14 of the best restaurant dishes in Australia right now, according to Gourmet Traveller

Bennelong in Sydney. Source: supplied

Some believe Australia’s great romance with food began when MasterChef kicked off a few years back, but for half a century, Australian Gourmet Traveller has been showing the nation what to eat and how to cook it.

The monthly magazine turns 50 this month – a remarkable achievement in itself for publishing in the digital era – and has just released a huge 50th-birthday issue celebrating the restaurant industry’s movers and shakers in a power-list of the 50 most influential people in food, as well as featuring dishes by the likes of Neil Perry, Maggie Beer, Stephanie Alexander, Christine Manfield and Guy Grossi.

While celebrating the milestone, Gourmet Traveller’s editor-in-chief Anthea Loucas, said the issue was all about “the giant strides we’ve made over these past few decades in what and how we cook and eat”.

Business Insider’s favourite part, however, is GT’s brave and bold calls on Australia’s 50 most essential dishes. As deputy editor and national restaurant critic Pat Nourse observed, there are plenty of well known classics – think Golden Century’s pipis in XO sauce, MoVida’s smoked tomato sorbet and anchovy, Neil Perry’s date tart, Quay’s snow egg – but the challenge they set themselves was to single out the dishes the nation’s talking about right now and the flavours taking us into the next half-century.

The list isn’t all about the culinary equivalent of a blockbuster show tune. From rice and flesh, a 1390s dish, but using kangaroo tail, at Melbourne’s Dinner by Heston Blumenthal, to peri peri chicken, Africola in Adelaide; wood-roasted abalone at Franklin, Hobart; a veal sweetbread schnitzel sandwich with anchovy mayo at Fleet, Brunswick Heads on the NSW north coast; and even a yabby jaffle at Monster in Canberra, it’s a remarkably diverse range of flavours and styles.

The 50th anniversary edition of Australian Gourmet Traveller is out now.

And to celebrate GT’s half century of great reading and eating, they shared 14 of their favourite dishes with us.

Here they are, in no particular order:

Pretzel and whipped bottarga, 10 William St, Sydney

While Dan Pepperell, the chef who started this dish at this Paddington wine bar and restaurant, has moved on to Hubert in Sydney's CBD, this combo of a hot pretzel with the zesty, salty roe dip is 'a bar snack to be reckoned with', says Gourmet Traveller.

Tulips DIY, Attica, Melbourne

New Zealand-born Ben Shewry, acclaimed globally as Australia's finest chef, take a tulip from his Ripponlea restaurant's from the courtyard garden, fills the petals with lemon myrtle cream and tops it with fermented rhubarb sauce for dessert.

Macaroni, pig’s head and egg yolk, Acme, Sydney

'Many of Acme’s brightest moments come when skilfully made fresh pasta meets flavours it seldom encounters in Italy,' says GT of Mitch Orr's Rushcutters Bay diner. This dish takes sisig, a Filipino classic of pig’s head, marinated in vinegar and mixes it with macaroni and a raw- or runny-yolked egg for 'garlicky genius'.

Snacks, Igni, Geelong

'Even the pre-dinner bites are stars,' says GT, listing snacks that include 'house-made guanciale. Swatches of chicken skin topped with whipped cod roe. Baby zucchini flowers harbouring just-cooked mussels. Umami-rich beef jerky. And as for the crisp saltbush leaves dusted in vinegar powder, they ought to be packaged and sold in vending machines.'

Lamington, Flour & Stone, Sydney

Baker Nadine Ingram takes an Australian classic to the next level, combining the sponge with panna cotta and berry compote, covered in dark chocolate and coconut at her Woolloomooloo bakery.

Red-claw yabbies, lemon jam, cultured cream and buckwheat pikelets, Bennelong, Sydney

You'd expect nothing less in a setting like the Sydney Opera House, where GT says chefs Peter Gilmore and Rob Cockerill make the combination 'Australia on a plate, the yabbies poached and chilled, ready to be forked onto the pancakes, warm and toasty in a fold of linen'.

Saltbush cakes, Billy Kwong, Sydney

Kylie Kwong’s mix of her Chinese heritage with native Australian flavours has created a new culinary language at her Potts Point diner. Crisp deep-fried pastry is filled with saltbush leaves, served with house-made chilli and tamari sauces.

Blood sausage sanga, Ester, Sydney

Mat Lindsay’s take on a sausage sandwich combines pork belly, rice, pine nuts and pig’s blood in a snag that's steamed, then roasted in the wood-fired oven and served in a steamed Chinese-style bun at his Chippendale bar and restaurant.

Tiramisu, Icebergs Dining Room & Bar, Sydney

This Bondi institution's version of an Italian classic is 'a little bit of a treasure hunt' according to GT. It 'looks relatively unassuming but underneath you’ll find cubes of coffee jelly, Marsala caramel sauce, coffee sorbet, meringue sticks and gold dust,

Croissants, Lune Croissanterie, Melbourne

'Kate Reid’s croissanterie has moved to bigger digs in Fitzroy, but her exacting iterations of French pâtisserie perfection remain truly artisanal – which explains why the queue forms before sunrise and they sell out by mid-morning,' says GT.

Miso and pink lady soft-serve, Supernormal, Melbourne

'Old-school dessert meets new-school ideas at Andrew McConnell’s Japanese canteen,' says GT.'Take one soft-serve machine, add the savoury element of miso and the tartness of apple and, hey presto, a palate-refreshing Oz-Asian mash-up that’s a little bit kooky and totally unique.'

Fish Fingers with charred toast, Bodega, Sydney

On the menu since day one of service 10 years ago, Bodega’s signature dish sounds pretty straightforward on paper: fish, garlic, burnt toast. But it is truly more than the sum of its parts. Slices of kingfish on fingers of blackened toast with a confetti of cuttlefish ceviche, coriander, onion and grated mojama come together in a brilliantly balanced mouthful of flavour.

Raw wagyu shoulder with grilled enoki, duck-egg cream and seaweed, The Bridge Room, Sydney

The Japanese influences laced through Ross Lusted's impressive and beautiful dishes at this CBD fine diner, are at the core of The Bridge Room's genius. 'Lusted’s decision to slice rather than chop the meat means the dish is less of a tartare and more of an ode to raw beef', says GT. And the red gum-smoked salt seasoning makes it sublime.

Anchovy and its bones, Provenance, Beechworth

'It’s the most spectral of snacks,' says GT. 'A double-whammy of salty, brittle shatter and raw, velvety give' at Michael Ryan's country Victorian restaurant with elegant Japanese influences.

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