Food News

Dining in the suburbs and holidays near home: the food and travel trends we'll see in 2021

What we eat, how we drink and where we go will all look a little different this year. These are the biggest trends set to shape the next 12 months ahead.

By Grace MacKenzie
Rottnest Island.
Border closures forced us to look inwards in 2020, driving a boom for regional and domestic tour operators. This year will see Australians continue to stay close to home, as we explore the rich and varied offerings of our own backyard, from humid tropics and rich red deserts to horizon-spanning beaches and humming cities. Cruise the rugged coastline of Tasmania; bask in the glory of Uluṟu; swim with great whites in Port Lincoln; or perhaps snap a selfie with a quokka on Rottnest Island. Across the Tasman, our equally spectacular neighbour, Aotearoa New Zealand, also offers plenty to impress. From the South Island's luxury lodges, vineyards and ski slopes to the sailing paradise of the Bay of Islands and beyond.
This year will see wine producers get serious about sustainable packaging. Think fewer glass bottles and more cartons, cans and the return of the goon bag. See UK firm Frugalpac's Frugal Bottle made from 94 per cent recycled paperboard with a food-grade liner, and Delinquente Wine Co and Jilly Wines, two local winemakers proving exceptional wine can come housed in a box (or a bag).
Delinquente Wine Co's High Crimes 2020 Summer Rosé, $45 for 1.5L Photo: Josie Withers
Big, bold and bright are the style cues for 2021. From fashion to homewares, it's all about head-turning colours and large-scale prints. Take inspiration from the luscious brilliance of summer fruit and adorn your alfresco dining table with berry-hued linen and vivid tableware. Revamp your living space with a statement sofa or quirky glass vessels filled with vibrant flowers. Be inspired by contemporary art and design from around the world at NGV Triennial, which features such works as the attention-grabbing mastery of artist Refik Anadol.
As the hospitality landscape continues to evolve in the wake of restaurant closures and restrictions, expect to see more pop-ups and collaborations as chefs look for opportunities to support one another and flex their creative muscle. Alanna Sapwell, former head chef of Arc, brought Esmay to Noosa's Wasabi for three months last year, inviting Adelaide chef Emma McCaskill to join her for a weekend residency. James MacDonald, of Sydney's Hubert, crossed the border for a cameo at Adelaide's Leigh Street Wine Room, which also hosted The Summertown Aristologist's Tom Campbell and Aaron Fenwick. Meanwhile, British-Italian steakhouse, The Milan Cricket Club has taken over Sydney's La Rosa for summer, showcasing Nik Hill's take on British classics like "The Pig Mack", a pig's head schnitzel burger. And that's just the start.
Last year's bushfires left grape growers with severely smoke-damaged crops but creativity in the face of adversity has resulted in a number of wine-adjacent offerings, including co-ferments (when beer meets wine) and grape-based spirits (such as shiraz-based eau de vie). Archie Rose Distilling Co bought more than 50 tonnes of smoke-tainted grape crops, and is releasing a three-product range in support of the Hunter Valley wine community – the Shiraz Brandy is due to be released in late 2023. Spirit Lab has adopted an unfermented and little-to-no skin contact method to combat smoke particles in their products, with their Mistelle 2020 and Gin & Juice both receiving a sell-out response.
Archie Rose's Hunter Valley Shiraz Spirit. Photo: Nikki To
In case you missed it, Gourmet Traveller's January issue is dedicated to all things small but mighty; a veritable snack attack of one-bite wonders. Because if there is one word that defines dining in 2021, it's snacks. Once the preserve of fine-dining dégustation menus, snacks have found their way onto just about every menu in the country. They are tiny but potent – and thoroughly delicious. Death to the main course. Long live the snack!
The Victorian government is investing $58 million into the local hospitality industry to help increase their outdoor dining capacity and cater to summer crowds. The money will go towards marketing and the purchase of outdoor essentials, such as tables and umbrellas, in a bid to get the industry back on its feet. Always a trendsetter, Melbourne's alfresco frenzy is sure to sweep the nation with outdoor dining options expanding in cities across Australia.
Melbourne's Arbory Afloat on the Yarra River. Photo: Julian Kingma
As high-end, CBD locations have seen a downturn, local suburban eateries have witnessed a surge in demand. Expect to see more neighbourhood bars, bistros and cafés open in 2021, as working from home becomes a permanent part of daily life. Some of the country's best restaurateurs are already eyeing up new suburban locations. Watch this space.
While plant-based diets remain popular and continue to gain followers, many people are taking a flexitarian approach to eating, turning to more sustainable meat options. Kangaroo meat, which is wild harvested and doesn't rely on grain production, continues to grow in popularity on restaurant menus and in home kitchens. Others are looking to retired dairy cows as an answer to reducing the heavy eco-footprint of beef. Sourcing the meat is becoming easier across Australia – and chefs like Matt Moran and Lennox Hastie are educating diners on just how flavourful and tender the meat can be when handled with care.
  • undefined: Grace MacKenzie