date of visit: Sunday 27 January 2013
So there we were, in the Adelaide Hills, in the middle of Crush, deciding that we needed a proper sit down meal. As it was getting late, we decided that we should stop off at the first place we came across, providing it didn’t look ridiculously busy.
That ‘first place’ was the Stanley Bridge Tavern in Verdun. We’d been there once previously, in between a wedding (in the Hills) and a reception (in the city) but on that occasion we’d just dropped in for a drink. If I recall correctly, some people in our group may have ordered a sharing platter or some chips. They may not.
As the car park was quiet and an A-frame promised us an all day menu, we pulled in and soon found ourselves battling a high chair (why is there not a standard way of operating them?!). You enter the pub through the front bar, which has a lovely cosy feel, and head through to the dining room, which is a bit more utilitarian in flavour. It’s a large dining room, and there is also an outdoor dining area and a cider garden area. The staff were all very young but all very helpful and friendly. You don’t find slick, polished service but it’s definitely competent. We were asked at least twice how we were enjoying our food – better than not being asked at all!
I had only a very brief look over the wine list (being the designated driver and all) but it seemed reasonably interesting with a few departures from the South Australian standards. One of the first things I spotted was an Alsatian Riesling, which is always a good start as far as I’m concerned. I didn’t look too closely at the prices, but I have subsequently heard complaints that the by the glass selection is a little pricey. However, on the day we were there, on offer were two by the glass specials at $5 each.
The menu is trying hard to be more interesting than standard from-the-freezer-to-the-fryer pub fare. It features food which sounds familiar and comfortable, without limiting itself to schnitzel with four different toppings. I chose the lamb special: roast lamb rump, Moroccan style, with a chickpea salad. Andy opted for the à la carte Cajun chicken breast with coleslaw and chips.
We had a little wait for our food which didn’t bother me (and didn’t bother the toddler, as we had packed all manner of snacks for Crush!) but, given that the restaurant wasn’t busy (a massive table had arrived just after we did, but they hadn’t ordered) I do wonder how the Stanley Bridge would cope at full capacity.
When our dishes did arrive, the first thing I noted was that my lamb could most generously be described as rare. Now that doesn’t bother me at all but it’s not the way I’d expect lamb to be served and I suspect that the majority of punters would, quite reasonably, send it back. Having a bit of a dig around my plate, Andy and I decided that what must have happened was that the lamb had come out, been carved, and been a lot rarer than expected. It looked like the slices had been put back in a pan, with just one side receiving a bit further cooking. Whether this because someone forgot, or ran out of time, or didn’t want to make it look like a mistake had been made … I don’t know. Speculation aside, I enjoyed the lamb. The chickpea salad was really only OK. It was drowned in a sickly, Balsamicky, overly sweet dressing, and showed little imagination.
Andy’s Cajun chicken breast made a much better impression. It was perfectly cooked, so it was still lovely and moist. The chips and coleslaw looked to have been made in house (no straight from the freezer chunky chips here – they were proper big fat wedges of potato, with skin still on!) and Andy said the topping (think Jalapeños, sour cream and so on) worked well.
So while the Stanley Bridge might have slightly missed the mark with my lamb, it does definitely get points for putting in the effort to be creative. At the moment it’s sitting, to my mind slightly uncomfortably, somewhere between gastro pub and standard pub. It needs to pick its niche and focus on that a bit more, with an eye to producing, consistently, the best possible food.
Where I really struggled with our lunch was that the bill hit $60. Two main courses and one beer. That’s quite a lot really.
I’ve subsequently talked to someone who was at the pub on the Monday of the long weekend. She had ordered the sharing platter and been really disappointed.
While I would go back to the Stanley Bridge Tavern, it probably wouldn’t be my first choice of Adelaide Hills pub dining. I suspect the menu needs paring down: fewer dishes, sent out at a higher quality more consistently, would at least justify the current prices.