The Akerkars are the brains (and the beauty) behind DeGustibus Hospitality and since food is more or Tless always on their minds; Australia tickled their palates pink leaving them wanting more.
Made in Australia
Rahul was floored by all things made in Australia. “I was amazed at the quality and diversity of their produce. Even more so when you learn that for the most part, it's natural and free of steroids as compared to other places and they take a lot of pride in their natural approach to farming and everything else, so it's holistic from that point of view. The variety and quality of their produce is amazing,” explains Rahul. A trip to the local markets almost made them cry with joy! “It was just so great. I remember, Malini loves mushrooms, and in the local market, we looked for every possible kind of mushroom that you can think of and they had it. It's in such abundance and the quality of meats and cheese and fish is fantastic. Everything is great. And everybody is always handing stuff out to you saying - try this, try that– they love what they sell and they love that you love what they sell!” laughs Rahul.
Being top restauranteurs in India, the Akerkars found themselves on a constant culinary journey. From scouring for new tastes to acquiring some, Australia proved to be a fabulous experience for them. “Both from a chef's point of view and a diner's point of view, Australia is simply a joy. What's really interesting is that Malini is vegetarian and Australia was one of the first places we've travelled to where the vegetarian food was creative and effortless.
Everywhere we went she was able to eat creatively and enjoyed it thoroughly. I think the point is that the vegetarian food has to be effortless and in other words, the chefs here are very creative and used to doing great vegetarian food and their produce is great, which helps,” elaborates Rahul. A unique dining experience for the couple while in Australia was eating at this restaurant in Adelaide called ORANA. “The chef is a guy called Jock Zonfrillo who is a forager. He basically has studied a lot on the Aboriginal way of eating – why they eat the way they do – and he scours the land looking for stuff to eat. I had the most amazing meal there – pickled crocodile tail and green ants. It was a fascinating experience. It kind of makes you realise that how little of our own naturally available ingredients here in India do we actually use – commercially. It makes you open your eyes a little bit,” opines Rahul. What he left back there were ketchup sandwiches he had as a kid. A conversation about comfort food with some chefs led to Rahul introducing them to tomato ketchup sandwiches, of all things!
Australian food fiesta
Food was always on the Akerkar's agenda while in Australia. Rahul narrates a day in Sydney where they were scooped up by friends for breakfast at Bondi Beach at Bill Granger's restaurant Bills. After returning from there by noon, they immediately headed out to a 12 – 15 course degustation lunch at Tetsuya's - Tetsuya Wakuda's restaurant in Sydney – with wine with every course! Post that at 5.30, they gathered at a friend's place for an Australian barbecue. “Our three meals were fabulous. It was unbelievable!” avers Rahul. He adds that the chefs in Australia have a great sense of openness and sharing. “You talk about a dish and the chef invites you in to the kitchen and shows you how it's done. It's so great to be able to do that. It speaks of confident people and of wanting to grow and share and
that's an amazing thing,” states Rahul. Scott Pickett, George Calombaris, Matt Moran, Jock Zonfrillo, Ben Shewry are just some of the names Rahul had the privilege to meet when there. “I was even on the set of MasterChef Australia. It was fun – as an observer –but we had dinner with Matt Preston at George Calombaris' restaurant Press Club and it was fun,” reminisces Rahul. Post all the gourmet eating, the Akerkars took to the streets and were lucky to catch the last two days of the Night Noodle Market in Melbourne. “All the oriental restaurants in Melbourne set up stalls along the riverbank and all night open air Oriental street food festival. Beer, roast pork, huge pigs on a spit, noodles, dumplings – all of South East Asia! It was fabulous,” says Rahul.
All wine and no whines
When asked about the wine experiences they indulged in, Rahul responded with a chuckle, “Wine – I drank a lot of it and that was my experience.” They tried some of the most fantastic wines while in Australia. “We were in Barossa Valley for three days at a stunning Relais Chateaux Spa called The Louise and must have tasted 40 odd wines a day at several wineries like Henschke, Torbreck, Hentley Farm, Rolf Binder, Seppeltsfield and Penfolds. The Louise also has a superb restaurant called Appellation helmed by a very talented young chef Ryan Edwards. We spent a couple of days in Adelaide and continued the alcohol poisoning (!) in the McLaren Vale wine region at d'Arenberg and several other wineries,” smiles Rahul. His advice to vinos travelling to Australia is drink as much of it as you can because it's good. He adds, “At Seppeltsfield Winery in Barossa, you can taste port from the year of your birth. I bought my dad a bottle of 1924 port as a gift for him on his 91st birthday. They have an old wine culture there, going back to 1851. I was surprised that they made ports going back that old.” Serendipity in Australia
Some people have that aptitude for making desirable discoveries and maybe it was Australia or it was the Akerkar in Rahul but serendipity struck in Australia when Rahul was at a bar in Adelaide, most likely the Collins Bar at the Hilton and he asked the bartender to show him a bottle of the Tasmanian single malt. The bartender turned around and said, “Good evening, Mr. Akerkar, nice to have you with us,” and it turned out to be a bartender who used to work with them in Mumbai and had moved to Australia three years ago. What were the chances of that!?
To more Australian trips
When asked who they'd like to take back to Australia, Rahul instantly said, his daughters. He believes that the country is a great place for young people. “I'd go up north to The Great Barrier Reef. There's a lot left for me to see, so I'd like to see it with them. I'd also love to go to the outback for a while and go camping - visit Uluru. I'd love to get one of those camper trailer trucks and head out,” adds Rahul. The average Australian, according to the couple, is really friendly and not superficially so but genuinely friendly. Rahul signs off by saying, “To me what was great is that none of them take themselves seriously. Everybody is
approachable. Doesn't matter who you are, you can just pat someone on the back, share a beer and have some fun.”
To plan your next holiday, visit www.australia.com