THERE’S NO DENYING Australia has some of the greatest — and most diverse — food, wine and restaurants in the world. One only needs to spend some time travelling abroad to realise we’re consistently savvy in kitchen with some of the freshest produce around. While we’re spoilt for choice, our renowned foodie culture means it’s a pretty competitive industry to enter … unless you’ve got an established epicurean background.
From Masterchef favourite Poh Ling Yeow’s first bricks-and-mortar pop-up experience at QT Melbourne — which is fantastically fashioned as a sushi train set-up — to Serai’s flavourful collaboration with Diana Chan as part of the Melbourne Food & Wine Festival, BAZAAR rounds up the best dining experiences spearheaded by the nation’s best bon vivants or global tastemakers.
Related: 11 of our favourite bars in and around Sydney’s CBD
Poh Ling Yeow’s salivating sushi-train experience
QT Melbourne, CBD
She’s a firm fixture on Australian television with the most infectious laugh, but Poh Ling Yeow’s food is no laughing matter. Although, her first bricks-and-mortar experience hosted at QT Melbourne is indisputably fun and flavourful. Fun-dining, to be exact. A sexier version of the classic sushi-train experience, Yeow has created an exotic menu in collaboration with Singleton whisky, titled ‘The Singleton’s Delicious Discoveries.’ While you won’t find sashimi on the conveyor belt, gourmet “snacks” include fried-chicken bao with kimchi and Kewpies, pandan-coconut sago shots and my personal favourite, the silken Szechuanese eggplant. Honestly, it’s heaven in a morsel.
Yeow explained to Harper’s BAZAAR Australia/New Zealand the unique menu is not only reflective of her wanderlust, but stems from a desire to entice the less adventurous.
“I’m unabashedly eclectic and love borrowing from cultures I’ve experienced travelling. I’m also a very textural cook. I love giving the less adventurous eaters a nudge into the unexpected, so in the dishes I’m serving you’ll find plays of hot & cold.”
While whisky may not be one’s first choice to pair with punchy Asian-infused flavours, Yeow implores diners to reconsider the liquor’s gentlemen club origins.
“If you’ve been hesitant about whisky in the past this makes for a superb introduction. You’ll realise it’s not always austere and serious but fun and versatile and something that can elevate a dining experience,” Yeow began. “It’s the approachable nature of The Singleton with its rich, fruity characteristics & subtle bitter notes — when mixed with something a little sweet and a little fizz, just makes such a great companion for robust Asian seasonings.
Nestled on the ground level of Melbourne’s eminent boutique hotel, the stylish and moody interiors of QT lend itself to Yeow’s intimate and sumptuous affair. ‘The Singleton’s Delicious Discoveries’ is perfect for date night, girls eve in the town or that shameless Sunday self-care.
“Although the dishes I’ve designed have some exotic elements, my priority was to capture the brevity of eating off a sushi train so “yum” was the main priority and small plates mean you have room to try 1 of everything!
The Singleton’s Delicious Discoveries at QT Melbourne runs from Thurs — Sun, 2pm-6pm from February 2 until May. For booking and more information, see QT’s website.
Get a taste of Tokyo … House
Surry Hills, Sydney
Dreaming of Japan? Sydneysiders need only to travel to Surry Hills for an electrifying pop-up, offering the essence of Tokyo life. Suntory BOSS Coffee, the ready-to-drink coffee company founded in Japan back in 1992, has launched the über cool TOKYO HOUSE on Crown Street for a limited time. Rather than a cafe hangout, the space plays host to a number of unforgettable events featuring exclusive cocktails, curated menus and noteworthy Japanese tastemakers in design, music and, of course, mixology. Maya Hirasedo, a Japanese RnB soul artist raised in Australia who’s performed on the runway and in New York City, is part of the edgy lineup.
Open day and night, TOKYO HOUSE is set to amplify its signature Japanese flash brew process — which has seen it earn the title of number one coffee can in Japan and Australia — with its experiential pairings, performances and services. Nomads, freelancers or those with a penchant for cafe-style working can also book a co-working space in the minimalist Tokyo coffee house inspired location, complete with workspaces, charging stations, and super-fast WIFI.
“The Japanese are celebrated for their craftsmanship and endless pursuit of quality. This heritage, care and unique approach to hospitality is how we have approached mastering Suntory BOSS Coffee over the past 30 years. It is the ethos that has inspired and built the foundation for the TOKYO HOUSE,” Josh Wheeler, Head of Energy & Transformation, Frucor Suntory – Oceania said.
TOKYO HOUSE runs from Friday, Feb 17 till Sat, March 4. For booking and more information, see TOKYO HOUSE’s website.
AALIA’s esteemed chef series
AALIA, Sydney CBD
One of Sydney’s top Middle Eastern restaurants is continuing its acclaimed kitchen takeover series this year. AALIA, which earned two hats within months of opening in early 2022, is sharing the food love with a rotation of celebrated chefs starting with Ben Williamson, co-owner of the Brisbane-based, wood-fired restaurant Agnes. The one-night-only experience will offer Sydney diners the tasting opportunity for bespoke Middle Eastern and North African dishes made in creative collaboration with AALIA and the chosen chef.
AALIA’s Executive Chef, Paul Fara will team up with Williamson on Monday, February 27 with a menu bound to bring the heat. Lovingly showcasing their aptitude for ancient traditions, spices and fire techniques, guests can expect Williamson’s signature dishes such as his harissa quail, as well as Paul’s Khorasan pita and Eggplant mes ‘a’ aha, alongside a selection of delicious Middle Eastern dishes for $110pp.
Then on March 20, AALIA will welcome Coskun Uysal from Melbourne Turkish restaurant, Tulum to their Martin Place hub for a charitable homage to Turkey. Tulum, which has been named the “Best Turkish Restaurant” by some of Melbourne’s top food critics, will donate all profits from their AALIA event to Ahbap — a platform raising funds for the devastating Turkey earthquake.
And if you’re unable to make either sitting, anticipate more local and international chefs to helm the AALIA hot plate throughout the year.
“After collaborating with some of my industry friends back in 2022, I’m looking forward to bringing the chef dinner series into the new year as AALIA continues to grow. AALIA is all about trying new things to find the best flavour combinations possible, so I think this is not one to be missed,” AALIA Executive Chef, Paul Farag said.
For booking and more information, see AALIA’s website.
Diana Chan X Serai Kitchen
Serai Kitchen, Melbourne CBD
Serai has been around for less than a year, but already it’s gaining a stellar reputation. Even when I’ve casually asked Melburnian tastemakers for new foodie recommendations, they always cite Serai as a must-visit destination. The modern-Filipino restaurant, spearheaded by chef and co-owner Ross Magnaye, is tucked down a classic Melbourne laneway and aims to introduce Aussies to a largely underrepresented cuisine down under. Last November, Serai was even named Best New Restaurant of the Year at The Age Good Food Guide Awards 2023.
With its glowing reviews from industry insiders and diners alike, it was only a matter of time before Serai made its major festival debut. Launching onto the tantalising 2023 Melbourne Food & Wine festival lineup, Serai is joining forces with Masterchef alum Diana Chan for a vibrant dinner of Filipino and Malaysian cuisine on Sunday, March 26. The pair — whom are close friends — will be collaborating on dishes reflective of their cultures, and unifying it through flavours and fire. If you’re after a quiet, moody fine-dining experience — this isn’t for you. Diana Chan X Serai Kitchen will be loud, fun and full of colour and naturally, flavour.
“Ross and I met five years ago at HWKR and instantly hit it off,” Chan of her first meeting with Serai Kitchen chef and co-owner Ross Magnaye. “I’m excited to work with Ross because we get along as friends and always have a great time cooking together and as a result, the food that comes out of the kitchen is always full of love and cohesive.”
For booking and more information, go on the Melbourne Food & Wine Festival website.