Tripadvisor released its annual Travellers’ Choice Awards Best of the Best lists, including one naming the top food destinations in the world. No cities within Australia or New Zealand, however, made the cut.
The winners were determined by the volume of above-and-beyond reviews and opinions from the platform’s community over 12 months. “Fewer than 1% of Tripadvisor’s 8 million listings are awarded Best of the Best, signifying the highest level of excellence in travel,” reads the report.
This year, Vietnam’s capital city Hanoi topped the list, followed by Rome in Italy, Crete in Greece, Cusco in Peru and Florence in Italy. New Delhi, Barcelona and New Orleans also scored top marks. Australian cities, however, were noticeably absent.
“I think if you are an international foodie, you know Australia is right up there as being a premium food destination,” says Alex Wong, executive chef of Sydney restaurants Lana and Martinez. “Our restaurants are recognised internationally, and we have so many great Aussie chefs who work in leading restaurants around the world.”
Wong says Australia’s presence on the international foodie stage is getting stronger every year and he sees that continuing. The high-profile Michelin-starred chefs doing takeovers in Australia have helped to grow the awareness of the country as a foodie hotspot.
The slight, he says, was also likely due to Australia being a day-long or even longer journey from the US and Europe. The average tourist to Australia, he says, isn’t coming to the country solely for a great restaurant they’ve heard about.
“They’re coming here for a collection of experiences – great beaches, excellent weather – and good food is part of that,” he says.
Australia was represented not once but twice on this year’s The New York Times’ prestigious ‘Best Places to Go’ list, with the places’ food and drink highlighted as reasons to visit. Named were the state of Tasmania and city of Brisbane. “No matter why you travel, our list offers inspiration,” the list tagline read.
The outlet named Tasmania’s food, drink and nature as the main reasons for it being picked, calling out a foodie experience run by Indigenous-owned and operated company Palawa Kipli. The tour sees visitors foraging for ingredients like wattle seeds and pepper berries before feasting on a tasting menu, featuring smoked wallaby.
The NYT also shared that Tasmanian chef and wild-cooking expert Analiese Gregory would soon be opening a restaurant in the state that showcases ingredients like hand-gathered abalone and sea urchin.
Also on the list was Brisbane, set to host the Summer Olympics in 2032 and undergoing a facelift in the lead-up, including a $3.6 billion expansion of the Queen’s Wharf area. This will include a Sky Deck with bars and restaurants overlooking the Brisbane River. Rooftop bar and restaurant Agnes and Brisbane Powerhouse’s Vertigo were also called out.
Also missed on Tripadvisor’s list was Melbourne, arguably Australia’s most foodie-centric city. In 2021, Time Out ranked it among the top 10 best cities in the world for eating and drinking, noting its immigrant population as responsible for some of the city’s most iconic dishes, including parma, dim sum, banh mi and gyros.
“Unless you have the metabolism of a nine-year-old and the finances of a Kardashian, you never stand a chance against Melbourne’s ferocious dining machine,” it wrote.
A 2023 US Forbes article titled ‘Melbourne Is Australia’s Iconic Restaurant City’ also mentioned its dynamic dining scene, calling it “a chef-driven city that banks on its multicultural makeup to foster creativity” and calling out the wineries in the Yarra Valley, Mornington Peninsula and Grampians, Queen Victoria Market with 600-plus stalls and restaurants like Victoria by Farmer’s Daughter, Big Esso and Marion.
Wong attributes Australia’s strong foodie scene to our high standard of produce, as well as to the innovative lens we use to look at cuisine.
“I think those visitors who don’t necessarily come to Australia for the food are very likely to have had some really excellent meals during their trip,” he says.
“When they return home and talk to friends and families about their holiday, their food experiences end up being some of their favourites memories. This is why it doesn’t matter whether you have a small café or high-profile restaurant, we’re all ambassadors of Australia’s food scene.”