THE HENRY AUSTIN, Adelaide
This place had so much hype leading up to its opening I was intrigued. And the official opening went on for days. It’s a bar, it’s a bottleshop, it’s a restaurant, no wait – it’s a takeaway joint… this place is actually everything all at once. Tess Footner and Max Mason, hospitality veterans and very well-known characters around town, have taken on a rent-free arrangement at the old Chessar Cellars venue thanks to Renew Adelaide. What they’ve created is The Henry Austin, (which is actually the original name of the building) and it has everything – from tiffin tins, cool artwork, quirky wines, a hostess with the mostess, an eccentric Englishman and a big stuffed bear (the last two not to be mistaken for eachother). How’s that for interesting! So who is Henry Austin? – well, Max declares that Henry Austin is, in fact… the bear.
On the ground floor you’ll find the wine bar and the restaurant, as well as the takeaway area where you can grab your choice of lunch option presented in tiffin tins. I love tiffin tins – I have one at home, not that I use it much. Downstairs is the cocktail bar and lounge, complete with old chesterfields, and the cellar that houses mostly South Australian wines – I saw a lot of my favourites in there. And then upstairs on level one there’s another area that can be used for private dining, as well as the kitchen where Shane Wilson, formerly of Bistro Dom is creating his new menu with the team. The food is served in the style of yum cha – no, it’s not dumplings, tripe and chicken feet – it’s smallish plates of fine food based on local, seasonal and foraged produce being brought around on trays (approximately hourly) for you to choose from. Shane calls it ‘contemporary Australian yum cha’. If that arrangement doesn’t suit you, you can opt to order dishes.
This night we were more than happy to have everything that came our way. We weren’t really sure what to expect but I know the sort of food that Shane was cooking in his previous life so I was pretty excited. First up were fresh Smoky Bay oysters with Australian-grown yuzu and plump mussels with finger lime. A delicious start. Then came some beautiful dishes – Kingfish with red potato, Beef tartare with saltbush and puffed wild rice, and Tuna ceviche with avocado cream and wild bush cherry.
Then came another wave of dishes – Sweetbreads with peas (loved this!), Mushrooms with beef jus, wild garlic and raisin gel, and a 10 hour-braised Kangaroo tail with riberry and sea succulents. Great stuff – but wait, there’s more… much more! Sous vide egg fried kale crispy quinoa, Hanger steak with artichoke cream, slippery jacks and green sauce, and then Lamb shoulder, red cabbage pumpkin purée, toasted seeds and lemon thyme, followed by probably my favourite dish of the night… Brussels sprouts with toasted linseed and blue cheese sauce – absolutely perfectly cooked sprouts and the sauce was tasty but not overpowering.
And if we weren’t full enough out came some sweets – Pistachio ice cream, dehydrated fennel, pistachio cake and dehydrated chocolate and the Caramel ice cream, honeycomb, mandarin and granola. Food was around $80 per head and we found a nice wine that we stuck with for the evening – the Langhorne Creek Vinteloper Touriga Nacional 2015.
We were there only a few days after the official opening so Shane was still experimenting with the menu but we loved everything that we had and left extremely full and happy. If you’re after an evening with a difference, plan to spend some time at The Henry Austin where you’ll be warmly greeted and well looked after – and ask Max for a guided tour. Start with a cocktail downstairs and work your way up for a fine meal and some great wines.
Well done to The Henry Austin team. I hope Adelaide jumps on board.