Saturday, January 22, 2011

The Wonderful Land of Oz

Over the years, I've had the opportunity of working and meeting some incredibly talented Aussie fashion designers. They were warm, friendly with a joy for art, life and food that I really understood and was dying to experience first hand. A few weeks ago, I finally had the chance to visit the land of Oz in all of its glory over the Christmas holiday. It only took me about 26 hours with a brief layover in Dubai before I reached Australia and my foodie travels began. 

Australia has a population of only 22 million with a landmass about the size of the US; a little more than 50% of its population can be found in four cities: Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, and Perth.  Unfortunately since I had some time restrictions, I had to limit my trip to visiting its' two cosmopolitan counterparts: Sydney and Melbourne. 

If you speak to foodies from Sydney or Melbourne, each one will tell you that their city has the best food in the country. Like two siblings scrappling for their parents' approval, there is no clear winner.  Each city offers something that is uniquely their own. 

Christmas arrived a day early at Bondi.
Famous for its world-class beaches, cosmopolitan life and the iconic Opera House and Harbour Bridge, Sydney is utterly beautiful with breathtaking views of the water and the bridge throughout various points of the city. It offers a blend of beach life and fine dining at its best.

One of the cuisines that I heard a lot about in various food blogs and magazines is "Mod Oz".  Led by some of Australia's top chefs such as Neil Perry (Rockpool, Spice Temple) and Mark Best (Marque), "Mod Oz" is an amalgamation of flavors from Vietnam, Thailand, Italy, and Greece using the freshest, seasonal food locally grown in Australia. 

While the holiday closure schedules for a significant number of Australian restaurants prevented me from trying the best of Mod Oz while I was in Sydney, we were fortunate enough to change our plans to head out to Bondi Beach on Christmas Eve to try the tasty delights on the menu of Trio Cafe (

The View of Bondi Beach from Trio Cafe
Corn fritters with warm smoky tomato chutney,
bacon, goat's cheese & roquette
Mediterranean Breakfast: Poached eggs with truffle oil on olive sourdough, served with grilled haloumi, crisy pancetta, semi-dried tomatoes, spinach and chorizo

Mango & lime buttermilk pancakes served with strawberries, lemon curd and double-cream.
The few weeks leading up to my trip, I read about the Sydney Fish Market ( which is the largest market in the Southern Hemisphere, second in size only to Tokyo's infamous Tsukiji fish market. Even though I hate early mornings, my love for markets (and oysters!) superceded my need for sleep. So early Christmas Eve, I headed out alone from our hotel on Darling Harbour to check out the scene 10 minutes away at Blackwattle Bay. What I found was a mob of local Ozzies shopping for their Christmas seafood feasts, pushing their way to the front of lines to get the best and freshest fish of the day. Hungry tourists and locals alike abounded inside the market where several fisherman were shucking fresh oysters to eat on the spot, selling freshly baked bread and pastries, and artisan made cheeses from Australia and abroad. This is a definite must visit for any foodie or gourmand!

Local Ozzies fighting for the best prawns to bring home for their Christmas feast.

Local artisan cheeses
Freshly baked pastries including local treats such as Lamingtons (cake dipped into chocolate and rolled in coconut flakes) and slices which come available in a variety of flavors such as the ones seen here.

Some freshly shucked oysters to the delight of my taste buds!
There is nothing better than oysters first thing in the morning before I even have my coffee.
The hustle and bustle of Sydney Fish Market in the early morning.

While Sydney is all dazzling sun and beaches, Melbourne is the understated, but not to be overlooked, younger sibling. Famous for its markets, such as Prahan and Queen Victoria, gastronomical treats can be found on every street and down hidden alleyways.

The first stop for me just a few hours after I landed in Melbourne was Prahran Market (, the oldest continuously running market in Australia, located in South Yarra on the outskirts of the city. It has existed at its current location for over 125 years! While it was a lot smaller than I expected, there were numerous well-curated food stalls offering freshly made pasta, home-made sausages & pestos, seafood, meats, and fresh produce including something I've never seen in the US...fresh turmeric! Note that the market is CLOSED on Mondays and Wednesdays.

It proved too tempting and delicious! So we decided to purchase some fresh raviolis, vegetables and herbs to cook up for our dinner on my first night in Melbourne. 
Roasted pumpkin, garlic, rosemary & sage ravioli in brown-butter
sauce with fried sage leaves
Roasted beetroot, horseradish, and goats cheese ravioli with shelled cranberry beans

After a trip to the Melbourne Boxing Day Test ( for my first taste of cricket, we decided to head out and explore Melbourne some more. Through some miracle of fate, we stumbled upon the one restaurant numerous people had said was a must-go eat destination in Melbourne: MoVida (  

Named one of the country's best Spanish tapas restaurants, MoVida reinvents the familiar tapas menu into something new, innovative and exciting by utilizing both traditional and modern Spanish techniques.  Located down an alleyway filled with incredible works of graffiti art, the food we discovered at the original MoVida was as original as its settings. 
Graffiti artwork down Hosier Lane walking towards the restaurant.

Aged Manchego flan topped with caviar in cracked
eggshell on a bed of sea salt.

Chorizo con Guindillas: Oven Roasted House-made Chorizo with mild pickled green peppers
Cecina: Air dried Wagyu with Poached Egg and Truffle Foam was one of the best dishes I've ever eaten. SUBLIME. 
Ensalada Rusa con Viera: Pan Seared Canadian scallops
with Russian salad of carrots, peas, & piquillo peppers
Towards the end of my trip, I finally headed over to Queen Victoria's Market ( The largest open air market in the Southern Hemisphere, it has been in existence since 1878. This is a massive one-stop shop for both the foodie and tourist looking to buy a few souvenirs to bring home. It's also a great place to stop by for some brekkie (Oz slang for breakfast) and coffee. We picked up some great treats for a picnic in the Royal Botanical Gardens on New Year's Day.

The Ozzies love their hot, gooey donuts filled with jam.
They can be found everywhere!


  1. Sounds like Oz was really a foodie paradise! All those innovative dishes, wonderful markets, etc. I hear you on the fresh turmeric, we had some here first time outside of India. Great layout for your blog, by the way!

  2. Thanks Mistress of Spices! Australia is wonderful and definitely had our fair share of great food and really fresh product. Looking forward to swapping ideas and recipes!!