People don’t travel to Uluru for the food. That rock eclipses everything, with food almost an afterthought.
Distance, too, has traditionally been a problem. Sourcing a variety of food, plus hospitality staff, has long been a catering problem for this remote destination.
Yet, over time, a significant garden has been established, Indigenous staff have been trained and mentored, native ingredients have been embraced, and talent from overseas — attracted to this unique desert location — have transformed Uluru into a foodie destination.
Dining options that incorporate the incredible landscape have also evolved. In addition to Uluru itself, the Field of Light — the Bruce Munro-designed lightbulb landscape — has been a huge hit with visitors. It offers dining experiences that range from a cup of tea and damper to Tali Wiru, the four-course dune-top dinner that costs around $360 (about Dh1,322) a head.
So while you’re likely to have a “life-changing” experience at Uluru, here are some of the top dining experiences to be enjoyed as well.
Dinner at Sounds of Silence
Celebrating its 25th year, the Sounds of Silence dinner has become a tourist attraction in its own right. Voyages, the hotel group that runs the al fresco dinners, say it is the first under-the-stars dining and touring experience in Australia – and perhaps the world. It’s certainly one of the most unique dining destinations.
Guests are collected from their hotel an hour before sundown and taken to an isolated spot in the desert dunes. After beverages at the top of a dune the diner are lead down to a stunning outdoor dining room.
The backdrop to all this is Uluru and, as the sun sets, guests feast on a barbecue buffet of Australian bush tucker including barramundi, kangaroo, emu and crocodile, salads using indigenous ingredients and desserts.
Between courses, when it gets dark, some of the world’s best stargazing begins. There’s no light pollution out here. A star guide, with a laser pointer, gives a tour of the southern night sky. The tour incorporates traditional Dreamtime stories, as well as western astronomy.
Dinner ends with tea, coffee or port. And, in winter, you can finish off the night around a fire.
Diners not only enjoy an incredible view and food (with a big emphasis on native Australian ingredients) but also the company of people who have travelled from all over the world to be there. In 2016, I had a memorable dinner at Sounds of Silence with a table full of fascinating strangers, including a Texan personal injury attorney and a member of the rock band INXS.
For an even more high-end experience (think a la carte, not buffet), the Tali Wiru dinner serves up such delicacies including native thyme and garlic-grilled Darling Downs wagyu fillet and wattleseed rubbed kangaroo carpaccio.
Breakfast at the Field of Light
When artist Bruce Munro and his team planted 50,000 bulbs in a field near the base of Uluru, they had no idea how it would be received.
They need not have worried. Field of Light has been an enormous success, with the season extending three times, and now finishing at the end of December 2020. During the day it’s not much to look at, but last year I braved a 5am wake-up call to see the field as the sun rose.
It was magic. You enter the field in the dark, exploring the shapes, patterns and changing perspectives of the lights, before a sunrise reveals Uluru and the desert coming to life. Allow a minimum of 45 minutes to explore the field.
When the sun comes up, head to a viewing platform in the dunes to enjoy a breakfast with pastries, tea and coffee and egg rolls.
Breakfast at Voyages Desert Awakenings tour
The early morning start of this tour is rewarded by one of the most memorable sights you’ll experience in your life: Uluru waking up. From a dune with a good view of Uluru and Kata Tjuta, guests watch the sunrise, while a guide cooks a damper (golden syrup optional) and puts on a billy of tea. There’s also coffee and egg rolls. You’ll need your energy. After the sun rises, the guide will then take you into the Uluru-Kata Tjuta national park and to the base of Uluru, where you will explore Mutitjulu waterhole, rock paintings and finish with a visit to the cultural centre where you can learn more about the traditional owners, the Anangu people.
Sandwiches and cakes at Kulata Academy Cafe
Food can be pricey in Uluru, and one of the more affordable, casual options is Kulata Academy Cafe. They served standard cafe fare including sandwiches, muffins, cakes, coffee and milkshakes. Run by Voyages (which currently has 38 per cent Indigenous employment), it operates as a national Indigenous training academy where up to 100 young Indigenous Australians embark on a hospitality career each year. There’s no cafe at Uluru itself, so order and pick up a packed lunch here to take away with you and enjoy the day at the rock.
Guardian News & Media