Aboriginal people have harvested and cultivated bush food for more than 80,000 years. Over this time, they have passed down, from generation to generation, a deep knowledge of Australian native ingredients and their myriad uses.
In recent times, Victoria has seen a marked increase in the use of native ingredients, with chefs at city and regional restaurants, cafes, food trucks and wineries exploring and celebrating these local flavours. While the influence of native ingredients varies, many Victorian kitchens feature bush foods prominently and help maintain their cultural integrity by sourcing those grown or prepared by First Nations businesses.
For visitors who have a taste for bush food but don't know where to start, there are several Victorian eateries that pride themselves on showcasing native ingredients and staple Indigenous plants and meats. One such staple is eel, which has sustained Aboriginal people in South-West Victoria for thousands of years.
Torres Strait Islander chef Nornie Berno serves up dishes loaded with traditional Indigenous ingredients at her all-day bar and kitchen Big Esso by Mabu Mabu in Federation Square. Dine in a bright space decorated with artworks by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists, and enjoy the likes of pepperleaf smoked emu, kingfish with finger limes, and charred purple yams. The cocktails, too, feature First Nations distillers and native ingredients.
Led by Gunditjmara and Yuin culinary entrepreneur Niyoka Bundle and head chef Vincent Manning, this cafe and bar at Hamer Hall in the arts precinct fuses traditional Indigenous ingredients with contemporary dishes. By day Pawa serves up casual First Nations–influenced brekkie and lunch, from strawberry gum pain au chocolat to kangaroo pies. By night, a locally sourced drinks menu kicks in to accompany snacks featuring native Australian ingredients.
Discover globally inspired fine dining with an Indigenous spin at the Windsor end of Chapel Street. Entirely female Aboriginal owned and operated, Interlude is the sleek creation of two friends: Yorta Yorta, Wemba Wemba and Barapa Barapa woman Apryl Day, and Merooni woman of the Gurang Nation Kaylah Truth. Their focus is on native ingredients locally sourced through First Nations suppliers. Graze on flavoursome crocodile tempura, Warrigal greens and green ant curry, paired with a Kakadu plum martini.
The Bush Café at GLaWAC
With its stunning natural setting within peaceful bush in Kalimna West, the Bush Café at Gunaikurnai Land and Waters Aboriginal Corporation is the ideal spot to be introduced to Indigenous culinary flavours used in modern ways, from salt bush and mountain pepper to bush tomatoes. Enjoy plates of fresh local produce and bush tucker, then pop into the Aboriginal Art Gallery for a browse.
Tae Rak Aquaculture Centre Bush Tucker Cafe
Visit the Tae Rak Aquaculture Centre at Budj Bim in Gunditjmara Country and drop in for a bite to eat at the centre's Bush Tucker Café. Savour a menu inspired by the traditional eel aquaculture systems of the Budj Bim Cultural Landscape, from signature kooyang (eel) tasting plates to bush-seasoned squid and chocolate river-mint brownies.