Red Ochre Barrel and Grill (formerly known as Red Ochre Grill) is co-located with River Café in the wonderful riverboat style building by the Torrens Weir. Being on the second floor, it commands a view along the Torrens Lake to the Adelaide Convention Centre that will always be unique. The restaurant was the first in Australia to pioneer native ingredients in a fine dining setting. Now recently refreshed and refurbished, it's celebrating 20 years as one of the most continuously innovative restaurants in the country.
Torrens Lake at night from Red Ochre Barrel and Grill
Red Ochre Barrel and Grill is a modern Australian fine dining experience that focuses on native Australian ingredients like kangaroo, lemon myrtle and quandong, amongst others. The team presents these ingredients in a wide array of modern dishes ranging from kataifi wrapped tiger prawn, Streaky Bay oysters with a range of toppings/garnishes, squid ink linguine, tempura crocodile, grilled kangaroo loin and many more.
This may sound a little 'feral' to some but make no mistake, this is a fine dining experience from start to finish. The front of house staff are courteous and friendly. While they are efficient, you won't be made to feel rushed out the door so they can sell another table. They are approachable and knowledgeable; do you remember the last time a waiter actually waited for you to be seated before placing the napkin on your lap and offering you something to drink before leaving you? Or the last time someone explained what was on the plate set before you? It's hard for me to remember the last time service was done so well and so unobtrusively and it should be considered a feather in Red Ochre's cap. Low lighting and floor to ceiling windows allow diners to feel relaxed and intimate while enjoying the lights of the city across the lake.
While the menu is definitely one for browsing and savouring while you decide, we opted for an adventure and went for the 'Feed Me' menu option. At $81 per person for five courses, this is an excellent way to be surprised and satiated by the best the restaurant has to offer on the night. As you'll see, it's plenty of food and a memorable experience.
Our starter plate consisted of a natural Streaky Bay oyster, a pulled pork croquette and a kataifi wrapped king prawn. All are tasty and complimentary morsels to begin your taste adventure. Those who appreciate oysters know that all the good ones go to restaurants like Red Ochre and this is no exception. The pork filling in the croquette is sumptuously rich and the coating is crisp. The kataifi prawn is delicately wrapped in crispy strands of pastry while the prawn inside is firm and juicy.
For entrée, we were served tempura crocodile and a squid dish. The crocodile is light, hot and crispy like all good tempura should be. How can I describe eating crocodile? In this dish, I'd say a dry white fish texture with a chicken-like taste. With its accompanying spicy mayo, ginger jelly, charred spring onion and pickled onion, this dish has almost all the tastes and all the textures on one plate, and boy is it a cracker! The squid with pork neck is another adventurous exploration into taste and texture that is definitely worth trying.
After a refreshing mid-meal lemon sorbet (how long has it been since you've had one of those?) the main course is served on a hot grill still filled with warm coals. For me, the kangaroo loin (done perfectly) outshines the beef fillet (also done perfectly rare), while the grilled prawns offer an insight into how seafood is done on the grill at Red Ochre. Perfectly cooked and served with lemon, the prawns are simply delicious. The grill comes with plenty of accompaniments like butter, verde, jus and pickled beetroot and onion so you can really make those grill flavours shine. The accompanying salad with crunchy pepitas and a spritely pepper leaf honey mustard dressing is the perfect side dish to balance out the rich flavours of the grill.
For dessert, the pavlova rolled in wattle seed, strawberry gum and macadamia crust is a refreshingly adventurous take on the classic. Sharp and tangy passion fruit sorbet battles for taste bud supremacy with the rich pavlova. The passion fruit wins.
Red Ochre Barrel and Grill takes wine very seriously and the curated wine list is fittingly dominated by superb South Australian wines. Everyone will find something but we stopped reading after 'Alicante Bouchet' as we always do. There's a huge range of craft beers and all the fine dining cocktails and spirits are there. Naturally, Red Ochre has infused native ingredients into a signature range of cocktails and we enjoyed our cheeky pre-dinner quandong cocktail.
Fine dining is a great way to make an occasion feel extra special and Red Ochre Barrel and Grill will not disappoint you. It's still a classic. Oh, and when you see the feed me menu at a restaurant like this, just go for it. Just to tease you, here's the menu. Remember, there are deals available for Red Ochre Bar and Grill to make the bill a little lighter if you have a bit of a search around the web.
Entry at Red Ochre Barrel and Grill and River Cafe