SO INN THEKNOW
Christine McCabe samples hearty food with a touch of class in the Adelaide Hills
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.
Handsome hostelry: Chef Mel Pritchard; the suitably old-world dining environment; and the delicious salt-and-pepper soft-shell crab