Foodie alert: the city's top restaurants are going bush

Going bush ... Top Chef Peter Gilmore of Quay Restaurant.
Going bush ... Top Chef Peter Gilmore of Quay Restaurant.

BUSH tucker ingredients and Cantonese cuisine may sound an unusual pairing but the flavours are ''simpatico'', says the chef Kylie Kwong.

Reworking the menu at her Surry Hills restaurant with native ingredients, she found crispy skin duck pairs very nicely with the tart and sour flavours of Davidson's plums, and wallaby meat just ''works'' in a stir-fry with black beans and chilli.

''It has made me reassess the whole notion of what Australian-Chinese cuisine really is,'' Kwong said. ''It's not a fad, it's now really integrated into my menu.''

Quay's Peter Gilmore is another chef incorporating the likes of Warrigal greens and bush apples into his dishes. He says the latter tastes like the skin of red apples. ''I used that in a fish dish, on top of a really nice piece of hapuka.''

Gilmore says the key to incorporating these ingredients is steering clear of the ''almost kitsch'' ways they have been used in the past. ''It's about being a bit more selective about what you use.''

The use of bush foods is a trend identified by Good Food Guide co-editors Terry Durack and Joanna Savill as making its mark on the Sydney dining scene in the past 12 months.

Durack said it was a year marked by a series of highs and lows for the industry - 54 new restaurants have been included in this year's guide, while some big names have been farewelled due to restaurant closures.

The net result for Sydney's diners is a positive one.

''It is happening. If you're hungry you're in for a treat because you are going to eat so well,'' Durack said.

Other trends he identified included eating up high (on stools at counters, that is), salted caramel and kitchen gardens.

''How we're eating out is all becoming quite casual but the quality of what we eat is becoming higher and higher. In the old days ingredients would be shipped into the kitchen, you would have no idea who grew them and now that all has changed. Often the person who grew them is the chef themselves.''

This story Foodie alert: the city's top restaurants are going bush first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.