On the Menu: What some of Australia's Best Restaurants have on their Winter Menu

Compiled by Freya Ensbey.  

With each seasonal rotation, focussed gourmands will notice a change in most restaurants menus. This transition ensures that the Head Chef is switched on to what produce has arrived in abundance within their local area. As Winter brings with it a new yield in flourish, we take a journey around our country to sample what’s on the menu.

Beginning in the far West of Australia, we uncover the visionary restaurant that is reflecting the indigenous six seasons within their menus, before we make our way clockwise over to the North of Queensland, where fresh seafood is in abundance year-round for local eateries. As we travel down the Eastern coast of Australia, we focus on the Northern Rivers, an area that is leading the movement within the paddock to plate philosophy, before moving over to South Australia to thaw out in front of an open fire in the Mt Lofty region, ending our Winter whip around in Dunsborough, sampling locally sourced, housemade produce. 

Left to right, clockwise: Drunken mussels, photo by Simon Pynt, Farm Vegetables and Farm Salad, photos by Justin Guadagnin, at the Three Blue Ducks, The Farm Byron Bay.

Wildflower | WA

Delivering an organic and grounded space to the towering concrete skyline of Perth’s CBD, is Wildflower restaurant. Residing on COMO The Treasury Hotel’s fourth floor, a box has been designed of glass and steel to allow the elements of the outdoors into the contemporary interior, creating escapism from the city beyond.

Wildflower serves an inventive menu revolving around the indigenous Nyoongar calendar of six seasons each year, with farmer and forager-driven menus. As we move into the end of our August Winter, the indigenous refer to this time as Djilba or the season of conception. It is during this season the wattles come into full bloom, along with lemon myrtle, signalling the start of the mass blooming in the South-West. To experience the most from this menu, indulge in the 5 course tasting with plates of South-West Marron with river greens, finger limes, salted radish and brown butter, and chicken cooked in Manjimup truffle.

Winter Menu Musings:

Kangaroo smoked over Jarrah ambers with wattle seed pumpernickel, beetroot and Quandong dressing.

Line caught wild fish with Fremantle octopus, ice plant, fried bone milk, charred cucumber, crispy ink and cured roe.

Jam | North Queensland

Effortlessly combining style with innovation, JAM in Townsville is one of North Queensland’s leading restaurants. Whether its breakfast on the run before work, a long weekend lunch with a glass of wine or an intimate dinner for two, JAM is the ideal contemporary space to escape to this Winter to enjoy the best produce, cooked with refinement that this area has to offer.

Winter Menu Musings:

North QLD barramundi, prawn and pea croquette, grains, crunchy chips and muhammara aioli.

Slow braised goat red curry, steamed pumpkin with Sichuan and broad bean salad.

Western Plains pork loin with Bangalow belly, beetroot and ricotta ravioli with Leatherwood honey pear nuts and chard.

Season | NSW

Residing in the sought after Peppers Resort and Spa is Season restaurant, harnessing an ethos to produce a menu which keeps within each season, and only using the freshest ingredients available, whilst they are at their peak nutritional value.

Season’s meat is also sourced locally, like pork from the sleepy surrounding village of Bangalow and hormone free chicken from Alstonville. Head Chef Michael Lee invites diners to indulge in his Seasons tasting menu with professionally matched wines, offering dishes like Ora King salmon, saffron and fennel clam nage, smoked pork crumb and crustacean foam, along with Stone & Wood braised beef cheek, smoked kohlrabi puree, pickled carrots and edamame with a truffle powder and liquorice jus.

Winter Menu Musings:

Sambuca flamed scallops, cauliflower and charcoal, bacon, apple, smoked mussel and yuzu ketchup.

Seafood bouillabaisse, grilled fish, crustaceans, octopus, saffron and cayenne rouille, fennel and mandarin flatbread.

Whole roasted herbed lamb rack with Harissa roasted carrots, anise labneh and puffed grains, topped with jus.

Three Blue Ducks | The Farm Byron Bay | NSW

The lush, rolling green hills of The Farm at Byron Bay, plays home to the popular restaurant, Three Blue Ducks, gracing the Northern Rivers with their third restaurant to original eateries at Bronte and Rosebery. The team at Three Blue Ducks have created a menu working in conjunction with the produce available within the surrounding paddocks of The Farm, as well as ingredients sourced from the neighbouring suburbs. Bring a rug and order a picnic to enjoy the great outdoors whilst visiting, or grab a beer from the bar and enjoy a Sunday session with the family beside the Argentinian style grill offering succulent whole proteins which are carved straight from the bone.

Winter Menu Musings:

12 hour slow braised lamb shepherd’s pie with pea, mint potato and The Farm cos.

Drunken mussels, nam phrik, water spinach, cherry tomatoes, Nimbin puffed rice, coriander and fried shallots with chilli bread.

Local line-caught fish, leek, sunflower cream, Tokyo turnip and capers.

100 Mile Table | NSW

Join the swarm of locals who have already discovered local Byron Bay gem, 100 Mile Table, located in Banksia Drive. The modern café space has been styled with an industrial and eclectic interior, whilst a flood of warming Winter sun falls over the outside garden area, creating the ideal spot to perch yourself for a cup of Marvel Street Coffee and to devour local tastes. Creating a menu designed around the local produce available, enjoy daily dishes at the café with ingredients found no further afield than 100 miles.

Winter Menu Musings:

Chicken wings with blue cheese sauce.

Beef shin pie with sour cream, mustard and roast vegetables coked in rosemary and honey.

Pan fried fish with lemon caper butter and shoestring fries.

Balcony Bar & Oyster Co. | Byron Bay

Executive Chef and Owner of Balcony Bar & Oyster Co, Sean Connolly, has come from a background of molecular and avant-garde cuisine. Connolly sources local produce wherever possible for his innovative menu at Balcony Bar, holding a firm belief that the less you do to food, the better it tastes. Renowned for his playful and modern take on classic dishes, Connolly seamlessly executes refinement and re-invention of classics, seen in his English chowder with mussels and oysters served over fries, with a secret ingredient of Pernod liquor.      

Winter Menu Musings:

Chilli Crab Linguine with snow crab, dressed in a parsley, mint, chilli, lemon and butter sauce.

Orgy of Mushroom Gnocchi with ricotta.

Brookie’s & Bucha Cocktail: Brookie’s Byron Bay Dry Gin, The Bucha of Byron kombucha, local aniseed myrtle and native finger limes.

Mt Lofty Ranges Vineyard | SA

For the ideal South Australian restaurant to escape to on a cold Winter’s day, look no further than Mount Lofty Ranges Vineyard. An all-encompassing destination for wine tastings, functions, mouth-watering local cuisine and enviable views, step inside the rustic, barn like space with wide timber decks allowing the outdoors in, a central open fire place and intimate tables, made for sharing gourmet dishes and local wines. This season, why not select a 5 course Chef’s surprise degustation with matched wines and enjoy dishes like seared Paroo kangaroo, macadamia, strawberry guava and rhubarb, and Lenswood chicken breast with local mushrooms, garlic buttermilk and pencil leek, finishing with Pedro Ximenez parfait, chocolate, quince and hazelnut.

Winter Menu Musings:

South Australian lamb, confit celeriac with pickles and green apple.

Fresh South Australian market fish, kombu, finger lime and miso.

Lenswood honey ice-cream, mandarin, whipped milk and cinnamon bun.

Piari & Co | WA

In the heart of Dunsborough town, just north of Margaret River, a restaurant gem awaits at Piari & Co. Enter to discover a vibrant and modern space styled with fresh white touches, coastal stylings and contemporary hanging pendent lighting. With a culinary focus on serving fine food and wine, Piari & Co. take simple, local ingredients and create inventive dishes sure to impress, aiming to produce as many elements of a plate as possible, in house.

Winter Menu Musings:

Leek, sweet corn, courgette, gorgonzola and dill risotto.

Zuppa Di Pesce, barramundi, prawns, cuttlefish, mussels, scallops, tomato and saffron broth.

Tiramisu, espresso, alcohol, mascarpone and chocolate.