Travel tales: Matt Moran shares his most memorable meal ever

The award-winning chef on Singapore, Vegas and why the NSW Central tablelands is punching above its weight.

By Chris Ashton, May 11 2023
Travel tales: Matt Moran shares his most memorable meal ever

Consider for a moment the names of Australia’s preeminent chefs. There’s a high chance Matt Moran’s came to mind in a single heartbeat – for very good reason.

Over the last 30 years, the chef, best-selling author and restaurateur behind acclaimed venues including Aria and Chiswick has been a mainstay of the country’s culinary scene, known as much for his work on screen as in the kitchen. Moran is also a passionate traveller.

Whether zipping round the sweeping bends of the NSW Central Tablelands on his Ducati or jetting off to Singapore, where Moran has been on the culinary advisory panel for Singapore Airlines for over a decade, food is always an essential part of his itinerary.

The menu at Aria is designed in tune with the seasons.. Steven Woodburn
The menu at Aria is designed in tune with the seasons.
Steven Woodburn

With this in mind, Matt Moran is the perfect ambassador for our inaugural ‘Travel Tales’ – a new Q&A series taking you on a journey across the globe through the eyes, experiences and memories of some recognisable names.

Travel and food go hand in hand. What are some of your favourite memories?

Pre-covid I travelled regularly, I think I did nine overseas trips in 2019. Because of my work with Singapore Airlines, I’m obviously in Asia quite a bit. But I remember years ago going to Las Vegas when a lot of the big chefs were just getting into Vegas and opening their restaurants.

At the time I thought Vegas was just about seeing shows, but was shocked by the quality of some of the restaurants that I went to. One being Joël Robuchon, and it was probably one of the best meals I’d ever eaten. Not as in location or the restaurant itself, but when it came to the quality of the dishes was pretty phenomenal. It just stood out as, ‘Oh my God’.

The dining room at Joël Robuchon in the MGM Grand Las Vegas.
The dining room at Joël Robuchon in the MGM Grand Las Vegas.

Are there any standout restaurants or dishes you always return to? 

Whenever I go to Singapore I always return to the hawker centre at Old Airport Road. There are three or four great hawker markets to choose from. I always find the quality of food and pricing is exceptional.

Have any of your signature dishes been inspired by your adventures?

Whenever I travel I’m always eating out, so I am always taking inspiration from a lot of different restaurants.

I remember I went to Arzak, which is a three Michelin star restaurant in Spain, and having a dish labelled ‘Today’s Egg’, which meant the egg was laid that day.

I came home and was like, not that it’s on the menu now, ‘We have to do that at Aria’, so we had to add a dish called ‘Today’s Egg’. That one egg cost more than a dozen, back in those days. But that always happens. You always take up something that inspires you to do something else.

The avant-garde menu at Arzak is constantly changing.
The avant-garde menu at Arzak is constantly changing.

What’s the one dish you like to prepare that always makes you think of travel?

The other day I was in Geraldton and I stopped at the Lobster Shack in Cervantes on my way down to catch a flight from Perth. They gave me three lobsters to take home. 

The next night I got the lobsters out, chopped them up and made a simple tomato sauce with a little bit of chilli and some fresh basil. Cooked some spaghetti and put the lobster through it.

Whenever I make things like that, simple dishes like that, I automatically think of Italy. I love Italy and have been many times. Whenever I’m cooking some sort of simple pasta dish, I always think about it.

What’s your favourite Australian food destination and why?

This is a hard one, because I’m probably going to upset some other state. But my son lives in Melbourne. He’s at university down there doing medicine – he’s not going to be a chef – so I’m often flying down to see him.

Melbourne has standout restaurants, whether it’s casual eating or Vue de Monde fine dining, in the middle range like Gimlet or Andrew McConnell’s Cutler & Co, or even just Chinatown. We recently had amazing yum cha at Shark Fin Inn in Chinatown.

Aria holds a spectacular position overlooking the Sydney Opera House,
Aria holds a spectacular position overlooking the Sydney Opera House,

And internationally?

Tuscany. Let’s be honest, it’s one of those great regions where you always get phenomenal food, phenomenal produce. When I’ve been to Tuscany I’ve generally rented a house. Little towns in those regions that have markets on different days.

There’s nothing better than just going to those local markets where – they do it a lot better in Europe than we do – you buy fresh tomatoes, and fresh salamis and meats. Taking it back and just cooking up whatever you find is the absolute best. The pinnacle of food, really.

Are there any underrated ones you think deserve a moment in the spotlight?

I ride motorbikes. During Covid I was out a lot into country areas of NSW and I just think it’s getting better and better. There are some great places in the Central Tablelands.

I’ve got a pub there now [The Rockley Pub], we’ve got our own little pub bistro that we’re doing. But places like Tonic in Millthorpe, Racine Bakery in Orange. Black Cockatoo, which is a phenomenal bakery in Lawson.

So I’m going to say that area from the Blue Mountains over to the Central Tablelands, it’s just getting better.

Moran is a longtime advocate of the paddock-to-plate movement.
Moran is a longtime advocate of the paddock-to-plate movement.

You’re bringing international dining down under with Aria Residences from Gordon Ramsay and Daniel Humm of Eleven Madison Park. What is it about these particular chefs and their cuisine that excites you?

Gordon Ramsay is one of my best friends, and has been for 28 years. His head chef Matt Abé has worked with him for 15 years. He’s the only Australian chef to claim three Michelin stars. He spent his first five years of his cooking career at Aria. So it’s a bit of a homecoming for him.

It’s just exciting that Hospital Road has never done a pop-up before. To have them at Aria is a real honour.

But then we have Daniel Humm and Eleven Madison Park, which was just a few years back the number one restaurant in the world. I’m fascinated by how it’s plant-based.

For us, it’s an incredible experience to have those guys at Aria... not only for the general public but for my staff, for them to learn something out of it and be inspired by it. It’s second to none. You’ve got two of the best restaurants in the world doing residences at Aria. A lot of people are saying, ‘It’s Aria’s year’.

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