Australia's best destinations for food: Short edible escapes

When those in the know – whether it be a chef or a renowned gourmand – plan a short break, it stands to reason that the journey will be centred on good food and wine. But it takes more than that to make an exceptional couple of days away from their own kitchens. Gaining new ideas and inspiration is key.

"Quality and realness, that connection to the land so real with people who are truly excited by food is what I look for," says Maggie Beer who has just returned from a particularly fruitful trip to Tasmania.

Australasia is brimming with passionate producers and artisans – on farms, by the sea, and in the cities. For some, a short break might be trip to the city to experience new tastes, for others, it's a friendly country escape.

 "A great edible escape has many components – seasonal regional food well-prepared, preferably matched with local wines, comfortable accommodation and a good old-fashioned country welcome," says TV food presenter Lyndey Milan.

Here, some of Australia's well-known foodies reveal their favourite destinations to spend a short break.

MAGGIE BEER, COOK, FOOD AUTHOR, RESTAURATEUR AND FOOD MANUFACTURER

FAVOURITE EDIBLE ESCAPE Hobart, Tasmania

WHY GO I was recently in Hobart and spent a day in the Agrarian Kitchen with Rodney Dunn and honestly, that to me is a bit of paradise. His property is so beautiful, it's so productive, I just believe in everything he does and I come away always thinking more and learning more. A day there might involve milking a goat to make a custard or a butter. They have heritage pigs, we made a terrine using the jowl of the pig, we smoked a loin wrapped in a belly. They have fruit trees, a hugely extensive vegetable garden and their own smokehouse. They are self-sufficient. It is an amazing thing to do for someone who is food fascinated they honestly should go. It is really, special and beautiful. (theagrariankitchen.com)

I've noticed Hobart changing a bit, Hobart has always been a really terrific city but I do think since MONA, more people are going to Hobart. (mona.net.au) It's such a small city of course, it's all so wonderful and accessible.

DON'T MISS From now on it will be Sweet Envy (sweetenvy.com) they have an ice-cream truck (a 1963 Mr Whippy van called Big Bessie) with unbelievable flavours. Plus there's Pigeon Whole Bakery (pigeonwholebakers.com.au). That's the first leaf of the onion, there are so many more,  it's just wonderful to see these things in Hobart – I like the quixotic nature of them.

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ESSENTIALS discovertasmania.com.au

SHANE WATSON, EXECUTIVE CHEF, LIKULIKU LAGOON RESORT, FIJI 

FAVOURITE EDIBLE ESCAPE Adelaide, the Fleurieu Peninsula and Kangaroo Island, South Australia.

WHY GO Starting in Adelaide, my first stop would always be the Adelaide Central Market. I'd grab some small goods from Standom Meats, some cheese from The Smelly Cheese Shop, a loaf of ciabatta and hit the road (adelaidecentralmarket.com.au). Then I'd head south to the Fleurieu Peninsula, stopping along the way for some wine tasting in McLaren Vale, lunch at in Fino Willunga (fino.net.au) or hit the coast at Port Willunga for a bite at The Star of Greece (starofgreece.com.au). After lunch stop for a quick beer at The Victory Hotel at Sellicks Beach (victoryhotel.com.au). Keep heading south and hop on the Kangaroo Island ferry at Cape Jervis, snack on your cheese and cold cuts and enjoy the ride across the Backstairs Passage. Check in to Southern Ocean Lodge and relax, talk to the staff and get the inside story on all Kangaroo Island has to offer (southernoceanlodge.com.au).

DON'T MISS My mate Tim Bourke's awesome cooking at Southern Ocean Lodge. He is a remarkable chef transforming local Kangaroo Island produce into something very, very special.

ESSENTIALS southaustralia.com 

Shane Watson will be appearing at the Noosa International Food and Wine Festival next month. See noosafoodandwine.com.au

MAEVE O'MEARA, FOOD PRESENTER, AUTHOR AND DIRECTOR OF GOURMET FOOD SAFARIS           

FAVOURITE EDIBLE ESCAPE Central Otago region, New Zealand,

WHY GO This region has it all – the air is crisp as apples, the locals are all seriously lovely and the food and wine is superb.

I'm a big fan of the incredible flavour and refinement of the pinot noir wines from this region. I like Carrick Wines (carrick.co.nz) and the wonderful Wild Earth set on a rushing mountain river. I like to try the wines matched with a platter of local produce smoked in the ingenious barrel smoker developed by the owner (wildearthwines.co.nz).

I also head to the Chop Shop in Arrowtown for local produce used really well, and chef James Stapley's cooking at Bistro Gentil in Wanaka overlooking the lake   is incredible (bistrogentil.co.nz).

DON'T MISS Ginger crunch at Vudu cafe and Larder in Queenstown is a groovy place with great coffee and all sorts of comfy nanna biscuits. They are superb (vudu.co.nz). 

ESSENTIALS centralotagonz.com

See gourmetsafaris.com.au

PETER KURUVITA, CHEF, TV PRESENTER, AUTHOR

FAVOURITE EDIBLE ESCAPE Noosa, Queensland

WHY GO Not only is it a short plane ride and a scenic drive to one of he most beautiful beaches in the world and a vast national park, in Noosa, the food is improving every day. There are many quality options, and some very cool bars. I like Ricky's waterfront dining (rickys.com.au), the small dishes at Locale (localenoosa.com.au), Berados degustation menu (berardos.com.au) and Wasabi's refined Japanese (wasabisb.com), and there's great pizza at Zachary's (zacharys.com.au). I also like Miss Moneypennys Bar (missmoneypennys.com) for their great take on cocktails and relaxed atmosphere, and people watching. First stop for me is [my own] Noosa Beach House (peterkuruvita.com/restaurants/noosa-beach-house), for the signature snapper curry and live mud crabs cooked three ways.

DON'T MISS You have to visit the Noosa Farmers' Market. The food is great, you can buy portion-cut restaurant-quality seafood, heirloom fruit and vegetables, and organic meat. The vibe is hip and cool and you will go home or back to your hotel with real fruit and vegetables that tastes like it used to (noosafarmersmarket.com.au).

ESSENTIALS visitnoosa.com.au

MARION GRASBY, TV PRESENTER AND COOKBOOK AUTHOR

FAVOURITE EDIBLE ESCAPE  Singapore

WHY GO Singapore is one of my absolute favourite eating cities.  I love the mix of Asian cuisines – Indian, Chinese and Malay. My top reason for going is the Singapore chili crab –  Jumbo Seafood at East Coast Parkway is always my very first dinner stop (jumboseafood.com.sg) The hawker centers are also amazing and Lau Pa Sat is one of my favourites.  I also visit Mario Batali's Pizza Mozza for a casual slice and a glass of wine (singapore.pizzeriamozza.com). My secret dining tip is to head to a small pork bun shop called D'Bun on Joo Chiat Road, the best buns in the business! (dbun.com.sg)

DON'T MISS Little India, you actually feel like you've been transported to Delhi.

ESSENTIALS  yoursingapore.com

LYNDEY MILAN, TV HOST, AUTHOR

FAVOURITE EDIBLE ESCAPE  Orange, NSW

WHY GO Orange has something to offer at any time of year and not only when their festivals are on. There is so much to see, taste and do including a thriving artistic community with a theatre company and great regional art gallery. I love Orange so much I shot two episodes of Taste of Australia there. 

 In winter you can hunt for truffles.  Visit one of the highest wineries in Australia, Borrodell on the Mount, for a black tie and gumboot truffle dinner (borrodell.com.au). Twenty minutes drive out of Orange is the Mandagery Creek venison farm. On the second Saturday of the month there is a farm tour, cooking demo and three-course lunch featuring venison, of course. They are also starting mid-week demonstrations (mandagerycreek.com.au/Farmkitchen).

DON'T MISS A Slice of Orange, a shop on Anson Street which sells only locally grown, seasonal, hand-made produce.  They adhere to the 100-mile diet philosophy so it's a one-stop shop to taste and see all that is available at any time you visit (asliceoforange.com.au).

ESSENTIALS  visitnsw.com

ROSS O'MEARA, SBS'S GOURMET FARMER

FAVOURITE EDIBLE ESCAPE Melbourne, Victoria

WHY GO I have lived in major rural tourist food destinations for the past 14 years (Bruny Island and Margaret River) so when I go to for a food weekend I head to the city. With Melbourne you can head there any time and you will always find a great food experience in any part of the city or its outer suburbs.

My first stop is Momotaro for fresh hand-made ramen. Then, being a craft beer fan, I can get a beer in at the Mountain Goat Brewery even though it's only open on Wednesday and Friday nights (goatbeer.com.au). Victoria Street, Richmond is a destination where we are still find new places to eat along that strip. At night I would head across to Collingwood and have a few pints at Foresters Hall (forestershall.com.au) and end up with a Huxtaburger (huxtaburger.com.au).

DON'T MISS A trip down Sydney Road, Brunswick for the Lebanese food.

ESSENTIALS  visitmelbourne.com

IAN HEMPHILL, TV PRESENTER, AUTHOR AND OWNER OF HERBIE'S SPICES.

FAVOURITE EDIBLE ESCAPE  Bangalow, NSW.

WHY GO This charming country town has everything you are likely to need for a wonderful long weekend – a rural atmosphere, great cafes and restaurants within short driving distances, and friendly locals.  Olivia Newton John has her Gaia Retreat, which has a relaxing atmosphere, friendly staff and healthy and tasty food (gaiaretreat.com.au). Have a great cafe lunch at Karl and Katrina Kanetani's Town Cafe or put on some glad rags for a special dining experience and have dinner in the restaurant upstairs. This is an award-winning establishment not to be missed (townbangalow.com.au).

It's worth taking the  one-hour drive through amazing scenery to visit Chillingham Bush Tucker where your hosts, Gerry and Anne Buchanan will show you Australian native herbs such as lemon myrtle and finger limes, through to exotic Asian fruits such as the tangy Buddha's hand (chillinghambushtucker.com.au).

DON'T MISS Harvest cafe in Newrybar village has innovative and healthy food, and the friendly staff even put up with the grandchildren! (harvestcafe.com.au)

ESSENTIALS  visitnsw.com

SHANE DELIA, SBS'S SPICE JOURNEY CHEF

FAVOURITE EDIBLE ESCAPE  Daylesford, Victoria 

WHY GO This place has a special kind of magic about it. It is breathtakingly beautiful and things move a little slower. It was only 45 minutes from where I used to live and as soon as Melbourne was in my rear-view mirror, I instantly felt like I was on a holiday and relaxed. I love this place so much that last year my wife, Maha, and I renewed our wedding vows at the Lake House on our anniversary (lakehouse.com.au).

 It is also home to Maha's favourite thing on earth, apart from me of course – chocolate. There is a killer chocolate shop in the main drag and it is awesome. Maha, the kids and I can never get enough … and I always bring home a little box for mum.

DON'T MISS You have to take the short drive to Trentham and stock up on some sourdough bread from Red Beard Bakery. You can't beat it (redbeardbakery.com.au).

ESSENTIALS  visitvictoria.com          

STEPHANIE ALEXANDER, FOOD EDUCATOR AND AUTHOR.

FAVOURITE EDIBLE ESCAPE  Victorian High Country, Victoria

WHY GO I love the Victorian High Country for sparkling river views, shady walks and excellent wine tasting. I always enjoy an outstanding dinner at Simones in Bright (simonesbright.com.au). One of my favourite dress shops is at nearby Beechworth called Kathryn Hammerton – I always find something interesting there.

I like to eat-in on arrival after the four-hour drive from Melbourne. I pack excellent antipasti in a chiller bag and my friend and I then feast on tomatoes and burrata with fresh basil and glorious local olive oil, raw ham and figs, salami or coppa, smoked trout and horseradish, olives and crusty bread. Last time we forgot to pack salt and pepper which was a real omission. Tomatoes without salt are not the same!

DON'T MISS Excellent coffee at the all-new Beechworth Honey Discovery (beechworthhoney.com.au).

ESSENTIALS visitvictoria.com/Regions/High-Country

Stephanie Alexander will be appearing at the FEASTival Kangaroo Island Event, from May 1-8, 2015. See tourkangarooisland.com.au/kifeastival

THE RECIPE FOR A GREAT FOODIE ESCAPE

A dash of wineries, a dollop of good food, blended with passionate producers seem to make all the right ingredients for a food connoisseur's short journey. Plus, a willingness to try it all.

"I think it's all about your attitude as a traveller," says Marion Grasby. "If you're willing to embrace local dishes, cuisines and ingredients you pretty much always have an amazing food experience."

But it's not all about food, the location can be just as important.

"To me an edible escape has to have great food and a national park, pristine environment, surf, and friendly and relaxed locals," says Peter Kuruvita.

Shane Watson, who just moved from overseeing Perth's Print Hall back to Likuliku Resort in Fiji, agrees.

"As a chef, I enjoy 'food tourism' but not being a glutton, I need something to do between meals. I like exploring produce, great beaches and fishing, plus great spots to chill and do nothing at all," he says.

TV host, chef and restaurateur, Shane Delia thinks location plays the leading role. "I think the key to making the best edible escape possible is to ensure you love the place for more than just the food. You have to connect with it and feel like you are home when you get there,"Delia  says.

       

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