Avoca Hotel, Clarence Gardens



date of visit: Saturday 20 June 2015

The new Entertainment Books have been on sale for quite a while and we took a while making a decision about which charity or cause we were going to support (for the record, the RSPCA) and whether we were going to go digital or paper. A friend of mine had already bought her digital version so we had a look at it and decided to give it a go. So far we’ve used it twice and there’s been no issues … so fingers crossed things stay that way.

Newly acquired app in hand, we were keen to use it so we embarked on the torturous process that is making a weekend dinner decision. Obviously, this time round we wanted somewhere in the book and it needed to be somewhere that started dinner service at 5:30 pm at the latest. Master Four cannot be waiting for his dinner!

Andy rang up and booked and reported that we were booked into the restaurant, which didn’t mean much to either of us. Like many suburban pubs, the Avoca has undergone overhauls in recent years and it now has a range of areas, including the restaurant but also the Glasshouse and the Decks and beer garden. In fact, there are enough areas that when you arrive they have signs pointing in different directions to help you find your way!

As the pub is on South Road, finding it is easy and there’s a ton of parking out the back, which, given its location, is essential. However, the Avoca is really popular and we might have arrived at 5:30pm but it didn’t mean that we had our choice of car parks. The restaurant was (unsurprisingly!) empty but Andy had been told that other dining areas were booked out. The bonus of dining in the restaurant was that we had full table service. Master 4 approved – you should have seen the look on his face when he got to order his own meal!

Food wise the menu offers the pub standards (schnitzel, pizza, salt and pepper squid) as well as a few more interesting dishes, such as prawn chu chee curry, crispy skinned salmon, pork belly and fillet steak. There is also a short children’s menu which is unexciting.

Master 4 decided he wanted fish and chips so our first priority was to check out what the children’s fish and chips actually was. We’ve been in pubs where the children’s food has a horrible almost pre-masticated pale pale shadow of proper food, so we are always a little bit wary. I’d rather buy Master 4 a full portion of food he doesn’t finish than something I wouldn’t eat myself.

However, our waiter assured us that the children’s fish and chips was identical to the adult version, but only one piece of fish. While the Avoca is to be commended that this fish is sustainably caught, it is disappointing that the choice has been made to use NZ hoki. Especially as hoki is blue grenadier and locally caught is available. And while the fish was nicely cooked, the batter was crispy and the chips were … chips, the addition of a small salad for children wouldn’t go astray. As all the children’s meals come with the option of soft drinks or ice cream, perhaps salad or vegetables could be added to that choice.

Andy chose the chicken schnitzel with gravy (a departure from the usual beef as that is 350g and was deemed too large) and I opted for the chicken burger. Not only was the chicken burger huge but it was also really tasty. Bacon, tomato, cheese, lettuce and dill mayonnaise – with all the salad parts lovely and fresh and the chicken moist. I loved it. In fact, I’m still talking about. I would definitely go back and be sorely tempted to eat it again rather than try anything else on the menu.

The service was good – I definitely enjoyed having table service and the staff were all friendly but at no point intrusive. Of course, this is a pub so things are efficient so perhaps don’t expect a luxuriously long meal. I understand that despite the hotel’s many different areas, the menu is common so you don’t have to worry about different foods in different areas. I was impressed – yes, this is a pub dinner and while I’ve had some great ones recently, I’ve also had some shockers. And an impressed and happy customer talks about it and … guess what … some friends of ours have already (happily) dined there!

The Avoca Hotel
893 South Road
Clarence Gardens SA
8293 1183

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The Tonsley Hotel

20150207_174921fish and chips from the children’s menu – good enough to eat

date of visit: Saturday 7 February 2015

Talk about a weird summer. January started with a fierce blast of heat which subsided almost immediately and since then things were pretty mild. Then February hit …

Faced with the prospect of heating the house further by cooking we decided that dinner out would be a good idea. Always better to use someone else’s aircon!

Generally, for our early evening meals with Master 4 in tow we look to the Entertainment Book. However, we couldn’t face driving to Glenelg or Marion and wanted something close to home. Our first choice didn’t start serving dinner til 6pm, which ruled it out. There was much umming, aahing and general agonising, until eventually Andy took charge and made the decision to go to the Tonsley (for what it’s worth, not in the Entertainment Book).

We headed off with very low expectations. It’s in a less than glamorous area and it has a pretty low (63% at the time of writing) approval rating on urbanspoon.

However, the big plus for us was that on a Saturday they serve ALL day, so if you have a tired little one in tow you can turn up as early as you like, which in our case was shortly after 5pm.

The Tonsley (near the junction of South Road and Five Ash Drive) is a hotel in the proper sense of the word – offering both accommodation and food (and bars). The use of ‘hotel’ synonymously with ‘pub’ is, I think, something of an Australianism. Try asking someone in the UK for the nearest hotel and they will point you towards accommodation, not refreshing beverages …

The Tonsley is arranged so that the accommodation is set well back from both the ‘pub’ part of the hotel and South Road. We were so early we even managed to nab a park in the shade.

Closest to South Road is the front bar (named the Chrysler Bar) which also serves food, but we headed into the Bistro. The area is HUGE, with a massive bar and lounge area, complete with grand piano, several function areas and a big dining room. The bar area is really very pleasant – the industrial exterior of the pub belies a surprisingly plush and calm interior. It would be well suited for a quiet drink (probably not on a Friday night though!).

We were seated quickly and ordered smartly too. Andy chose the crispy Asian spiced squid, I opted for the half portion chicken schnitzel and Master Four decided on the fish and chips from the children’s menu.

20150207_174615half portion chicken schnitzel parmi – perfectly proportioned

Unsurprisingly, the food came out quickly but, by pub standards, it was very good. The child’s fish and chips was a nicely battered piece of gar, served with the obligatory chips but also SALAD. At the time, and even now, I could not be effusive enough about this. So many places, pubs or not, offer really sub-standard children’s food. I never understand why they cannot just offer smaller portions of the main menu and I am so often frustrated by the lack of salad or vegetable offered to children. I know that (supposedly) many children refuse to eat vegetables or salad but that seems a poor reason for venues to fail to offer the same sides to smaller diners. Children are smart … if they hear or observe too often that children don’t like or eat greens then they will live up to that expectation. So a big thank you to the Tonsley for the salad.

This alone pretty much guarantees I would return to the Tonsley. However, I was also thrilled to be able to choose a half portion of schnitzel. I love schnitzel but loathe being faced with super human portions of meat which are either left only partly eaten or I end up stuffing myself and feeling rather sleepy …

Andy really enjoyed his squid. As a change from a standard salt and pepper squid it had a Chinese five spice twist to it, and was tender, tasty and not greasy.

The service was efficient and friendly. While the staff were obviously getting ready for an evening of big functions they did not drop the ball once. It is quite obvious that this is one well oiled machine.

Another big plus is that while the Tonsley does have a small video game area to entertain children there is no massive indoor playground – thus ensuring that we could keep Master Four at the dinner table for the duration of the meal (something about which I verge on manic when we dine as a family, without other children!).

Overall, the Tonsley scored a massive tick from all of us. Yes, it is pub fare, but it is done with care and I don’t think you can ask for much more than that.

Tonsley Hotel
1274 South Road
Clovelly Park SA 5042
phone: 08 8276 8099

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