“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)





09 September 2014


Pommie brings Italy to Adelaide
All-Italian winelist anathema 
to invader's local buying ethic 

A blizzard of orange and brown wine ordnance smattered in this general direction the last time one of our blokes stuck his head over the parapet and dared to mention the new fashion for extremely long wine lists. These often include little or no traditional Australian wine but devote many pages to the confusing European preferences of hipster somms out in the Wild East.

This uprising started there and is quickly sweeping west and north. It respects no borders. The mapping room sans frontiers hadn't even begun to get its head round the rapidity of this spread when next thing we know we got Jamie Oliver opening his Italian joint in Adelaide with an all-Italian list. Adelaide had one of its cute little frissons of aghastness.

I know; I know: it's just a short-term hiccup in a long spaghetti western. It's not a long list. They just hadn't got the Australian bit working yet. Jamie promised to do something about it the minute Tom Koutsantonis MP, Treasurer, Minister for Finance, Minister for State Development, Minister for Mineral Resources and Energy and Minister for Small Business re-aimed a well-triggered comment Jamie's way on Twitter the night we were discussing my boss's review of the new joint on In Daily. 

Wouldna been too hard to get a follow-up note from Leon Bignell MP, Minister for Agriculture, Food and Fisheries, Minister for Forests, Minister for Racing, Minister for Recreation and Sport, and Minister for Tourism, but that can wait.

Jamie would have done it nevertheless. Put up an Italian wine list, I mean. A bit like Clive Palmer, Jamie can do whatever he can afford to do.

He squeezed a couple of Langhorne Creek wines on since then, and some Victorians. 

Jamie's Insanityburger is not abvailable in his new Italian restaurant in Adelaide 

It's not as if mere anarchy is loosed upon the world. It's just that this Pommy bloke thinks Italian food's the best sort he knows so he's likely I reckon to like the wine that evolved with it. Over the millennia, like. I mean just imagine what a dream Italy must have looked like to a little kid in the backblocks of Essex in the 'nineties.When I was a little kid we'd just beaten the Italians in the War, so I presume Italy must have looked different from here at that point. We'd also beaten the Japs, who sent submarines into Sydney and Darwin Harbours during their attempted invasion of Australia. So in one week we have a former ally installing an Italian wine list into a joint that's halfway between the Adelaide Club and the Parliament House on North Terrace and a bloke who was born an ally before he moved to Aussie becoming our Prime Minister and giving the local submarine factory to the Japs.  All in one week.

Frisson, see.

Jamie's famous lobster Mac: not available in his new Adelaide Italian 

Not to mention the polite rage that simmered through our long list of great Italian family restaurants. Like, people from Italy.

Since I don't have television I missed all the miracles you saw Jamie do there over the years but I remember him being all over Sainsbury's UK chain years back, just as he's everywhere now in Woolworths Australia.

And as Jamie's Italian Adelaide opens, he obviously sees some value in his image also being all over Woolies. Like many of our winemakers, Adelaide's most touted new arrival is happy in both roles.

While I doubt very much that Jamie is your actual Italian, like he says he wishes he was, Jamie really is something of a thing right now. So what's the big deal about him opening an outpost of his chain of Italian restaurants at 2 King William Street, City?

Jamie's celebrated peanut butter and jam thing: not available in his new Adelaide Italian 

As I see it, it's a clever Pommie pub lad comes south. He invades through the television sets and the biggest half of the supermarket duopoly that specialises in the sorts of TV food and drink that I presume Jamie wouldn't have in his shop. And he opens an Italian joint in the front bar of the old art deco building where David Wynn used to bank his Coonawarra money. David was born in Florentino's. I know David was Jewish, as was his Polish Jewish Dad Sam who started the joint, but Florentino's Italian, isn't it?

Oh sorry. It's in Melbourne. So it wouldn't be as Italian as the joint Jamie's opened in David's old bank in Adelaide. And Jamie's got just as much right to do that, like open a joint, as Macca's or Colonel Sadness, or Maggie or Saskia Beer, for that matter. The English have been taking colonial cash home from North Terrace since they invented this colony. And we should be grateful this one's chosen to copy Italy, rather than Essex.

Because it looks so much like a leg Italy's probably easier to remember than all those Australian bush ambiguities masquerading as overlapping places, regions, provinces, districts and areas -- places Prime Minister Howard always referred to as the "regional areas," the "provincial regions," or "regional districts."

Even without a famous Englishman coming to Adelaide to teach us about Italy, Australia's got some baffling stuff to sort about regional labeling, and it's not all wine.

Take the Beers. When you have such an operation which starts off as regional with a few pheasants in a shed and that doesn't quite work out and you end up with a successful paté made from chook livers and you co-operate with the ever-helpful duopoly it can seem harder and harder to keep track of just how regional some of these things are actually expected to be.

Tom Koutsantonis isn't Italian, either, but there he was on Twitter kindly offering Jamie free consulting about the difference between Italy and South Australia. Who knows? To Tom, Jamie might seem Scottish.

Which brings me round to what appears to be called regionality, which is a sort of movement against movement in the sense that one could feel morally superior, even sanctimonious, if one ate only food grown and made within say six hours' walk of one's home.

Before his Italian restaurant invasion thing I seem to recall Jamie occasionally being a bit warm to this local food notion. Obviously the Kangarilla adherent might find herself a bit short on salt and pepper (no local saltmine) just for starters, but strict regionality can get much more austere when you stretch it past beer and wine to include music.

To stretch my boundaries, in my last trip to Woolies, I deliberately abandoned the regionality pretence and bought Italian: some Always Fresh Italian Rustic Crackers. From the Artisan Collection, these were of the Garlic & Sea Salt variety. They came from a spot where I seem to recall a cut-out idol of Jamie hovering, but like other customers, in retrospect I can't be sure whether or not these are Jamie's personal selection of Italian Rustic Crackers.
Given his new role as sort of Italian envoy since the retirement of the mighty Amanda Vanstone, and the handsome packaging of these Italian dry biscuits, customers should be forgiven for thinking there was some sort of a Jamie/Woolies/Italy synergy happening.

In Woolies, Jamie speaks ex cathedra.

The crackers were packaged of course in black, which is the new colour for premium biscuits. Biscuits have waited until every other packaging industry had a decade or two in the black before they patiently took their turn to pass it on.

The fine print says these crackers were "carefully crafted in the Abruzzo region of Italy ... using traditional artisan methods," like cooking, I presume, but it also says "Made in Italy from local and imported ingredients," which turn out to be "wheat flour, potato, vegetable oil, extra virgin olive oil, sea salt, yeast, garlic, parsley, malt and flavours."

And what do they taste like? I reckon they taste like some of those brown bits that you hope go a bit hard around the rim of a shepherd's pie made with instant mashed potato, whatever that is.

Which sorta indicates to me the crackers could have been made without all those other exotic ingredients in one of the Pheasant Farm factories in Australia and still come out just as Italiany as these ones from bloody Abruzzo. Santa friggin Maria! I mean there's no pheasant in the chook liver paté, and that sells okay.

I reckon that if you give Jamie the sort of regard his presence in Woolworths shares with the Always Fresh Artisan Collection and de Beers, you have no right to complain about him having only Italian wines on his restaurant list. He can even call it an Italian restaurant if he wants. Maybe he's an expert at making things seem Italian to a certain group of people.

Maybe it's Woolies' determination to get everything tasting all regionally that gets them attracting famous experts like Maggie and Saskia and Jamie. Everyone's in this together.

I'd be very surprised if Woolworths isn't already making 'Italian' wines at its big Dorrien Barossa refinery.  Who knows whose nose will get the credit for them? I'll bet it won't be Woolworths, which knows how much Jamie's image in its shop improves the public perception of its droll potato biscuits from Abruzzo. Or somewhere.

It's name rich, down there in Woolies Gulch. Just a matter of keeping the product up.


Anonymous said...

The Jamie's Italian lunch was great (I’ve eaten at his London ’15' a few years ago and that was also good) and the fit-out is very impressive, the whole place had a good feel about it. I’d have to say I agree with everyone about the wine list initially not having any SA wines. My real problem was the Italian list has no explanation at all about what the wines are. It might work with some sort of comparison, but nothing, just the list. They did have a couple of Aussie wines on the list - 2 from Victoria. Looks like after the bad publicty they have added a couple from SA. We were given both the SA wines and they were pretty good. Didn’t get to try anything else.


Anonymous said...

This regional premium food labellings a racket that Woollies and Coles must envy - the artisans are better at it by miles. How long does it take a pig from Yorke Peninsula to become a Barossa pig? All the way from the truck to the slaughterhouse? Why stop at Yorke Peninsula? What's wrong with Canada pork?

Mario Hell said...

Tell the name of an Italian who uses VEGETABLE OIL and I'll send somebody round there on a friendly visit.

Anonymous said...

I suspect that locally sourced (or sauced) is the heart of the problem. Business (I mean artisan producers) understand that they provide product that we the buyer source locally i.e. at the IGA down the rd from my place. Vietnamese frozen prawns are available to be sourced locally although I don't know you can guarantee there is no pheasant in the pack? Magnificent stuff Mr W.