BY ERIN LENTZ
WHAT MAKES AUSTRALIA A TOP GLOBAL FOOD AND WINE DESTINATION?
I’m probably biased for obvious reasons, but Australia is really where it’s all happening. The cuisine has so many influences based on its geography. The best Asian cuisine outside of its native countries can be found in Oz. The topography is so vast that you get amazing seafood, supreme meat from the cattle in the lush valleys, and all these unusual ingredients indigenous to the land. And the New World wines are also gaining a reputation among the global wine audience.
TWO NOT-TO-MISS DINING EXPERIENCES IN VICTORIA AND SOUTH AUSTRALIA?
My longtime favorite restaurant in Melbourne, Victoria is Vue du Monde by Chef Shannon Bennett. It’s a truly indulgent and quintessential Melbourne experience, with a magical view of the city (bring your appetite!). In Adelaide, South Australia, everyone raves about Restaurant Orana; I’m dying to go. Chef Jock Zonfrillo forages for native indigenous ingredients like plum pine, native honey, and green ants.
WHAT ARE YOUR FAVORITE AUSTRALIAN WINERIES?
The Barossa in South Australia is world renowned. Penfolds produces the ubiquitous Penfold Grange, the most famous Australian wine. And the Yarra Valley in Victoria is sensational. The cool climate means it produces an array of varietals, so while Cabernet Sauvignon is the backbone, it’s also famous for world-class Chardonnay and Pinot.
TOP TWO DINING RECOMMENDATIONS OUTSIDE OF AUSTRALIA’S MAJOR CITIES?
Brae in Victoria’s Otway hinterland is super special. It’s set on a hillside of an organic farm and regarded as Australia’s best farm-to-table experience. It’s won multiple awards and was recently voted one of the Top 50 restaurants in the world. In South Australia, St. Hugo’s Vineyard in the Barossa Valley is a wine-centric dining experience. You choose the wines and the chef serves you a meal based around your choices—very cool.
“Produce in Australia is truly the best in the world.”
— CHEF CURTIS STONE
WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE GOURMET STAY IN VICTORIA OR SOUTHERN AUSTRALIA?
Red Hill in the Mornington Peninsula has an amazing new vineyard hotel called Jackalope and a restaurant called Doot Doot Doot. It’s next on my list! The Louise in the Barossa has an acclaimed restaurant called Appellation. It’s both luxury and culinary excellence and is regarded as one of Australia’s finest dining destinations. Fresh local ingredients, cooking classes, exclusive tastings—it has the lot.
WHERE WOULD YOU RECOMMEND TRAVELERS EXPERIENCE A HANDS-ON FOOD OR WINE EXPERIENCE?
At Penfold’s Barossa Valley Cellar Door in South Australia, you can wear a lab coat and blend your own wine—a unique and educational experience. And I think there’s nothing better than catching your own fish (with a beer in hand), then enjoying the fruits of your labor after a day on the water. The Bellarine Peninsula in Victoria is sensational for this.
WHAT ARE YOUR TOP TWO VIP FOOD AND WINE EXPERIENCES?
The Melbourne Food & Wine Festival (March 8-24, 2019) is world class, and as far as unique experiences go, “Tasting Australia” (April 5-14, 2019)—an annual journey of South Australia’s produce from paddock to plate—is pretty cool!
ANY INSIDER TIPS FOR TRAVELERS TO VICTORIA OR SOUTH AUSTRALIA?
When headed to Victoria, driving the Great Ocean Road is mandatory to see the iconic 12 Apostles. South Australia has so many wine regions (with over 200 wine cellars within a two-hour drive of Adelaide). You’ll need a hearty constitution and a driver to experience them all.
WHAT DO YOU MISS MOST ABOUT AUSTRALIAN FOOD WHILE LIVING IN THE U.S.?
How fresh and amazing Australia’s produce is, particularly our seafood and fresh summer fruits like mangoes and cherries. Produce in Australia is truly the best in the world. Aussies are very lucky. Our fare is truly multicultural.