Chris­tine McCabe sam­ples hearty food with a touch of class in the Ade­laide Hills

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Indulgence -

IIMAG­INE life moved at a leisurely pace in 1840s Mac­cles­field, founded when three brothers were dis­patched from Blighty by their fa­ther to man­age a sur­vey of land in the Ade­laide Hills. Ameni­ties were scant but the early set­tlers had their pri­or­i­ties sorted. The town’s Goat’s Head Inn opened promptly, fol­lowed by a brew­ery that pro­duced such fine ale it gar­nered awards from as far away as Lon­don. Things aren’t much busier in down­town Mac­cles­field to­day, and the broad main street of this sleepy vil­lage, set amid golden hills 45km south of Ade­laide, seems lit­tle changed.

And, yes, the Goat’s Head Inn is still here, al­though th­ese days the pub — one of the old­est con­tin­u­ously li­censed in the state — is called the Three Brothers Arms in hon­our of the dis­trict’s found­ing fa­thers.

Since late 2006, this quaint soap­stone and shin­gle hostelry has been run by Shane Or­tis and Mel Pritchard, who of­fer trav­ellers en route to Strathal­byn’s an­tique shops, or farther afield to the beaches of the Fleurieu Penin­sula, some great pub grub and a wine and ale list well worth an af­ter­noon’s con­tem­pla­tion.

In­te­ri­ors are suit­ably old world, with nary a poker ma­chine in sight; en­ter­tain­ment is con­fined to a rather dated juke­box. Worn leather chairs are drawn up to the fire, pen­nies found in the pub’s deep well dec­o­rate the bar top and horse har­ness para­pher­na­lia dan­gles from dark beams. Even the fridge is an­ti­quated, a bur­nished tim­ber cabi­net stocked with Hills wines and English ales.

The din­ing room is un­re­mark­able, fea­tur­ing faded ma­roon car­pet and knock­about chairs, but there are some nice touches, too: proper linen nap­kins and small stone bowls of cracked black pep­per and Murray River salt flakes.

Out­side, a broad ter­race af­fords pleas­ant views over the deeply etched An­gas River.

Or­tis has repli­cated the food that won him a strong fol­low­ing at the Lake Coolan­gatta Cafe on Aldinga Beach (closed in early 2006), al­though Pritchard is now in the kitchen, while he works front of house.

The main menu fea­tures sev­eral pub clas­sics: lambs fry with creamy mash ($13); Coop­ers beer-bat­tered garfish; schnitzels, beef or chicken, with a choice of sauces.

The specials menu is more con­tem­po­rary, in­clud­ing house-made pap­pardelle pasta with squid and chorizo ($15 en­tree, $20 main), duck and prawn spring rolls ($14), and crispy pork belly with a fen­nel, ap­ple and mus­tard seed salad ($24.90).

The wine list is a pleas­ant sur­prise, sev­eral notches above usual pub of­fer­ings, with Pol Roger cham­pagne by the glass and a small se­lec­tion of Euro­pean and New Zealand la­bels, as well as plenty of South Aus­tralian wines. Add to this sev­eral specials chalked up on a black­board.

The list of beers is even more im­pres­sive, with an ex­ten­sive col­lec­tion of pre­mium brews from across the globe and English ales in­clud­ing Theak­ston’s Old Pe­culier, some­thing I de­vel­oped a fond­ness for while liv­ing on the moors in North York­shire, where a chilled bot­tle of Ade­laide Hills sauvi­gnon blanc was a tall or­der in­deed.

This sum­mer’s day the pub may well ex­ude a cosy English charm but the weather is far too hot for din­ers to con­tem­plate a so­journ on the ter­race. Ev­ery­one is tucked inside be­neath the low-beamed ceil­ing (air­con­di­tioner on) tear­ing into some chilled drinks, in our case a bot­tle of La­gar De Cervera Al­barino from Spain ($49).

Or­tis sug­gests shar­ing sev­eral en­trees: crispy fried moz­zarella with a tomato and basil salsa ($11.90), a big hit with my piz­za­mad sons; creamy grilled figs with blue cheese, pro­sciutto and rocket ($15.90); and some tasty salt-and-pep­per soft-shell crab with a nam prik dress­ing ($14.90).

The mains are huge (that is, pub-sized) and great value for money. A tow­er­ing pile of garfish ($17.50) nes­tles in a crisp bat­ter that has been aug­mented with a splash of Coop­ers. The chicken schnitzel ($15) is the size of a car tyre but per­fectly ten­der. For afi­ciona­dos such as my sons, who be­lieve the schnitzel has been much ma­ligned (and I tend to con­cur), Wed­nes­day is schnitzel night at the Three Brothers ($10, served with all man­ner of top­pings, such as Mex­i­can, Cap­rese or boscaiola).

My roasted half-duck with a man­darin com­pote ($25) is the most ex­pen­sive dish on the menu and is served with a de­li­cious Thai green mango and paw paw salad, with the fruit diced large, more like a cold veg­etable. The bird is cooked well and has lovely crisp skin. The pork belly is good, too, al­though not quite crispy enough.

Given the size of the serv­ings, I’m as­ton­ished any­one in the busy din­ing room man­ages dessert. Hot cin­na­mon dough­nuts with choco­late dip­ping sauce ($10.50) don’t count, we say, vow­ing, hands on rapidly clog­ging hearts, not to eat again un­til schnitzel night.

If Or­tis and Pritchard didn’t have enough to do run­ning this charm­ing pub, they are also plan­ning to open a mi­cro brew­ery re­in­stat­ing Goat’s Head beer in its right­ful place on the Mac­cles­field map.

I’m sure the three brothers have ap­proved. All Ta­bles vis­its are unan­nounced and meals paid for.


Pic­tures: Brett Hartwig

Hand­some hostelry: Chef Mel Pritchard; the suit­ably old-world din­ing en­vi­ron­ment; and the de­li­cious salt-and-pep­per soft-shell crab

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