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A bowl of yabbies sitting on top of a bed of salt bush and ice a
Photograph: Daniel Boud

Where to try native ingredients in Sydney restaurants

Want to engage with our native produce while you’re out at dinner? Here’s our guide

By Freya Herring

If you’re not already clued up on the subject, it can be hard to know what produce is native, and what isn’t, to this country. Our upcoming Time Out Talk, The Politics of Bushfood Now, will help with that (book your tickets here), but here’s a quick guide to get you in the mood in the meantime.

Yabbies with roti and onion puree and muntries at Momofuku Seiobo
Photograph: Anna Kucera

Yabbies and muntries at Momofuku Seiōbo

Restaurants Darling Harbour

This dish sees a massive, hulking, butter-drenched pile of puffy roti served with smoked onion purée and sweet little Aussie muntries. A split yabby lands dressed in barley koji butter, fresh coconut, mint, chervil and sour, citrusy woodland sorrel. You get crunch from the bread, sweet from the yabby, freshness from the herbs and cool respite from the coconut. It’s not just the best dish here; it’s one of the best dishes in Sydney right now.

Layers of seaweed soaked in dashi
Photograph: Anna Kucera

Sea blight at Automata

Restaurants Chippendale

Under a blanket of compressed seaweed is tender steamed white hapuka fish, creamy cured roe emulsion (like a taramasalata) and little pops of native sea blight. Umami, cream, crunch.


Ice plant and native parsley at Bennelong restaurant

Restaurants Sydney

The King George whiting dish at Bennelong lets the slightly salty, seriously tender fish speak for itself. The accompanying scallops are seared on one side only, so they keep their satiny feel in your mouth. Indigenous ice plant adds pleasing crunch, and pepper comes from native parsley.

A cook turns logs of wood in the fire oven at Firedoor
Photograph: Anna Kucera

Moreton Bay bug at Firedoor

Restaurants Australian Surry Hills

The menu changes depending on the quality of produce available on the day. Moreton bay bug is served shelled, lightly smoked and barely cooked. It sits on a bed of puréed mullet roe, and thin wedges of sweet and sour apple add zing. It cuts like soft butter, and is so delicate you’ll have a hard time believing it escaped a furious fire moments before.


Saltbush at Bar H

Restaurants Surry Hills

In Sydney, Bar H pretty much brought saltbush into the mainstream when we first tried their tempura saltbush many moons again. It’s still on the menu – they’d never be allowed to take it off, surely. The whole branch is deep fried and served with a lemon cheek for squeezing and a chilli-spiked mayo. And it’s bloody delicious.

Kylie Kwong behind the counter reading order at Billy Kwong
Photograph: Anna Kucera

Wallaby tail and native greens at Billy Kwong

Restaurants Elizabeth Bay

The red-braised wallaby tail is a fail-safe bet at Billy Kwong. A big pile of sticky, nubbly, on-the-bone meat is piled high, dressed with a gingery, not-too-sweet black bean and chilli sauce. Chopsticks prove a hindrance for us, so we say pick each little piece up with your hands and nibble away at the tender meat. On the side, order the stir-fry of native greens. On the night we’re in, they comprise of tender saltbush and bower spinach alongside cooling ice plant and popping succulent, all tossed in a ginger-spiked, shiro shoyu sauce. It’s dishes like this – indigenous-focussed, Asian-inspired and banging with flavour – which tell you what Kwong is all about.


Finger limes at Sepia

Restaurants Darling Harbour

Like the rest of the menu, the pre-desserts vary, but the day we’re in it’s a Benn signature, known as ‘The Pearl’. Crack the top as you would a soft-boiled egg and watch the sugar-shell collapse dramatically as its filling explodes onto the plate. The centre is a combination of frozen finger lime pearls and ginger mousse that has been siphoned into liquid nitrogen and smashed up to a powder. It is exactly what a pre-dessert should be: invigorating, with an undertone of heat from the ginger, and is served with a yuzu-infused sake on the side, which brings the refreshment levels to new heights.

Yabbies at the Bennelong Cured and Cultured bar

Restaurants Sydney

Even if you just have one dish at Bennelong’s Cured and Cultured bar, make it the yabbies. They sit in their shells upon a bed of saltbush (which, our chipper waitress tells us, is not to be eaten), though in actual fact, they’ve already been detached. Pick one up and place it upon one of the buckwheat pikelets in the accompanying basket. From the two pots in front of you, swipe on a lick of deeply fragrant lemon jam and another of cultured cream, fold the thing up and eat. This dish is practically a legend. The sweetness of the lemon enriches, rather than overwhelms, the flavour of the cool, crunchy yabby; the cream lightens the load, and the buttery crumb of the pikelet leads the whole thing to perfection.


Lemon myrtle chiffon cake at Black Star Pastry

Restaurants Newtown

Lemon myrtle isn’t just endemic to Australia, but to the particular rainforests of central and south-eastern Queensland. Black Star’s lemon myrtle chiffon cake is tinged with the citrusy tang of this fragrant herb, packing a punch in flavour, while remaining tender and light as a cloud.

A plate of crab decorated with shaved macadamia nuts at Sixpenny in Stanmore, Sydney
Photograph: Daniel Boud

Crab and macadamias at Sixpenny

Restaurants Modern Australian Stanmore

This classic Sixpenny dish is a celebration of two of our greatest culinary gifts to the world: crab and native macadamia nuts. It’s a little pile of curled, shaved macadamia nuts disguising lightly cooked crab meat and macadamia nut cream beneath, all scented with the barest hint of chamomile. It’s a beautiful, tender dish that shows precision and sympathy for delicate ingredients.

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