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All aboard the Palais for a colourful long lunch

Adelaide Festival

Peel St chef Jordan Theodoros will draw on the flavours of the Mediterranean when he presents one of five long lunches on the Riverbank Palais during the Adelaide Festival, promising a vibrant feast that will feel like “a big family meal”.

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The Palais – introduced for the 2017 Festival but labelled an eyesore by some after remaining “undressed” on the river after the event – will come into its own again next March with a series of events including the second program of long lunches.

Curated by event organiser Gill Minervini, whose credits include the Dark Mofo Winter Feast at Hobart’s MONA, the lunches will see guests pay $169 each to enjoy a long-table meal paired with beer and wine. The host chefs (the full list of which will be announced tomorrow) are described in the Festival program as “contemporary culinary giants”, all with a connection to Adelaide.

Theodoros admits that cooking a lunch for 200 people is not something he is used to, “but I think this is a great concept so I’m happy to be involved”.

“The brief was to do something that was a casual, relaxed lunch to give people the feeling they were dining with friends or family … I’m hoping it won’t be like a restaurant, but like a big family meal.

“It will be coming out of summer and just into autumn, so it’s an ideal time to cook because the crossover of seasons means there’s an abundance of ingredients.”

Each of the participating chefs is encouraged to create a menu that tells their own story and showcases South Australian food.

Jordan Theodoros.

At the highly regarded Peel St restaurant, the menu incorporates contemporary Mediterranean and Asian flavours. This reflects the experience of chef and owner Theodoros, who has Greek family heritage, started his career as an apprentice at Lew Kathreptis’ Mezzes in Adelaide and also worked at Sydney’s Darley Street Thai before travelling in Asia and then returning to South Australia.

For his Palais long lunch, he tells InDaily, he has decided to go back to his roots, incorporating the kinds of dishes he would like to eat himself “if I was to sit down on a beautiful summer day and have lunch with friends … a little bit Greek, a little bit Mediterranean and some Italian”.

There will be a couple of canapes, an entrée, main (with three or four share dishes and “good bread”) and dessert.

Although the menu has not yet been finalised, Theodoros says it will be mainly seafood and vegetable-based – he loves fishing and cooking seafood – with an abundance of herbs, lemons and olive oil. He hopes to incorporate his own home-grown basil, and tomatoes from his father-in-law’s garden.

“I’m banking on getting big fat juicy figs, beautiful tomatoes and good seafood, and not necessarily your typical garfish and whiting but maybe using something else lesser-known … it depends on what’s available.”

He promises the food will be familiar (“you won’t walk away wondering what it was”), generous, “really summery, vibrant and colourful”.

“At the end of the day I just want to cook stuff that is hopefully delicious and pleasing for people. It’s always been a cornerstone of what I like to cook.”

At Peel St, diners are encouraged to share dishes, so Theodoros is pleased that the Palais long lunch guests will be grazing on share plates and will hopefully strike up conversations with each other.

He also believes the idea of chefs sharing their stories through food is an important one.

“Every chef is going to have a different story … I think people would like to come along and not just eat and go but to have an understanding of why they’re eating what they’re eating on the day. Stories and food go well together.”

The full program for the Palais Long Lunches will be released tomorrow, with bookings also available from then.

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