Friday, March 25, 2011

The Blanchetown Hotel

The Blanchetown Hotel
As it was a nice autumn day we decided it was high time to venture further a field before winter takes over and keeps us closer to home. My elder brother joined my wife and myself for a drive up the pleasant Stuart highway to the River Murray. Not having driven in the region for some time it was a wonderful surprise to find the roads were really excellent. We joined the dual carriageway at Port Adelaide after passing over the Port River on the new bridge. The road is new and delightful to drive on but the biggest surprise was that the dual highway just went on and on and on right up into the Barossa valley. With such good driving conditions Adelaide was soon left behind and all three of us renewed our acquaintance with some territory we had all been too at various times, but not in recent years.
The farm areas around Gawler soon fell behind us and we entered the grape vine district of the Barossa, but on this trip we were aiming for the river-land, so despite many tempting things along the way, kept driving onward. There had been some thought of stopping at Truro for lunch, but the pub Bistro there was either not open for lunches or has some very inadequate advertising signs as it seemed to be evening meals only. But we knew that at Blanchetown there were some places to eat and among them a truly historic old hotel.
The drive was a fairly long one so our stomachs were rumbling by the time we reached the small river side spot known as Blanchetown. The river is partially in flood at present but I seemed to remember that the old pub was perched up quite high on ground that overlooked Loch One, and sure enough even though it’s been many years the old place was indeed still there high and dry. Parking lots up that way are not as formal as in the city or large towns, so we were able to draw up right near the door which was a boon for me as I had been suffering some leg pains over the past week.
Country pubs are famous for their open hospitality and this one certainly didn’t disappoint in that regard. We were well greeted on entering and the whole place, while small by comparison with other pubs, was cosy, with a nice feel to it. For those wanting more elbow room there was a much larger area out on a deck that overlooked the river, so although the part we chose to sit in was small, the over all capacity of the place was obviously quite large.
Now I made a mistake here. As a strict rule I never tell anyone that I am going to write about the food and the service, but the Publican was so darned friendly that when he enquired as to the purpose of our long drive up from the south of Adelaide, I accidentally let slip that this would be the first venture into reporting on a casual eating place north of Adelaide instead of the south. That meant I had to be really on my guard in case we got a better than usual serve.
Seating was comfortable and I felt that although we are leading into winter, the Bistro area would be a very cosy spot in cold weather. Off to one side there were several selections of sauces, salad dressing etc and it was obvious that who ever arranged that had a good feeling about how different people’s tastes can be. It catered for them all.
Having let slip that I would review the meal on my Blog I decided one way to tell the real situation would be to observe the other tables. Thus I looked closely when their meals were brought out and could see that the serves were quite generous, the staff friendly and that they seemed to also know the rules of good service by standing in the right places, not passing food in front of other diners etc. A young lass serving never failed on that issue. I noted that when putting dishes in front of a diner she always moved around the table, serving each, never reaching across. Later she was the same at our table, moving quietly around behind each of us to place the meal just as a trained waiting staff should do.
In each case the meals being served were universally generous, well presented and were being received with approving eyes as they were put before each person. I could also see the reactions as the other diners ate and it was obvious they were all enjoying the food.
We had all decided that for once we would each have the same meal. Fish and chips seemed like a nice lunch. There was a choice of a small or a large serve and we all chose the large. Considering what we have paid elsewhere the price was more expensive than some and less expensive than others, indeed one might say right in the middle. So the deciding factor would be the serve itself.
Now fish and chips are fairly limited in the way they can be presented, but the kitchen had taken time to arrange them quite artistically. Not unlike they were in my review of the Warradale Hotel, (see the files on this Blog) except in this case the meal was far more adequate and it was to make an attractive presentation instead of hiding how little there was.
My first impression of the fish was that all pieces were almost uniform in colour. No burnt extremities, no pale patch here and darker patch there. All were excellently presented. The chips were quite adequate and once again I did not feel a need to actually count how many of them there were on the plate. There is nothing worse than looking at the plate and feeling it looks rather bare, but there were no such feelings at the Blanchetown Hotel. Like the fish there was a uniformity to their colour and they were very pleasant to eat, being crispy and with plenty of flavour. I presume they cut their own chips from fresh potatoes instead of the frozen pre cut taste destroyed monstrosities one gets in other places.
The fish was great. So many places overcook the fish and destroy its flavour but in this instance all the juices were retained yet there was no fatty taste. All in all that meant for a pleasant taste experience that was really pleasing. There were three pieces on my plate and each one was very enjoyable.
Equally pleasing was the salad. Now many years ago as a Bush Cop I had eaten in the dining room of many a Pub during the more formal evening meal times when things were supposed to be somewhat better than during the day, yet to have been served a salad as tasty and innovative as this one would have been unheard of. You might have got a few bits of crisp lettuce and a slice of tomato, but that’s about all. So it was really nice to see that here was a bush pub that matched nearly all the hotels and eating places so far reviewed on this Blog. It was probably only beaten by the presentation at the old Noarlunga Hotel, and then only by an artistic blending of colours. The salad served with our meal was the equal of all the others and a darned sight better than some.
We had a great day out driving the old yet familiar areas of the river, enhanced by an excellent lunch that had all three of us feeling pleased with the world in general.

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