What started off as a leading publishing building in 1914, and then a successful backpackers hostel on Franklin Street for 25 years, is now The Publisher’s Hotel, a trendy restaurant and wine bar delivering modern Australian dining at its absolute best.
On Wednesday, we were invited to attend a Girl About Town ‘Eat and Tweet’ in light of The Publishers’ newly launched Spring menu, comprising of lighter, healthier options and made from locally sourced produce.
Having been redesigned just 18 months ago, the venue itself holds so much character thanks to its ever so rich history combined with a freshly renovated and modern interior. On speaking about the interior and atmosphere, we heard from owner Peter Buik as he explained, “We’re trying to convey the feel of going to your grandma’s on a Sunday afternoon – that real old-fashioned vibe.”
Upon entering The Publisher’s, we were pleasantly surprised by the brick-walled front room, offering live acoustics, a dimly-lit space to hang out and just a real homely vibe in quite a aesthetically appealing setting.
We mixed and mingled with the guests, enjoying an Adelaide Hills savignon blanc and deliciously smoked oysters that were, in fact, smoked fresh using an in-house premium kitchen smoker on the day. It was interesting to note that for every smoked option on the menu, the back-of-house kitchen staff use this particular machine to create that strong smokey flavour instead of buying pre-smoked produce!
The lovely Girl About Town ladies proceeded to show the group through to the back area where we sat down to dine, and it was certainly an impressive space. Characterised by a high ceiling, paint-job using darker, elegant shades of colours, as well as walls left untouched for that little bit of edge and a vintage-like appearance, the back room was a comfortable yet exquisite fine dining area.
With matching wines for each course, our Publisher’s culinary journey commenced with a taste of the four entree options, Ocean Trout Confit, Venison Carpaccio Smoked, Quail and Breaded Lamb Terrine.
The Ocean Trout Confit was soft and tender, and went down a treat with crispy olives, a distinct persian feta from abroad and a light mint sauce. The mint sauce was a bit of a play on salsa verde and the Head Chef Daniel Brooks actually expressed the persian feta used in this dish was his favourite feta to date!
Venison is a particular favourite meat of ours, and the Venison Carpaccio Smoked was sliced ever so thinly and in such a delicate manner that it was almost too beautiful to eat! They served the venison with sliced strawberry, finger lime and baby capers to create the most amazing and unique combination of sweet, sour and salty in one simple dish.
The third option was Quail wrapped in a crunchy, salty speck slice and topped with fennel puree and kumera crisps. We loved the texture, biting through the crunch of the speck to then reach the gentle tenderness of soft quail underneath.
Our final entree, the Breaded Lamb Terrine, was a menu favourite among guests and another texturally satisfying dish. The crunchy bread-crumbed exterior complimented the soft pulled lamb shoulder meat inside and the pickled carrot, confit garlic and potato puree added bursting flavours on the palate.
Onto the mains! Being a heavily meaty menu, we started off with the Kangaroo Rump paired with fennel puree, salt roasted kumera and jus. The kangaroo itself is a very specifically weighted animal, and The Publisher’s source their from central South Australia. Candied cumquats from Adelaide Hills are added to the dish; they provide quite a subtle sourness, as the Head Chef explains, and are basically like baby oranges. The kumera (sweet potato) is baked in a bed of rock salt, giving it quite a cutting flavour.
The Gnocci Romana was our vegetarian option for mains and, whilst people commonly know gnocci as a pasta potato dish, The Publisher’s serve their gnocci as a semolina poured into a slab and cut into pieces. With a parmesan topping, the gnocci is served with crispy silverbeet, pickled carrot, fennel puree again and pine nuts for that extra crunch.
Spatchcock is our third meaty main, pan-fried and marinated in a Moroccan spiced chermoula. The chefs pair it with a quinoa pilaf and puffed rice simply stirred in a hot pan with a little bit of oil.
An interesting twist was the addition of a grilled lemon on the side, which was easily mistaken, at first, to be a slice of grilled potato or some sort of edible vegetable. I mean, I guess the lemon is edible, but the idea was to squeeze its juices all over your meal for a citrus touch, not to cut it in half and attempt to eat it by itself (oops).
Moving on to the Pork Belly, we all know this to be quite a classic and done-to-death meal, but The Publisher’s made it their own using a blend of romanesco, pickled onion, peppered pineapple and green beans. There’s not much else to say on this one other than YUM!
To finish off the night, we were offered “the most exciting part” according to Head Chef Dan and one of the most unexpectedly divine desserts, Picnic. Now, for someone who does not particularly fancy caramel, or chocolate mousse, or Picnic the actual chocolate bar, this dish aimed to combine all three, and I am so extremely surprised that I ended up finishing this one and craving more.
Served with a white fruity dessert wine, the Picnic dessert combined a square slab of chewy caramel with chocolate mousse on top and tuile garnish (fancy term for wafer, basically). Sprinkled on the sides were candied chocolate almonds. I noted that a lot of the dishes on this menu offer quite an exciting mixture of textural elements; a lot of crunch, then softness, then chewiness experienced throughout, and that is exactly what the Picnic also offered.
The Publisher’s Hotel was without a doubt an experience and a half, offering a modern Australian cuisine that is both sophisticated and adventurous, and putting a contemporary twist on classic flavours.