Foragers find bush flavours to tantalise city's palate

Esther Han
Harvest: Bartenders Christopher Thomas and Byron Woolfrey pick grevillea garnishes in Potts Point for cocktails at Trolley'd.
Harvest: Bartenders Christopher Thomas and Byron Woolfrey pick grevillea garnishes in Potts Point for cocktails at Trolley'd. Photo: Marco Del Grande

Danish chef Rene Redzepi, possibly the world's most famous forager, says he still craves the Australian bush foods he ate in the company of the Iga Warta and Wardandi indigenous people three years ago.

''They blow my mind and still stand out. [They gave me] some of the most interesting food experiences of my career,'' he said. ''So many new delicious flavours, so much forgotten wisdom to be relearned.''

Mr Redzepi, chef at the world's No.2 restaurant, Noma in Denmark, will return to Sydney in October for the relaunch of Good Food Month, Australia's biggest festival of food, talented cooks and notable restaurants created 15 years ago.

His passion for foraging and using native ingredients not only placed Noma on the map but triggered a small culinary revolution. The initial ignorance he displayed towards Australian bush food did ruffle a few industry feathers but he came around in the end and still kicked off a trend.

Since then, the buzz around bush foods has not died down. Chefs Neil Perry and Kylie Kwong continue to develop popular dishes using native ingredients. In the past three months, two beverage businesses have opened, wholly focused on native ingredients.

Bartenders Byron Woolfrey and Christopher Thomas started Trolley'd in April, using a fleet of old Ansett trolleys converted into mobile cocktail bars. Mr Woolfrey said Mr Redzepi's philosophy inspired them to serve every cocktail with ''a native twist''.

''I appreciate how Rene Redzepi made these native foods so available,'' he said. ''It's helped people understand there is a whole world around us we can thrive off.''

As urban foragers, picking riberries off lilly pilly trees - ''before the birds get them or before they hit the ground'' - and small edible violets is a normal part of their working day.

''There are native gingers in parklands and lemon myrtle growing on our balconies,'' Mr Woolfrey said. ''Our lemon myrtle punch with aniseed myrtle tea, lemon and gin is really popular.''

Camilla Strang experimented with native flavours in Orange for a year before releasing two cordial drinks in April.

She will be selling lemon cordial flavoured with lemon myrtle and Kakadu plum, and an apple cordial blended with native ginger and rosella flower at the Pyrmont growers market on Saturday.

''People have been so happy to see a product utilising our Australian plants,'' said Ms Strang, director of Millamolong Australia, maker of Milla Cordial. ''These foods have been used for healing and cooking for hundreds of years.''