date of visit: Sunday 2 December 2012
Another venture out Thebarton way saw me looking for another place to eat. For a part of Adelaide that, on the surface, looks decidedly industrial and unloved, there’s a surprising number of eateries. Since our September visit to The Loose Caboose, another new place has popped up: Plant 13.
After sitting in Stereosonic traffic on Port Road, I was pretty pleased that we were able to park easily and have a nice, quiet sit down (yes, grandma-mode was well and truly on!). Plant 13 is a former pub, in a lovely Federation building – so right away it’s pleasing to see that the building has been loved rather than ripped down.
The Plant 13 philosophy is a holistic one: meat is sourced from happy animals, many ingredients are grown on site and they make as much as possible on site. Personally, this is the type of thing which makes me happy: low food miles, ethically raised meat and good, hard work in the kitchen.
Menu wise, the dishes have a strong American slant: things like buttermilk biscuits (which I think is really scones for the rest of us!), pancakes with bacon and maple syrup, and Philly cheese steak all feature on the menu. For drinks Plant 13 produces all kinds of interesting combinations (mostly served in jars, from what we could see) – so if coffee isn’t your thing, you can have iced tea, an apple pie smoothie or a citrus blitz (which is what was recommended to us, but you’re going to struggle to get me to drink a mix of blood orange, lemon, lime, mint and sugar syrup – especially when coffee is in the offing).
We arrived in time for what could be called a ‘late lunch’ (around 2pm I think) and Plant 13 was busy but not so packed we couldn’t be seated. I had already sussed out the menu online (and Plant 13 is to be commended for keeping the online menu absolutely up to date – as I write this it’s the December menu, dated 5 December) so I knew I was going to be ordering the gnocchi with brown mushrooms, black garlic (I bet that’s one of next year’s trend ingredients …) and brown butter. Andy ordered the pulled BBQ pork bun with coleslaw. Plant 13 does also provide a short children’s menu but after some umming and aahing we asked if we could just order a single sausage for the toddler (he had already had lunch).
We both really enjoyed our food. Andy rated his pulled pork as superior to that at The Loose Caboose, and while the toddler turned his nose up at the pork part of Andy’s dish, he did like the white cabbage from the coleslaw very much indeed. The gnocchi was really good too: obviously housemade which is always a plus, it was very light (though it did have a slight bounce to it) and the simple sauce of mushrooms, garlic and butter worked really well. The sauce also had some kind of vinegar through it (I’d guess balsamic) and that little line of acidity worked really well to cut through the butter and keep the dish tasting fresh right through to the last mouthful.
The sausage was also housemade and duly demolished.
So, while portion sizes aren’t massive, food wise, Plant 13 gets a big tick from us.
But even better than the food was the fabulous service. Our waitress (Phoebe) was really lovely – she made sure we were all settled, suggested drinks to go with our food, offered us a high chair (we had a booster seat in tow but it was looking for a while like I was going to fail to operate it!) and absolutely nothing was too much trouble. Cole, who is described on the website and ‘chef and host’ was very affable too – making sure that everyone was happy and chatting away to us about the toddler. Nothing tells you how much a venue knows about service more than how they treat parents with a small child.
Our overall view was that we preferred Plant 13 to The Loose Caboose. It was marginally cheaper ($40.40 was the final bill) but that wasn’t the clincher. It was the much more personal and sincere service, the tasty food and the fact that it’s a menu planned with a conscience. I’d love to see more venues like this in Adelaide – and preferably closer to home.
And best of all? When we left, the construction site next to the carpark contained a DIGGER. It took us 20 minutes to get the toddler into the car …