As an ex-pat Adelaidian, I have unrestricted license to bag South Australia for its idiosyncrasies and in total contradiction, I can easily defend my hometown to my heart’s content – particularly when football’s being discussed.
Most people are aware of the ongoing rivalry between Melbourne and Sydney or Sydney and Brisbane, but there’s also somewhat of a rivalry between Melbourne and Adelaide. Actually, it’s probably more apt to describe this as a fairly one-sided rivalry and most of Melbourne probably aren’t all that aware of it. If they are, they’re pretty coy about it…
“What’s that? Oh, it’s nothing. It’s probably Adelaide whinging that we’ve stolen something from them again”.
The Grand Prix hurt South Australian’s pretty hard. It’s still talked about like someone lost a close relative.
Fresh produce is a different story though. As much as I love Victoria and the ease in accessing seasonal, fresh produce, in my opinion SA reigns supreme in this neck of the woods. For mine, Adelaide’s Central Markets crap all over the Queen Victoria Market in quality, range and price. Then there’s the wine. Enough said.
When it comes to the restaurant scene though, Adelaide and SA has a bit of work to do. Other than reading a few things in national publications or indeed quality publications, like South Australia’s Sumptuous Magazine, there’s not much around to know what’s going on. Unless you have friends that are into that sort of thing. Most of mine aren’t. Review sites like Urbanspoon and other social medium (particularly Twitter) aren’t as widely utilised in Adelaide, as they seem to be in Melbourne or Sydney.
COS is a bistro-style restaurant in Adelaide that I’ve gone back to a number of times. It’s located in a side street called Leigh St, which links Currie St with the infamous Hindley St). In fact, with the number of restaurants that seem to be popping up in Leigh St, it’s starting to remind me of Hardware Lane, sans touts.
I reckon over the last four or five years, I’ve been there half a dozen times and I have recommended it at least another half a dozen or so people. The prices are reasonable; at least for a Melbourne person visiting Adelaide and it rates a sound 76% on Urbanspoon. Unfortunately it lacks the verbatim from punters, telling others about there experience. It seems more of the ‘in-vogue’ places are getting all of the review traffic and as COS is not offering Mexican street food or pintxos, which used to be known as tapas, albeit served on a toothpick (mum used to do that with Coon cheese cubes with cocktail onions. Little did she know she was ahead of her time), there aren’t many people writing on their experience.
COS have a plethora of oyster choices, featuring (no surprises) South Australian Pacific Oysters. You can have them natural, with lemon, lime and Tabasco syrup or an Asian lime, chilli and coriander, as a Bloody Mary shooter or perhaps their take on Kilpatrick, with speck and ‘killer’ sauce. Pardon the pun, but the world’s your (ahem) oyster.
On a recent visit, as much as I wanted some oysters, earlier in the day. I wasn’t feeling too oystery in the evening, which was a real shame. So, what to choose? I guess it’s hard to classify COS’ menu, other than bistro and a conduit to showcase local, fresh produce. It’s a little bit Mediterranean; chilli salt whitebait with lime aioli ($12.50) or braised, spiced meatballs with grana padano ($15.00) or you could go down the Central / South American route with ceviche of fish of the day with a ruby grapefruit, cucumber, radish, avocado, heirloom tomato and jalapeno salad ($16.50).
However, my dining companions and I settled on something to share after we’d demolished the warmed, house-made bread, dipped in a big bowl of fruity olive oil – the COS charcuterie plate, which featured a selection of finely sliced, air-dried bresola (the star of the plate), prosciutto, sopressa and pan fried chorizo with locally made pickles (cucumbers and mushrooms) and a stack of grilled sourdough ($12.50 per head). No complaints here, with the exception of who would eat the last piece of sopressa and sourdough.
For mains, the menu again sticks to the Mediterranean theme, with a bit of South America thrown in. The Suffolk milk fed lamb is served two ways; a prosciutto and rosemary saddle, a braised and pressed forequarter with accompanying fondant potatoes, seasonal mushrooms and beets, celeriac puree and a rosemary pangrattato ($35) or perhaps marinated chimmichurri gulf prawns, served with gazpacho salsa, avocado, lime and coriander salad ($32).
One of my dining companions settled on the roast ballotine of Barossa farm chicken, stuffed with roast garlic and a vegetable sofrito, red pepper and dried tomato fondant sauce, chorizo, purple garlic, gremolata and a polenta disc ($34). For the other two of us, it was about steak. One of my companions opted for the 300g grain-fed Coorong Angus scotch fillet, dry aged for 21 days ($40.50) and I went for what I think is the king of texture, a 300g grain-fed Coorong Angus entrecote, which was also dry aged for 21 days ($39.50). All steaks come with a choice of fat cut chips, truffle scented mash, duck fat roasted kipflers or hand cut fries and a choice of red wine jus, house-made mustards, green peppercorn jus, café de Paris butter, gorgonzola brandy butter or sauce béarnaise.
The steaks do require sides if you need something else other than starch (or more starch) and there is a good selection, from rocket leaf salad with pear and a balsamic glaze ($7.50), ceasar salad ($9), mixed heirloom tomato salad with olives, fetta and baby basil ($12.50) and several more to choose from. We settled on some reasonably healthy seasonal greens (Brussels sprouts, spinach and broccoli) with roasted almond & herb butter ($9).
I am happy to declare that this is probably the best steak I have had in a couple of years… well flavoured, great texture and perfectly cooked to order (medium rare). The let down was the red wine jus. It was the right consistency, but it simply lacked flavour. The “hand cut fries” were also disappointing. As much as they were probably hand cut, they were more like soggy, clumpy strings. It was good to see a small mound of seasonal freshly grated horseradish on the plate, but it lacked punch. The condiment winner by a mile was the house-made mustard. It was hot, a little tangy and had a wetter consistency than a mass-produced mustard. If they sold this by the jar, I would buy nothing else ever again.
My dining partner’s fat cut chips were what I should have ordered. They were fat cut chips, as advertised. My other dining partner’s roast ballotine of chicken featured two generous slabs of moist chook, perfectly seasoned. The accompanying bits and sauces worked well and the red pepper and dried tomato fondant sauce was stunning, flavoursome and colourful.
To drink, we were happy to relieve COS of a bottle of 2010 Atlas ‘Section 32’ Cabernet / Malbec ($50) from the Clare Valley.
Service on the night started well but slowly went south as the night progressed. After our mains were served, we struggled to receive any service and as a last resort (waiting at least 15 minutes with visibly empty glasses), we had to top up our own wine glasses. We could have also been convinced to crack open another bottle of Section 32, had the staff afforded us the opportunity. But it didn’t happen, which is their loss I guess. Our table was simply cleared of everything and robotically, dessert menus were plonked on the table.
If I lived in Adelaide and had the opportunity to take interstate or overseas guests out for a casual dinner and give them a good idea of what South Australian produce is all about; without the fuss and exorbitant cost, I’d take them to COS (if I knew the service was going to be OK). At the very least, this is one thing Victoria can’t take away from South Australia.
18 Leigh St, Adelaide
(08) 8231 7611
Good For: Showcasing South Australia’s fine, fresh produce… That’ll teach them bloody Victorians!
Not Good For: Fries, jus and consistent service. Minor infractions.