Where there's smoke
Getting back to basics will be the focus for many chefs this coming year with the idea that quality produce cooked with care equals flavour. Throw a woodfired grill or oven into the mix, and the results are enhanced tenfold. Lennox Hastie of Sydney's Firedoor is leading the charge in the fire and smoke department, but it seems more restaurants are beginning to take note. One restaurant to watch is Hearth, a new modern Australian barbecue venue in Perth led by chef Jed Gerrard, which features a custom-built multi-level South American parilla-style grill. In short: more fire, more smoke.
It's 2020's hottest destination – so red hot you'll be lucky to nab a flight in the lead up to the Summer Olympic Games. From the neon-lit allure of Tokyo and the old-world charm of Kyoto, to the riverside promenades of Osaka and the natural beauty of Mount Fuji, Japan has plenty to offer for every traveller. Closer to home, the enthusiasm for Japanese dining continues with the opening of Yoko Dining in Brisbane and Kuro in Sydney.
It's time to engage with sustainable agricultural practices to ensure the longevity of native ingredients. And on a larger scale, it's even more important that the profits are channelled back to the Indigenous people that have cultivated them for thousands of years. How? Champion Indigenous business owners and farmers by heading to Yerrabingin in Sydney, Australia's first native rooftop farm, and follow the work of changemakers like Sharon Winsor (Indigiearth), Dwayne Bannon-Harrison (Mirritya Mundya), Mark Olive (chef and presenter) and Peter Cooley (IndigiGrow).
Burnt, cracked and sunken are not typically your desired traits in a cake. Unless, that is, you're talking about burnt Basque cheesecake. Taking the reins from the classic New York-style is this unique Spanish version, which was first created in San Sebastián at La Viña; it has a beautifully burnished top (similar to a Portuguese tart) and a decadent yet delicate core.
You travel to escape, so why not go it alone? Data from British Airways reveals that more travellers, in particular women, are choosing to holiday independently. Many operators are following suit: for example, cruise company Holland America Line has introduced new single-occupancy cabins and a program that pairs up solo travellers at the dinner table.
Raise the bar
Bar stools are hot property right now with diners ditching traditional table settings to opt for a pew with a view instead. Venues such as Carlton Wine Room and Bar Margaux in Melbourne, and Poly and the newly opened Ragazzi in Sydney, all offer perfect places to perch with a glass of vino and a selection of snacks. It's an unpretentious and fun way to dine, particularly if you're a table for one.
Minimal food miles, plant-based eating, flexitarianism… The lifestyle labels abound, but they're all about fostering more considered sourcing, cooking and eating for the earth and its future. Keep your eyes peeled for GT's sustainability issue in February.
Nose to tail, fin to scale, root to stem. The zero-waste approach is gaining momentum in restaurants and homes – and it's a positive thing for both the earth and the wallet. At O.My in Beaconsfield, Victoria, no ingredient goes to waste. One of their regular menu items, zero-waste pumpkin, uses the whole vegetable: pumpkin flesh is dried and milled into flour to make pasta, seeds are roasted and turned into praline, and the skin is pickled, semi-dried and combined with the seeds to make biscotti.
Tasmania may be Australia's epicentre for firewater, but now the rest of Australia is joining the whisky party. Sydney's Archie Rose is set to release a new range of whiskies, while Melbourne's Starward continues to gain global accolades. Bars devoted to the liquid gold remain popular, too.
Chefs without borders
Traditionally, chefs' reputations have hinged on their association with a single restaurant. But as Instagram connects and fosters relationships across kitchens, we're seeing cooks cropping up all over the shop. Think Analiese Gregory (formerly of Franklin) and Jo Barrett (Oakridge) joining forces to run the Flinders Wharf restaurant in Tasmania (28 February to 1 March), and Ciccia Bella's Alex Huxtable and Tom Bromwich (formerly of Hartsyard, now at Love, Tilly Devine) taking over the kitchen at Sydney's Dear Sainte Éloise (in January and February respectively). Collaboration is king, and it's proving to be the key to venues keeping things fresh while allowing chefs challenge themselves in new environments.
Great southern land
Australians are staying closer to home for the holidays, and no wonder – we have world-envied locations right in our own backyard. Skip the long-haul flights and stay local to explore destinations such as the Margaret River, Tasmania, Uluru or the Top End.