Thursday, December 30, 2010

Back in Canberra

Blog services to resume shortly, having had a brief break for the season over in Adelaide. If ever a place glad to visit, chuffed to leave and ecstatic not to live there...

That said, there were some good finds on the trip, some Italian, some wine, some just good:
- Espresso Royale on Magill Road. By a flying mile the best coffee I've ever had in Adelaide. Roast, ground and made on site by people who know coffee. Drove there twice in two days before they closed down for three weeks.
- Around Espresso Royale is a bit of a Magill Road cluster of good businesses trading in organic produce, including a bunch of organic nonnas knocking out excellent handmade pasta, plus a good organic butcher. Double cut tbone for bistecca, and very fine ham.
- Cheese diversity & quality at the Central Markets is looking up. The Smelly Cheese Shop had crowds three deep for some excellent cheeses (candied cumquats also excellent). And a very good Assam laksa from the Malaysian stand.
- Melt restaurant looked like it still needed to settle into the Italian-Spanish mix/fusion thing, but the highlights (including some of the pizzas) were having me second-guess my expectation of Adelaide food disappointment.

On the way over to Adelaide, ducked in to Tahbilk at Nagambie and a brief stop in Heathcote. Aside from the strangeness of seeing the wetlands at Tahbilk very wet, their 2010 riesling was a real surprise and worth an on the spot six pack buy.

Heathcote was an even bigger surprise. My impressions had been of a red-wine and French-variety focussed (even obsessed) region - a lot of big reds carrying more heat than needed and in a fairly narrow stylistic vein. I now think I need to go back for a proper look. The Heathcote Cellar & Store, with an ex-Hardy's viti manager on the floor, is a good showcase for the region. The number and diversity of non-French vines and wines really surprised me, especially sangiovese, nebbiolo and tempranillo. And when the local showcase is confident enough to run a month featuring Spanish wines (mainly imports), and local winemakers (Sanguine Estate) drop in with wines left-over from a tasting, you know some things are working right for a region. A trip back after vintage is in order, I reckon.

And Australian wines from Italian varieties from the trip? Vermentino is starting to appear more in wine lists, including in Adelaide (such as the Serafino vermentino, which acquitted itself better than some fairly dire greek food on Rundell St). At dinner last night at Stefano's in Mildura, the 2009 Chalmers fiano went very well with a simple fried squid dish - gentle phenolics and a nut skin character on the finish adding interest to the wine.


  1. Well, glad to hear you enjoyed Melt at least Paul :)

    I've been strolling past regularly (think it's only been open a month or so?) and have had a few good looks, at least at the pizza menu, because that's all they seem to display in the window. I'm certainly liking the sounds of the 'crushed potato, porcini, truffle, walnut etc etc' pizza.

    For interest, what took your fancy?

    Chris P

  2. The potato pizza was tops. Also a good showing from the albondigas meatball pizza.

    I'm probably a bit unlucky with Adelaide - seem to have a bad food experience magnetism most times I'm there.