The Woodcroft Hotel

Southern Fried Chicken with Ranch Dressing and Chips
Southern Fried Chicken with Ranch

date of visit: Saturday 5 November 2016

Earlier this year I attended the launch (or is that re-launch?) party for the Woodcroft Hotel. I was sufficiently impressed by the standard of food served at that party that we’ve actually been making a conscious effort to return ever since. As you can see – it’s taken a while … ahem. To be fair, we actually tried to go quite soon after that party only to discover it was booking out very quickly – and this is still very much the case. When I made our last minute 5:30pm booking we were told we would only be able to have the table until 7pm. Good thing we eat with a 5 year old and that wasn’t a problem!

At the launch party, the food had been impressive. It was a large event and the food that came out was all based on menu dishes but cut down to canapé size. I’ve been to a lot of events where smaller versions of dishes have been presented and it’s not uncommon for this change of size to cause problems either in the kitchen on or on the plate. So the fact it didn’t buoyed me with great, and perhaps excessive, confidence and hope.

Finally we made it. Seriously, I have spent MONTHS raving about the fried chicken at the Woodcroft so there was nothing for it but to commit myself and order it. It’s an entrée, so in case it wasn’t enough, I also ordered the pulled pork quesadillas. Andy ordered the chicken tacos. Because I’d ordered two entrées I wasn’t eligible for the salad bar (I could have paid an extra $4 but wasn’t sufficiently bothered) but Andy made a small selection from it. Master 5 opted for the children’s fish and chips. The children’s meals do come with some sliced apple but it is a shame the hotel doesn’t go the extra mile and offer a choice of salad.

The food came out quickly and was all well presented. My first few mouthfuls of the crispy chicken were great – crispy and chicken-y. But at some point, things started to slide downhill. The chicken pieces were relatively large – not in and of itself much of a problem – but in several places, the batter hadn’t been properly drained away and I was left with big doughy chunks of uncooked batter wedged in folds of chicken. It wasn’t great. The batter itself isn’t hugely imbued with seasoning and flavour (it is a buttermilk and spice batter apparently) so the accompanying ranch dressing got a good work out. But the more doughy bits I encountered, the more disappointed I was.

Pulled Pork Quesadillas with Salsa Fresca
Pulled Pork Quesadillas with Salsa Fresca

The pulled pork quesadillas were better and I did enjoy them, although they didn’t really step beyond the boundaries of what we relatively often cook at home. The salsa fresca was a bit ho-hum – a touch sweet for me – but it also wasn’t a necessary part of the dish.

Andy was similarly underwhelmed by his chicken tacos.

Chicken Tacos
Chicken Tacos

I think this experience amply demonstrates the problem with expectations. I’m sure over time that crispy chicken has got better and better and it was possibly always going to struggle to live up to my memory of it – but I do believe the doughy clumps of batter to be an error in cooking (and not just my imagination!).

The service was great – not just friendly and efficient but genuinely warm. The bistro area is lovely and the small garden area is gorgeous – so if you do go, get organised, book early and request a spot there! And the bistro is obviously immensely popular. On the Saturday night we were there there were at least two birthday parties booked and, after we sat down at 5:30pm, only one walk-in got a table. Everyone else was turned away.

It’s clear that the Woodcroft has hit its straps with locals and that is no doubt indicative of the fact that the southern suburbs have the capacity to host more venues offering more diverse menus. For me, though, the food just didn’t live up to expectations.

Woodcroft Tavern Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Woodcroft Hotel
Bains and Panalatinga Roads
Woodcroft SA 5162
08 8325 1555

The Woodcroft

20160215_202533Disclaimer: I was a guest of the RD Jones Group at the launch party

I was actually going to do this post based around a Facebook carousel or slideshow but I’ve decided to write a (photo heavy, for me!) post because I’m concerned that it might take me an undue amount of time to get to the Woodcroft for an actual meal so … let’s roll with the material we have!

The Woodcroft seems to be doing a roaring business since its recently face lift. Back in January I tried to book us a last minute table (for just 2!) on a Friday night only to find they were booked out. Nothing like that to pique one’s interest!

outdoor seating
Outdoor seating includes swings!

The launch party saw us served a selection of cocktails (no comment on those as I was driving and I’m no cocktail connoisseur) with bite size portions of some of the menu’s signature ‘Southern’ items.

Southern American, low and slow BBQ – it’s all the rage at the moment – and it’s what is on the menu here. Don’t worry – all the pub favourites are there. You can still get a schnitzel or salt and pepper squid. But if the urge takes you, you can enjoy seafood chowder, poutine, po’boys and short ribs (that’s just a start).

At the launch party we were able to sample quite a few of these signature dishes. I was particularly impressed that even when catering for a large number of people in non-standard portions, dishes were coming out of the kitchen thick and fast AND they were hot and fresh.

southern fried chicken
Southern fried chicken – pretty much everything you need to know, right there!

Let’s start with a dish which leaves you no room to hide. Southern fried chicken. It’s on the menu as a starter at $13.90. Everyone went slightly bananas over this. It was so good – crispy, crunchy, moist, hot and (crucially) not greasy. Every single person I spoke to would have been happy to sit down to one big plate of this and nothing else. Fortunately, that was one of the last things to come out so I did actually try a few other things along the way!

Seafood chowder
Seafood chowder

Seafood chowder (a starter, $12.90). I enjoyed this – it’s thick with big chunks of fish and sure to be a winner in winter (let’s assume at some point some cooler weather will arrive!). It was served in shot glasses which made it very tricky to eat/drink – but as long as it’s in a bowl, you’ll be fine!

prawn and lobster po'boy
prawn and lobster po’boy

Lobster and prawn po’boy (under burgers, $24.50). Beer battered crustacea served in a baguette with some slaw? Yep – that tastes as good as it sounds.

These three were the highlights for me, but we also tried the jambalaya and the philly cheesesteak ‘sanga’ (not entirely sure that’s a very southern American term …).

Everything was good and the quality of the food while the kitchen would have been under the pump suggests good things for a normal dining experience.

As someone who lives in the southern suburbs, it’s also great to find a pub that is adding something a bit more interesting to its menu. When I do get there for a full meal, I’ll be sure to report back!

The Woodcroft
Bains and Panalatinga Road
Woodcroft SA 5162
phone: 08 8325 1555

Woodcroft Tavern Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato