Australia Food and Drink
Seafood is an integral part of the cuisine scene in all its shelled and scaled forms. Production of organic foods is increasing to meet demand and is these days widely available in the cities and larger towns. There are fine dining restaurants throughout the larger cities, particularly in Melbourne and Sydney, where big-name chefs have helped to give Australian cuisine an international reputation for bright, creative gastronomy. Regional food markets and increasing numbers of food festivals across the states are a great way to sample fresh produce. Look out for things like farmhouse cheese, speciality sausages and local fruits.
'Bush tucker' is food from Australia's endemic flora and fauna and can be lean and quite delicious; kangaroo meat in particular is growing in popularity since being made legal to trade to eat only in the past two decades. For all the advent of fine dining and exotic menu items, however, the humble barbecue remains for many the quintessential Australian food experience. Various beaches and parks have barbecue stations that can be used by the public. Steak, prawns and beer tend to feature prominently.
• Sydney rock oysters.
• Barramundi (freshwater fish).
• Moreton Bay bugs (a shellfish).
• Macadamia nuts.
Expect to come across both self-service eateries and restaurants with table service. Bistros, cafés, family-style restaurants and pub lunches offer good food at reasonable prices. Most restaurants and hotels are licensed to serve alcohol. Some restaurants allow guests to bring their own alcohol and are called 'BYO' restaurants. Licensing hours in public bars are Mon-Sat 1000-2200, but most pubs are open until 2400; Sunday hours vary. Restaurants, clubs and hotel lounges have more flexible hours.
Not as common as it is in Europe and North America, nor is a service charge added to the bill in restaurants. In top-quality restaurants, 10% is usual for food and drink waiters, but is optional elsewhere. With taxis it is usual not to tip, but round up to the next dollar.
The major vineyards (wineries) are outside Perth, Sydney, Melbourne, Hobart and Adelaide. The largest single wine-growing region is in the Barossa Valley, South Australia, two hours' drive from Adelaide, where high-quality red and white wines are produced. Various wineries, breweries and distilleries are open for public visits. For further information, visit Australian Wine and Beer (www.australianwineandbeer.com). Off-licences are known as ‘bottle shops’.
Beers come in different measures depending on which state you’re in. In New South Wales, a ‘schooner’ is 425mL and a ‘middy’ 285mL. A middy becomes a ‘pot’ in both Victoria and Tasmania. Pints are far from omnipresent but can generally be found in certain bars in bigger towns and cities.
Good coffee has become something of a national obsession (the quality in Melbourne enjoys particular renown) although you might struggle to find a decent cup in more rural areas.
• Australian wine, especially Coonawarra, Clare Valley, Barossa Valley, Hunter Valley and Margaret River.
• Australian beer, including Coopers, Cascade, James Squire, Little Creatures and Matilda Bay.