Why the Tali Wiru Dinner is Worth the Cost
I believe my recent trip outback will stand the test of time in remaining one of the most amazing and correspondingly, amazingly expensive trips I have ever done. I did some calculations in my head and what Mum and I spent during those four days in Central Australia is equal to the amount I budgeted for four weeks travelling through Europe several years ago, including transport and accommodation. That’s right. I’ll leave you to do the maths.
That being said, a holiday to Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park is one trip where you shouldn’t penny pinch. Keeping in mind what you’ve paid to fly and house yourself there, you may as well make the most of the experience! Almost every tour we booked blew us away, due to the level of care and detail prevalent.
We were in Central Australia for Mum’s birthday. I had originally booked us places on the Sounds of Silence dinner to celebrate the day itself. With Sounds of Silence, you can opt to either be taken there by coach from your hotel, or ride a camel before sunset to the dinner itself. I had vague recollections of her either expressing an interest in wanting to ride a camel, or declaring that it was something she had never wanted to do in the past. I went with it in the end, as I figured I had a 50/50 chance of success – even odds are something that can be worked with.
Tali Wiru never crossed my mind as an option, either because I missed it at the time of booking, or had blanched at the price and blocked it out of my memory forever. Yet when we were at the tourist centre pouring over brochures, Mum got into conversation with a couple of women sitting nearby. They told us about how they too had been booked onto Sounds of Silence, but were convinced by their hotel to switch to Tali Wiru at the eleventh hour.
“I am so glad we did,” one of them informed us. “It was more personalised, the food was exquisite… it was all round phenomenal.”
Mum and I looked at each other.
“It’s your birthday – your decision.” I told her. This is a great course of action to take, that I would thoroughly recommend to anyone, as if things happen to go awry, it absolves you of any blame.
In the end, we did choose Tali Wiru over Sounds of Silence. And I am so glad that we did.
Tali Wiru is tooted as being an intimate dining experience. Unlike Sounds of Silence, which I had heard had multiple sites around the resort, Tali Wiru takes place on a dune that is reserved only for it and Desert Awakenings, an early morning tour. The maximum number for a group is 20 – I believe ours numbered at around 16.
We were picked up half an hour before sunset by a hybrid coach/monster truck – a vehicle the resort had purchased to both house multiple guests and deal with the rough terrain of outback Australia. From there we were driven to the dune. A lovely waiter from Bristol was waiting for us at the bottom, with a tray of hot towels. A necessity for summer rather than the middle of winter, but a nice touch nonetheless.
We followed her up the hill, where a man in a flannel shirt and Akubra was playing the Didgeridoo in front of the unlit campfire. One of our two other waiters for the night, a charming Frenchman, came forward to present us with champagne. They turned out to be magical refilling glasses, as no sooner were we near the bottom of the cup, then he would appear out of nowhere to top them up.
As I sipped on my champagne, I observed our surroundings. The site was two tiered, with us stood upon the second level. The campfire looked out to Uluru, which was glowing red in the light of the setting sun. A single toilet was behind us, not far away from the kitchen and beyond that, you could see a collection of rocks that was Kata Tjuta. Up a flight of stairs was the dining area – around five or six tables, each featuring its own gas heater, a necessity to ward off the chill of the desert nights. I could not wait to see how the evening would unfold.
No sooner were we there, when the canapés were served. We were first presented with Emu with Prosciutto Crostini. I had never actually sampled Emu before and I am not sure why I waited 26 years of my life to do so. It was melt in your mouth delicious. This was followed by Seared Scallops (always a good choice), Blue Cheese Tart with Truffle Honey and Braised Pork Belly with Pickled Cucumber Salad. I kept thinking “this is the best thing I have ever eaten!” and then would have my socks blown off by the next offering.
We were urged to gather around the unlit campfire, where the man playing the Didgeridoo told us of the history of the instrument. We discovered that “Didgeridoo” wasn’t the original name; it was called different things all over the country, but his descendants had referred to it as the “Yidaki”. I had studied Aboriginal culture for my entire thirteen years of education, yet that was the first I was hearing of this!
He left and we were called for dinner. Mum and I sat, studying the menu together. There were three more courses to be served, with multiple options to choose from. All sounded equally as appetising. Picking our meal looked to be one of the more difficult decisions we would make over the course of the next few days.
“I have a solution,” I said to Mum. “How about we each order something different, eat half and then swap plates?” She thought about it, then nodded her head. I could tell she had weighed up the options and acknowledged that this was the best course of action for maximum taste sensation.
The attention to detail in the menu was top class. Each dish was paired with a particular wine – although you could opt to have either red or white and they would cater for your needs. Mum is a red wine woman and I found out a long time ago that white wine and I don’t mix, so we were happy to go with the recommended Pinot Noir. As our waiter poured it into our glasses, she told us that it was sourced from a vineyard in the Mornington Peninsular, which excited me to no end as I had driven through there the previous week.
After the amuse bouche of Cauliflower Espuma (I don’t like cauliflower but I could have kept eating this forever), our entrée was served. I had selected the Kangaroo Rillettes and for Mum, King Prawns on a delightfully tasty sweetcorn mousse. We each took our first mouthful and from then, pretty much inhaled the food off our plates. This would happen again and again over the course of the evening.
What followed was the mains of Toothfish and Gruyere Soufflé. We were presented with a Shiraz, but both opted to go back to the Pinot Noir. I had blabbed about it being Mum’s birthday to the waiter and they very sweetly sent over a tray with a delicious macaroon upon it.
For dessert, Mum had ordered the Steamed Quandong Puddings and I, the Australian Cheese Platter – there ain’t no cheese like Australian cheese! These were paired with a delicious dessert wine and glass of port. I wasn’t keeping count of how many glasses of alcohol I had consumed and by this point in the night, I could barely see straight.
The dining experience was top notch for several reasons – the food was fantastic and I could not fault the wait staff. The setting was perfect – we felt like the only people in the world, out there in the desert.
On a personal level, my Mum and I very close. She is my best friend, one of a small collection of people that I could be around forever and never ever get sick of. Unfortunately, as we live on opposite sides of the world, I don’t get to see nearly as much of her as I would like. This trip was a chance for us to catch up and actually spend some time together. Having a special experience like this to share acted as a guarantee that this was a holiday that would be forever seared in our memories, for all the right reasons.
Once the meal was done, we gathered around the now-lit campfire. We sipped on wattle infused hot chocolate and cognac, while an Aboriginal member of staff told us stories about the night sky. The night ended with a round of “Happy Birthday” for Mum, before we were led to the monster truck/coach and taken back to our respective hotels.
I am so glad we went for Tali Wiru over Sounds of Silence. I am sure we would have been delighted either way, but it was well worth shelling out the extra money for this intimate dining experience.
Tali Wiru is priced at $325 dollars a head. Which I paid for. And enjoyed immensely.