On Friday I posted my first Festival of Food 2018 experience – British Raj. It was certainly a good start of the event this year.
To continue our journey, Tina and I dug into the second on our list, Botanic Gardens Restaurant.
When mentioning Botanic Gardens Restaurant, there is no need to give extra introduction. Headed by Paul Baker, the Chef of the Year 2017, the nationally acclaimed multi-award winning restaurant is located centrally in the famed picturesque Adelaide Botanic Gardens. Local produce, especially edible plantations grown in the garden are used here and Paul has transformed them into vibrant live flavours on the plate. An extensive wine selection is available at the venue and can be paired with the dishes.
Festival of Food is available at Botanic Gardens Restaurant for Lunch from Tuesday to Saturday at $55 pp (3 courses) with bread, entree tasting plate, main and desert. The restaurant does have an option to upgrade to a Festival of Food tasting menu priced at $85 pp (10 courses – 4 snacks, 2 entrees, 2 mains and two desserts) – Thanks to our waitress who provided us with this information.
Of course, we decided to opt for the $85 menu to taste an array of the dishes on offer. You may wish to do a wine flight for $65 pp but because I was driving on the day so we did not do it. My readers know that I am a big believer of food-wine pairing so it was such a pity to miss this opportunity but hey, we need a responsible driver 🙂
House baked sourdough bread with cultured butter
This sourdough is really good! The outside crust and the soft centre with a slight sourness on the palate worked very well the the butter and initiated the tastebuds on my palate.
Since we did not order any other drink, we decided to go with sparkling water.
The 10-course Festival of Food tasting menu starts here. Many of the ingredients and edible plants used in the restaurant are grown in the garden and literally you cannot get any further local than this! This is one reason I like the restaurant – imagine you are sitting in the restaurant, surrounded by the beautiful Adelaide Botanic Gardens, tasting fresh produce from the garden in the artistically presented dishes. What an experience!
From my experience, Paul was not only creating great tasting dishes but also putting art on the plate – the art of food!
I asked the restaurant for a full list of produce from the garden and it is attached to the very end of this post. : )
Salanova lettuce, pear, pecorino, walnut
This is the first snack and we fell love with it straight away. Besides the artistic presentation, the freshness from the lettuce, the creaminess and refreshing taste from the sauce gave a much exciting experience. They complemented each other very well! Adding on the walnut improved the mouthfeel of the small bite with introduced nutty flavour while all the other flavours started stimulating my palate to be ready for the next dish.
Since the first snack stimulated my palate, we decided to move onto the oysters as our second snack.
Gazander oysters, charred cucumber, bonito, succulents
This dish was so tantalising and fresh! Gazander oysters are from our very own Coffin Bay and are used in many luxurious restaurants around the country. The taste is very concentrated sweetness from the sea and has a light texture on the palate. Paul has taken this dish to the next level by paring with the charred cucumber and bonito. The cucumber brought in slight charred flavour and very mild smokiness while the bonito introduced appropriate saltiness.
What I especially liked about this dish was the addition of succulents picked from the garden. I tried a small piece of this plant without anything else. It was so refreshing with heaps of juices and when combined with the dish, it really served to balance the flavours and helped to clean the palate a bit.
When I said the dishes were in artistic presentation, the flavour of the dishes were also like an art. The total flavour and reactive interactions of the individual components were building a much more flavourful dish altogether, making it an enjoyable sensational experience! Highly recommended to try!
From the oysters, we tried to clean the palate a bit so we moved onto our next snack, the cucumbers.
Cucumber , ‘gribiche’, lovage powder
This is a rather refreshing dish. We decided to have it next simply to remove any flavours left on the palate. The center of the cucumber has been taken out so what’s left is the crunchy and fresh cucumber skin. This experience was further enhanced by the gribiche which was creamy in texture but delicate on flavour. It promoted the crunchiness very well and made the dish ultimately refreshing!
After a refreshing snack, our last one was the prawn toast.
Prawn toast, ndjua, confit lemon, nigella seeds
When our waitress introduced this prawn toast, my expectation was a toast with seafood or prawn flavour. I was half correct. The other half was that the toast had hot yet pleasant chilli flavour as well! The prawn meat was toasted to perfection with crispy base and soft blended prawns. It looked really like a toast so does the mouthfeel. 🙂 The next layer of flavour after full chewing was chilli, fragrant hot flavour, at the back part of the palate. It was amazing and was such a creation that had the wow factor! Well done!
Once the snacks were done, the entrees were on their way! I must say that Paul Baker is an artist, one that is so skilled to make food an art on the plate. Be warned on the beautiful artistic presentations below – they will make you hungry 🙂
Squid, celeriac cream, roasted apple, fried perilla, fermented chilli
When this dish came out, I thought it was a pasta dish. I then heard “squid made into a pasta shape…” and I literally linked that the restaurant put on their instagram in the morning that a big southern calamari came in. It was must be very fresh!
Taste-wise, it was a squid pasta dish : P. It was very good – the squid has been shredded into fine slices to the same size as pasta and was boiled in water until just cooked. It exhibited the flavour of squid but with a clean palate. The creamy sauce made it even more like a pasta. I literally mixed all ingredients together and it was absolutely divine! The best part of this dish was the fried perilla and the fermented chilli. Tina loved the fried leaves so well because it did not only contribute to the flavour but also gave a good crunch in the mouth. We ended up having each bite with the leaves! The fermented chilli was a surprise – I thought it would be hot but it was not! It gave a very pleasant fermented flavour – not hot at all – and added the final touch to the dish. This was my favourite entree!
Look how beautiful these dishes are! After the first seafood entree, we were then fed with the next one (with raw prawns).
Boudin blanc, Spencer Gulf prawn, iceberg, finger lime, bottarga
My first impression on this dish was “how beautiful?!”. It is an European influenced dish. Boudin blanc is a type of French sausage but in this dish, it was restructured into a patty shape. It was located on the bottom and on the top were iceberg and Spencer Gulf prawns.
The South Australian famed prawns were cut into small dice pieces and were placed on top of the iceberg fresh and raw. The taste was amazing indeed! A slight hint of fresh raw prawn flavour was combined well with the flavourful sausage and a crisp iceberg lettuce removed any oiliness from the combination. What’s even better was the addition of the Italian delicacy, salted fish roe (bottarga) and the finger lime. These two ingredients gave sufficient saltiness and slight citrus flavour on the palate, making every bit of the dish a pleasant journey. Recommended!
The mains were flushed down well with the sparkling water and fully got our stomach craving for the mains 🙂
Schuam pork belly, sweetbreads, parsnip, hazelnuts, fennel jam, coffee
This dish used Schu-Am Pork belly, which is a high quality Berkshire pork produced in a pig friendly piggery in South Australia. The beauty of Berkshire pork does not need more introduction. It is a considered as a delicacy in Europe and many parts of Asia. The pork is a proud winner of the delicious produce awards.
Although ingredients in this dish seemed to be complex, the flavour was rather simple and harmonised. The pork was grilled to perfection with a very tender, moist and delicately flavoured pork meat and a crispy yet slightly salty crackling. Yum yum! The fennel jam and coffee was one highlighting part. The jam added sufficient sweetness while the coffee introduced slight bitterness and good coffee aromatics, which was fantastic in enhancing the flavour of the pork. The sweetbreads and hazelnuts to me improved the overall mouthfeel of the dish and the sweetbread also took the dish to the second level by introducing extra flavours to the dish.
Although I tried to experience each ingredient’s contribution to the dish individually, the dish’s flavour when enjoyed all ingredients together was phenomenal. All of them added bits and pieces in flavour and mouthfeel to the dish but the aim was to enhance the pork then it was the pork which, again, brought all the flavours together seamlessly. The saltiness, the sweetness, the slight bitterness, the aromatics were just like a picture or song with no individually exhibited flavours but rather a very tasty and divine dish! Highly recommended!
If you think the pork main looks very delicious, the next lamb rump is really mind-blowing.
Hay Valley lamb rump, saltbush sarladaise, mustard cream, centella
For this dish, the clear division of the flavours have been shown in the above photo. The lamb was cooked as tender as possible while still maintaining lots of moisture and pinkness in the meat. The flavour was top notch with no game flavour detected on the palate what-so-ever while the meat did not require much chewing at all – imagine how soft, tender and melt-in-the-mouth it was! This experience was further enhanced by the saltbush sarladaise because it added not only the saltiness but also the crispy yet soft texture. Interestingly, the saltbush was from the gardens – I never knew saltbush was grown in the Botanic Gardens!! The mustard cream inside the centella was a good add-on component for the dish to provide the mustard taste with refreshing glory. It was such a joy when I cut a small piece of lamb and put it in the mouth with a small piece of the saltbush saladaise and then one of the centella. Absolutely amazing!
Btw, Tina doesn’t normally eat much lamb at all and she finished the entire dish without leaving a thing! This is to show how good this dish was. Highly recommended!
Dessert is coming. I should admit that prior to the arrival of the desserts, both Tina and I were not expecting too much as we are not big dessert eaters. However, the end result was rather impressive to see both of us finished the two desserts and praising their quality.
Sheep’s milk sorbet, roast rhubarb, lemon curd, winter savoury
Personally I have never been a big fan of sheep’s milk due to the game flavour. However, this dish changed my view towards it. The sorbet was cold and tasting it alone, no game flavour was detected at all rather an aromatic and creamy sorbet was experienced. The rhubarb and lemon curd was just having the right click too – It had the strong citrus flavour while also exhibited the sweetness from the rhubarb. It worked especially well to make the sorbet especially refreshing and neutralised the creaminess. The curd, the cereal crumbs and the sorbet complemented each other with the crumbs working on the texture, crunch and mouthfeel, with the sorbet cooling the palate and the curd refreshing it. It was just so delicious! A must-order item!
The other reason I say Paul is a master of food art is the flow-on order of flavours. After a creamy, cold, sweet, citrus dish, we were served a chocolate dish to sum up the lunch.
70% Chocolate delice, earl grey, burnt meringue, davidson plum
The dessert chef at the restaurant must be talented in this field. Two of the desserts were really good to catch people, even those who may not like desserts like me. This course was, again, fabulous. There were four layers to the dessert as shown below and can be observed clearly.
I would think a 70% coca chocolate could be bitter coca flavour but in this dish, it was not. I started to work my way from the top all the way to the bottom to scoop four layers altogether and immerse it in the plum sauce. The slight citrus sourness with the fruity plum flavour neutralised the bitterness. The creaminess of the dish was quite consistent from the top down and always left a silky texture on the palate with every bite.
Let me tell you this, to show how good the dish was, 5 minutes after the dish was served, I was seen to scoop the last bit of the plum juice and the entire dessert was smashed! It was so good. Highly recommended!
The experience at Botanic Gardens Restaurant was top notch. This experience is not only limited on the quality of food but also the flavour and the presentation. I must admit Paul Baker, as a master of food and art, has drawn a really interactive painting piece, one that merged all ingredients together in an easy transition with combined flavours that were better than any of them alone. The ingredients for all dishes complemented each other’s flavour and lifted the dishes to a completely new level. Local produce, especially ones that are grown in the gardens, are used where possible and one can easily detect their freshness. These are just some of the good aspects of this restaurant, not to mention the attentive and caring service team. Below is a list of the produce that are grown in the gardens.
While the Festival of Food is on at the moment, I highly recommend my readers or anyone to take advantage of the affordable prices to experience this fine dining restaurant!
Botanic Gardens of Adelaide
Adelaide, SA 5000
P 08 8223 3526