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Restaurant review: Publisher’s Hotel

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Franklin Street’s most recent addition, the Publisher’s Hotel, could easily be situated in the heart of England’s countryside.

What used to be a rundown backpackers’ hostel has undergone a large and probably costly renovation into what is now one of SA’s best gastro-pubs.

It is a simple and sparse set-up: a bar runs along one wall of the split-level front-of-house, while black boards display a bar menu and wine specials. An exposed corrugated-iron roof and joists, hanging lights, concrete floors and bare brick give the bar area a modern, industrial feel.

It is free from clutter. Stools surround the bar, with two large communal tables filling the upper bar area, and small seats and tables on the lower, street-side floor. Past the bar and out the back is an intimate dining room which can seat about 40 to 50 at a stretch.

The tables are well set with crisp napkins and bread plates which colour-match the fire-engine-red pipe running along the exposed ceiling above.

A waiter-station breaks the room in two and serves as a display for the wine that is currently being consumed.

Having been seated at a small table in the quiet restaurant by a friendly and well-dressed waiter, we get down to the menu and wine list.

The wine list deserves special mention, as it contains some of the most unique varieties and vintages available, including red and white burgundy, vintage champagne, a massive range of Nebbiolo and a pricey selection of cabernet from Bordeaux.

The list is basically the personal cellar of owner Peter, which has been built up over many years to become the kind of selection you expect to come with Michelin-star restaurants. On occasion, if the listed vintage is not available, Peter has been known to offer several other years in its place and share a little taste, happily telling the story of how he came across that particular bottle.

The restaurant food menu is shorter – seven starters and seven mains – but still impressive.

To start we order the scallops ($18), prawns ($24) and oysters $(15).

The scallops are served in a line, interspersed with discs of fried black pudding, sitting in a green chimichurri sauce. Perfectly seared and remaining slightly raw in the middle, the plump salty scallops are wonderfully complemented by the earthy crumbly sausage and a fresh blast of herb from the intensely green sauce.

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The prawns are juicy and smoky, served skewered straight and charred, while the half a dozen oysters are served simply with a slice of lemon sitting on little mounds of salt.

The service is faultless. The waiter engages in easy conversation, taking a special interest in the wine and guiding us to a star selection from the white burgundy section.

For mains, we order the lamb rack ($39) and the spatchcock ($32), with sides of brussels sprouts and confit garlic cracked potatoes (both $9).

The lamb rack – served stacked on the plate in two pieces – is juicy pink in the middle and incredibly tender, featuring the perfect layer of crisp flavourful fat. The salt of the jus and the crispness of the celeriac puree add depth to what is a wonderful piece of meat – a touch more jus would have made the dish hard to fault.

The spatchcock is one of the best dishes I have enjoyed in a long time. A de-boned and restrung plump bird sits simply on a bed of spinach. The gamey flesh is deliciously moist yet wonderfully charred, the knife breaking clean through into a handful of wild rice.

Much delicate work has gone into the preparation of the small bird – it is rich and smoky, offset with the buttery spinach; simply divine. The sprouts still carry a crunch, are beautifully scorched, and complemented with salty pancetta pieces. The huge serve of potatoes – golden and cracked on the outside with fluffy flesh – is a highlight.

To finish, we enjoy a selection of cheeses and a nip of one of the many fortifieds on offer.

“Pubs” like the Publisher’s, the Daniel O’Connell in North Adelaide and the Salopian Inn in McLaren Vale are leading the charge away from the typical schnitty and steak into true upmarket dining.

Despite being a bit pricey, the Publisher’s restaurant is head and shoulders above many traditional restaurants in terms of service, menu and quality. The cuisine, although on the heavy side (the spring menu is about to be launched), is comparable to some of South Australia’s best.

First-class food, fantastic wine and amazing service in a stylish setting that retains the warmth and relaxed nature of a pub atmosphere is hard to deliver – yet Publisher’s does all this with ease.

Peter is a generous soul who seems happiest making others happy. He has big plans for the block, including a rooftop bar to open soon and boutique accommodation at a later stage.

As would be the case in the motherland, Publisher’s would be the perfect setting for an upmarket Sunday roast lunch complete with Yorkshire pudding – although it would probably do it better.

Four and a half out of five

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Publisher’s Hotel
110 Franklin Street, Adelaide

 

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