Journalist Ian Lloyd Neubauer writes for his tucker and a living. His take on the rise and rise of Australian native food appeared in a recent edition of CNN GO, which we’re sharing in this forum. Ian is no stranger to the world’s largest sand island nor to Kingfisher Bay Resort, visiting with family and friends over the years. During his last visit, he dined at our signature restaurant, Seabelle – which makes a cameo appearance in his story. Enjoy!
It’s not all kangaroo and crocodile in the varied world of indigenous Australian food. Australians have long embraced the foods of ethnic groups from all over the world. From Italian to Greek, Brazilian to Japanese — we’re adventurous eaters, on the whole, always willing and eager to try something new.
But when it comes to native foods, things like possum, emu, bush tomatoes and finger limes — flora and fauna that sustained Indigenous Australians for more than 50,000 years — most of us have never tasted them.
The phenomenon can be traced back to the 18th century, when Europeans began settling Australia. They brought with them an irrational disdain for the “technologically inferior” natives, their foodstuffs included.
Western way: Instead of harvesting kangaroo, Illawarra plums and other sustainable and super-nutritional native foods, settlers went about establishing the Western agricultural industries which now fuel the nation.
Nevertheless, there are a few native restaurants in Australia — venues that have invented tasty and creative ways to incorporate real Australian meats, fruits, herbs and spices into modern Australian cooking.
We lift the lid on a selection of the best of this rare breed of native-Aussie restaurants.
Seabelle — one of the few restaurants we know where bushrangers help you gather dinner. The signature diner at Fraser Island’s Kingfisher Bay Resort, Seabelle Restaurant draws inspiration from Fraser’s abundant native herbs and garnishes.
A typical three-course meal begins with salt-and-pepper calamari and crocodile and pepperberry aioli as a starter, lamb rump with lemon-myrtle-herb crumble for the entrée and ginger pudding with munthari berry for dessert.
“We source lemon myrtle from Kingfisher wallum and use it for smoking and flavoring fish and to create a lemony cream for panna cotta,” says sous chef Toby Van den Born.
“We’ve also been experimenting with native bush ice cream, making flavors like wattleseed rosella and wild-lime sorbet.”
Kingfisher Bay Resort also holds thrice-weekly “Bush Tucker Talk and Taste” tours. Conducted by a chef and ranger, it starts with a walking tour through Kingfisher’s herb garden and grounds to see native-Australian ingredients in their raw state.
That’s followed by a demonstration that shows guests how to apply their finds to everyday cooking, with 16 tastings throughout the hour-long program.
“Bush spices tend to pack a very strong punch,” says Van den Born. “So you need to know to use them very sparingly and how to tweak them.”