Setting off from Goolwa at about 10:30am, with our roadie box of lovely snacks from Juliet at The Australasian in tow, Mr NQN and I have one stop in mind: Kangaroo Island, population 4500 people (apparently one person per thousand sheep)...
We will lay our head for the night at the legendary Southern Ocean Lodge. A bucket list item for me, I had seen the famous photo of the lodge and, like Liz Lemon, I said silently to myself "I want to go to there” and pointed at the photo. Years later we find ourselves driving up the dirt road (in my experience the longer the driveway the more spectacular the end will be) kicking up dirt and making sure the convertible top was up.
We arrive at the lodge where staff are waiting for us and somehow, somewhere our bags are whisked off to our rooms and we are ushered into the "Great Room” (below) which is the breathtaking lobby where we all proceed to pick up our jaws from the floor and use them to help sip a glass of bubbly while waiting.
There is a suspended fireplace to warm you during winter (although the weather currently is absolutely perfect and we couldn’t have asked for better) and an array of comfortable looking lounges and chairs to choose from. There are recycled timbers and white limestone floors and outside there is an infinity pool.
There are 21 rooms at Southern Ocean Lodge and they’re all facing the ocean. The tariff includes all meals, mini bars and selected experiences. You can help yourself to drinks and the bar and mix up your own cocktail or pour your own wine (from an excellent selection) or have them pour it for you. Owned by the Baillie family, they bought it from the previous owner who sold it to them on the proviso that the land was to be used.
In the contract, he stipulated that if the land wasn’t developed over the next 10 years, he was able to buy it back from them at the price at which he sold it. They developed it to the lodge it is today with South Australian architect Max Pritchard and the brief was to have as little visual impact as possible so the lodge is completely unseen from the road.
They have only developed 1 per cent of the land and have donated the rest to the National Parks who look after it...
Included in the rate is a four course dinner with matching wine and the chef Tim Bourke is formerly of Jasper’s in Hunter’s Hill. Service is deferential and friendly. The white wine served is a 2010 False Cape "Silver Mermaid” sauvignon blanc from Kangaroo Island, the red is a 2010 Tscharke "Only Son” Tempranillo from the Barossa Valley and the dessert wine is a 2007 Bethany Late Harvest Riesling from Barossa.
At the lodge, 99.9 per cent of the food and beverages are local to Kangaroo Island or South Australia, the only exception being the bottled sparkling mineral water and branded spirits. The produce featured on the menu highlights their surrounding producers as much as possible and a list of the main suppliers sits opposite the daily changing menu. The locally caught mulloway (below) is a lovely, silky textured fish ... and it is highlighted and perfectly seasoned with salt, black pepper, chives, lemon and a local olive oil said to be from ancient wild olive groves on the island.
The agnolotti, house made silky pasta filled with light, whipped goat’s cheese, nubbly almonds and a sweet raisin puree in judicious amount finished with brown butter is superb. The nuttiness of the butter is enhanced by the other ingredients and I’m glad I still had some roll left for the butter!
Steamed locally farmed marron tail, marron cream, red leaves and vegetables, grapes
The steamed locally farmed marron tail, with marron cream, red leaves and vegetables, grapes, is so pretty in execution. Now I’m not a huge raddichio person but it’s sweet here and perfectly balanced with the marron oil infused cream, tender marron meat, pickled red onion and halved grapes.
Another last meal dish is the pan roasted fillet of murray cod, so soft and delicate. It is paired with a char grilled fleshy white leek which is soft, savoury and aromatic, small mouthfuls of parmesan gnocchi and a smooth cauliflower puree. Everything is so perfectly balanced you really don’t want this dish to end.
Next is confit belly of Feurlieu Berkshire pork, roasted fillet, crispy cheek, wild fennel, apple, parsnip. Although I love pork belly, this was good but we definitely preferred the fish over it. There were two small medallions of soft roasted fillet, a rectangle of confit pork belly which was two mouthfuls of bliss with its crunchy top, a breaded crispy cheek for contrast and some wild fennel, apple and parsnip and a black pudding crumbs.
The lemon thyme cream cigar had a thin, crispy pastry shell that reminded me of nutty, buttery baklava and a lemon thyme. The green apple sorbet was puckeringly tart and refreshing and the lemon thyme crumble was buttery like lemon accented shortbread with little flecks of green lemon thyme leaves.
I try a little of the four cheeses, an Udder Delights "Adelaide hills” camembert, an Island Pure "Cygnet”, and there are also two Woodside Cheese Wright’s cheeses, an "Edith’s” cheese and a "Pompeii". All four have a good range of textures and flavours.
As much as we enjoy the company, I am just dreaming of the egg bath and can’t wait to get back to the room to relax. When we return to our room, turn down has been performed and the fire in the centre of the coffee table has been lit, their signature essential oil is burning and there a jar of Kangaroo Island ligurian bee honey on the bed. I choose the lavender milk bath and soak away before collapsing into bed...
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