Mt Lofty Ranges – Adelaide Hills – Saturday 1 August 2015 – Lunch

IMG_4040_2What a beautiful drive up into and through the Adelaide Hills. It is breathtaking. While at Petaluma we tried some fantastic wines made locally, in Coonawarra and in Clare. As we finished we asked about where to go for lunch.

Based on our simple brief for something good quality and casual with a fire, the lady serving us surveyed her colleagues and even some of the other tasters got involved. We were sent off in search of Mt Lofty Ranges and its cellar door and restaurant about twenty minutes away.
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They were spot on with only one issue – no tables left! We were not left in the lurch by the staff at Mt Lofty and they managed to restructure part of the restaurant and find some chairs to seat us. That kindness and hospitality was a theme of the entire meal.

The menu is brief and focussed, changing regularly as we understand it. Jumping out to Catherine and I were the pot pies. She chose the chicken and I chose the beef. Cooked in the Mt Lofty Chardonnay, the chicken, leek and mushroom are combined in a creamy sauce, topped by a perfectly cooked disk of flaky pastry. The beef on the other hand is cooked in Mt Lofty Pinot Noir. Both are seasoned properly and are full of flavour; two of the most delicious pies we’ve tried in some time. As we enjoyed our delicious pies we noticed the other two main dishes, the lamb shank and the fish, also look tremendous.
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I had a glass of the Mt Lofty Shiraz which is a nice cooler climate expression compared to the huge Shiraz from the day prior in the Barossa, and Catherine tried a glass of the Chardonnay her chicken had been cooked in which was a nice balanced version with not too much oak. We were fifty-fifty for dessert but given the taste of the pies we had to have a try to see if dessert could be anywhere near as good.
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The Panettone bread & butter pudding includes grappa and sultanas, with a good measure of vanilla ice cream. Again, the flavour of the pudding was more concentrated than most other versions you try and we were left very impressed. Panettone is an Italian slightly sweet bread-like cake which you see more and more in place of bread in this traditional dessert.

We had certainly been pointed in the right direction at Petaluma. The fire was still being stoked through lunch, and there was a full restaurant of equally stoked customers.

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Peter Lehmann – Barossa – Friday 31 July 2015 – Lunch

IMG_4025_2Cruising around the Barossa is a dream come true. The names of the vineyards are familiar and hallowed by wine lovers near and far. You thank your lucky stars having the opportunity to visit places like Seppeltsfield and Penfolds.

As we finished our tasting at Penfolds we asked where nearby we could get a platter to graze on and see out the afternoon. One of the staff at the cellar door mentioned they go to Peter Lehmann on days off for this reason and we immediately headed there.

Besides the cellar door tasting it seems that is the only food they do, and as expected, the platter is both large enough for a grazing lunch, and reasonably priced too. After tasting a few of the many wines available, Catherine and I decided to buy a bottle of the Peter Lehmann Shiraz and have a glass each, taking the rest of the bottle back to Adelaide to enjoy later on.

The Shiraz is not as alcoholic as many around the Barossa and has an elegance about it. There’s still plenty of dark fruit, but a good layer of spice, and it will improve measurably with age. The “Weighbridge Platter” has Linke’s Mettwurst (German sausage), Lachsschincken (German style smoked meat), Zimmy’s beetroot relish, dill cucumbers, Kurianda pear chutney, Kalamata olives, local almonds, matured cheddar cheese, Barossa Valley Cheese Company ‘Baby Bert’ and Barb Buggy’s Barossa Bark (home made lavoche).

There is a good balance between all the offerings and we finish all but a little of the cheddar which is particularly good with the Shiraz. The softer cheese, a camembert, is great with the chutney and either the lavoche or bread. Seated in an outdoors spot but separated by thick plastic, it is nice and warm but we have the opportunity to take in the view which is filled with plants, trees and green grass.

The drive back to Adelaide is only around an hour and is anything but daunting. Recharged by the platter and a great relaxing afternoon we are ready for an evening out in the city.

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Maggie Beer Farm Shop – Barossa – Friday 31 July 2015 – Dessert

IMG_4028_2Maggie Beer is famous for her food philosophy and the Barossa is the place she is best known for her exploits. What began humbly as a small restaurant evolved over time and now is known as the “Farm Shop”. It is basically a delicatessen for her provisions, as well as offering an array of dishes in a café style setting.

We are here momentarily for dessert having snacked on a platter for lunch nearby at Peter Lehmann. The setting is pleasant around the small man-made reservoir on a beautiful but cool winter’s day. In the café you sit amongst the provisions, which turn the interior into an interesting space to browse through.

While the slices and cakes on display look great, as we browse we are pointed towards the dessert specials by the staff. The two specials are highly recommended, and they are incredibly cheap. We cannot resist.

The philosophy here is simple flavoursome food using the best seasonal ingredients. For a time the previous restaurant only served geese that had been grown on the property. We share the apricot crumble and the fruit cake with brandy sauce. Both are delicious; made with excellent technique, and focussing on exquisite ingredients. The brandy sauce is available for purchase and we did just that.

As we left I had a chance to read some of the snippets of information about this wonderful place. There is so much passion in what Maggie (and her husband) has created and her impact on the Barossa, and Australia, is immense.

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Udaberri – Adelaide, City – Friday 31 July 2015 – Dinner

IMG_4035_2Now living in Melbourne, I get the opportunity to go to Adelaide around once a year. It is a great place to explore new food and wine options, or return to the better places you have found. There is only one place however, that I go to on every single trip.

Stepping into Udaberri Pintxos Y Vino feels like you have set off for Barcelona, or maybe even San Sebastian. It is popular, a mix of people sitting at tables, on the bar, or standing around, most having a drink and many enjoying some tapas. It is quite dark, but for the well lit bar area, with several intimate spaces dispersed up and down stairs.
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I always manage to find staff who are having fun, mingling with the customers, and helping improve the experience for the uninitiated. This time when we sit down we notice a great looking drink being made and like a Mexican wave it flows along the bar, simply too good looking to turn down. That drink uses a gin from Margaret River called The Sabre by West Winds, lemon that is reddened in the centre, and rosemary, to create a G+T that is anything but ordinary.

We are still feeling satisfied from our platter and dessert in the Barossa earlier in the day but decide to get a small selection to try. White anchovies, bacalao croquettes, and patatas bravas is all we need with a good helping of fresh crusty bread.
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The anchovies are delicious but have a lasting garlicy effect that is hard to shake! The potatoes are perfectly fried and impossible to not finish, and the croquettes are filled with salted cod but have a light exterior and are quite simply excellent.

Every experience at Udaberri is fun, but there is certainly a lot of effort that goes into the final product, whether food or drink, to achieve that experience. It is part of an Adelaide food scene that goes from strength to strength.

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Bread & Bone Wood Grill – Adelaide, City – Sunday 2 August 2015 – Dinner

IMG_4084_2After three of the more expensive dinners we’ve had in some time it was time to find a dinner that we could afford with the remaining budget dwindling quickly. Answering our prayers was Bread & Bone Wood Grill, an American style comfort food joint hidden down one of Adelaide’s laneways.

We had come earlier to check if we should reserve a table and were told to come back early evening to be assured of getting a table. Now early on Sunday evening it was fast becoming full with tables large and small. This bar restaurant is modestly adorned with light tanned wood, looking sparse when empty, but now buzzing with noisy conversation.
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The menu is full of burgers, hotdogs, fried chicken and many other foods you would like to eat more often. I blame places like Belles and Rockwell back home but fried chicken is addictive so we order Bread & Bone’s version to share. We also are intrigued by the hotdogs so we share the simple version served with only some sauce and sauerkraut.

The hotdog comes in a brioche hotdog bun which is excellent. The sausage is full of flavour and the sauerkraut, as well as the salty fries, are delicious. The fried chicken is a nice servicing, coming with some coleslaw that makes us feel a touch healthier. The chicken is moist and the batter is great, but somehow the highlight was the hotdog.
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Having enjoyed the vibe at Bread and Bone we decide to stay a little longer for dessert. The salted peanut brittle softserve, with caramel popcorn is cheap, sweet and different enough to have that hint of interest. We do not regret having tried it one bit!

While Bread & Bone offers a more diverse menu than some other American style places we go to, that doesn’t mean the focus on good food is lessened. In such a big space, it seems the floorstaff are run off their feet, but have a reasonable rhythm to get to tables before your experience is hindered. There’s every chance that we’ll be back on a future trip for a beer and a dog.

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Orana – Adelaide, City – Saturday 1 August 2015 – Dinner

Crab & Yoghurt sorbet, codium & sea purslane

Crab & Yoghurt sorbet, codium & sea purslane

Noma’s Executive Chef, Rene Redzepi, recently contacted his peer at Orana, Jock Zonfrillo, to discuss Jock’s take on “Australian” cuisine. It is fitting that I was reading about this on the way to Adelaide, and our eventual date with Orana. It must be quite an honour considering Orana is undoubtedly taking more than a pinch of inspiration from what Noma is doing with Nordic ingredients.

When I am going to a new restaurant I rarely read any reviews, or even look at the menu, because the less expectation, the better. However, whilst doing preliminary research, and making a booking, there is still a certain amount of information you take in, as well as when speaking to others about your future visits. At one Adelaide Hill’s winery, the owner mentioned that some people try thirty new ingredients when dining at Orana. I found that incredibly exciting.

Alexander palm heart, native honey & green ants

Alexander palm heart, native honey & green ants

Orana is not the only restaurant in Adelaide making huge waves. It is located around the corner from another trendsetter in Africolo, and there are a host of other new names. Upstairs from popular sister eatery, Street ADL, the space is in a word, tiny. Small enough that Catherine and I counted twenty-six chairs, nicely spaced, facing the middle of the room, and the largest table of six. Oddly, everyone facing inwards towards one table seems to work out, especially given there is no decent view outside. The space is simply furnished with some smart fittings that are both stylish and noise reducing. The tables are also simply adorned, making room for some artistic decanters later on.
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Once seated we are given an explanation of the tasting menu to come. Amazingly we are told we will start with fifteen “snacks”, before going on to four savoury mains, and then dessert, which again includes several snacks. One thing I did research, but can’t remember being specifically told, is the price of the tasting menu ($175). Equally, when asked about whether we wanted to take the option of matching wines, the price ($120) does not come up. This happened at Vue de Monde too, but I’d prefer to know or at least be given an overview when booking (which was on Dimmi) or when the restaurant confirms. All the same, we are eager to get into the food and with a couple of small requests for change on the wine matching, which the sommerlier agrees to, we decide on the wine matching too.

Potato damper, lamb butter; Emu in background with wild plum & mountain pepper

Potato damper, lamb butter; Emu in background with wild plum & mountain pepper

The snacks are brought out by head chef, Shannon Flemming, in what is a trend for the rest of the evening. I like the chefs having an opportunity to present their dish to you, and explain what ingredients are used, along with any story about the creation of the dish. For the first snack, damper, Shannon asks us to grab the tongs and turn it over in the hot coals that have been placed on the table. In one minute we can grab the damper off the hot coals and dip in the lamb butter to begin an evening of gorgeous combinations of local and Australian ingredients; invention abounding, and discovery similar to the road trip we have enjoyed from Melbourne via Mildura.

Without detailing each and every snack, which could go on for pages, I’d like to focus on a few of the new ingredients we tried, and some of the more inventive, or delicious bites we tried. It’s hard not to first mention the Alexander palm heart with native honey and green ants which I enjoyed two serves of! The ants are clearly sitting atop the delicately chopped palm heart and my curiosity needs to try one on their own. Surprisingly, they taste of fruit, berry like, with a burst of flavour as you crunch into them. The small spoonful of a dish works as a combination, purposely quite sweet to provide balance to the other savoury bites.

Prawn & Davidson plum

Prawn & Davidson plum

The red dust of the Davidson plum on the barely cooked prawns is spicy. The absolutely beautiful emu is gently seared with wild plum inside oozing out in your single bite. The lamb in kohlrabi is bursting in flavour. The macadamia cream drunk from a cup is a pure expression of the impeccable nut from Queensland. Never off the menu to date, the thinly sliced pumpkin again demonstrates the ability of the chefs to harness and accentuate a single ingredient.

Roast beef & pumpkin

Roast beef & pumpkin

One of my favourite snacks was towards then end where the last few were slightly larger. The crab and yoghurt sorbet is creamy and slightly sweet, on a bed of codium and sea purslane, which both are found in or near the sea. Reminiscent of the oyster ice cream at Brae, you will see sorbets and ice creams of seafood more and more, because somehow it just works.

Settling into the main dishes, a spelt dish starts us off. It is soft and generous, but not as exciting as the other mains. Next we have the first of three impeccable savoury courses. The kangaroo is encased in thinly sliced beetroot, along with many other accompanying ingredients including grasses and wild garlic. The roo itself is softly cooked, separated into bite sized tastes, almost pulled, and just tastes amazing. Whether combined with the other ingredients or on its own, it is beautiful, which is not easy to do with kangaroo.

Charred kangaroo, beetroot, grasses & wild garlic

Charred kangaroo, beetroot, grasses & wild garlic

The fish course is one of Catherine’s favourites. Mullet is again lightly touched, showing off its unctuous goodness. It comes with an ingredient we only first tried two nights back at Penfolds Magill Estate where several of the staff here have worked. The ice plant is a succulent used here that you will see more in mainstream restaurants in years to come because it has an inviting but unique flavour.

Coorong mullet, lentils, walnut & ice plant

Coorong mullet, lentils, walnut & ice plant

My favourite dish of the night is the Angus beef, served aside ox tongue. When combined with the caramelised leaks, and soft smoked potato, it has nothing of the flavour you would expect from what is often just another meat dish at the end of a tasting to make sure you are full and satisfied. This is a very adult version. Strong flavours in balance, to be eaten in small bites and not devoured.

Coorong Angus beef, smoked potato & leek

Coorong Angus beef, smoked potato & leek

Each dish was well explained by the chefs or floor staff who were serving us, and service was the highest quality, balancing attentiveness with absence for conversation. The sommelier did a terrific job too. We had started with a versatile blanc de blancs from Champagne producer Jose Dhondt (topped up without our beckoning by the sommelier to see us through the fifteen snacks), and went on to a 2012 Chablis by Patrick Piuze (as requested) with the spelt. The kangaroo was theatrically presented inside a large bowled Riedel glass which was full of smoke. Once lifted and wafted in your direction, the glass is filled with a local South Australian Amber Ale beer by Robe Town. Not a huge beer fan, Catherine requested a wine to be matched instead and got to try a great red from producer “Head”.

Pocky sticks!

Pocky sticks!

With the oily Mullet fish, we tried an equally inventive wine. Oddly Cabernet Sauvignon from the Adelaide Hills is combined with Sauvignon Blanc and Petit Verdot from the same block in an experimental vineyard. While the team at Domaine Lucci understand there is more Cab Sav in the blend, the actual proportions are not known as all the grapes are combined in the winemaking process. The result is offputtingly delicious for a traditionalist like myself, and the combination with the fish is superb. More traditional but equally delicious, the SOS 2014 Sangiovese from the Yarra Valley finished our savoury courses off, combining gracefully with the beef.

Bunya tubers & Davidson plum molases

Bunya tubers & Davidson plum molases

Going into our dessert snacks the Australian theme did not subside at all. We tried marshmallows tasting of bush lemon and dusted with mountain berries. Cinnamon jam doughnuts featured too, only the jam was made from riberry bush berries, and pocky sticks came in flavours of dark chocolate with local porcini mushrooms, white chocolate with quandong, and Spruce pine. To match we had a glass of Joseph Riesling Traminer by Primo Estate which is a Botrytis dessert wine that I’ve liked for many years.

The first of our main desserts is Davidson plum molasses over Bunya tubers in the form of ice cream. It is the sweeter of the two desserts and is followed by the only other dish besides the pumpkin that has stayed the distance on the menu (though I did suggest they might want to think about keeping the beef on!) It is not overly sweet, and is one of those dishes that works far better in combination than tasting the ingredients separately. Set buttermilk is surrounded by a strawberry juice with eucalyptus oils dispersed. It seems simple but it isn’t.

Set buttermilk, strawberry & eucalyptus

Set buttermilk, strawberry & eucalyptus

Even the petit four with our tea and coffee was imaginative, looking like a normal chocolate truffle, but tasting just like your classic chocolate crackle from the local bake stall at the fete!

We had an extraordinary time at Orana. With ingredients coming from far and wide, across our beautiful country, many of them indigenous to Australia, it was a journey. The floorstaff and chefs guided us with care and humour through the experience, and I can see why Rene Redzepi is taking lessons from Jock on his venture into what is Australian. Orana is Adelaide’s dining Fringe Festival, and it promises to be just as successful.

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Grand Trailer Park Taverna – Melbourne, City – Saturday 25 July 2015 – Lunch

KSA and Mac and Cheese Croquette

KSA and Mac and Cheese Croquette

Hype is a wonderful thing. It does not come out of nowhere and is a sign of something worth trying, but it does set expectations higher.

At Grand Trailer Park Taverna you can smell the hype. In one of the most random refurbished upstairs locations in the city there is now a sanctuary for burger lovers overlooking the intersection of Exhibition and Bourke Streets.

I’m not sure how they got the trailers up there but it is a great look. The strong crowd is not a surprise but gladly the space, whether in caravan booths, on more usual tables, or benches with stools, is nice and comfortable. Here you order at the counter so after a quick assessment of the menu I decide on the Ivan Drago, Catherine on the KSA, and we also share some chips and a mac and cheese croquette.

The Ivan Drago and Hand Cut Chips

The Ivan Drago and Hand Cut Chips

My Ivan Drago has an Aussie beef pattie, cheddar cheese, black Russian tomato, streaky bacon, beetroot, McDowell sauce and comes in a brioche bun. The classic Aussie inclusion of beetroot is great and I’m guessing its name comes as a result of the Russian tomato. Everything works and the pattie is high on flavour. Catherine’s KSA has the same beef and cheese in a brioche bun, with normal tomato and butter lettuce, special burger sauce and American mustard. Again it is a delicious burger and a good option if you don’t want too many flavours in each bite.

The mac and cheese croquette is just indulgent comfort in a perfect little package. It is huge so the decision to share one with Catherine works for us. The chips are terrific but that is to be expected.

With a good selection of drinks available, there is plenty to quench your thirst and offset all that grease. It is not out of the question to see out an afternoon over a few courses and a few drinks but today we have Melbourne’s Open House to get involved in. The pie of the day will have to wait until next time.

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