian Traveller magazine.

READ THE FULL ARTICLE HERE...

 

 

TAMSIN’S TABLE
2255 Main South Road
Poowong East 3988 VIC

http://tamsinstable.com.au

 

Summer's Hottest Iced Coffee

Back in the day, the choice was simple: the archetypal Aussie iced coffee usually meant International Roast, ice blocks, a big slosh of full-cream milk and a scoop of Peter’s ice-cream (or, god forbid, swirly fake aerosol cream). If you’re old enough to go back that far, you’ll know that it was likely served in a tall, heavy parfait glass (with an equally tall teaspoon) too.

Affogato at Il Melograno, Northcote. IMAGE: supplied.

Affogato at Il Melograno, Northcote. IMAGE: supplied.

Today’s iced coffee is a very different beast. It’s classy, mature and well-travelled; sometimes cheeky, sometimes out-there, but in most cases just straight-up delicious and the perfect foil for sweltering summer days.

Bubble cup iced coffee at Industry Beans, Fitzroy. IMAGE: Industry Beans.

Bubble cup iced coffee at Industry Beans, Fitzroy. IMAGE: Industry Beans.

In the lead-up to summer, I checked out some of the country's most inventive chilled caffeine options for SBS Food.

READ FULL ARTICLE HERE...

What it's Really Like to be... an Oyster Farmer

Ever eaten an oyster and wondered about its origins? Me too. On a recent trip to Tasmania, I popped in on old mate Joe Bennett from Bruny Island's Get Shucked Oysters. We talked about how he got started, the job's pros and cons and his preferred way to eat oysters.

Bruny Island oyster farmer, Joe Bennett. IMAGE: Peter Tarasiuk

Bruny Island oyster farmer, Joe Bennett. IMAGE: Peter Tarasiuk

"People are often amazed at my job and always ask how I got into it; then I ask them what they do and I’ll get a response like ‘accountant’, ‘banker’, or ‘IT specialist’ and I’ll be like, “Wow. How do you do that?”

"I just can’t comprehend a job like that. I have to be outdoors and preferably near the water."

Tools of the trade, Get Shucked Oysters, Bruny Island. IMAGE: Peter Tarasiuk

Tools of the trade, Get Shucked Oysters, Bruny Island. IMAGE: Peter Tarasiuk

The story appeared in the Nov/Dec issue of Australian Traveller magazine.

READ THE FULL STORY HERE...

 

Bruny Island Oysters
1735 Bruny Island Main Road,
Great Bay, North Bruny, Tasmania

http://www.getshucked.com.au

INTERVIEW || Anthony Bourdain

Gotta say it was a massive career buzz to score an interview with one of my favourite TV chefs, Anthony Bourdain recently. We've met a few times in the past (heck, I've even lunched with the guy) but getting one-on-one time with him for an interview was something else altogether.

Now, almost 16 years after Kitchen Confidential whipped the cloche off the restaurant industry’s seedy underbelly, the chef and author proves he’s actually a big softie under his tough-guy exterior.

IMAGE: BOBBY FISHER

These days, Bad Boy Tony has made way for Big Daddy Tony, and in the rare times he's not flying to another obscure destination or getting wasted on backyard hooch with locals, he's all about being at home with his 9-year-old daughter, Ariane.

Spanning recipes from his childhood in New Jersey, current home life in New York’s Upper East Side, and from his extensive world travels, his new book Appetites: A Cookbook is about as far from the glossy, crowd-pleasing cookbook template as you’re likely to find this Christmas.

“Everyone lies in cookbooks. I wanted it to be real,” Bourdain told me. 

COVER ART: RALPH STEADMAN. IMAGE: SUPPLIED

COVER ART: RALPH STEADMAN. IMAGE: SUPPLIED

In Appetites, there’s no symmetrically styled dinner tables, no air-brushed turkeys, no smiling family portraits. Instead, you’ll see empty, sauce-smeared dinner plates; half-eaten lasagnes; butted-out ciggies; crazy-eyed dogs; dead boars’ heads. Not to mention the opinionated, expletive-studded Bourdain narrative that has become his much-loved/maligned signature.

IMAGE: BOBBY FISHER

REVIEW || The Schaller Studio, Bendigo

When the Bendigo Art Gallery started luring arty out-of-towners for its blockbuster international touring exhibitions a few years ago, the town was crying out for a suitably chic hotel to house them in.

IMAGE: supplied

IMAGE: supplied

Thankfully, Art Series Hotels took on the challenge, and the result: The Schaller Studio has put the handsome central Victorian town back on the map.

IMAGE: supplied

IMAGE: supplied

I recently took a journey up the Calder to review the hotel for Australian Traveller magazine.

CLICK HERE FOR THE FULL STORY >>>

 

The Schaller Studio

Corner Lucan and Bayne Streets, Bendigo, VIC.

http://www.artserieshotels.com.au/schaller/

 

 

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FEATURE || Finding Gold in Ballarat

When Ballarat hosted Australia’s favourite art prize last year, its streets came alive. Over six weeks, the former gold-rush city welcomed art fanciers of every kind, from the diehard to the mildly curious. 

IMAGE: supplied

IMAGE: supplied

And the good news? It’s getting set to do it all over again this spring.

IMAGE: Peter Tarasiuk

IMAGE: Peter Tarasiuk

Together with photographer Peter Tarasiuk, I spent a weekend in Ballarat for Australian Traveller magazine to check out the city's best food, wine, art and shopping. 

CLICK HERE FOR THE FULL STORY >>>

 

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FOOD NEWS || Dan Hunter joins the Gelinaz Chef Shuffle

Chef Dan Hunter (Brae) is in the mix of a pretty stellar lineup for this year's Grand Gelinaz ShuffleBest described as an international mystery chef swap, Gelinaz is a project like few others in the food world.

Dan Hunter. IMAGE: Tim Grey for Broadsheet

Dan Hunter. IMAGE: Tim Grey for Broadsheet

And it has a very clear agenda: to politely shunt some of the world’s leading chefs out of their comfort zones, explore the bounds of cross-cultural culinary collaboration and thrill lucky diners along the way.

Noma's Rene Redzepi will also join this year's Gelinaz Chef Shuffle. IMAGE: Jason Loucas.

Noma's Rene Redzepi will also join this year's Gelinaz Chef Shuffle. IMAGE: Jason Loucas.

This year 40 chefs from 17 countries will pack up their knives and leave their native kitchens to step into the shoes (and family homes) of a fellow participating chef. Dan Hunter is one of them.

 

CLICK HERE TO READ THE FULL ARTICLE ON BROADSHEET...

 

gelinaz.com

braerestaurant.com

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EVENT || Melbourne Salami Festa

When the Melbourne Salami Festa first kicked off in a dingy little old-man club in Thornbury back in 2012, no-one had a clue about the huge meaty beast that was about to be unleashed. I wrote about it for Broadsheet, thinking it might attract a couple of hundred locals. When I rocked up on game day I was forced to join a queue of hundreds snaking down High Street and reality kicked in. Melbourne people are really into salami.

Four years, thousands of punters, and many kilos of pork later, the festa is bigger and better than the organisers could ever have dreamed. It's now a two-day affair and this year attracted over 100 entrants. But more importantly (for me at least), this year I was invited to join the official panel of salami judges. Talk about #careergoals. Oh yes!!

If you love a sausage and you're kicking 'round this weekend then head down to the Northcote Town Hall. There's always plenty to eat and drink (hot porchetta rolls and Aperol spritz from Ladro always gets my vote), plus there's live music, demonstrations and of course, A LOT of salami to taste. I'll be there, slowly lapsing into a meat coma as the day wears on (I have more than 100 salamis to judge, people. SERIOUSLY!). Come say hey.

PS: me and Festa co-founder an organiser, Linda Catalano went on 774 ABC Melbourne to talk about cured meats (and drop a few salami puns) with host, Waleed Aly.

YOU CAN LISTEN ONLINE HERE.  

 

MELBOURNE SALAMI FESTA

Northcote Town Hall

8-9 October, 2016

http://melbournesalamifesta.com

 

 

TRAVEL FEATURE || Geelong and the Bellarine

I recently hit the road with my photographer pal/colleague/fave road-tripper Peter Tarasiuk and headed to Geelong. In a short space of time we managed to eat a lot of food, drink a lot of wine, pen a catchy new theme song for the bayside town, and jam in a heap of stuff  - both in G-Town and the nearby Bellarine Peninsula. 

Terindah Estate, Bellarine Peninsula. IMAGE: Peter Tarasiuk

Terindah Estate, Bellarine Peninsula. IMAGE: Peter Tarasiuk

As we ticked off the seemingly countless items on our over-stuffed itin, it soon became clear that 'Gee-troit City' is very much having 'a moment'. Stuff is happening. Stuff is cool.

A highlight of the trip was dinner at fine diner, Igni. In the time that's passed since our visit, talented chef-owner Aaron Turner (ex-Loam) has taken out awards left, right and centre for his innovative, local produce-driven fare.

IMAGE: Geelong Advertiser

IMAGE: Geelong Advertiser

The restaurant - plonked unceremoniously down a confusingly dingy but ultimately rewarding back street - now joins the ranks of Australia's top regional restaurants as a true 'destination dining' icon; and for good reason (seriously, check this out..).

Want to know what's up in G- town? Grab a copy of the latest issue of Australian Traveller mag or CLICK HERE to read my story.  

 

Peter and I were guests of Geelong Bellarine Tourism. Big thanks to Narelle Needham for organising our visit. 

https://www.visitgeelongbellarine.com.au

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FEATURE || Winter Bathing Rituals

The Japanese do it, Nordics and Hungarians do it, the ancient Greeks, Romans, Arabs and Ottomans all did it, too. But in Australia we’ve been a little slower to catch on to the idea of warm bathing for the pleasure of it. 

TOP: Peninsula Hot Springs. IMAGE: supplied.  BOTTOM: Onsen Ma, Melbourne. IMAGE: Broadsheet

TOP: Peninsula Hot Springs. IMAGE: supplied. 

BOTTOM: Onsen Ma, Melbourne. IMAGE: Broadsheet

I'm someone who gets reeeeeally cold in winter, and to have access to a hot bath on the regular is a non-negotiable - even outside of winter. 

When I came back home from back-to-back tropical winter holidays last winter, it got me thinking. So I did some research... and pitched a story. 

The result? I tracked down the best places in Melbourne (or just outside town) dedicated to the art of stripping off and thawing out.

TOP: Wellness Suite at Isika, Crown Metropol. IMAGE: supplied BOTTOM: Chuan Spa at The Langham. IMAGE: supplied

TOP: Wellness Suite at Isika, Crown Metropol. IMAGE: supplied

BOTTOM: Chuan Spa at The Langham. IMAGE: supplied

FEATURE || Thornbury for The Age Good Food Guide

So conflicted! I love love love Thornbury and want to sing its praises, yet as a local I kinda wanna keep it on the DL so that it doesn't get overrun by day-trippers and gentrifiers. I recently did a neighbourhood round up for this year's Age Good Food Guide (which is due for release September 13). Here's a little snippet..

IMAGE: supplied by Chato.

IMAGE: supplied by Chato.

"Remember when Thornbury was the fringe and a suburb you could afford? Well, congratulations early adopters. Gentrification got here faster than anyone expected. Thornbury's recent revival has helped transform the once-drab High Street into one of the city's longest – and most buzzy – culinary thoroughfares. From specialty butchers and organic grocers, to aperitivo bars and craft brewers, it's the place to be".

IMAGE: supplied by Welcome to Thornbury

IMAGE: supplied by Welcome to Thornbury

For all those who can't wait for the guide to come out, you can take a sneaky peek at my Thornbury piece here..

CLICK TO READ THE FULL ARTICLE.

 

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TRAVEL FEATURE || Tasmania's Satellite Island

Sometimes in my job I really have to pinch myself. Sure, I get meet lots of cool people and go to  lots of cool places, but sometimes you just stop and say "Wow. this is ridiculous". A recent trip to a private island off the coast of southern Tasmania was one such experience.

Never heard of Satellite Island? That’s probably because those who have want to keep it that way.

Located in a sheltered pocket of the D’Entrecasteaux Channel, the rugged 34-hectare landmass can only be reached by private boat from nearby Bruny Island. Once you’re there, it’s just you, the house, a few wild deer and a whole lot of nature. There are no roads, no shops, no other guests, not even wi-fi – which is how visitors like it.

I recently spent a weekend on the island for Broadsheet. You can read my story HERE.

IMAGES: Peter Tarasiuk

IMAGES: Peter Tarasiuk

Huge thank you to Kate at Satellite Island and Sherene at Tourism Tasmania for making our trip possible.

   

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