So you've made it to Central Australia. You are, literally, in the middle of nowhere. Like a small island in a big ocean, you are isolated and at the financial mercy of the local shopkeepers and resort owners where you're staying. Options are limited.
Where do you go?
The Ayers Rock Resort says it offers 18 eating possibilities. In reality, most of these are located in one of the three resorts. Yes they have different names and different menus, but they're all coming out of the same kitchen depending if its breakfast, lunch or dinner. A free shuttle bus will transport you to all these eateries.
Apart from price, other points you might want to consider is the extreme heat, flies in summer and the bitter cold in winter.
So what are the choices? What can you get for your money?
The cheapest option would be to opt at staying at the Emu Apartments or at the camping ground which will allow you to prepare your own meals. You can bring in some of your own food and/or buy provisions at the fairly reasonably priced IGA store on site. The IGA also has limited hot food like meat pies and sausage rolls.
Your options here are extremely limited. McDonalds or KFC are yet to arrive at the Rock and I hope they never will. Apart from the aforementioned IGA, your sole option is the one and only Shell Service station. They have a range of takeaway options such as wing dings, battered fish, Chico roll or chips and gravy. Come here for a bacon and egg roll breakfast.
The Cultural Centre closer to the Rock has a very limited range of sandwiches, drinks and ice cream for the desperate.
There are few cafes in what is known as the Resort Town Square where you'll also find the information centre, ANZ bank, a few touristy shops, newsagency, post office and the supermarket. Go to Ayers Wok for a stir fry, laksa or green curry. The Kualata Academy Café is run by trainees of the resort indigenous training academy and prepare gourmet sandwiches and salads. For a more diverse menu, check out Geckos Café which is comfortably air-conditioned.
The three resorts all offer finer dining options and are all open for a buffet breakfast, lunch or dinner.
The finest a la carte restaurant is the Arnguli Grill at the Desert Gardens resort. It is a memorable dining experience probably aimed more at the international visitor. The restaurant is richly decorated with indigenous art works. The dishes on the menu are imaginative and exquisitely plated, many featuring unique bush food ingredients and flavours. Try the smoked kangaroo wattle seed crepe with warrigal greens, mushrooms and Kakadu plum.
The Sails in the Desert resort has a nightly buffet for $65.00 per person at the Ilkari Restaurant while the adjoining Maju A La Carte offers an innovative and interesting menu. Get your burgers and fish and chips at the Pira Pool Bar.
Dining at the Outback Pioneer Hotel is a more casual affair and better suited for families. Under a large tin shed, you can cook your own locally bought meats (road kill?) or you can snack on pizzas, wraps and burgers at the Outback Pioneer Kitchen. The 'fancy' restaurant here is the 'Bough House' was closed at the time of writing.
For the ultimate dining experience, and if money is no object, then the Sounds of Silence dinner is for you. Dining under the stars, you'll be treated to canapés and a three course dinner of bush tucker inspired dishes. Sip on some bubbly while viewing the changing colours of the rock as the sun sets.
I didn't fork over the $185.00 per person to enjoy this indulgence, but I would caution anyone contemplating forking over their dough. It isn't just the price, but the flies. I visited during March and even at sunset the flies were plentiful, relentless and very annoying.
Last but not least, while not a meal in itself, you can forage for 'bush tucker' around the resort. Go on a free indigenous food tour and munch on some Bush Plums or the salty leaves of the Old Man Salt Bush around the resort.
I was just at Uluru last week, and forked out my cash for my partner and myself to experience the Sounds of Silence Dinner, (a must as far as we are concerned) and although there were flys present at sunset, the dinner is not served until it's dark- and there was not one fly around. And the food was divine!
The Field of Lights Star Pass (sunset viewing) is also highly recommended. Seeing the lights light up as the sky darkened absolutely made the experience!