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Lunch review: Blackwood

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Blackwood is like the restaurant equivalent of glamping – a five-star dining adventure in the middle of the city that’s casual enough you could get away with wearing your hiking boots.

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Until about four weeks ago, Blackwood was known as Street ADL, an industrial-style restaurant serving eclectic street food. Owner Jock Zonfrillo moved Street ADL to a new location at Henley Beach to make way for Blackwood, a more affordable version of Orana, his fine-dining restaurant that shares the same building on Rundle Street.

Upstairs, Orana fuses modern Australian cuisine with indigenous Australian flavours. Zonfrillo’s idea for Blackwood was that he would use the same philosophy, ingredients and infrastructure to create a more affordable “bistro-style” offering downstairs, presenting his idea of real Australian food to a broader audience.

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Blackwood interior. Photo: Nat Rogers/InDaily

While some of the dishes at the two restaurants may sound similar, they have different menus. The Blackwood menu is a la carte, offering simpler dishes that can be ordered as separate items, while Orana has a set degustation menu.

Blackwood also offers a tasting menu ($140 for four courses, including wine), which is the same for both lunch and dinner service. Orana has separate lunch and dinner menus (dinner costs $295 per person for a 10-course degustation menu, including wine; the six-course lunch menu is $150 per person, including wine).

A key difference is in the vibe: Blackwood is bigger and more vibrant, offering the option of eating al fresco.

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Potato damper and bbq chicken butter. Photo: Nat Rogers/InDaily

While the restaurant’s original long tables (bar one) are having a sea-change down at Street ADL’s new beachside location, at Blackwood Zonfrillo has installed small bistro-style pedestal tables with hand-hewn timber tops. They’re not the prettiest, but they kind of make sense when you look up and see a picture on the wall of a campfire burning and then taste the smoky flavours produced by the kitchen’s three coal pits.

The menu at Blackwood is ripe with unusual ingredients, some grown by indigenous people in remote desert communities and others that you can imagine Zonfrillo and his team out foraging for in the hills, sand dunes and creek beds around Adelaide. Each dish begs an explanation that generally ends in a fascinating conversation with one of the staff about how and where the ingredients are sourced from and the techniques used to cook them.

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Blackwood interior. Photo: Nat Rogers/InDaily

There are no white tablecloths, but the service received from the front-of-house and wait staff is impeccable. And when the chefs come out of the kitchen to place each new dish in front of you and offer to explain some of its finer points, lunch at Blackwood feels pretty special.

It doesn’t come cheap, but the experience is worth the price. Zonfrillo is a champion: it’s taken a while, and there have been others who have helped pave the way before him, but he has succeeded in bringing Australian native ingredients to mainstream dining in Adelaide.

Favourite dish: Hay-cooked pork with lentils, saltbush and pickled pine mushrooms ($38). Yes, hay that grew in a paddock flavours and colours the cream sauce that is served with the slow-roasted then char-grilled piece of pork neck that sits on a bed of blanched saltbush, pickled pine mushrooms and lentils. It’s a generous dish, and is topped with flash-fried coastal saltbush that tastes exactly like salt and vinegar chips.

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Hay-cooked pork. Photo: Nat Rogers/InDaily

Other dishes: Potato damper served with bbq chicken butter ($8). This side dish of warm, blackened potato damper was served in a fresh linen tea towel, ready to be broken apart and dipped into a pot of cream made from the skin of roasted chicken, bringing tasty new life to restaurant bread and butter.

Salad of pickled kohlrabi with riberries and burnt butter ($22). The mix of sweet and earthy ribbons of pickled kohlrabi, fresh and tart lilly pilly berries and nutty oxalis leaves from the Adelaide Hills made the perfect entrée dish and brought back flavour memories of picking and eating purple lilly pillys and soursobs on the way home from school.

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Salad of pickled kohlrabi. Photo: Nat Rogers/InDaily

Seared prawns served with farmers friend (a medicinal herb) and pandanus ($26). This entree dish of butterflied and lightly pan-seared Spencer Gulf prawns was served in a prawn broth flavoured with house-made pandanus paste, butter and tapioca pearls, and garnished with purslane (a succulent commonly found by the clothesline and now cultivated as a salad ingredient), and a slice of toasted ciabatta to soak up the sweet, milky juices.

Fresh green beans are offered as a side ($9) – they’re flash-fried and served in a native XO sauce (chilli, garlic and onion) with the addition of muntries, desert lime, native currants and riberries.

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Strawberries with elderflower cream. Photo: Nat Rogers/InDaily

Something sweet/to drink: Strawberries, macadamia cake and elderflower cream ($21). This is basic strawberries and cream, but the peaks of whipped cream flavoured with elderflower are not sweet. The toasted macadamia cake is nutty and adds substance, and the strawberries are infused with eucalyptus oil. It’s a pretty dish that is finished with a sprinkling of macadamia crumbs and native raspberry-leaf powder.

The Blackwood wine list is concise, offering nine wines by the glass and the bottle. With the exception of a French Champagne, a Tasmanian sparkling and an unidentified variety of Ata Rangi wine from New Zealand, the remaining six wines on the menu when InDaily visited were South Australian. The wine list on the Blackwood website is more extensive.

Blackwood
285 Rundle Street, Adelaide, 8227 0344
Open for lunch and dinner seven days a week.

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