Instead of a breadbasket, at Restaurant Orana, two round balls of potato damper come to the table smoking over hot coals. Here, each dish tells the story of its provenance. In doing this, Scottish-born owner and chef Jock Zonfrillo hopes to define Australian cuisine.
He’s doing as good a job as anyone in this country, partly by drawing on its history. Because as much as his inventive cooking is inspired by swagmen’s damper and Sunday roasts, it owes plenty to bush tucker and traditional indigenous techniques.
Behind this patriotic facade rests the philosophy of new Nordic cuisine, as pioneered by the world leading Noma in Denmark. That means old techniques such as drying, curing, pickling and smoking, matched with ingredients from the land – not just fresh produce from local farms, but native ingredients such as riberries, desert limes and green ants too. As well as the usual kitchen suspects, Orana has an official forager on the payroll.
Pre-meal, you can enjoy a cocktail downstairs at sister restaurant Blackwood. The two venues still work as one, thanks to a continuous piece by Italian artist 2501. Upstairs you’re directed to the Little Book of Liquids for anything outside the tasting menu’s matched wines and beers. There are some familiar drops, but don’t miss the opportunity to make use of staff members’ wine knowledge and explore the lesser-known varietals and natural wines on offer.
In a restaurant that barely sits more than 20 people, the atmosphere is intimate. But more than your standard romantic meal, Orana is an experience.