“Sod the wine, I want to suck on the writing. This man White is an instinctive writer, bloody rare to find one who actually pulls it off, as in still gets a meaning across with concision. Sharp arbitrage of speed and risk, closest thing I can think of to Cicero’s ‘motus continuum animi.’

Probably takes a drink or two to connect like that: he literally paints his senses on the page.”

DBC Pierre (Vernon God Little, Ludmila’s Broken English, Lights Out In Wonderland ... Winner: Booker prize; Whitbread prize; Bollinger Wodehouse Everyman prize; James Joyce Award from the Literary & Historical Society of University College Dublin)





19 December 2013


Some Whites with some dogs in the backyard at Kanmantoo in the seventies ... that's the famous Blackie levitating

Remembering a dry proho past
We really knew it couldn't last
So let's go out and eat, shall we?

People who love to be irritated by Jeremy Clarkson's column, where the reader is tortured cruelly, waiting for the writer to finally start writing about the car, and not what's wrong with his shampoo, may find this intro a touch on the cheap side but I think I know why Jeremy does it.  He must start writing before he works out what he's gonna say.

So while I make up my mind about exactly what I want to say here, let me pre-empt myself by telling you that yesterday I had a beaut few hours with my family at Kanmantoo.  My ailing Mum Sylvia came out of hospital for the afternoon and we all sat round the old carport where us White boys chopped our fingers off with the first power tools to arrive, electrocuted each other, mixed illegal explosives and fired air rifle target darts into each other's legs.  Sixties.  Jesus.

As Mum was a savage prohibitionist all her life it was reassuring to feel the old twinge of fear when we found ourselves sitting there with Coopers Ale open and her sitting there amongst us and all, but fact is she doesn't care much anymore.

Mum with her surviving offspring at my Father's funeral ... photo Milton Wordley

In the sixties drunk blokes heading back to Murray Bridge after a night on the turps in the Big Smoke would finally decide to get off the road and sleep it off in their car in our back yard.  Mum would make tea for them, or give them soup, while Pastor Jimmy, my Dad, would ply them with tricky revivalist conversation.  He was a firebrand hot gospel street preacher all his life and for a while was a big cheese in the Women's Christian Temperance Union. He died a couple of months back.  But while the drunks were swapping a bowl of broth for a wave of fake repentance inside, my job was to sneak outside, raid their car, and tip all the booze down the gully trap.

There we were, sitting about with Mum, with beers open on the table.  My gaze kept falling on that gully trap.  Bacchus only knows how much perfectly good alcohol I tipped down there.  I still bump into rowdies who front me with "You owe me four dozen long necks of Southwark you bastard."

Anyway I came over all pizza lust on the way home and we stopped for solids at Giovanni in Mount Barker.  I walloped through a proper Sicilian with extra chilli while my fierce  companion devoured a ravishing dish called Seafood Pasta which was a sort of fine chowder with parpardelle, a delicate ribbon pasta like 2cm wide fettucini, rolled real thin.  This had fresh fish, prawns, squid, chilli, and fresh tomatoes in a white wine butter sauce with parsley and a garnish of spring onion sliced longways and lain like a skein of slightly caramelised silk across the bowl. It rocked.

I feel guilty and stupid if I'm not drinking Goodieson's McLaren Vale beer just about everywhere I go lately, but that stubby of Dolomiti Lager in Giovanni was the most refined and elegant of the exotic suds I've encountered in many months.  And what a zap to see Hahndorf Hill Blaufrankisch 2011 on a list!  I seem to recall naming it black lightning somewhere on Twitter. Because of what hop tannins from even the best beers do to the proteins on your tongue, it's always risky switching straight to red wine, but that shivery red did perfect business with both pizza and fish, right off.  It also went harmoniously with the sinister midnight hues of the MV Augusta motorcycle inside the window, glowering right behind the singer like a two-wheeled Zorro.

That was just so good and simple and delicious that we sat down and laughed when we got outside.

View from the Aldinga Bay Cafe

Apart from actually writing this, I'm not working this weekend.  So lunch?  You may be as interested as me to learn that one of South Australia's best curry houses is on the clifftop at Aldinga.  It's just another little jewel amongst the many that are spread about the Fleurieu Peninsula.  Arbind Bhatt worked in the Hyatt kitchen for years; him and his family have run the Aldinga Bay Cafe for three years.  They've just pulled all the standard deli-fish shop paraphernalia out and made it a bit more restauranty with crisp new tables and chairs.

I know I'm pulling the pin on a local secret telling you this, but I suspect this is what I set out to tell you but wasn't certain whether I should.  This joint is so sweet and true and unblemished by hubris and so free of gastroporn chefwit bullshit that it feels like you've just been lost in the fifties or something, and when you leave you want sit down somewhere and laugh all over again.

Being terminally addicted to capsaicin, I'm a heat freak and without going into the whole damn exquisite jalapeno naan, pakoras tripzone I have to advise that when you ask Arbind for hot in your lamb vindaloo or butter chicken you get it in that rare way where the whole roll of thousands of years of Indian gastronomic culture deliver it to you here so that it actually enhances the confounding depth of flavour otherwise ground into your dish.  Just as it should.  Like start with nine spices in the mortar.  Have a Kingfisher Lager and a bottle of wine, pay your bill, and laugh all the way back to the car.

Once you're about ten minutes up the road, you wonder why you didn't stack the back seat with take-away curries for your freezer.

It says a great deal of the discernment of Kangarilla folk - like me - to learn that the Bhatt family's principal sub-regional fanbase lies in Kangarilla, which is as far away as you can get from Aldinga without leaving the McLaren Vale region. 

If you must leave the region, it's straight south to Goolwa Beach to the astonishing Bombora.  The cuisine of local chef Joel Cousins displays an understanding of the fruits of his sea which trawl far beyond his years; colleague Vanessa Button does the exquisite cakes and desserts.  The short wine list here is mainly swerving to the estuarine vineyards of Currency Creek and the Langhorne lakeside, which makes perfect sense.  A call to Olaf the Owner to agree on some corkage should set you clean to bring the odd great bottle from afar.

So there.  Three deadly dining adventures down my way.  It might have been a motoring column, given the distances involved. I no longer drive a car, so it's rare to get around like this.  A luxury.  If you drive, do drive safe.  And remember to keep the leftover Blaufrankisch under the seat, so you can savour it for morning tea, en route from Kangarilla to the dumbfounding Aldinga Bay Cafe. 

Cafe Bombora, Goolwa Cockle Beach ... photo Philip White

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