Liquid Nitrogen Gelato, Crocodile Wontons, And Australia’s Best Extreme-Dining Experiences

We explore some of the more interesting eating options that our insane country has to offer.

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Australia is a nation of extremes, and dining here is no exception. Our cuisine sometimes gets a bad rap, but if you’re an adventurous eater with a little imagination and a willingness to travel to a few far-flung spots, you can sample the kind of fare found nowhere else in the world. We have everything from upscale bush tucker restaurants where you can sample crocodile wontons, to daring inner-city dessert spots where gelato is made with liquid nitrogen. You can eat grub straight from the ground, drink French champagne in the most unlikely of settings, or experience the marvel of East-West fusion that is the ‘sushi burger’.

We’ve trawled the country to discover ten of our most extreme dining experiences. Time to embrace your fearlessness, or at least hold your nose and close your eyes…

Eat A Whole Bunch Of Bugs

El Topo Roasted Crickets

“Here’s your bowl of spicy grasshoppers, ma’am.” [source]

While the idea of picking up a bug from your bench top, dipping it in some hot sauce, and then munching away is, frankly, a little gross and upsetting, there are a number of restaurants around Australia that offer a more gourmet bug experience. Mexican joint El Topo in Sydney’s Bondi Junction serves up Chapulones, which are roast crickets with chilli, garlic and lime.

Kylie Kwong Scorpion

Yep, she’s totally gonna eat that scorpion. [source]

Kylie Kwong’s Surry Hills restaurant Billy Kwong takes things even further, with a menu that includes roasted wood cockroaches, dehydrated earthworms, and live green tree ants. Kwong got over her initial fear of insects by imagining them as no different from prawns or crayfish, and if she can, so can you.

Eat Pinxtos While Looking At Vintage Erotica


Naked For Satan, where toothpicks are utensils and not tools for dental hygiene (don’t make that mistake). [source]

Melbourne’s Naked For Satan stands out on the popular restaurant strip of Brunswick Street, Fitzroy. It’s partly for the food, a variety of pinxtos served on toothpicks which you collect and fork over at the end of the meal. It’s partly for the drinks list, which includes an extensive selection of international vodkas. Then of course, there’s the décor, which consists of vintage erotica pasted all across the back wall. It’s an odd and irreverent eatery, and a true sensory feast. Be warned, though: the toothpicks can start to pile up very, very fast.

Sample Bush Food In A Refined Setting

Ochre Restaurant

No, that’s not ordinary sashimi. [source]

Australia is famous for being the only country that eats the animals on its coat of arms. Ochre Restaurant in Cairns takes that idea a step further, with a menu that is unique and surprising in its use of native ingredients and bush foods. Their Australian antipasto platters includes smoked kangaroo with mango chutney, crocodile wontons and pulled emu. C’mon, how many chances are you ever going to get to try all three meats together? The mains list features wallaby topside and salt and pepper crocodile with prawns, while desserts include quandong crème brulee and wattleseed pavlova.

Try Liquid Nitrogen Gelato

N2 Extreme Gelato

We should use more scientific resources on perfecting ice-cream. [source]

The last few years have seen a number of out-there trends in frozen treats, but N2 Extreme Gelato strikes a pretty nice balance between adventurousness and deliciousness. With locations in Melbourne and Sydney, they use liquid nitrogen to create their gelato, with the rapid freezing leading to something called ‘nucleation-dominated ice crystallisation’, and some other science-y stuff that I honestly don’t understand. It’s the gelato of the future, and they’re open to suggestion, meaning you can submit and even name your own flavour via their Tumblr.

Drink French Champagne In A Converted Garage


The setting’s industrial, but the food isn’t (hopefully). [source]

For a small city, Hobart punches way above its weight in terms of excellent eateries. Of these, the most extreme experience can be found at Garagistes, which affords you the opportunity to drink beautiful and very expensive French champagne in a stark, converted garage setting. The menu changes frequently, highlighting produce from local farmers and growers, and the portions (while delicious) are very small — combine this with the free-flowing champagne and sparkling, and your head may well be spinning by the time you stand up from dinner.

Eat Like A Caveman

Paleo Cafe

ME WANT SMASH. [source]

Do you fancy eating like your ancestors did millions of years ago? Then this place is your best bet. The first Paleo Café was opened up in Cairns by Crossfit enthusiasts, and the franchise has since spread to other cities, including an outlet in Brisbane’s Paddington. The owners say that they serve up only foods that the body was designed to eat. The menu isn’t strictly historically accurate, in that they don’t serve dinosaur or woolly mammoth fillets, but you will find a lot of lean proteins, fruits and vegetable,s and healthy fats from nuts, seeds, avocados, fish oil and grass-fed meat.

Try Something Offal

Pig Illustration

Sorry ol’ friend, you’re just cuts of meat to us now.

Adelaide’s Daniel O’Connell Hotel comes across as your typical converted Irish pub, serving beers and traditional counter meals in a gentrified atmosphere. However, take a closer look at the menu, and you’ll see that the chefs specialise in ‘nose to tail’ dishes, using every part of the animal, including secondary cuts like pig heads, tongues, marrow, and blood. The menu includes items like ‘Trotters On Toast’, served with egg, pickled onions and crackling, which should give you an idea of the foods as well as the owners’ odd sense of humour. Eating here is definitely not for the faint of heart.

Rough It A Bit In The Wild

Witchetty Grub

YUM, GUYS. [source]

Fine dining is one thing, but if you’re after a more wild and rugged experience, you can always try to seek out some bush food in its native setting. In central Australia, you may be able to find yourself a witchetty grub. These moth larvae, found in the root systems of witchetty trees, are often consumed raw, and boast a taste that is reportedly reminiscent of scrambled eggs (at least, that’s what the bush tucker man who once came to my school tried to tell us). In parts of northern Australia, you can also eat certain types of green ants, whose abdomens taste like lemon sherbet. You’re welcome to try either of these things if you want.

Eat In The Middle Of A Tropical Lagoon

Julaymba Restaurant

Beware of kangaroo steak-thieving turtles. [source]

When it comes to extreme eating, it’s not all about the menu — sometimes the location itself will be enough to make your jaw drop. Such is the case with Julaymba Restaurant, in the Daintree Rainforest of North Queensland. The menu fuses bush tucker with contemporary Australian cuisine, with emu and kangaroo steaks and traditional spices on offer, while the restaurant’s terrace juts out over an ancient freshwater lagoon. You can eat your meal literally surrounded by a heaving, throbbing mass of nature, watching turtles swim in the lagoon below you, and hearing the sounds of birds and tree frogs in the canopy above.

Have A Crack At A Sushi Burger

Sushi Burgers

Whatever mad genius came up with this idea, we salute you. [source]

Sushi is a fairly common part of the Australian dining landscape, and the humble burger has been around for as long as anyone can remember. Mash the two of them up, however, and you find yourself faced with a unique eating experience. The sushi burger consists of a filling like steak, spicy tuna or soft-shelled crab, served between two sushi rice patties and layers of nori, with Japanese mayo and various other accompaniments. You can try one for yourself at Japanese Café Restaurant J in Melbourne. Queenslanders can try something similar at the Mos Burger chain of restaurants, around Brisbane and the Gold Coast.

Alasdair Duncan is an author, freelance writer and video game-lover who has had work published in Crikey, The Drum, The Brag, Beat, Rip It Up, The Music Network, Rave Magazine, AXN Cult and Star Observer.

[feature image source]

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