There’s a lot of talk about the mighty River Murray and who am I to go against the tide? The water is flowing and so is the hospitality in this luscious landscape.
The Riverland is country South Australia on show. Country produce and country friendliness, that is. It’s the land of real pub grub and our finest export produce.
A meander through the Riverland will feed your body and your soul. Relax and take it all in, and don’t forget there are dozens of other great SA producers and food businesses on the Eat Local SA.
The Loxton Hotel
Let’s start with that pub grub. At the revered and venerable Loxton Hotel, their 2013 makeover has cemented their position as amongst the best of the state’s community hotels and acclaimed as the best bistro in the Riverland. Three bars, that bistro and homemade biscuits to accompany the plunger coffee in your room add serious weight to the accolades.
This is one of the few places where you can actually get a taste of the infamous and enormous Murray cod. The cod in question is now farmed since you’re no longer allowed to catch and keep it for yourself and it’s a bit of a kitchen favourite, especially seasoned with local olive oil and served with a mix of the delicious local oranges, limes and lemons.
The team here really likes to make the most of what’s on their doorstep. Everyone knows about world-acclaimed citrus from this region but did you know about the capers, olive oil, lamb, duck and honey? At the Loxton Hotel the pantry also includes wild lime syrup and jams and chutney and syrups made from quandongs. Pork lovers should look no further than the Fisher Brothers Taldra pork belly, all sticky with a honey mustard glaze. It’s served resting on a sweet potato and Parmesan cake and topped with Jachmann’s Cider-battered apple rings. And pork crackle of course.
The Renmark Club
It’s a community thing over in Renmark too, where the Renmark Club is just the ticket for families looking for a friendly spot and a great feed. The Renmark Club has been operating since 1909 and has been Club of the Year three years on the trot.
The menu here covers traditional pub favourites including a seafood basket, schnitties and pizzas and there’s a menu especially designed to fill the hollow legs of starving children on holidays. All of this is sourced from the Riverland and around South Australia. So far, so good, but then there’s the rest of the menu – be warned, you will regret it if you don’t read through to the end before you order!
Would you want to miss out on South Eastern Beef Cheeks braised with (also proudly South Aussie) St Agnes brandy, local navel oranges, and a rich reduction served with creamy polenta or Waikerie Gourmet’s duck, pork and fennel sausages tucked into their East Murray Shiraz sauce? I didn’t think so. My advice is to leave a little room (if you can) for the cheese platter. It’s a lovely way to get to sample some of the Riverland’s sweetness in the shape of locally grown dried fruits. Try the muntries. Also known as native cranberries, these little beauties taste like spiced apple and play very nicely indeed with a slice of oozy ripe Brie.
Overland Corner Hotel
Around 20km out from Barmera there’s another famous watering hole, the Overland Corner Hotel. River steamers and drovers used to gather here to break their journeys and it’s still a good idea for travellers now. There might not be 30,000 odd sheep grazing the river flats out front of the hotel anymore and the police and the post office that were once based in the building have moved on to other premises, but the biggest beer garden in the Riverland is in full swing and when the weather closes in there are two log fires to keep you comfy.
Big bold plates are the order of the day here if the menu is anything to go by. Local native herbs take it up a notch in the Overland Corner Hotel‘s version of salt and pepper squid and saltbush lamb makes an appearance in the Drover’s Shank with creamy mash and roasted pumpkin harvested nearby, while the burger is wagyu. Step right up (and back in time) to when pubs were pubs and folks were hungry.
After all that, we may need to have a bit of a break from eating. So let’s just think about eating instead (and lay in some supplies for later while we’re at it).
In Waikerie there’s a top spot to harvest your Riverland favourites including award-winning olive oil, wine, a selection of local and Eat Local SA gourmet goodies and artisan products to pamper yourself or share with a friend. Illalangi means ‘home on the hill’ and this one has a backdrop of serene river views to enjoy with a taste of this and that to help you decide what to take home.
A wander through the new bush tucker interpretive garden will inspire and, when you get back home, Illalangi’s website is there to help with recipes and ideas to showcase the produce acquired on your visit. Callum Hann of Masterchef fame and now running Sprout cooking school recently whipped up a dish using Illalangi’s own extra virgin olive oil, native herb dukkah and caramelised balsamic with eggplant and goats curd. I will be heading into the kitchen to try out the Illalangi Oil, Pear and Spice Cake recipe very soon.
Backyard Bread at Cobdogla sounds like it is way out bush but isn’t. It’s right in the middle of the Riverland. A stop here is essential to stock up on crunchy gourmet bread for your picnic hamper or your next party. You see, the breads here are baked in a traditional wood-fired oven, sliced and then baked till they turn into toasty little bread bites. There’s a bit of an Aussie ingredient thing going on here too, with flavourings including Murray River salt, roast pumpkin and lemon myrtle and wattleseed balsamic onion.
Forget the cutlery, these crusty bites are all you need to scoop up your dip, provide a temporary raft for your cheese or build a little snack or hors d’oeuvres of your own design. Backyard Bread can help with that too. They make a selection of gourmet spreads that (who would have thunk?) go perfectly with their breads. Look for the Wattleseed Balsamic Onion Marmalade, Spicy Pear Chutney or pick up a taste of the region in one their sampler boxes.
Backyard Bread is also set to open a luscious new retail outlet on the main highway – watch out for this one stop shop for all (foodie) things Riverland or say hello if you are at the Riverland Farmers Market where you can find trays of their fresh crusty breads including sourdoughs, ciabattas, foccacias, vegetable breads, and their amazing fruit loaf studded with the best dried fruit to be found in the region.
Berri Visitor Information Centre
In the way of clued-in tourism information centres these days, Berri Information Centre is getting in on the gourmet act as well. Along with your maps and some great advice for your trip, you can browse their shelves for local produce and chat to the locals about their favourites and recommendations. It will give you serious food for thought.