Tanunda, Barossa Valley, September 2020
Motoring into Tanunda for some R ‘n’ R these days is a breeze: if you get onto South Road, and head north, it leads onto the M2 and you get there in an hour. The main drag is Murray Street, and there is a large sign over the way, letting you know you’re there. There are lots of things to do to get fit: you can walk or bicycle along the Barossa track to Angaston (also a nice town worth visiting although it seems its high quality second-hand bookshop has bitten the dust – at least, we couldn’t find it), or walk the heritage trail through the historic old town. Go ballooning or hike along the roads cutting through miles of vines. The Varnished Culture did none of these things: we were there to read, wine and dine.
We’d booked a charming cottage (Tanunda Cottages, 157 Murray Street), but having made such excellent time, we’d arrived a little early. Perfect excuse therefore for a good steak and some nice red wine at the Tanunda Hotel (51 Murray Street).
You’ve a great selection of large, boutique and chi-chi wineries in the region. Château Tanunda, established in 1890, is one of the biggest and worth a visit. But once again, TVC would rather drink wine than sample it. There’s a nice wine bar and cellar called “Z” at 109 Murray Street which contains the products of the vintners visiting all the local wineries, so you don’t have to.
On our last night, we dined at fermentAsian (90 Murray Street; see how we kept close to our hutch). This is contained in a old cottage but is fresh and modern within, and offers a good blend of old and new Asian-fusion fare (e.g. roasted pumpkin with miso and cocoanut cream, mushroom dumplings with Schiuan pepper, confit duck legs with pecans and roasted red onions) . We started with ‘Nem Ha Noi’, Hanoi spring rolls with fresh herbs and a classic Vietnamese dipping sauce. Unlike many spring rolls, these were neither crumbling cigars of ageing brown pastry nor sticky sheaths of rice-wrought bubble wrap, but delicious fried covers that were a pleasure to taste. Then L had the ‘Cari ca,’ a terrific yellow curry of South Australian kingfish with Thai basil and macadamias, that she declared different from, yet equal in quality to, that sampled at Mures on the docks of Hobart in Tasmania. P, still getting over the shock of the local chicken-shop telling him they had no chickens (some supply-side issue no doubt due to the insanity of our Covid-19 regulations), plumped for ‘Ca ri ga,’ a Massaman curry, but with chicken. Beef, sure, lamb, OK, but chicken? We’re still not sure Larousse Gastronomique would agree, but it was very good anyway.
By then, after some good champagne and a bottle of an unusual Marsanne Roussane Viognier blend from the Barossa, the dessert had to be one only (with 2 spoons) – a lime brulee that belied all the standard rudeness about oriental desserts. There’s a chef’s tasting menu as well if you’re in the mood. A top notch experience, and not overly pricey ($17, $36, $35 and $12).
The Barossa Valley was famously a settlement for 19C and 20C Germans, and the Lutheran work ethic and post-gothic architecture remains on view:
For Tuesday lunch we returned to an old friend from long ago: 1918. (That’ll be Murray Street of course: number 94.) Once a silver-service-and-tie joint, it retains a casual elegance as a bistro and grill with space to eat on the verandah, in the garden or inside the cottage. Friendly but efficient service is the (very welcome) standard. After a soothing prosecco, L started with roasted eggplant on a bed of fetta and parmesan, surrounded by cheery cherry tomatoes. A hit. P got a plate of sliced and spicy chorizo sausage, with a honey and red wine reduction that had a jam-like consistency, perfectly offsetting the bite of the chorizo. And grilled ciabatta to sandwich-it to one’s liking. Then L had some nice market fish (Barramundi) and P went for the slow cooked beef ragu pappardelle (the smaller size best for lunch). No room for anything after that but to finish off a delicious Barossa semillon, and parry away entreaties for dessert (Bombe Alaska, Dutch Pancake, etc). 1918 is very 2020: try it.
TVC has one cri de coeur: Cheese Boards. Can we do something new with them? By ‘something,’ we’re thinking outside the box marked “hard, runny, and blue, with triangular matzoh-like crackers, gnarled grapes and a wedge of quince paste.” Discuss.
TVC recommends Tanunda and environs, and as usual, we do not strike bargains or receive favours for our opinions, good or bad.