Marcellina’s Turns 50

Fresh pizza toppings
Spread ready to go!

date of visit: Tuesday 30 May 2017
disclaimer: I was invited to the dinner

THE MOST IMPORTANT PART: On Monday 5 June, to celebrate 50 years of pizza in SA, Marcellina’s in Hindley Street (and note, the Hindley Street store only), from 11am – 4pm, will be selling the original Marcellina special (9″) for just … EIGHTY CENTS. Limit of two pizzas per person.

I grew up in Pizza Hut’s heyday. In fact, before Pizza Hut even did the all-you-can-eat thing. And even then, my parents would talk about Marcellina’s and how it was a revelation when it opened on Hindley Street. I was amazed that there was a time when there was so little Italian food in Adelaide, let alone that that time was within living memory.

So finding out that this year Marcellina’s celebrates 50 years as a proud South Australian business kind of made me feel … old.

The recent gelid weather is perfect red wine and pizza weather, so on Tuesday night, I collected a friend and we headed to Hindley Street to help the Marcellina’s team celebrate. We had no idea what to expect and when we arrived we were a little concerned to see the shop looking quiet and empty. Of course, the great thing about a pizza shop is that there is always pizza.

Marcellina’s original store on Hindley Street is also home to a large function room (Bebe’s Room) at the back of the store … and there, across the length of the room, the most beautiful table had been set up.

A quick introduction revealed that guests would be making their own pizzas from the amazing spread in front of us! The original idea had included us rolling out our own dough and while that had been shelved as being impractical (thank goodness!) balls of fresh dough were included in platters across the table, just so we didn’t forget why we were there.

There was also plenty of food for immediate grazing, along with the all-important red wine, but we didn’t have to wait long before a pizza base (in an individually numbered box) arrived and we could load it up as we wished. The Marcellina pizza ovens are capable of turning out a pizza in just SIX minutes so any delay in eating was solely on our own heads.

pizza
The finished product!

Obviously I enjoyed my pizza (although I do rather wish I’d added the char-grilled capsicum to it) and, because I managed to eat just over half of it, it meant I had a rather tasty afternoon tea the following day!

I don’t normally do this but I’d like to commend Sassafras PR and Marcellina’s on what was easily one of the best events I’ve attended. It was well planned and interactive, with a brief, but informative, introduction. The area in which we were hosted was well lit and beautifully set up (important for photos and social media!). Crucially, for a Tuesday night, it ran to time. OK – super-speedy pizza ovens and getting your guests to build-their-own undoubtedly helps in that respect – but for anyone who has to get up the next day (whether that’s for work or for loud children – or a combination of both) this is crucial.

Even if you’re not able to take advantage of the 80c pizza special, I’d recommend taking the time to make a pizza pilgrimage to Marcellina’s on Hindley Street. A slice of South Australia’s culinary and restaurant-trade history.

Marcellina
273 Hindley Street
Adelaide SA 5000
8211 7560

Sunny’s Pizza

tomato salad
Mostly eaten tomato salad … YUM!


date of visit: 12 April 2017

Bad lighting – sorry for horrendous photos …

A friend of mine recently got married and before she embarked on a six-week long honeymoon a group of us bossed her into a dinner out. In hindsight, she was probably knackered from the wedding, from sorting out work before heading away and from sorting out the honeymoon … but she graciously squeezed us into what was probably a very packed schedule. Sorry Tash!

We decided on Sunny’s as our dinner venue because none of us had been there. Sunny’s is the new (well, opened in late-2016) kid on the block – in the west end but away from Peel and Leigh Streets, yet still sporting the ubiquitous Studio Gram design. It’s cool. It’s hip. 

So cool and so hip, it doesn’t take bookings. For five or six of us, on a Wednesday night, where people are sorting baby-sitting and travelling from outer suburbs this is almost a deal breaker. We were told we should be fine. In fact, we were only fine because one of us was in town an hour earlier, bagged a booth and ordered drinks while the rest of us straggled in …

Pizza
Pepperoni, olives … on a pizza. Check that crust!

The menu at Sunny’s is short – divided into pizza and not-pizza. It’s a simple menu and I’d recommend not taking your fussiest friends there. Fortunately, none of us is fussy, so after a bit of to-ing and fro-ing, we decided on three pizzas and two not-pizzas between the four of us. One pizza had a gluten-free base.

Our not-pizza options were a stunning heirloom tomato salad which I would have been happy to eat over and over again. All I needed was a plate of that to myself and some good crusty, chewy bread and I would have been happy. Dressed with basil oil and scamorza (a soft, cow’s milk cheese which featured very heavily on the menu) and microherbs – it was GREAT!

We also had the green salad which was basically a big pile of mixed lettuces dressed lightly with olive oil.

Pizza
Porky fennelly goodness on a pizza

On to the pizzas … Well, bad blogger that I am, I didn’t take a photo of the menu so I can’t quite remember what we had. For our gluten-free pizza we had a cheese and mushroom pizza, while pork and fennel and pepperoni and olives appeared on the others.

I’m not an aficionado gluten-free bases but, to my gluten-oriented palate – it was horrible. Flat, dense, without the right taste or texture. The topping was dominated by cheese and this was the only pizza that didn’t get demolished.

The other two pizzas were pretty good. I preferred the porky-fennelly number (I love fennel so that was always going to happen) but enjoyed the pepperoni one too. I particularly liked the fat, chewy, charred and blistered crusts. The dough was good. It gets a big tick.

One thing that gets a big cross, however, is the service. It vacillated between friendly, helpful, jovial … to, um, not great at all.

While the wine list is to be commended (small producers, everything by the glass) but the amount of time I waited for a glass of Grenache was untrue. Not only waited, but asked about it too … Really? Pouring a glass of wine isn’t difficult and the markup on alcohol is usually pretty generous. Get that glass of wine out pronto – the customer might order a second …

When we asked about dessert we were told that they don’t do desserts because they don’t have a freezer. Eh?!

And when we asked for the bill? Well, that was the same place my glass of Grenache was …

The upshot? I hope that Sunny’s isn’t too cool for school. Relaxed, casual, laid-back – all awesome things for a venue to pursue. So relaxed your customers aren’t getting their wine (or their bill)? Not so great.

Personally, the fact I can’t book and the uneven service means that I wouldn’t put Sunny’s out there as a recommendation and I wouldn’t go out of my way to return. However, the pizzas were good enough that, if someone else suggested it (or I were nearby and there happened to be space) I’d be happy enough to go for take-two.

Sunny’s
17 Solomon Street
Adelaide SA 5000

 

Clover at Howard Vineyard

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date of visit: Sunday 5 February 2017

disclaimer: I was a guest of Howard Vineyard

It’s been six years since I last visited (and ate) at Howard Vineyard. Six. I know this because I went there with a couple of friends, one of whom was visiting from England, and a three month old who had just discovered his voice. We had a very pleasant lunch, punctuated by a shouty baby. It was mid-week and hopefully we didn’t disturb too many other diners.

Although I’ve been on many visits to the Hills since, we’ve not made it quite as far as Nairne on many occasions. However, since late last year, Howard has been on my radar due to the newly released Blanc de Noir. I’m a big fan of sparkling wine and have wanted to try it.

So when Howard Vineyard dropped me a press release, announcing the return of Heather Day (former Masterchef contestant and the brains behind HeyDay butter) to the Clover restaurant kitchen, along with an invitation to lunch ‘yes’ was a very obvious response.

Andy and I left a disgruntled Master 6 (‘why can’t I go to lunch too?’) with my parents and headed for the Hills on a rather overcast afternoon.  The Clover restaurant is indoors but does have a large outdoor seating area, which on this particular Sunday was hosting a group of 60 (!) – so we were very pleased to be tucked away inside.

Naturally I had already sussed out the short menu online. The philosophy is seasonality, with many ingredients foraged or sourced from the kitchen garden. The menu’s focus is predominantly Asian with dishes designed to share. There are just three small plates, three large plates and three sides. Personally, I find short menus a LOT more reassuring than long ones. I eat everything so it’d be a big call (or a rubbish menu!) to find myself in a position of not wanting to eat anything. A short menu is indicative of a competent kitchen that knows its limits and would rather produce a small number of different dishes well and consistently, than attempting a cast of thousands.

That said – if you are a picky eater, you should definitely do your homework prior to heading to Howard!

For groups of four or more there is a ‘feed me’ option which is just $49 per person. However, as a group of two, we ordered one small plate and two large plates. We did consult with our waitress about how much we should order and she said this should be fine but if we were needing more, extra plates wouldn’t be a problem.

First out, however, were our drinks – Clover Sauvignon Blanc for Andy and a glass of the Blanc de Noir for me. You can’t taste the Blanc de Noir at the cellar door but you can buy yourself a glass of it. I cannot recommend that course of action highly enough!

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Next came the dumplings. They are prawn and pork and you receive ten with a lovely sharp and sour soy and shallot dressing. The dumplings were packed full (always very important – no one likes an explosion of steaming hot water on biting in!), with good flavour and I loved the dressing. The sourness of it, combined with the saltiness of the soy, made the whole lot incredibly moreish. Andy thought the dressing was too sour, so that the sourness obliterated other flavours. I beg to differ on that one.

For our large plates we had gone for the BBQ pork and the Cambodian beef vermicelli salad. The other alternative is the Major Tom’s spicy chicken (described as ‘with a sweet and sour glaze’). One look at the words ‘sweet and sour’ was enough to put me off that one. 

However, we were VERY fortunate, because a little mix up saw us receive the Major Tom’s chicken instead of the beef. We were told that as the chicken is the most popular dish, the kitchen would like us to try it while our beef was prepared.

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What a happy, happy accident because that chicken was soooo good. I’m not sure how it’s been done (and frankly, why spoil the magic?) but it’s almost like the chicken has either had a very light batter and then fry or the skin has been left on and crisped up. Either way, you have a bowl full of beautifully moist chicken with an almost crispy outer, in a delicious sauce, with some gentle background heat, that is not at all anything like I would imagine when I hear ‘sweet and sour glaze’. It’s topped with bean sprouts for extra crunch and some fresh chilli for extra zing. If you only try one dish at Clover, it might as well be this one. I can see why it is the most popular dish.

The BBQ pork is served almost san choy bow style – with lettuce cups, herbs, cucumber, crushed peanuts and what Andy described as a BBQ sauce. The pork was lovely and moist but for me, this was my least favourite dish as it lacked the flavour punch of the others. Andy disagreed.

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Finally, the Cambodian beef, presented on top of the noodles, with herbs, carrot, bean sprouts, peanuts and crispy shallots. Alongside it, a really refreshing dipping sauce redolent with fish sauce and chilli. I loved this dish – and not just because I love noodles. But also I loved the combination of flavours and textures, especially the additional heat from the dipping sauce. It was very easy to eat and adjust each mouthful as you went. I was very careful to ensure I polished off as many of those crispy shallots as I could!

By this point, it transpired that our original order would have been enough for the two of us. Despite a couple of good attempts at polishing off the chicken, we ended up leaving some on each plate. So if two are dining together, I recommend one small and two large plates.

We finished off the meal by sharing the sorbet – the flavour of the day was lemon and it was like eating frozen lemon curd with the extra fresh lemon zest. It was a delicious combination of super sweet and super tart (and super lemony) all at once. The sorbet was not at all icy – it was almost creamy with a stretchiness to it. It was also a MASSIVE portion. Neither of us would have been able to eat one on our own and we even left quite a lot.

We then headed over to the bar to taste through the wines. At this point, the folly of the sorbet became obvious. Our palates were shot with sweet, lemony flavours – and guess what? Not only did they swamp the wines, they really didn’t work with them at all. My advice? Taste wine first, eat second. Or eat, taste wine and then eat sorbet. 

Although this isn’t a piece about wines – I do want to point out here that Howard Vineyard is one of the few wineries that makes a straight Cabernet Franc (well, actually, they make two). Cabernet Franc is often found in blends (with Cab Sav and Merlot – it is one of the six grape varieties allowed in Bordeaux) but shines on its own in a couple of regions in France’s Loire Valley. It has a stalkiness to it which I find very attractive and I wish there was more straight CF to be had.

So at Howard Vineyard you get to try some lovely wine (my two picks being the Blanc de Noir and the Clover Cabernet Franc) and you get to eat some tasty food which sings with freshness, texture and layers of flavour.

The only down side? At present, Clover is only open on a Sunday, between 12 and 3 and bookings are recommended. Even with a huge party in on Sunday, both the kitchen and the front of house staff handled the load with (apparent!) ease. And that speaks volumes for both how well organised things are and the calibre of the staff themselves.

Howard Vineyard Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Clover at Howard Vineyard
Lot 1, 53 Bald Hills Road, Nairne
South Australia 5252
cellar door: (08) 8188 0203