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Lunch review: Vardon Restaurant

Restaurants

Under new ownership, The Stag has shifted focus from a meat-heavy menu to a carefully curated and more cosmopolitan selection of dishes.

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The historic hotel, which is the cornerstone of Adelaide’s iconic East End Market precinct, has also undergone a glamorous makeover,  with a complete refurbishment inside and out.

It now features a stylish, light-filled front bar with copper features; a luxurious champagne bar upstairs; a revamped balcony area including lounge and table seating overlooking Rymill Park; and, adjacent to Vardon Lane, new restaurant The Vardon.

Vardon-interior

The Vardon dining room. Photo: Nat Rogers/InDaily

The interior design of The Vardon is minimalist and sophisticated, with large windows facing East Terrace filtered by flowing sheer curtains. The space is filled with pale wooden chairs and tables and natural leather booth seating, and the blue/grey walls create a calm atmosphere.

Chef Camillo Crugnale has made the move to The Vardon after years of running Assaggio, a restaurant which was broadly considered a leader in Italian cuisine in Adelaide.

Camillo-Crugnale

Vardon head chef Camillo Crugnale. Photo: Nat Rogers/InDaily

“I’ve always wanted to do a hotel,” he says. “I wanted to take the skills I had and the combined skills of my team and offer that little bit more – it’s nice to spoil the customers.”

His passion for Italian flavours continues at The Vardon, but he has opened up the menu to embrace European cuisine and styles more broadly.

Crugnale cites his multicultural team as being important in developing the hotel’s new menu, which includes dishes as diverse as a charcuterie plate ($22.50), steak with béarnaise sauce ($35.50), and duck breast with cinnamon and star anise ($35.50).

The short menu – featuring seven entrees, nine strong mains, five sides, four desserts and an artisan cheese plate ($29.50) – focuses  on high-quality produce, with everything made in-house.

Presentation is also big at The Vardon: each plate is carefully embellished with pretty garnishes.

Restaurant manager Tom Duggin (ex Bistro Dom) does a great job of making guests feel welcome, hand pouring the sauces at the table “for that little bit of drama”.

Vardon-zucchini-blossoms

Zucchini blossoms. Photo: Nat Rogers/InDaily

Favourite dish: Grilled King George whiting fillets with smoked yellow eye mullet pate, pickled cucumber and horseradish ($35.50).

This is a killer dish, with a strong flavour profile and immediate impact. The smoked mullet pate (mash) adds substance to the delicate whiting and the house-made pickled cucumbers provide a tangy surprise.

Vardon-tomato-trilogy

Tomato trilogy. Photo: Nat Rogers/InDaily

Other dishes: Special dishes include the delicate hand-harvested scallops with asparagus, pork jowl and hazelnut zabaglione ($19.50); hearty lacquered duck breast with cinnamon, star anise, witlof and Arabica sauce (yes, this is a coffee sauce); and pure Angus rib-eye steak (500g) with spinach and Romesco dressing ($45.50).

Crugnale has not left out the dishes for which he is known: vitello tonnato ($18.50/$29.50); zucchini blossoms stuffed with pine nuts, peppers and pernod mouse ($18.50/$29.50), and crab pasta ($29.50). He has added a luxurious touch to the latter, with the addition of roasted lobster sauce and bottarga (fish roe).

There is also a tomato trilogy with basil, capers, white anchovies, red onion and chilli ($8.50), and Sfilatino house-made bread with fennel seeds and Gascony butter ($1.50). Gascony butter is mixed with duck fat for extra flavour.

Vardon-pannacotta

Creme fraiche pannacotta. Photo: Nat Rogers/InDaily

Something sweet/to drink: Crème fraiche pannacotta with Moscato jelly and macerated berries ($15.50).

The Vardon’s wine list is not shown on The Stag’s website, but it is extensive, with a lot of South Australian boutique wines as well as some fun offerings from overseas. It will be updated to include the next local vintages early in 2016. InDaily tried a refreshing and drinkable Reyneke 2014 Chenin Blanc from South Africa, a single-vineyard organic and biodynamic wine from Stellenbosch region.

Vardon Restaurant
The Stag
299 Rundle Street, Adelaide, 8311 0392
Open for lunch Monday to Friday, 12pm to 3pm; and for dinner  Monday to Sunday, 6pm to 9pm.

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