“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)





28 July 2014


After great effort and patience from the likes of Timothy John and Karyn Foster, we finally got a plaque up on the wall of the Adelaide Central Market to celebrate the memory of our dear friend and colleague, Howard Twelftree (centre). For decades Howard wrote brilliant gastronomic prose in The Adelaide Review, using the pseudonym John McGrath. I know no other writer who's had such a significant encouraging role in South Australian cuisine. All these photographs are copyright Milton Wordley. The one above is from Neddy's in the mid-eighties; all those below are from the dedication of the plaque and the celebrations which ensued. Some of the celebrations, anyway.

Adelaide Lord Mayor Stephen Yarwood, below ... all photos copyright Milton Wordley

Two of Howard's more absorbtive mates from the Duke of Brunswick: Derek Robertson and Romano Manno (above) ... below are celebrations at Cork and the Wright Street Hotel ... you wouldn't think these people were into their tucker, would you? ... all photographs copyright Milton Wordley

Above is my photo of Karyn Foster, who worked like a tiger getting the plaque thing finalised, with photographer Milton Wordley at the tail end of Howard's wake in the Duke of Brunswick last year ... and that's the man himself, right, knockin' 'em down many years ago in the Coffin Bay pub

As a reminder of Howard's wit and incredible gastronomic curiosity and knowledge, here's his ancient review of the (then) brand new McLaren Vale restaurant, d'Arry's Verandah. I wonder what he'd say of today's wine prices ... 

Chester and d’Arry didn’t fool about when they enclosed the verandah on their old homestead to make a restaurant. It is perfectly in tune with the old building and its tasting room. The view over vineyards rolling towards the sea is breath-taking. Even long-time McLaren Vale denizens remark on it at every visit.

Leave time before the meal to taste as many wines as possible. All of d’Arenberg’s extensive range is up for tasting, including the magnificent The Dead Arm Shiraz. It is also inexpensive for a flagship Shiraz. Some top-of-the-wozer heavy-hitting Shiraz from other more arrogant makers are four times the price of The Dead Arm and half the quality. Such is the market. Many aspiring types will not believe in a wine until it costs $200 a bottle.

I was disarmed (Heh. Heh. Geddit?) by a 2004 The Sticks and Stones blend of Tempranillo, Grenache and Souzao which I had not tried before. It hasn’t had every squeeze of overwrought flavour bullied out of it, like so many Aussie reds. A lovely, dangerously morish, drop. $30 to take away, $45 to drink in.

That Chester Osborn may look like a crazy wild man but he cannot make a bad wine. Crazy like a fox.

I was plucked from my perch in the tasting room by the three stunning women (what a suck I am) who comprised my lunchtime harem.

Our first teasing nibble was two plates of hot panko crumbed green olives stuffed with Willunga almonds with lime aioli. The sort of casual snack I am sure you make up for your constant cocktail parties, or would, if you had the skill, patience and application. I managed to snatch half a one in the stampede.

For your home work: find out what panko is and send me the answer in 2000 or less words.

The official amuse-gueule was a clincher. Rich duck stock served in demi-tasse cups with porcini foam on top. A single saffron strand bled its flavour into the foam. If you were served shit on a stick after this, it wouldn’t matter. You would still be thinking about this cup of righteousness. (We weren’t served S on a S later, I hasten to add.)

On to the entrees. Does lobster medallion with ravioli stuffed with crab and prawn meat, garlic, spring onion and coriander served in a bowl on lobster bisque sound good? It was.
Next: saltimbocca of wild boar had sage leaves in the centre picked from the restaurant’s own kitchen garden. It was served with green olive tapenade.

After that: Normanville lamb lollipops - a mini rack of two chops on long ribs; all the better to pick up and gnaw the meat off the bone.

And then: a duck dish made with ducks of two different breeds; one to suit the leg confit, and another kind of duck with well endowed breasts.

I managed to get a taste of everything on the table by a combination of sweet talking and baseless threats. Each dish was faultless and there were a lot more dishes than I have mentioned.

In between courses a spoonful of mulberry ice cream with a splash of Peppermint Paddock Chambourcin sparkling red re-arranged the tongue’s taste tentacles in readiness for the next pleasure assault. Inspirational touches like this separate a good meal from truly brilliant dining.

Maybe the excellence is to do with the fact that there are two fully fledged chefs in the kitchen, Peter Reschke and Nigel Rich, working in harmony, editing out each other’s bad ideas and polishing up the good ones.

Most entrees were about nineteen dollars; mains were around twenty nine dollars. Utter bargain.

On to sweets. A plate of desserts arrived to be shared. It was like the famine relief chopper had landed in Zimbabwe. Clashing of spoons and jostling from three quarters of the ménage a quatre.

There was a soft centred chocolate pudding that oozed a flood of chocolate from the slightest wound inflicted by a spoon. It came with insanely rich chocolate ice cream.

A perfect, perfect, passionfruit soufflé was presented with a jug of pouring cream.

Service was spot on and the staff looked happy. It makes a big difference knowing you are serving fantastic food to happy diners. I hope they get big tips.

This was simply one of the best meals I have had. Ever.

UPDATE: While Peter Reschke's still rattlin' them pots'n'pans with a master's skill at d'Arry's, Nigel Rich is continuing to stun at his rather swish temple of meat, The Elbow Room, at the west end of McLaren Vale's main street near the interchange that Biggles convinced Kevin Rudd to build during one of those elections. Carve a whole afternoon out of that diary and get your knees under one of those tables! 

That's Howard eating his last quince, above, at the Duke of Brunswick with Warts and Derek ... another priceless gem to fall outa Milton Wordley's phone. Vale, good Brother.

Charles Gent, the author and wine historian, read this review at Howard's funeral. The shit on a stick line brought the house down.


No comments: