Adelaide Hills Day Out


date of day out: Saturday 5 May 2012

A group of friends recently organised a day out wine tasting in the Adelaide Hills. We had a reasonably modest agenda for the day – lunch and three, maybe four, wineries.

For me, the day proper began at lunch time. Our original food plan was scuppered so, at the last minute and with no warning, twelve of us descended on the Charleston Hotel in a tiny town (population 120, apparently) called … Charleston.

Luckily for us, the dining room was empty because by the time we’d sorted out our table, only a handful of other diners could have squeezed in. We obviously massively swamped the poor kitchen (the rumour at the table was that there was one person working there) so yes, our food did take a while to come out and no, it didn’t all come out at once. But we quickly figured out what was happening so people had the good sense to start eating. From where I was sitting I heard only one complaint about the food which concerned a very disappointing looking bar meal of spaghetti bolognese. The disappointment was compounded because the individual concerned had considered ordering the awesome looking lamb burger.

I was pleased to note that, for $13, I could order a ‘half size’ schnitzel (topping/sauce extra). I don’t think I’ve had a pub meal where the schnitzel has not been ridiculously huge and I’ve often commented that the children’s sizes have looked sufficient. All the schnitzels (even the half sized ones!) were generously proportioned and thick. This meant they were juicy – no dried out cardboard here. The salad was definitely above par (although, as usual, drowned in dressing) – it was Greek style complete with feta.  And I very much enjoyed my glass of Kersbrook Hill Shiraz too!

The accommodating nature of the businesses around Lobethal was further demonstrated when we turned up at Golding Wines. The cellar door man didn’t bat an eye at our large group – he herded us towards a large table, lined up the entire range and led us through it. If you want a welcoming cellar door, I can think of few places that do this better than Golding*.

Next up we headed to Bird in Hand, where our large group most definitely caused a problem. “Have you booked?” … er, well, no. “Hmm, that will be $10 a head” … er, well, no. The cellar door was full of a bus load of tourists and obviously we represented hard work. While I realise that large groups arriving unannounced can cause problems there must be a more delicate way of dealing with the situation. As locals, it means that we’re unlikely to take guests (either overseas or interstate) to Bird in Hand in future …

We wrapped up the day with Barristers Block, where we were treated to some further Adelaide Hills hospitality. The tasting here was a lot less formal than at Goldings with everyone trying whatever they were interested in. Which worked well because by the end of the day the two cellar dogs were garnering a lot more attention than the wines from some people!

I’ve been all inspired to work my way through the wineries of the Adelaide Hills – I just can’t work out which end to start!  But hopefully there’ll be some more cellar door tales soon.

* I have been there several times before and I’m a fan of their Last Hurrah sparkling and Handcart Shiraz.

Charleston Hotel on Urbanspoon

Morphett Arms Hotel



date of visit:  Thursday 29 September 2011

Sorry – no picture of my schnitzel this time – I am self-conscious taking photos when out with friends!

A quick mid-week visit to a pub with a couple of friends.  I don’t know what made me do it, but I actually rang up and booked a table at the Morphett Arms.  I thought I was a bit silly, booking a table for 6pm on a Thursday night – after all, the pub dining room (sorry, it’s always a bistro these days!) will be empty.

It turns out it was extremely lucky that I booked a table, because even at that early hour the pub was busy.  And I don’t mean ticking over nicely, I mean really busy.  I suspect had we not had a reservation we might not have been eating.

The pub is reasonably basic – the dining room is dominated at one end by the salad bar, and everything is done out in various shades of neutral.  The clientele seems to fall into two distinct groups:  those who are somewhat older and family groups with children.  One of my friends commented we were far too young to be there – but we did have the baby in tow, so we sort of fitted in.

Not knowing how things worked, the first mistake we made was one of our party wandering off to find the bar and buy drinks.  At the Morphett Arms, drinks are table service, but when it comes to ordering food you have to order at the counter.  What most patrons do (that would be those familiar with the system) is arrive, order their food immediately and then sit down and have their drinks order taken. We were flapping around like complete novices – not sure where to get menus, not sure how to order our food, and having to turn away waiting staff who wanted to take a drinks order …

Menus in hand we were next completely flummoxed by the array of schnitzel toppings on offer. I know I only ever order a parmi, but Galaxiian? Princess? No explanation at all on the very basic printed, but laminated, menu. When we did go up to order, all was made clear: all the necessary details and the specials are all at the counter.

So we ended with beef schnitzels with gravy and the Galaxiian topping (a combination of onions and capsicums), and chicken schnitzels with Hawaiian and American toppings. Yes – I departed from the standard parmigiana because, at the Morphett Arms, a parmi is tomato sauce and cheese, but American adds the ham.

The food arrived promptly and the beef schnitzels were huge. The plates were decorated with a very token lettuce leaf – but all main courses do include the salad bar. By the time we’d all ploughed our way through schnitzels and chips there was no space for salad – but there was a generous selection of the pub standards: rice salad, pasta salad, green salad, beetroot, and so on.

The schnitzels themselves were good but I did think that the topping (on mine, at least) could have been a little more generous and extended the entire length and breadth of the schnitzel. The chips were pretty disappointing (even by the low standard I set for pub chips).

However, the real sting in the tail is that the schnitties at the Morphett Arms don’t fall into the cheap category – by the time you add your sauce you are looking at over $20 (most sauces are $2.50) which I think is too much for what is really a stock standard meal. While the Morphett Arms doesn’t appear to have a cheap schnitzel night, the pub does take the Entertainment Card (there’s a voucher in this year’s book for 25% off your entire bill, including drinks) and it also looks like it runs the occasional shop-a-docket promotion but if you’re paying full tote odds, I think it’s too expensive.

Service wise – things were definitely above average. Despite the busy dining room there were plenty of staff on and we had no problems sorting out drinks (once we’d worked out what we were doing!), organising a high chair or having any other needs attended to.

While this is definitely a venue I’d consider if I needed somewhere family friendly for a group, it won’t be my first stop for a schnitzel.

The Victoria Hotel


date of visit: Sunday 28 August 2011

Writing a review of a pub can be tricky. If the pub fashions itself as trendy or cutting edge, with a more interesting than average menu then the review is relatively easy – either things have worked or they haven’t. But sometimes, a pub is … just a pub.

The Victoria Hotel, at O’Halloran Hill, is one of those pubs. It’s part of the Australian Leisure and Hospitality Group – a behemoth owning 286 licensed venues across Australia. And this means, as you’d expect, that the menu is standard pub fare, at standard pub prices. As with so many pubs, you do need to have the right attitude as you walk in the door.

We visited on a Sunday evening, small child in tow. The Vic sits on Main South Road almost directly atop O’Halloran Hill. The dining room makes the most of this, its huge windows looking out across Sturt Gorge towards the foothills. The dining area is also massive: it’s divided into two sections and there’s plenty of space around the tables.

Early on a Sunday evening things in the bistro were quiet, and we were able to settle ourselves and the baby in without any hassle (spotlessly clean high chair provided by the pub’s friendly staff). Having been to the Vic once before we didn’t need to spend too much time looking at the menu. As well as the usual pub staples, the Vic also offers wood oven pizzas. As you might have guessed, I ordered a chicken parmi and Andy ordered the Ocean Catch which he’d also ordered on our previous visit. The catch is a collection of seafood goodies – a beer battered fillet of fish, crumbed prawns and salt and pepper squid.

In both our cases, I’m sure our dinners went from freezer to deep fat fryer and to the table: but that’s almost exactly what I’d expect. Service was super fast which is what I want when having a pub schnittie.

And both our dinners were completely adequate. Personally, I’d prefer that the salad dressing be served on the side (so I could avoid it) and I do think that the pub could do a LOT better with its bread rolls (sad, tiny, anaemic, doughy in a bad way), but in terms of meeting expectations the Victoria hit the nail on the head.  The schnitzel had a crunchy crumbed exterior without being burnt and the meat was moist.  The topping was the usual ham, tomato based sauce and cheese.  Absolutely nothing to complain about.

A chicken parmi will set you back $17.90 (plain $15.90, with choice of the usual sauces) which is more or less standard. However, Tuesday night is schnitzel night and then a plain schnitzel is only $10.90.

If you want a pub meal with better than average views then you can do a lot worse than the Vic.

Victoria Hotel on Urbanspoon