Sydney food trends seem to travel at the speed of light. Think freakshakes—no one would have anticipated how many cafés in Sydney would rush to stuff their shakes with as many bits of candy and childhood nostalgia as possible, but you don’t need to look too far these days to find one.
So how are Sydney's best restaurants serving up something truly special these days? Enter foraging—an almost lost art that is a little harder to replicate. By definition, you can’t just buy more foraged ingredients. Most chefs haven’t been trained to use them in culinary school, and you need to know what you’re doing and where your ingredients are growing.
We hit up a new breed of chefs and cocktail movers and shakers, who are taking the time to bring your Insta feeds and your bellies something really unique.
The Powder Keg
Award-winning chef Elijah Holland and cocktail legend Grant Collins have always pushed the envelope at The Powder Keg, and recently things have gotten even wilder. In addition to finding foraged herbs on your roast chicken or wild flowers in your dessert, The Powder Keg are going a step further with their foraged lunches and cocktails. If you fancy, you can even join Elijah on his foraging missions along the coast, in the forest or from the streets. It’s a pretty unbeatable way to follow your ingredients and find out how to make them work well on the plate and palate.
Chef and creative director Aaron Teece has foraged since he was a kid. “Becoming a chef made me a lot more aware of the season and when different items are at their peak in flavour,” he says. It’s not easy and it takes time and skill (since a lot of wild greens need balancing with other flavours), but for Aaron, “going out to forage in the wild reminds me of how short some seasons can be and to use things when they are at their best eating quality.” At the moment he’s enjoying using Robinia flowers at Studio Neon, which taste like peas.
While many people think foraging requires long trips away, chef Roy McVeigh prefers to keep his foraging spots close by. Coastal herbs like ice plant, warrigal greens, sarsaparilla, sea lettuce and samphire feature regularly on the menu at Dragoncello. However, the real star is the humble chickweed, which most people will find in their backyards. It’s the star ingredient in one of the most popular dishes on the menu, the chicken ballotine: “We blend it with milk and it sort of tastes like corn husks,” says Roy.
If there’s anyone who can make foraging seem like a cool and casual thing you do on a sunny weekend, it’s Byron and Christopher from Trolley’d. They may not be a restaurant but they’ve developed a cult following in Sydney for their foraged cocktails that add a little intrigue to every party, delivered from a set of upcycled Ansett trolleys. For Bryon, he loves using ingredients like Lily Pillies and Lemon Myrtle because “there’s such an abundance of edible flavours out there that we walk past and kill off everyday, from weeds to natives.” And yet, “the flavours and health benefits can keep you going throughout the year.”
Image credit: Zo Zhou and Federica Portentoso at The Powder Keg