Native bush plants are making a comeback in some of Sydney’s best restaurants
Native Australian ingredients were once hot property in Sydney – restaurant Edna’s Table was huge in the '80s and '90s putting a modern Australian spin on indigenous food, and there was that scary time when wattle-seed rub was everywhere. But we've since spent years trying to avoid any association with the stuff. Now, thanks to a handful of top Sydney chefs and South Australian horticulturalists Mike and Gayle Quarmby's company Outback Pride, bush food is back. Strange sounding edibles like old man saltbush, muntries and sea parsley are appearing on menus all around town. Here's where you can have a taste:
Try deep-fried silken tofu with caramelised organic tomatoes, warrigal greens, bunya nuts and honey-tamari sauce.
Chef Kylie Kwong has been a huge advocate of the bush food movement. “Each plant has such a strong and individual personality," she says. "I keep wondering to myself, what on earth has taken we Australians so long to discover such natural jewels, to the point where I feel almost embarrassed about it.” At Billy Kwong, you can try a big range of native Australian produce including warrigal greens, bunya nuts, old man saltbush and muntries all cooked Chinese style.
Try sautéed warrigal greens and old man saltbush with extra virgin olive oil and lemon juice at Rockpool Bar & Grill or stir-fried with ginger, shaoxing wine, salt and a little sesame oil to finish at Spice Temple.
Neil Perry features warrigal greens and saltbush in all six restaurants (Rockpool, Rockpool Bar & Grill and Spice Temple) across Australia. “I love the slight bitterness of the greens and the pepper of the saltbush, it also has an amazing texture,” he says.
Try Tiger flathead line-caught in Tasmania with salt cured wild oyster cream, black lipped abalone, ice-plant, sea-cabbage and warrigal greens.
Chef Peter Gilmore utilises sea parsley and warrigal greens currently on his flathead dish, but is also keen on fresh muntries – a native berry he reckons “tastes like apple skin”.
Try roast Macleay Valley rabbit with saltbush, sea parsley and sea vegetables.
“It’s all delicious stuff,” says chef Mark Best, who also uses muntries and native pepper berries in his cooking at the moment. “Outback Pride are now providing great product in useful quantities at a workable price.”.