DOWNBY THE RIVER

Chris­tine McCabe en­joys a leisurely meal in old-world style on the Tor­rens

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Indulgence -

IT’S wise to cel­e­brate those things we take for granted, and in Ade­laide this in­cludes sev­eral stal­wart restau­rants that are as es­sen­tial to our sense of well­be­ing as Barossa shi­raz or Haigh’s choco­lates. With sum­mer around the cor­ner, Jol­leys Boathouse, nes­tled on the sleepy Tor­rens River only min­utes’ walk from the CBD, is top of the mind again, be­cause it is dif­fi­cult to imag­ine a love­lier spot on an evening in early spring.

Set be­low the hand­some King William Street bridge with the spires of St Peter’s Cathe­dral shin­ing in the dis­tance, this cheery boat­shed is per­fectly placed to con­tem­plate Ade­laide’s rather English down­town scene: row­ers, swans (al­beit black) and strolling cou­ples en­joy­ing the man­i­cured river tableau.

A madly pop­u­lar lunch spot, Jol­leys is just as charm­ing af­ter dark, with brightly coloured pad­dle­boats and a fleet of idio­syn­cratic plea­sure ves­sels moored out­side, and the oc­ca­sional call of a wood duck sound­ing from be­neath the bridge.

Ta­bles spill from the boathouse proper into the can­vas-topped con­ser­va­tory where a wall of glass doors is opened dur­ing warmer weather. Ca­sual deckchairs are com­ple­mented by quite for­mal ta­ble set­tings fea­tur­ing dou­ble cloths, linen nap­kins and good glass­ware. Like­wise, English-born chef Tony Car­roll’s mod­ern Aus­tralian cui­sine, draw­ing largely on South Aus­tralian pro­duce, is a classy af­fair.

With a rav­en­ous young son and a pre­tend­ing-to-be-on-a-diet hus­band in tow, I’m set to give his menu a thor­ough work­out. Twi­light is fad­ing and the row­ers are head­ing back to their sheds as we pe­ruse our en­tree op­tions.

Hus­band chooses yel­lowfin tuna tataki with soba noo­dles and a cu­cum­ber and shi­itake salad ($21.50) It’s spank­ing fresh and suc­cu­lent. I try the miso caramelised Wagyu beef served with a grilled mush­room and mizuna salad ($19.50), a very ac­com­plished dish, quite rich de­spite the tang of a Ja­panese mus­tard sauce. And likely em­i­nently more fat­ten­ing than his tuna (I’ll skip dessert). Rav­en­ous son heads straight for the mains and or­ders one of sev­eral specials on of­fer: gnoc­chi with slow-roasted lamb, peas and pre­served lemon ($26). It ar­rives promptly with our en­trees (gold star from mum) and is ex­tremely good.

The ex­ten­sive wine list is a great read, dom­i­nated by the best of the best from South Aus­tralia and in­ter­state (with a sprin­kling of in­ter­na­tional la­bels), and I’m pleased to see some harder-to-find drops, in­clud­ing Rymill’s The Bee’s Knees sparkling shi­raz from the Coon­awarra ($45 a bot­tle), and Charles Mel­ton’s Rose of Vir­ginia rose. Long one of my favourite sum­mer tip­ples, I in­dulge in a glass ($8.50) be­tween cour­ses.

The bistro-style mains se­lec­tion is small but well-bal­anced, with a cou­ple of sig­na­ture stand­outs, in­clud­ing the crisp-fried teasmoked duck with spinach, blood orange and ginger caramel ($38). The bird is cooked to per­fec­tion, the flesh moist and suc­cu­lent, the parch­ment-crisp skin pleas­antly smoky and salty.

Di­et­ing hus­band set­tles for a sec­ond en­tree (al­though the serves are so gen­er­ous as to make this an en­tirely fea­si­ble op­tion even when you’re very hun­gry). His roast ar­ti­choke, as­para­gus and broad bean salad with parme­san mousse ($17.50) is right on the money, as is our side dish of pota­toes with caramelised onions and thyme ($9.50), fin­ger-lickin’ good and sub­stan­tial enough to feed a much larger fam­ily than ours.

Lighter sides, de­signed for two or three to share, in­clude a rocket, fen­nel and ruby grape­fruit salad or steamed as­para­gus dressed with a lemon vi­nai­grette.

The crowd is mixed, young and old, busi­ness folk and those cel­e­brat­ing spe­cial oc­ca­sions, and al­though it’s early in the evening a con­vivial buzz wafts out across the river while a busy clat­ter em­anates from the open kitchen. Ser­vice is swift and friendly. A mix-up with the di­et­ing hus­band’s en­trees is fixed in a jiffy but has the head waiter in a tizz rustling up com­pli­men­tary cof­fees and loads of apolo­gies.

Hus­band’s fault, I’d say (isn’t it al­ways?). Who has din­ner at Jol­leys when they’re di­et­ing? At least the Yer­ing Sta­tion Pinot Noir ($9 a glass) is low-fat. Or so he as­sures me. In that case we’ll have dessert. All Ta­bles vis­its are unan­nounced and meals paid for

Check­list

Jol­leys Boathouse Jol­leys Lane, Ade­laide; (08) 8223 2891; www.jol­leys­boathouse.com. Open: Lunch, Sun­day to Fri­day; din­ner Mon­day to Satur­day. Cost: About $70-$80 a per­son for three cour­ses with wine but you would be hard­pressed to man­age more than two of Jol­leys’ gen­er­ous por­tions. Drink: Ex­ten­sive list of lo­cal and in­ter­state wines; good pre­mium range by the glass. Rea­son to re­turn: Lovely old-world, river­side set­ting com­bined with clever, con­tem­po­rary cui­sine.

Pic­tures: Kelly Barnes

Mak­ing a splash: Head chef Tony Car­roll at Jol­leys Boathouse with its charm­ing river­side out­look, left; his yel­lowfin tuna tataki, above

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