There’s something so relaxing about eating at the pub, isn’t there? Great food, a nice drop, no fuss. It’s a recipe for good times. Given South Australia’s brewing and distilling industries got cracking when the first British settlement here was barely more than a toddler, it’s no surprise our state has lots to offer when it comes to great local pubs, and great local pub grub.
From in town to country town, SA’s pubs are where you’ll see some of our state’s best produce on show. You’ll find many more great pubs making the most of their great local produce listed on the Eat Local SA website.
The P/A Hotel
And you don’t need to roam far to find them. You only need to venture to Gawler to find the P/A Hotel, where the chefs can pick and choose from South Australia’s fertile market gardens of the Adelaide Plains, while adhering to the hotel’s 100 mile radius philosophy for food (and beverages).
The P/A Hotel is a big, feisty old darling of a pub, all hefty stone, blackboard menus and cosy corners. Things are just a little different here from your standard hotel menu here.
For example, chips don’t come with everything. In fact, they don’t come with anything, unless you order them specifically. Along with the local sourcing policy is a commitment to a healthier style of pub dining – but don’t worry, you won’t be expected to survive on carrot juice and bean sprouts alone. The dining here is hale and hearty.
Take the Chico Burger, with its house-made chilli-infused Wagyu pattie with Barossa Fine Foods chorizo, jalapeno peppers and tomato salsa. And fresh slaw, salad and onion rings. Told you so.
Hungry people travelling in pairs can seek out the Pitter Platter – it’s a tour of the Barossa on a plate. A generous selection of Barossa Valley Cheese Co. cheese, cold meats, marinated vegies, pickles and house-made chutney, served with crusty bread is ideal fuel to set us up for an afternoon’s exploring in the nearby Barossa Valley.
Happily, the coast is also within that 100 mile reach, which means fat prawns from the Spencer Gulf are on the menu too, arrayed in a delicately crunchy tempura batter and paraded on top of a super fresh rice noodle and vegetable salad. And there’s Greenslade chicken breast, partnered with Barossa Fine Foods bacon, Barossa Valley Cheese Company’s vintage cheddar, sauteed spinach, blistered cherries and sweet potato crisps.
If you’re lucky, they might be serving the P/A version of the chocolate brownie – rich, fudgy brownie pieces sandwiched together with Golden North ice cream. Who cares if it’s cool outside? It’s a whole different kind of cool inside this pub.
Quiet contemplation (with fries)
At The Sevenhill Hotel in the Clare Valley, you can dine outdoors overlooking wine country, or you can go underground for a meal in the lusciously stocked cellar. Stone, dark wood and deep colours lend a timeless quality to this place, yet the atmosphere is bright and contemporary, just like the food.
Here, the meals do come with fries – seasoned with rosemary and garlic and fit for a feast. And they go very well with Whitehut Farm Fresh Produce’s lamb in a burger with rocket and house-made capsicum relish. If fries aren’t what you’re after just now, how about Chilli, Fennel and Garlic Crab, served with linguine from the family at Pangkarra Foods (they also grow and mill the grain themselves, by the way).
The olive oil served in The Sevenhill Hotel’s restaurant is from nearby Auburn Olive Oil, and it pairs beautifully with Turkish bread from The Little Red Grape Bakery. Rohde’s free range eggs don’t have far to come here, they’re produced in Tarlee. And the hotel’s own kitchen garden produce is supplemented by BJ’s Fruit Barrow in Clare.
Oh we do like to be beside the seaside
The Victory Hotel
Heading south out of town, that enticing call you can hear is The Victory Hotel at Sellicks Beach. Too many awards to mention, one of South Australia’s most amazing cellars (in which you can linger) and a seafront location come together to make this an essential seaside stop, and the right place to come together with lots of locals, including Willunga-based artisan breadmaker Andy Clappis’ casalinga and pita breads, King George whiting from the sea you are looking at, and rump steak raised along the internationally renowned Coorong.
Autumn has arrived here in the shape of Myponga Beach squid, salted and peppered and dished up with aioli, chilli and spring onion, while sweet baby leeks grown in Willunga and a tarte tartin of McLaren Vale apples prove three isn’t always a crowd when partnered with roasted pork belly.
For a sweet touch, that quintessential autumn fruit, the quince, is picked in Aldinga and brought to the Victory’s kitchen to be poached and served with Hazelnut Chocolate Crème Brulee and a cinnamon churro. And for a simply superb pub feed, Ellis Farms in McLaren Vale provide the bacon and the beef for The Victory Hotel’s version of a burger with the works, slathered with chipotle cheese, chilli onion jam and aioli.
Check out the western catch
Because the Melville Hotel is on the Yorke Peninsula, our thoughts instinctively turn to seafood. Why? Because some of the best sustainably produced fish and seafood comes from around here. The chefs in South Australia know that, and so do their colleagues internationally.
Think about this: Yorke Peninsula is famous for its fishing, but this way you don’t have to actually do the hard work of catching and cleaning dinner yourself. Fresh from renovation, the dining room at the Melville Hotel has just reopened with a menu that makes the most of the local catch.
All we need to do is take a seat, ready for a feed of garfish or South Australia’s much-loved King George whiting, caught from the local beach by the Gill sisters, coated in coarse crunchy crumbs and served up with proper chips and lemon fresh from a farmyard garden. The deliciously fruity olive oil in the dressing will have come from a nearby olive grove, and lentils and chickpeas straight from the paddock, possibly the same ones we drive past to get to this very hotel.
All the family-friendly holiday favourites are on this menu, from burgers with a dollop of Lil’s chutney, made with love on the wood stove, to nut sundaes. In 1874, the South Australian Register reported the Melville Hotel as having ‘an air of comfort and good humour’. Like a plate of golden fried fresh fish fillets and chips, when something’s good, you don’t need to mess with it.
Something for the city slicker
The Unley Hotel
Back in town, and on the south side of the city, The Unley is in the midst of a makeover, with nothing but the best local produce at the top of their priorities and a new rooftop bar to show it off. The Unley is making a stand for real food in dishes created to please local regulars and visitors alike.
Modern pub grub here includes the likes of Adelaide Hills olives served warm as a starter, spiced up with a little fennel seed and rosemary-infused olive oil, and moves on to Coorong Angas beef in the form of a Flat Iron Steak or as a brioche bun burger by Skala Bakery with all sorts of extras including Beerenberg Tomato Chutney, a perfectly runny Clare Valley egg and fries.
A comforting dish of Murraylands pork belly comes with a creamy cauliflower puree made with buttermilk, with tiny apples, and early Brussel sprouts from Nairne, while Paroo Kangaroo’s finest kangaroo tenderloin is given the bush spice treatment, rubbed with pepperberry, chargrilled and served with a pumpkin and lemon myrtle puree, and house-made Uraidla-grown beetroot and riberry chutney.