Adding to the mystery, there is no signage on the outside, but this is a bar and restaurant that calls itself a “House of Fire & Drink” – and it beckons.
Inside, the wood panelling continues; the light is low and the air is warm with the deep aromas of the enormous wood-fired oven that never rests.
Imagined by new-small-bar old hands Marshall King, Crispian Fielke, Dana Whyte, Josh Baker and Matthew Standen (all of whom are or have been involved with Clever Little Tailor), and brought to life by designers Matiya Marovich (Sans-Arc Studio), Eddie Bevan (Brojed Construction) and Carlo Jensen (Peculiar Familia), this tiny space has had a lot of thought put into it.
Once your eyes have adjusted, you will see that beyond the bar at the front is a central courtyard with a Japanese aesthetic and then behind that a second wood-panelled space which is rustic in style with more seating, a suitably tiny open kitchen and the oven which is fundamental to the slow-food philosophy at Pink Moon Saloon.
Amazingly, chef and part-owner Standen (Golding Wines, Insieme, Pranzo) can turn out his signature dishes of slow-cooked meats and vegetables and house-pickled vegetables for the city lunch trade within an hour.
Like the venue, the menu is small but surprisingly accommodating, offering a selection of small snacks, sandwiches, salads, cold plates and daily specials from the wood-fired oven.
This is not just any old mountain hut food; Standen and his kitchen crew ensure their small kitchen has a big impact. You can watch as whole fish and chicken and trays of sour plums are prepared and pushed it into the oven under the soft kitchen light, and as fresh salad greens and house-pickled vegetables are tossed together. Then see the most enchanting dishes arrive on the table decorated with tiny flowers and buttons of smooth puree. It’s satisfyingly simple and indulgent at the same time.
Favourite dish: Smoked kingfish, pinenut, avocado and pickled cucumber ($17). “Whole kingfish brined with lemon, coriander seeds, peppercorns, bay leaves and saltbush, slowly smoked and then torn up and served with house-pickled caper-bush leaves, pansy, avocado puree, seaside succulent and toasted pinenuts,” says Standen.
Other dishes: “The Daily Chops” are the daily specials that come out of the wood-fired oven. On the day InDaily visited, the special was a “chicken brick”($32). “The chicken brick is a de-boned Boston bird that is brined with lemon and sage and then smoked for one and a half hours and finished off with a hot brick on the grill and served on smoked pumpkin mash with a peach salad.”
The chicken brick was a dish big enough to share between two or three people, particularly when eaten with a couple of sides such as the hand-cut chips with spiced mayo ($10; a generous dish of golden roasted potatoes) and a salad of brined and smoked cauliflower, oven-smoked corn, house-pickled string beans, carrot, onions, chickpeas, mung beans and kidney beans tossed with lettuce and radicchio ($9). “The pickled vegetables add a bit of acidity and the aioli dressing is made with a bit of the pickling liquid instead of white vinegar.”
Something sweet/to drink: There was one dessert on the menu – a “soft chocolate, preserved strawberry, smoked almond crumb” ($13), but lunch was already substantial enough so we will have to go back for that one.
There is a short list of cocktails, craft beers and ciders from the keg and the can, and mostly local wines mixed with a few internationals. It was suggested we try the Gooney Goo Goo ($20) – a cocktail of cognac, honey, orgeat (almond syrup), lemon juice and Sangviovese. Try Googling that one…
Pink Moon Saloon
21 Leigh Street, Adelaide
Open Monday to Friday, 11.30am to late; Saturday, 4pm to 2am
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