TASTING AUSTRALIA 2010: ADELAIDE DIARY

DAY ONE

Arrived 6 am amidst a magnificent red, blue and gold sunrise. Worn out from travelling ‘steerage’ across the globe but otherwise I was holding up, only slightly fractured. David Evans, in an Audi courtesy car, collected me and drove me to the Hyatt, now renamed the Intercontinental after a takeover. Hence my confusion over the ‘change of venue’. Brought up to the Club floor for breakfast and the Tasting Australia core team came in to greet me. Annette, Karen, Marina etc and, finally Ian Parmenter from whom I got a big bear-hug embrace and a “Glad you could come, mate.” Glad indeed, for at this stage attending Tasting Australia is like being back in the bosom of a big, warm family. “Did you bring the guitar,” he asked. Clearly, we are destined to jam again. Fresh fruit, yoghurt, cereal, a generous snaffling of macadamia nuts and (the usual indifferent) coffee helped put gastro-Humpty-Dumpty together again. I noted with approval the many old friends and colleagues among the list of journalists and friends attending. It’s difficult to describe the feeling you get from being here, among your peer group. Is the equivalent mass of culinary and food/wine writing talent and expertise ever assembled elsewhere? Hard to imagine. Later, went for a walk. Adelaide was closed for business. Pleased to see the hat shop is still extant, will call tomorrow and purchase a new Panama. Gouger and Grote, the Chinese/Thai/Korean quarter was buzzy and I stopped for a bowl of duck and rice. I couldn’t find the Chinese pharmacy where they sold me the excellent root ginseng last trip. Will have to discover another source. I marked for future attention a Korean butchers with an attached BBQ cafe where they were offering Wagu steak for Aus$ 30, looked like a decent portion too. Almost got made the subject of a citizens arrest for crossing the road ‘on the little Red Man’ as I used to say to my kids. I blame it on Manchester where, growing up, I learned to jay-walk good style. I think in those days you could get an Arts Council grant for it. Really, from the minute you arrive at the airport you start to see how (a) law abiding and (b) absurdly over-regulated Australia is – amazing for a country started by law breakers! Back to hotel for crash, later met Ian for glass of wine (Skilogalee Riesling – totally bracing, what I needed) in bar. The bar food is bad as ever, despite the hotel’s change of owenership. Ian and I had a veteran’s whinge about the new breed of journalists and PR people. South Australia doesn’t know how lucky it is to have this festival/symposium. He gave me an update on the South Australian restaurant scene – good to see Chianti Classico is still in there punching. Afterwards, I met Rosemary Shrager. She evinced the same ‘lucky to be here’ feeling that I recognised from my first trip, back in my days as a Tasting Australia virgin. And so, as Mr.Pepys would have said, to bed. But not before a last scan of the guest list to see if I’d missed anyone.

DAY TWO

Up and about early. Eschewed hotel breakfast in favour of eat-on-the go walkabout.  Massive fruit juice (orange/pineapple/melon/mango) from stall on Rundle Mall. Thence to essential shopping. Flat white coffee and egg and bacon muffin in Billy Baxters. Nice Chinese waitress gave me heads-up on a cheap’n’cheerful North China style restaurant.

Thence to haircut and dissertation on South Australian family economics from Tino the Barber. Into Adelaide Hatters for a snazzy new Panama – last time was in there was with Rachel Allen who looked only fab in copper’s helmet and feather boa.

Then off to Central market, marvelling at the variety and quality of the produce. Like the English Market in Cork only 4 times the size. Found an organic place where I consumed a bowl of Greek yoghurt laced with Hymettus honey, fresh bananas and a generous sprinkling of pistachio nuts – Aegina in a bowl. Bought a couple of bottles of Clare and Eden Riesling – strong Aussie dollar and ‘notions’ has forced up prices of wine. Aus$21 for Oyster Bay sauv B, currently being ‘dumped’ on Irish market for around a tenner.

Into footie shop for a squint at the knock-offs, unfortunately not to be had in Size Fat Bastard. One place that does is Brown’s – up to size 8XB in nice fashionable smatter. Came out with a brace of long t-shirts and a pair of jeans, feeling positively anorexic.

Back ‘home’ to type up Winding Stair review to send back.

In afternoon returned to Central Market with Rosemary Shrager whose TV progs are big here. Felt a bit like walking round Calcutta with Mother Teresa in tow. A women actually came up and told her “You’ve changed my life”. Never taken so many photographs on other peoples’ cameras! More good coffee from 2nd generation ‘Lucia’s’.

In evening bumped into Anthony Worrall-Thompson in foyer. In good form despite having wallet nicked by ‘Robin Hood’ burglars just before he left England. Apparently they came round and bunged the (empty) wallet and passport through his letter box, amazing.

Diner, solus, at Chianti Classico. What a good restaurant this is. A proper restaurant. Drank 01 Shiraz, pristine. Good Aussie Shiraz has real ageing capacity. Wonderful fritto misto mare, no trace of verbena bitterness on fried oysters, ethereal batter that would do credit to a tempura specialist. Had issues with lamb sweetbreads (animelle on menu – were these perhaps ‘bollocks’?) – too rubbery and all delicacy lost through overpowering sauce. Restaurant manager was sweetness itself – took the comment on the chin, offered me something else and, when I wouldn’t, struck the dish from the bill. Anyone remember the ‘swordfish/sucking pig incident in Santa Margherita Ligure (it’s on forkncork somewhere)? Fantastic asparagus under layer of sweet pecorino, but slightly overwhelmed by balsamic dressing and crying out for a dab of hollandaise. I suppose we must expect chefs to be ‘creative’? Really good coffee panna cotta, fresh pineapple and orange went some way towards redeeming situation, great staff did the rest. Sometimes it’s more important to respond correctly than get things right from the off. Struck me afterwards that the dish in question would have been absolutely brilliant with kidneys substituted for the sweetbreads.

Later had drinks with Anthony Worrall Thompson, his son who is cheffing in Oz, Karen, Lucia and Annette from the TA mob. Some discussion on the ethics/niceties of killing and eating something. AWT doesn’t come over anything like as stand-offish as I imagined from a previous occasion. I think he’s a shy guy.