7 July 2016 by Adam Hickmott
Adam joins a small group for an intimate outback dining experience in Australia's Red Centre.
Voyages – Indigenous Tourism Australia, operators of the popular Ayers Rock Resort, has been quietly upgrading and expanding the range of experiences available in one of the most iconic locations in Australia's Northern Territory. One of the newest and most lavish experiences on offer is ‘Tali Wiru'.
Essentially an intimate, premium version of the popular ‘Sounds of Silence' dinner, traditionally one of the ‘must do' experiences on any trip to the Northern Territory's Red Centre, Tali Wiru brings a level of sophistication previously unseen to outback dining under the stars.
In the local Anangu language Tali Wiru means ‘beautiful dune', which perfectly describes the magnificent setting overlooking Uluru in one direction and Kata Tjuta (the Olgas) in the other.
Our aboriginal guide for the evening – the delightful Eddie Bird – collects us from the resort for the short drive to the dune itself, sharing tantalising snippets of information about our evening ahead.
As we walk up the side of the dune Uluru is revealed, almost black against the early evening sky.
Near the top of the dune we are greeted by the percussive, rhythmic hum of a didgeridoo and glasses of perfectly chilled Louis Roederer champagne, a blend of traditional and contemporary that sets the tone for the evening.
Over the next hour or so, the Tali Wiru team deliver trays of delicious canapés - and frequent top-ups of bubbly - while we savour the setting sun turning Uluru a deep red.
As Uluru loses its colour, we are taken to the highest point of the dune where dining tables offer 360-degree views. The timing is perfectly coordinated with the sun's final disappearance over the horizon, leaving a spectacular colour-wash it its wake.
The remaining colour soon gives way to a million twinkling stars and attention turns to the four-course dinner.
The menu offers a small but imaginative selection of dishes, many of which are subtly flavoured with indigenous ‘bush tucker' ingredients. Each individual dish is paired with its own premium Australian wine.
An ‘amuse bouche' of smoked duck leg roulade with quandong, served with a Katnook Estate Cabernet Sauvignon gets my selections under way, followed by an entrée of succulent butter poached prawns accompanied by a glass of Shaw and Smith Sauvignon Blanc.
An extraordinary Darling Downs Wagyu Fillet grilled with native thyme and garlic and served with smoked olive and kutjera tapenade was the star of the show, accompanied by a rich and moreish Penfolds 389 Cabernet Sauvignon Shiraz.
Although tempted by the dark chocolate and chilli mouse, I decide to finish with a plate of fine Australian cheeses, accompanied by a glass of All Saints Estate Marsanne.
Hot dishes arrive under silver dome plate covers, and while certainly practical on a cool evening it feels rather decadent. The pace of delivery of each course can't be faulted, with plenty of time to savour each dish and enjoy a good conversation in between courses.
Quite how the Tali Wiru team manage to produce cuisine of such a high standard in the dark from what is essentially a corrugated iron shed is something of a mystery.
After dinner we are invited to benches placed around the fire and offered a selection of fine ports and cognacs, with native wattleseed infused hot chocolate.
Eddie takes centre stage to lead us through a fascinating tour of the night sky. Starting with the more familiar European perspective, Eddie progressively reveals some of the many and diverse stories of the constellations from the indigenous perspective, both from the local Anangu people and other aboriginal groups. These stories have both an emotional and practical application to the indigenous people, as through them is developed the understanding of the harsh environment upon which their very survival depends.
Eddie invites questions about aboriginal history and culture, during which many of us become fully engaged in the discussion.
But all too soon a magical evening comes to an end and we leave with full stomachs and full minds. Spirited conversation continues on the drive back to the resort, fuelled by a heady mix of fine wines and new experiences.
So much for a bush tucker trial - the Outback has never tasted so good.
Tali Wiru operates from April to October each year and costs AUD295 per person, fully inclusive and includes return transfers from Ayers Rock resort or Latitude 131.