As a part of my honours thesis and for the love of all things worth eating, drinking, and experiencing, this is Savour SA - a friendly place where appreciation for quality South Australian food and drink abounds. Feedback is welcomed - heck, it's even encouraged! Some of it will be bundled up as part of my research. So, let us eat, drink, and be heaps merry.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The Anchorage at Victor Harbor

You wouldn’t be alone if you thought Victor Harbor was all velour tracksuits, white sneakers, occasional school leavers meandering through the streets, and a whole lot of 5.30pm dinners. It is all those things. But it’s also more. Past the quaint main street, over the railway line, and conveniently perched across from the bowls club is The Anchorage.

This Adelaide Hills gal finds her way to Victor Harbor a handful of times each year. And there are a couple of spots I must hit and some things I must do: I need to stock up on greens and almonds at the Victor Harbor Farmers’ Markets; I like to walk across to Granite Island and high five the penguins; I need to have my fill at The Anchorage; and once that’s all done, I pillage Target Country for flannelette pajamas with impish creatures on them.

Smacked in the face with an icy puff of air straight off the sea is the perfect way to wake from a snoozy 90-minute car ride. Indeed, the iciness made me want a warming glass of red and a something delicious to eat even more. And in the dull evening light, The Anchorage, with it’s glossy-white trimmed windows, oozed ease and relaxation – all those things synonymous with a quaint and quiet Victor Harbor. 

Despite rustic big beams and giant chains overhead, roughed up, pitted gravelly ground, and a smattering of wooden tables, The Anchorage glows in soft light and has a air of elegance about it. While a counter, glass cake display, coffee machine, and further down, a boat-like bar, line one side of the back room, a barrel fire sits on the other. Blackened, but with smudgy copper accents, you can’t see any flames, but if you walk anywhere near it, you certainly realise it must be full of them. It’s comfortably cozy.

To be a good food blogger you must not eat the same meal twice… apparently. The quest for new things is indeed exciting, I’ll admit that, but there’s also a heavenly comfort in the known. Don't tell the food blog kings, but I almost always eat the same thing at the same place. And at The Anchorage that’s the gosh-darn delectable squid. It’s almost like the inkers themselves floated in on that icy sea breeze, and for the good of the locals, sacrificed themselves to the pan. For me, there’s extra comfort in ordering the same dish again and again. It’s the anticipation of a good thing, the countdown during the day to that favourite meal, and the teaming of that with good wine and great company that makes the experience a quality one.

A mix of chill out tracks, pop songs, and jazz numbers whispers through the speakers. The shellacked boat bar glistens, and sitting satisfied, we watch on as a kind waitress clears our table. A group of 5 silver-haired ladies have folded their napkins, and squeakily wiggled their chairs out from under the table. The table next to the barrel fire is now empty, bar a few glasses, after a fresh-faced, swept-fringe guy, and his long-locked girlfriend finished their meal and left.

Having bypassed the sweets, paid the bill, and chatted with the staff, we rolled out of the beachside cocoon and back into the company of the salty frost air. Leaving the glow of the eatery behind, we powered to the car, ramped up the heaters, and pulled out from the curb. If Victor Harbor is a sleepy town, then The Anchorage is a dream. It’s warm and heaps satisfying. Not even free entry to the Whale Centre could knock it off my list.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Casablabla - Multicultural Bar and Tapas

When all is seedy and scummy on Hindley Street; when spilt drinks, urine stains and vomit from the weekend past are washed into the pavement cracks by light rains; when ruffians saunter down the sidewalk; when iridescent and loud neon lights reflect scribbly words into shallow puddles; when all seems grey, and concrete, and just a little bit dirty, then there is Leigh Street.

Cobbled and cute, and nestled in-between Grenfell Street and Hindley, Leigh Street is home to some great eateries. White-table-cloth Rigoni’s, and the vibey Coffee Branch are just a couple. And in the midst of a grey Adelaide evening, there is the red warm Casablabla. A melting pot of Spain, Morocco, South America and Asia, Casablabla is a party; it’s as festive as the inside of a giant piñata, complete with cocktails and firey food.

Tuesday night at Casablabla is paella night. It is also salsa night. It is also really, really busy. Man friend and I escape the fresh Adelaide evening, and step into the palace of red. Stupidly having not made a booking, we’re ushered past the tables, past the partition fish tank and cosy booths, up the stairs and to the back of the venue, where one lone two seater table sits, sans ‘reserved’ sign. Happy and hungry, we know we want the paella so we order straight away. More happy folk file in the doors, and some set up camp at the tables across from us. Casablabla, where everything is red and black, is buzzing. And the whole place just glows.

The squat little round tables are a rusty gold, embossed and etched and oozing Morocco. The stools we sit on are also squat, and upholstered in a rough, but terribly well-loved chocolate leather. And just when you think you could be somewhere utterly exotic and far, far away, a disco ball Buddha head swirls around and around, suspended from exposed piping so thick you could get your arms around it, and flicks silver light over the floor and the walls, and then, then you remember just where you are. This tapas bar come club is unique mixed-bag and oh-so friendly.

Paella arrives. And I can tell by the peppery, saffrony, and seafood fresh wafts, that I’m in for a good time. It is delicious. There’s a creaminess to the dish that comes, not from cream, but from perfectly cooked rice. A squeeze of lemon and a smattering of fresh herbs, and as much as the paella brought heaps of taste to my mouth, it brought as much warmth to my belly, leaving me wholly satisfied on this chilly autumn night. Smokey and spicy and everything you want in a paella. The food and the vibe is quality. You walk in the doors at Casablabla and you instantly feel cool. Well, as cool as you can be without dreadlocks and a pet monkey.

And just when I thought I was done, a couple, who had for the last 20 minutes been perched on stools at the bar in front of us, take to a make-shift dance floor in an impromptu salsa. Any open space is filled with a flick and flurry to the chacha-ed tunes. And the posse of salsa dancers expands, pairing off to unashamedly groove to the beat. And as the everyday dancers dance, staff walk past our table, surprising us by clapping along. It’s a show of the uninhibited. And much to our delight, it’s free to watch. 

The music showcases the brass section. Trumpets toot and waa, and in the spirit of the Buena Vista Social Club you can’t help but wiggle and shimmy your shoulders along. The Casablabla trimmings are golden like the horn section. Carved posts have licks of gold, pictures hung on walls are black and gold, and the flames of the candle flicker in the same colour.

It’s sad to leave such a happening place. The magical and oh-so-sexy beer garden, looking over the European cobblyness of Leigh Street, is packed with pleased patrons. No doubt the place will be bustling for hours after we’ve gone. Casablabla is heaps of fun, where people dance without inhibitions, happily indulge in wonderfully-made food and relish the joyousness that comes from a great soundtrack. So while the vomit and the piss are a little bla it’s worth walking past if it means you’re on your way to Leigh Street, because Casablabla is anything but.