South Australia Diary, day 1

Thursday, 7 May, 2015. 17:00

Our plane landed in Adelaide right on time at 11:45, after a flight of two hours and ten minutes from Sydney. It barely felt like we’d left Sydney before our flight began descending again. We’d organised to pick up our hire car at 12:30, so we stopped in a cafe in the airport where M. had a mocha coffee before heading out. We signed for the Toyota Corolla at the Hertz rental pickup in the car park and drove off towards Adelaide.

Traffic was light compared to Sydney, and we threaded right through the heart of the city, turning at the cathedral square in the middle to head north to Northern Terrace. We couldn’t turn right there, so continued north to the zoo where we turned around in the car park to head back south to Northern Terrace, where we turned left past the University of Adelaide and then out into the suburbs on Payneham Road.

We stopped at a cluster of shops near the intersection with Montecute Road in the suburb of Felixstow to get some lunch. We found an Italian place called, oddly enough, The Italian Place. It was a delicatessen and cafe sort of place, with lots of cool Italian goodies. I had a calzone with bolognese sauce and M. had the special soup of the day: minestrone with garlic bread. Both were really good and hearty, filling us up nicely for the drive up to the Barossa Valley.

Minestrone and garlic bread
Minestrone at The Italian Place.

We headed out of the city on Gorge Road, a scenic route climbing up into the hills via a winding river gorge. The sky was an odd mixture of patches of blue between angry grey clouds, and it rained on and off lightly as we drove. The road was beautiful, passing along a steep, forested rock valley, with lots of trees in autumn yellow by the water. Some areas had been burnt and the trees were recovering. We passed a reservoir, which had a very low water level. There was almost no traffic on this road, which made it a pleasant drive.

After the tiny town of Gumeracha we turned north onto Forreston Road to head towards Williamstown and the beginning of the Barossa Valley. At Williamstown we stopped and got out to stretch our legs, but the town was really tiny, with only a handful of shops along the main street, with little to hold interest. The air was chilly and brisk and we hurried back to our car to continue driving north.

Barossa vineyard
Autumn vineyards. Wine country near Lyndoch.

We passed through Lyndoch, which was similarly small, but stopped at the Lyndoch Lavender Farm to have a look. The small place had a cafe, which was closed, and a shop, which was open, but had nobody inside as we entered and began looking around at the various products for sale. After a few minutes a man appeared and chatted with us casually as we browsed around. Obviously this wasn’t the prime season for tourists and buyers. The lavender outside was well past its prime blooming time, although there were still a few flowers around.

Monkey in the lavender
Lyndoch Lavender Farm.

Next we drove on to Tanunda, which was a slightly bigger town. Here we stopped to walk along the main street and look at several of the shops. On the way back to the car we stopped in at the tourist information office and asked about accommodation for the night. They booked us into a cottage here in Tanunda called Treasured Memories, just a short walk off the main street. We checked in at an accommodation office a few doors down and they gave us a combination for the key locker at the cottage. The cottage is an old historical house built in the 1890s, with three bedrooms, and we have the whole place to ourselves. We’ve put the heaters on as it promises to be a cold night outside.

The tourist office gave us some tips for dinner as well, recommending a place nearby called “Ferment Asian”, but warned that it is very popular and may be booked out. I called up to see if we could get a table at 6:30 and the woman said they were very full, could we come at 6:00 instead? That seemed okay, so we are booked in for dinner there.


Dinner was amazing. fermentAsian turned out to be a modern Vietnamese restaurant, and as the waiter who greeted us explained, specifically North Vietnamese, not South Vietnamese, as there is a difference between the two cuisines. The menu looked amazing, and the wine list ran to 73 pages! The restaurant was in an old stone cottage, converted with several of the rooms containing dining tables, connected by a hallway. The room we were in had a view through a window right into the kitchen, where we could see three or four chefs puttering away, some Vietnamese, some European. Even though we arrived just a minute after they opened at 18:00, there were already people seated at another table, and people arrived regularly to fill other tables as we ate. The place really was very busy.

Vegetable spring rolls
Spring rolls at fermentAsian.

We ordered entrees of vegetable spring rolls and scallops with a herb and ginger sauce, followed by main courses of yellow curry vegetables and duck breast with plum sauce and sliced apple, with some rice to absorb the sauces. To drink I chose a glass of Barossa Valley Riesling, while M. selected a local Vermentino. The spring rolls were amazing, stuffed with flavoursome vegetables and fried in a semi-porous pastry shell. They were served with lettuce leaves, fresh coriander, and mint leaves, and our waitress said the traditional way to eat them was to wrap the hot rolls in the leaves and dip the whole lot in the supplied dipping sauce. I tried half a roll this way and it was delicious. The scallops were served on shells, covered in a fresh tasting sauce with chopped herbs and nicely balanced ginger and soy and maybe a bit of lime. The effect was delicate, complementing the scallops, and also delicious.

The duck breast was sliced into bite sized pieces and topped with very thin straws of julienned green apple, then doused in a thin plum sauce. The curried vegetables had large chunks of potato and pumpkin as well as carrots, broccoli, corn, and peas, all in a creamy sauce with a peanutty flavour. Everything was really good.

Duck in plum sauce with apple
Sliced duck breast at fermentAsian.

Then for dessert I had a lime brûlée, choosing it over the equally good sounding coconut pannacotta. There was also a dessert featuring Szechuan pepper ice cream, but I decided that was too adventurous to try. By the time we left, the place was bustling, with almost every table occupied. I commented to a waiter as we were leaving that we though we might have been lucky to get a table, having called up only at 17:00. He replied that yes, they had a cancellation just before we called! So it looks like we were very lucky indeed.

We walked back through the very chilly night air to our cottage for the night. It comes supplied with a chocolate fudge heart and a decanter of port, so we had to try those before settling into a nice warm bed until morning.

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