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The Stirling Hotel, Adelaide Hills

Pushing aside 'pub grub' plates in favour of fine food

Discover South Australia's top 10 saloons which are serving up bountiful plates of food that are too good to be called 'pub grub'.

Regional pubs often boast a certain charm that hasn't always translated into serving up good food - until now that is. Here are 10 pubs in South Australia that have cranked up the stakes in the food department with cultured cuisine, craft beers and local wines.

Sevenhill Hotel, Clare Valley
Just an hour and a half from Adelaide is a picturesque valley dotted with pretty villages among a patchwork of farmland and vineyards. The Clare Valley is home to the famed Riesling Trail, a 32km former railway route now popular with walkers and cyclists. Along the route, and its various offshoot trail loops, there are cellar doors and wineries to visit.

Just five minutes by car south of Clare, the valley’s so-called capital, you’ll find The Sevenhill Hotel, built in 1863. Inside there are fireplaces, cosy leather armchairs and a stone cellar stocked with a huge collection of Clare Valley wines. The pub’s beer garden is the perfect place for a glass or two on a sunny day.

The head chef, who goes by the name BJ, has created a menu with traditional pub grub and more. Expect the likes of a pulled lamb shoulder wrapped in prosciutto, and slow cooked pork belly with a potato and garlic dip, crispy kale and apple and pear cider chutney.


Prairie Hotel, Parachilna
An Outback institution in an oasis on the edge of the rugged Flinders Ranges, the Prairie Hotel has a reputation for innovative food with a feral twist.

It’s signature ‘feral antipasto’ comes with smoked kangaroo, emu liver pate, camel mettwurst, goat cheese and bush tomato chilli jam. If the King George whiting or the braised beef cheeks seem too tame for a main, then perhaps the slow-cooked harissa goat will suffice. Or why not go full bore with the FMG, or feral mixed grill? Expect kangaroo fillet, emu fillet mignon, camel sausage and roast potatoes in a red wine jus.


Some of the other ingredients used in the menu include quandongs, wattle seeds, saltbush, native pepperleaf, native limes and bush apples. It’s an unmissable Outback experience. Before dinner, brush the desert dust off your clothes and cool your thirst with the home brewed Fargher Lager in the intimate front bar – a great place to meet the larrikin locals. It's what memories are made of.


Prairie Hotel, Parachilna, Flinders Ranges

Lunch at the Prairie Hotel - an outback institution with a reputation for innovative food with a feral twist.


Victory Hotel, McLaren Vale
With its mixture of coastal scenery and winery cellar doors, the Fleurieu Peninsula and the adjoining McLaren Vale is a rare place in Australia. One minute you can be walking along a beach and the next you can be sipping a glass of the area’s famous Shiraz in the vineyard that made it.

The Victory Hotel not only has self-contained cottages for hire, and panoramic views over Sellicks Beach and Aldinga Bay, but it boasts a fine cellar of its own, as well as an exciting menu. You can eat in the dining room, or in the cellar, or on the spacious balcony with the sea breeze wafting through your hair.

You could start off with an entrée of pea, mint and parmesan croquets with a horseradish aioli perhaps. But maybe a BBQ pork belly terrine with a celeriac remoulade, apple sauce and a milk bun is more to your taste. If not, the Coorong Angus rump steak and the Clare Valley scotch fillet is dressed to impress with a ladle of jus.


The Stirling Hotel, Adelaide Hills
The leafy Adelaide Hills is just 20 minutes from the city centre by car, but the vineyards, historic villages, and natural landscapes make it feel like you should be driving around in a red, open-topped sports car with a picnic basket on the back seat.

But what happens if you forgot to pack the crayfish sandwiches and the bubbly? Don’t worry; the Stirling Hotel is on hand to sort you out. This hotel is a slick, upmarket place with five beautiful bedrooms and three even slicker eateries, including the Cellar and Patisserie room, which has great coffees, pastries, baguettes and gourmet pies, as well as a blackboard menu of local wines.

Then there’s The Grill with its laid-back lounge style and six-course degustation meal that wouldn’t be out of place in the finest city establishment. More pub-like, at a pinch, is The Bistro. In this contemporary space you’ve got 15 local and imported beers on tap and live music on weekends. The bistro food has a unique slant on pub grub, and includes a beef burger hosting a slipper lobster.

There’s a seafood jambalaya on the menu too, as well as a goat rogan josh curry, an ale-braised smoked brisket slider, and a soft shell crab taco.

 
Penneshaw Hotel, Kangaroo Island
You can swim with dolphins, walk through a seal colony, spot little penguins as they return to their burrows at night, and see tree-loads of koalas. But while Kangaroo Island is known for its natural attractions and dramatic rock formations, it’s also a foodie heaven.

Among the island’s impressive products are sheep’s cheese, free-range eggs, spring lamb, wine, oysters, honey, and freshwater crayfish. There’s plenty of fish, pulled straight from the ocean too. 

Making the most of it is the Penneshaw Hotel, which has commanding views over the waters of Backstairs Passage from its outdoor dining deck. Penny’s Restaurant flows from this lovely country pub’s indoor eating area and out onto this cliff top deck.

The Kangaroo Island King George Whiting is fresh off the line, and it appears once again in a mixed catch of whiting, squid and prawns. The pulled port burger is a treat and the bang bang chicken salad with rice noodles, herbs, and citrus dressing adds a lighter touch. There are quite a few local wines to try too.


Pretoria Hotel, Mannum
The Pretoria Hotel might look like a typical Aussie pub but its place on the banks of the Murray River makes it a knockout when it comes to views. It’s in the heart of historic Mannum, the birthplace of the Australian paddle steamer. In fact, the Mannum Dock Museum is home to a restored paddle steamer built in 1897, the P.S. Marion.

When you are in Mannum you can also hire an impressive houseboat of your own too, from Unforgettable Houseboats. Back to the pub. Here, you can sit outside on the deck and watch the activity on the water over a glass of wine and half a dozen oysters if you wish.

The Murray Lands lamb burger is a find, and it complements a nice wagyu burger on the menu. There are kangaroo medallions too, topped with a red wine, peppercorn and plum glaze sauce. Look out for the copper collars on each of the hotel’s pillars that show the high water mark of the 1956 flood. It completely drowned the pub’s first level. That didn’t stop the publican from serving beers from the top balcony.

 
Hotel Elliot, Port Elliot
Now the absolute beauty of Hotel Elliot besides its dress circle position in Port Elliot is (depending on the time of year) you can catch a steam train on South Australia’s oldest railway from Goolwa to the pub. The station is right outside the pub. Moreover, it’s only a few hundred metres to Horseshoe Bay and whale watching at Freeman Lookout.

Co-owned by Matthew Kelly and former Aussie fast bowler Shaun Tait, Hotel Elliot is a big Aussie coastal pub brimful with joy and a laidback feel. Plenty of room here with a huge outdoor area, which is great in summer while it’s surprisingly warm on a blustery Port Elliot winter’s day.

The culinary options are pretty extensive and while pub favourites like a good schnittie get a workout there’s plenty to tempt palates looking for something a little upscale. Kangaroo fillet done with rosemary and garlic is a highlight as is a twice-cooked duck leg done with a Hoisin Sauce glaze. Good wood-fired pizzas round out the mix, as does a pretty extensive wine list showcasing many of South Australia’s finest.


Caledonian Inn, Robe

Sitting smack bang in the centre of Robe, the Cally is a piece of rural England set by the seaside. It’s currently undergoing a complete revitalization under new owners Prest Partners who hope to return it to its former glory as the “jewel of the south-east”.

Co-owner Holly Prest is passionate about Robe and suggests it’s probably the liveliest and most interesting township on the coast.  The pub itself has been a hostelry since 1858 and offers a range of great accommodation options by the sea. As for the food, the Beach Café in the beer garden offers a pretty delicious range of pub fare while inside the fine dining room steps it up a couple of notches. Be sure to jag a booth in the dining room, as they’re rather unique and very popular.

The pub itself serves up a pretty wide range of beers and ales as well as local Limestone Coast and Coonawarra wines. And being in one of the nation’s crayfish hotspots means the seafood is pretty spectacular and lip-schmackingly good. Without doubt a local crayfish luncheon washed down with a crisp Limestone Coast white is one of life’s sweet, simple pleasures.


The Scenic @ Norton Summit, Adelaide
Popular with local winemakers and with a wine list, which pays homage to the region, The Scenic is an Adelaide favourite. Sure there’s probably some of the best views of the city stretching right out to the ocean but it’s the ambience which lifts the Scenic up a few notches – it’s a locals pub. Yet while the locals love it, the Scenic isn’t too old school.

Finding it is easy. Wend your way up North Terrace from the city and you’ll see it sitting on the hill in its corner position surrounded by gardens. It’s a favourite with cyclists keen on being King of the Mountain for the day as well as day-trippers and overseas visitors.

And besides a cracking local wine list there’s some rather refreshing local craft brews to choose from as well. The menu embraces traditional pub fare but it’s done with a fair share of panache. A personal favourite is a good schnitzel covered in the most delicious garlic prawns. A great year round venue and a must visit for anyone visiting Adelaide.


Tavern on Turton, Point Turton

Overlooking the waters of Hardwicke Bay and the sandy ribbon of Flaherty’s Beach, the Tavern on Turton provides some of the best ocean views in Australia. From the outside the pub resembles a great beachside shack set on a grassy knoll. Inside it affords a friendly family atmosphere.

Point Turton itself is a rather sleepy hamlet, which only really comes alive in summer and the Tavern acts as a local hub where locals and visitors can swap tall fishing tales.

The tavern’s position overlooking the Yorke Peninsula ensures seafood features quite heavily on a well-rounded menu. Obviously, South Australian wines dominate an extensive list. Interestingly, the Tavern bakes its own bread daily, which is quite unique for a pub and it also lays claim to having the “biggest burger on the Peninsula”. It’s a bold claim but well backed up by the Jumbo Burger’s size and mix of classic burger ingredients.

Moreover, it’s a long way from anywhere at over 100 kilometres from Adelaide so it’s a place designed to kickback and relax in. There’s no such thing as lunch on the run here.
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