Pig head torchon. Roast bone marrow salad. Lamb sweetbreads. Pickled ox tongue. If you're sick of cookie cutter menus, the menu at The Daniel O'Connell in North Adelaide reads like a fun park for your tastebuds.
Head chef Aaron Gillespie and sous chef Phil Whitmarsh aren't just fans of nose-to-tail eating; they're relentless full-time advocates.They bring in whole animals into the kitchen at the Daniel O'Connell - sourced from local butcher Richard Gunner of Feast! Fine Foods - and break them down, utilising every part however they can. They're not unabashed about where these parts might pop up on the menu either. Last time I checked they were attempting chocolate and pigs blood nougat. Really.
Lobo pear cider made in the Adelaide Hills
After our recent trip to Kangaroo Island, Billy and I stayed on in Adelaide for a couple of extra nights. It gave us the perfect chance to meet up with some Adelaide food bloggers although even with seven people, we only managed to cover about half the menu.
We'd heard that the Daniel O'Connell used to be a bit of a dive, famous more for its cheap chicken schnitzels than any kind of refined dining. Its recent refurbishment and menu change to more of a gastro pub focus has been a protracted process but it's slowly getting there, report Aaron and Phil when they briefly stop by our table later on in the evening.
Oyster and Guinness $3
Oysters and Guinness turn out to be "oyster and Guinness" - but we're glad we checked with staff first anyway. It's a fun concept, a freshly shucked oyster ready to be flooded with Guinness, transferred from a shot glass using a plastic ampule.
Whitebait with tartare $8
The whitebait turn out to be generously plentiful for $8, a pile of lightly floured fish deep-fried to a golden crisp, served with a lemon half and a deep saucer of tangy tartare.
Gin-cured salmon with cucumber and lavosh $14
The gin-cured salmon almost looks too pretty to eat, silky soft and buttery fillets that have an alcoholic kick of gin. The lavosh crackers provide a contrasting crunch to the salmon. Ribbons of cucumber - curled up tightly into scrolls - and edible flowers enhance the feeling of delicacy with this dish.
Snapper, bourride, shellfish and sea greens $32
The snapper is the most expensive seafood item on the menu. The skin-seared fish perches jauntily above a lake of bourride, traditionally a garlicky fish stew but a little under-seasoned this evening.
Goats cheese, quince, cucumber and beetroot $12
The goats cheese is another dish worth admiring for a moment or two before plundering, quivering mounds of goats cheese brightened with slices of poached quince, beetroot and (more) cucumber scrolls.
Ham hock croquettes with apple $7.50
Ham hock croquettes are quickly pronounced as one of the surprise hits of the evening. George says it reminds him of his grandma's ham hock soup, but intensified into one deep-fried umami mouthful.
Pig head torchon with gribiche, apple and kohlrabi $16
The pig head torchon is a picture of refinement, the richness of the meat and fat from a pig's head countered by a layer of gribiche (pickled cucumbers, capers and egg whites mixed in a sauce made from boiled egg yolks, mustard and oil) and gossamer thin slices of cool kohlrabi and sweet apple curls.
Black pudding, apple, radish and saltbush $14
The black pudding isn't immediately visible when this dish arrives, hidden beneath a blanket of apple and radish slices.
Black pudding beneath the apple
We forage beneath and find a doorstep of black pudding, remarkably soft but springy in texture with a deft hand in seasoning that masterfully hovers between earthy and elegant.
200g Coorong Angus skirt steak with onion rings $26
How cute are these onion rings? These puffed up hoops cascade across the plate of Coorong Angus skirt steak slices, all cooked to a deep blushing pink.
'Dead Romance' ox heart with oyster, caper and cornichons $14
Dead Romance was what I had my heart set on - pun intended. It's an impressive sight, with ox heart tartare filled into a hollowed out shin bone. The finely chopped ox heart is unbelievably tender, and the mix of caper and cornichons give a welcome tang, punctuated every now and then with the briny burst of raw oysters. Amazing.
Roast bone marrow salad with parsley, shallots and capers $14
And then there was the roast bone marrow salad. It looks just like a forest: pale marrow-filled trunks rising up among the undergrowth of parsley, shallots and capers. The bone marrow has been cooked a little too long, so much of it has liquefied, but I zealously pour it onto our thick slices of charred toast anyway, and revel in its decadence.
Eton Mess $13
Dessert brings more surprises. The Eton Mess is far from its usual haphazard construction, here it's an elaborate composition with varying textures of meringue, fruit leathers, aerated sponge cake and strawberries.
Chocolate, beetroot, buttermilk, salt and nuts $13.50
Chocolate and beetroot is deeply satisfying too, intense chocolatey flavours partnered ingeniously with beetroot, nut smithereens and salt. It's sweet and salty and crazily it works.
They make their own chocolates here too, and although my photo was way too blurry to publish here I can assure you that the lamb fat caramel chocolates were worth bleating about. Heh.
Truly a memorable meal with innovative dishes I wish I could revisit over and over again. Adelaide - I've just found another reason to return again soon.
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The Daniel O'Connell
165 Tynte Street, North Adelaide, South Australia
Tel: +61 (08) 8267 4032
Open 7 days 11am til late
Kitchen usually closes about 9pm
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12/19/2013 02:02:00 a.m.