By Ellen Morgan
Published: Wednesday, May 5, 2021
Last week, Tasting Australia presented by RAA Travel officially launched, kick-starting 10 days of festivities celebrating food, drink, produce and terrain.
After being postponed in 2020 due to COVID-19, the annual event made its delicious comeback to South Australia’s events calendar on 30 April and will be serving up foodie fun until Sunday, 9 May.
With 5 days still left of a program jam packed with delectable wining and dining experiences, there’s plenty of time to enjoy Tasting Australia. Whether you attend an event or simply pop into the festival hub of Town Square, you’re sure to head home having fallen in love with Australia’s food and drinks scene, all over again.
We sat down with Food Curator Darren Robertson (of the famous Three Blue Ducks restaurants in NSW) to find out about his journey with Tasting Australia, why he loves Adelaide and, for starters, what his top picks are for this year’s festival.
“There are lots of little pop-ups in Coffin Bay and the Adelaide Hills and all these amazing dinners, lunches and events [in this year’s program] but if I’m not at an event, I’ll just be here at Town Square,” Darren said.
Town Square is Tasting Australia’s festival hub – a brilliant setup in Victoria Square / Tarntanyangga, featuring food, drinks and fun.
“I’d say it’s the heart of the festival… there are all the firepits, people cooking outside, demonstration areas, Yalumba doing the wine tastings and so much more.
“This year, we’ve tried to make it a lot more inclusive and family friendly. I just want to see this (space) full of people eating and drinking and enjoying it.”
The configuration of the festival’s hub has changed this year. While the beautiful Town Square Kitchen and the Masterclass Pavilion will house a variety of ticketed events, the rest of the Town Square festivities are free to enter and be enjoyed by everyone. The new setup also makes it even easier to peruse, taste, explore and delight.
Simply enter the grounds and meander around a variety of food and drink vendors, taking in the action happening on any given day.
“Just being part of a food event in the heart of the city is pretty special,” Darren continued.
If you’re after a no-frills bite to eat, pick and choose anything from chilli crab to tacos; pizza to burgers; vegetarian and vegan delights to grilled local smallgoods. South Australian favourites, the likes of Gang Gang, Shibui dessert bar, Sunny’s Pizza and Forage Supply Co., are among the food vendors cooking up a storm in Town Square for the festival’s duration.
“The standard of food here is really high, and I’m really keen to check out what’s going on this year,” Darren said.
Open daily from 11am ‘till late, Town Square is the perfect spot to stop for a lunchtime bite or a splash of local wine or spirits after work. Pirate Life has their own bar, as do Yalumba, Wicks and even Veneziano coffee, if you’re in need of a pick-me-up. You can even grab a cocktail with local spirits from the specialty cocktail bar.
We recommend you soak up the atmosphere of this vibrant hub with a glass in-hand at the RAA Travel lounge, housed atop the Masterclass Pavilion. From here you can enjoy speccy vistas, looking over Town Square to the city beyond.
“There are all sorts of free demonstrations like butter churning or cooking with kids and all sorts of stuff always going on, too [in Town Square],” said Darren.
“We also have a lot more arts and music in the square, like acoustic performances. I think that’s the future – this sort of integration of fashion, food and music. We’re all doing the same thing, I think. Certainly, in a city like Adelaide with so much to offer culturally, it’s great [to combine these industries].”
For the rest of this week, you can see a variety of artisans at work in Town Square, from florists to cask makers and even experts in fermented veggies. From Friday to Sunday, enjoy acoustic acts, the likes of Rob Edwards and Ollie English, making their musical magic – with the city lights as a backdrop. Oh, Adelaide – we love you.
Darren said the Town Square festivities, as well as the whole program, are curated to be more accessible and enjoyed by everyone this year – something he believes should always be the case where food is concerned.
“That’s the way food is going,” he said. “Breakfast should be as exciting as dinner, as should lunch.”
After being invited to the festival launch several years ago, and then being a Tasting Australia guest chef, Darren was thrilled to be onboard as Food Curator this year.
“I’ve always been a fan of food events. Honestly, I love them globally,” he said.
“I used to work for Tetsuya Wakuda [of the famous Tetsuya’s]. I was fortunate enough to work and travel the world with him. We did Tokyo Taste and saw some really cool events. I’m a big fan of Feastival in the UK and just the knock-on effect that has with tourism, travel, food and that whole industry.
“These events seem to be growing… it’s very exciting.”
He’s also a big fan of Adelaide.
“The restaurant and wine industry here has really gone off in the last 5 to 7 years, and with people like Duncan [Welgemoed of Africola], Emma [McCaskill, previously of Sparkke at the Whitmore] and Jock Zonfrillo [previously of Orana], there’s this global respect now in Australia. Adelaide really holds its own now, too,” he said.
“Geographically, it’s obviously a beautiful part of the world and there’s amazing produce and wineries. It’s this perfect storm of incredible stuff and awesome producers and chefs, too.
“Adelaide is just a beautiful backdrop for this festival, and it’s quite diverse between the city centre, Adelaide Hills, Coffin Bay and all the different South Australian regions.”
Bringing greater awareness to our food and hospitality industries, Tasting Australia hopes to further engage people in getting out and about and exploring for themselves.
“I had such an amazing time here 2 or 3 years ago, and I want the guests and even the chefs to have that experience, too. I don’t want the festival to come and go. It should be an ongoing thing that creates a community and network that people draw on throughout the year,” he said.
For now though, there’s still 5 glorious days left to experience every morsel of Tasting Australia 2021. So, put on your finest feasting pants and get amongst it.