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July 9 - 15, 2010
The Independent Weekly
Ann Oliver firstname.lastname@example.org
My garden had just been
flattened by hail and I was
cursing having to go out in
the freezing cold to take a second
look at the Queen s Head Hotel so I
could finish my review.
The hotel is thought to be one
of South Australia s oldest and it
has been nicely renovated within
the confines of a heritage-listed
Unlike a lot of heritage build-
ings, it has plenty of natural light
and the small, interconnected
rooms give the pub an intimate and
cosy feel that is perfect for such vile
weather. Fake fires aren t exactly
my thing, but there is a comfortable
feel about the rooms, and staff are
instantly friendly and welcoming.
The pub is split into three
distinct areas, with unclothed low
and high tables in the bar areas,
and linen tablecloths and serviettes
in the vaulted-ceiling dining room.
There is a small outside area,
which, while comfortably warm
with overhead gas heaters, was
understandably empty. This is a
pokie pub but the machines are not
invasive -- in fact, I did not realise
they were there until my second
My first visit in mid-June was as
a guest of the Drogemuller family
of Paracombe Wines at a luncheon
party for Kath Drogemuller s
What most impressed me was
the staff. They had great product
knowledge and nothing was too
much trouble. This is the result
of good management, because
bad habits start at the top and
filter down. The manager clearly
adores and respects Kath, and
was determined her day would be
perfect. And it was.
Even in social circumstances,
it is very hard for me to switch off
from the mindset of a chef/critic/
I couldn t help noticing the
bread was ordinary but came with
plenty of butter. And, with the
exception of the arancini, the same
garnish of rocket and onion with
a couple of slices of sweet potato
appeared on every entr e dish; the
unfortunates who had ordered the
vegetarian main got a second serve.
My steak was well done, although
I suspect the person sitting next
to me got mine. It happens -- as I
unfortunately know too well from
the personal experience -- but at
least the staff asked how we wanted
our steaks cooked. Most functions
take the slack approach and cook
everything medium, which is a
good reason to never order a steak
at a function.
While I am not a convert to well
done, to my astonishment my steak
was still tender and delicious. I
couldn t help thinking that if it had
been cooked the way I prefer scotch
-- medium rare/more rare -- it
would have been pretty damn good.
A couple of things really
impressed me: the quality of the
prawns (those gorgeous big ones
that you rarely see on menus
because they hemorrhage the food
costs if they are your best-selling
dish) and the meat was exceptional.
On my second visit there were
different front-of-house staff, but
the same instant warm welcome.
Despite the vile weather, there
were a few people having lunch in
the bar rooms and a lone couple in
the dining room. They were into
their second bottle and having a
fine old time.
Two entrees were ordered: the
South Australian king prawns
with chilli garlic butter, paprika
crumbs and baby herb salad
($16.90 entr e and $29.90 main)
and pappadella (their spelling, not
mine) with confit ham hock, roast
onion, green peas, house-dried
tomatoes and citrus butter ($14.90
or $23.90). Service was a bit slow
and there was some rather noisy
cheffy banter coming from the
A finger bowl arrived without
request, followed by three massive
prawns and the baby herb salad
-- which was more of the damned
rocket and onion (minus the sweet
potato). The prawns were fantastic
with just the right amount of chilli
to not kill the flavour.
It was about then, while sucking
out the very succulent heads, that
I noticed the paper did not cover
the table and in my enthusiasm I
had splattered the cloth, which now
needed replacing. Embarrassing,
but isn t the idea of the paper
that you don t need to change the
tablecloths all the time?
Despite the fact I truly detest
that weird rocket, it was at least
properly seasoned and dressed. The
truth is the prawns were so good
they needed nothing more than the
missing lemon for embellishment.
The "Pappadella"? Well, when
your benchmark is hand-made
and rolled to the finest notch, this
just didn t rate. Thick packet pasta
and frozen peas ... I looked on with
envy as the other table received a
perfectly cooked, scrummy little
fillet steak with the right amount
(yes, not mingy) of pistachio butter.
The house-dried tomatoes were,
in fact, unripe cherry tomatoes
that looked like they had been
stuck on the grill for a couple of
minutes and that was that! The
pasta was very, very ordinary. The
"Pappadella" was too thick and
over-cooked, and the cooking water
must have lacked salt.
My advice is that if you make
your own pasta, don t order it
anywhere in Adelaide except
Enoteca and River Caf , because
you will just be disappointed.
As for those chefs who make
their own and still fail to deliver
-- try getting a decent recipe and
rolling it to the last notch, then
Look past the garnish
don t drown it in sauce or frozen
peas and we might be talking!
Desserts? Sorry, no news yet.
And owners, we know it s a
heritage pub, but the rust run in
the ladies toilet hand basin needs
So, the synopsis: after this
review, we are sure the chefs will
lift their game and find some
more appropriate/interesting and
individual garnishes so that if you
order two dishes you don t get two
serves of the same salad. Don t
order pasta unless you are a really
crappy cook yourself, and stick
to meat and seafood. Bar food is
inexpensive and generous, and this
is a cosy little local well worth our
The staff are an example of
very good training. They ll make
you even more welcome when you
return a second and third time.
Prices are really value for
money. My local, just five minutes
from home, is River Caf , and the
Queen s Head is just five minutes
further, so I ve added it to my list.
It s very good value for money if
you follow our specific directions.
WINE: There is a very nice, small
wine list with 31 wines by the glass
and excellent diversity of price.
Add to that, my glass of wine
was poured at the table. What is
surprising is that given the quality
of the choice and value for money,
vintages are not listed ... tsk tsk!
The glassware also needs
attention. Reidel would not be
appropriate for the price but
something a little less "jam jar"
would be appreciated.
Queen's Head Hotel
117 Kermode Street, North
p 8267 1139
OPEN 7 days lunch and dinner
The vaulted-ceiling dining room of the Queen s Head Hotel and below, warming fare for a cold winter s night.
With the exception
of the arancini, the
same garnish of
rocket and onion with
a couple of slices of
sweet potato appeared
on every entr e dish;
who had ordered the
vegetarian main got a
second serve. Naughty!
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