When you think of dining in the Outback, what's the first thing that comes to mind? If your nose has wrinkled up at the thought of plump witchetty grubs, you're probably not the only one.
Now, I'm no fastidious eater, but I was certainly relieved that these were not on the menu on a recent trip the Red Centre. Best consumed whole and live, I'm told the wriggly suckers bite if you don't get them down quick enough. Pass.
Witchetty grubs, along with a host of native animals and plants have sustained, healed and protected Aboriginal people for some 60,000 years. The tradition continues today, with diets and degustations adapting to include bush foods.
Travel to Uluru and you can have your grubs and eat them too. Food and wine in the Outback is in a league of its own. A smorgasbord of indigenous-influenced fare, from the grassroots to the decadent, is fit for even the most discerning palate.
The rugged Outback, while seemingly barren, awards a bounty of wild edible plants and species, ranging from creepy crawlies to tangy fruits and starchy seeds. It's not just the wildlife in the Outback that can harm you (spiders and snakes and crocs, oh my!) but the flora and fauna can too so any self-guided food tours are not recommended.
The knowledge passed down from generation to generation ensures the heritage of this plant-based lifestyle can continue, as well as educate visitors on the assortment of delicacies that await in the bush. A trip to the Northern Territory would be incomplete without sampling what Mother Nature has to offer in its purest form.
Take the SEIT Bush Tucker tour from Ayers Rock Resort where an Aboriginal host will showcase the traditional delicacies of the land. You'll not only get to taste a selection of the bush foods, but learn how the local landowners rendered poisonous plants safe to eat. Don't try this at home though, folks.
Ayers Rock Resort
Make no mistake; dining in the Red Centre is not just about honey ants and plants. Guests at Ayers Rock Resort will be spoilt for culinary choice. Within the perimeter of Yulara, bush tucker takes on a whole new meaning with over 15 dining options, including many that celebrate 'feral foods'. The Outback is a meatlovers' paradise – we're talking emu, crocodile, kangaroo and buffalo.
Within Ayers Rock Resort, you'll find everything from Asian noodles and do-it-yourself barbecues to white-tablecloth fine dining. At the 4-star Sails in the Desert resort, you can indulge in the best of the bush at Ilkari Restaurant. The buffet concept may be on the outs, but here, diners are rewarded with an interactive marketplace of fresh fare and made-to-order dishes with an Outback twist. Think lemon myrtle marinades and quandong (wild peach) puddings.
Sounds of Silence
Dining beneath a sparkling carpet of stars is the quintessential Northern Territory experience. The Sounds of Silence is arguably Australia's most magical alfresco setting to enjoy the flavours of the bush.
From Ayers Rock Resort, your evening commences on a red sand dune overlooking the monolithic Uluru at sunset. The sight will truly take your breath away, but do take your eyes off the view for just a second to try the canapés. Complemented by bubbles (or beer) and the unique sounds of the didgeridoo, taste your way through little bite-sized morsels of crocodile, damper and desert lime to capsicum mousse with akuderra bush tomato chutney.
But the spoils don't stop there. Make your way over to the 'dining room' for a gourmet help-yourself feast of local flavours like barramundi in coconut and lemon aspen dressing, crocodile Caesar salad and chocolate rosella fudge cake complemented by drops from stellar Australian wine label, Lorimer by De Bortoli Wines.
Not only will you enjoy a taste of the land in fine fashion, you'll be taken a journey through the stars and Dreamtime tales with a resident astronomer. Evenings don't get much better than this.
Tali Wiru ups Uluru's culinary experience tenfold. Tali Wiru, which translates into 'beautiful dome' in the local Anangu language, captures the splendour of fine dining beneath a clear, star laden sky. You'll enjoy bush tucker at its finest where indigenous ingredients transition seamlessly into modern creations.
The evening is limited to just 20 guests with private two-person tables dotted across a gentle sand dome. Begin with canapés around a crackling fire, followed by an indulgent four-course tasting menu featuring the finest native ingredients complemented by world-class Australian wines.
A must for the foodie, the menu includes dishes such as Paroo kangaroo rillettes with Davidson plum puree and wattle seed brioche wafer and Darling Downs wagyu fillet with paperbark smoked onion puree and wild mushroom ragout.