SUMMER 23/24

There is more to Australian bush tucker than kangaroo and shellfish, and Central Coast restaurateurs are proving so with delicate native ingredients cropping up on menus in subtle ways.


Yellowtail Restaurant, Terrigal

The tart notes of the Davidson plum make it a popular choice among chefs keen to play around with native ingredients, and Yellowtail Restaurant owner and chef Scott Price says the plum’s sourness and lack of sugar makes it suitable for savoury dishes. At Yellowtail, Price uses the plum in powder form and says it adds great colour and flavour to sides such as parsnip or bunya nut puree.

‘Right now, we serve crispy skin duck with a bunya nut puree,’ Price says. ‘We dust the puree and some pickled daikon and red garnet plums with Davidson plum powder. The tartness helps to cut through the richness of the duck.’

‘It also works well with cream- and custard-based desserts,’ he adds. Elsewhere on Yellowtail’s menu, finger lime is served with snapper sashimi, as well as with oysters and pepper berry (native to Tasmania). Price describes finger lime as being ‘like little caviar that supplies fantastic little pops of zing; very sour but great used sparingly’.

Barretts Restaurant, Pullman Magenta Shores

Offering something a little different for diners, Barretts Restaurant Executive Chef Rick Gore features ‘foraged sea leaves’ in dishes at the five-star Pullman Magenta Shores. Specifically, the leaves are sea celery, sea asparagus (also known as samphire) and warrigal greens, all of which are sourced from Australia’s east coast. Native ingredients are used across the menu, with the warrigal greens a unique addition to a breakfast brioche benedict with hollandaise, and a mix of the sea leaves complimenting seafood linguine. Although the foraging food philosophy isn’t widely followed on the Central Coast, Gore says it’s ‘starting to come to life’.

‘We have some great local farms on the Central Coast (and) we use amazing suppliers who have really embraced this way of bringing food to the table,’ Gore says.

‘For our chefs, they create great tasting pickles, jams and sauces showcasing how great these natives taste.’

Other regular ingredients include lemon myrtle, river mint, bush tomato and native gingers, while featured seafood is line-caught barramundi and blue swimmer crab.

Bar Botanica, Erina

With up to 14 flavours of all-natural gelato and sorbet, served at one of the Coast’s favourite properties (located in the former Fragrant Garden), Dan and Julia Hughes were bound to use native ingredients. The pair, through Mr Goaty Gelato, has a reputation for creating unique flavour combinations, the most popular of which come from their garden-to-gelato range. Think strawberries mixed with native finger lime, and turmeric and orange.

The gelato and sorbet range regularly features macadamia nuts, native peppermint, wild native limes and finger limes. The ‘lemon myrtle macadamia’ gelato has been nicknamed by staff as the ‘bush tucker flavour’ and has a growing list of fans. Doubling as a café serving late morning ‘snacks’ Wednesdays to Sundays, Bar Botanica’s menu also features lemon myrtle tea.

Saddles, Mount White

Photo: Jacs Powell

With passionate chef and gardener Cameron Cansdell at the helm, it’s no surprise bush tucker is sprinkled throughout the delicious creations at Saddles. The menu changes frequently but diners can expect to find natives such as karkalla, sea blite, salt bush, warrigal greens and ice plant, all of which are available to order fresh.

‘Interestingly, most of the native greens contain oxalates which, in most cases, means the greens have to be cooked to harness the essential vitamins and minerals these greens contain,’ Cansdell says.

The salt bush is currently served with firm white flesh fish, such as grouper or hapuka, and occasionally spring lamb. The ‘karkalla and sea blite lend themselves great in salad work or in our potato dishes…’ Cansdell says. Karkalla is commonly known as pigface and you’d recognise the sprawling succulent at local beaches. 

For something more daring, Cansdell offers visitors the chance to try kangaroo tartare with pepper berry, and Davidson plums are used in cocktails, salads and meat dishes. When it comes to Saddles’ delicious desserts, lemon myrtle (from the on-site garden) features on a flourless citrus cake and strawberry gum powder on the oh-so-tempting lamingtons.

The Duck Inn, The Springs, Peats Ridge

Putting its own twist on bush tucker is The Duck Inn, with bush-inspired cocktails. Interest piqued? We thought so.

‘Our bush-inspired cocktails are created with many local and native ingredients such as bush oranges, limes and lemons from the Lentinis (of Eastcoast Beverages at Kulnura),’ says The Springs’ Restaurant and Bar Manager Brittany Pinto.

Other beverage ingredients include sage, rosemary, thyme, hibiscus syrup, local honey and lemon myrtle.

At The Springs’ Sitting Duck restaurant, Executive Chef Dan Capper has lemon myrtle butter and native pepper on the ingredients list. He says native pepper is aromatic and has a milder flavour than standard table pepper. As for lemon myrtle, Capper says it’s popular because it’s great when used fresh and pairs nicely with seafood.


Know your Australian native herbs and spices


Photo: Megan Forward

Australia’s native herbs and spices may be among the oldest plants on earth, but are still in their culinary infancy as more chefs and cooks begin to experiment with their distinct tastes. Just like not using too much pepper, chilli, cardamom or cloves in a meal, native herbs and spices also need to be understood. Some have delicate fresh top notes that cannot sustain long cooking periods. Others, when used in too large a quantity, tend to leave a strong camphor taste in the food. A basic understanding of how to use these spices overcomes the problem, and using them becomes no more mysterious than adding chilli or lemongrass.

Akudjura or bush tomato

(Not to be confused with wild tomatoes that are unsuitable for eating.)

Whole akudjura can be added to dishes with a long, slow cooking time, such as soups, pickles, chutneys and casseroles. In powder form it gives a nostalgic ‘country-baked’ taste to cookies and apple crumble. It also combines particularly well with a mixture of ground coriander seed, wattleseed, lemon myrtle and a little salt as a barbecue rub.

Lemon Myrtle

Available fresh or dried, or picked from many a ‘nature-strip’, lemon myrtle’s lemony flavour goes with almost any food, and is an excellent substitute for lemon grass. It’s important to use it only in small amounts: ¼ to ½ tsp or 1 to 2 leaves for 500 g of meat or vegetables, and only in foods that cook for a short time. Traditional uses: Asian dishes; grilled chicken, pork and fish; pancakes, shortbread; cakes and muffins.

Olida or strawberry gum

Once misnamed as forest ‘berry’, Olida is most readily available as dried or powdered leaves. It’s best to think of it as a flavour enhancer for fruit and berry dishes. Only use a small amount, and only in recipes that cook for a short time or it will take on a sharp hay-like flavour. Traditional uses: fruit salads, cheesecake, pancakes, shortbread, grilled seafood.

Pepperleaf and Pepperberry

Tasmanian (and Dorrigo) peppers should not be confused with the Australian native pepper vine. They are sold mainly in powdered form and used in the same way as ground black or white pepper, though twice as intense. Traditional uses: leaf — in most foods; berry — sparingly in game and rich foods, casseroles, kangaroo fillets.


Saltbush has a low sodium content but can provide a salty taste if you are trying to cut your salt intake. It can be added to savoury foods such as soups, casseroles and roasts. It also makes a great seasoning rub for seafood with paprika, pepperberry, wattleseed and lemon myrtle.


Available in roasted and ground form, an infusion of wattleseed flavours sweet dishes such as ice creams, sorbets, mousses, yoghurt, cheesecakes and whipped cream. It’s also particularly delicious sprinkled over salmon steaks when a small amount is blended with ground coriander seed, a pinch of lemon myrtle leaf, and salt, then grilled or pan-fried.

Herbie’s Spices, at Charmhaven.

Read more in Ian Hemphill’s The Spice & Herb Bible


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