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Published June 19th 2016
Tinker around Tea Tree Gully
Next time you decide to go for a drive with the intention of venturing into the Adelaide Hills, have you thought of planning your route via North East Road and Tea Tree Gully? Tea Tree Gully is worth a stop in its own right to explore some of the historic buildings and perhaps have some lunch or refreshment.
Located in the north-eastern suburbs nestled in the foothills of the Mount Lofty Ranges, Tea Tree Gully is approximately a 30 minute drive from Adelaide CBD and is an attractive area surrounded by numerous species of trees, including the one of which the suburb is named - the Tea Tree. Tea Tree Gully was originally called Steventon, after a prominent land holder in the area, John Stevens and was later changed to its current name after the steep gully which marks the entrance into the Adelaide Hills. The gully had permanent fresh water springs which promoted the growth of tea trees in the area.
Set in an historic sandstone building dating from the 1850's, Ruby Raja Restaurant, operating since 2000, offers Indian cuisine spread over 4 multi-level dining rooms and is open for lunch on Thursdays and Fridays between 12 Noon and 2.30 pm as well as dinner from Tuesdays to Sundays, opening at 5.30 pm.
The cuisine offers the full range of what India is renowned for, from Tandoori Chicken, to Tikka Masala to Beef Vindaloo accompanied by the infamous Naan bread and steamed rice or Pilau.
Prices range for mains from $21 to $26 per person and they also offer banquets for two or four people, with two costing $32 per person for 4 courses and for four, $39 per person.
Whilst in the mood for Asian cuisine, Mangosteen also on North East Road, can be described as a blend of Thai, Cambodian, Vietnamese as well as Chinese fare and has been operating since 2014.
The menu really gets the gastric juices flowing and offers a surprising diverse range of dishes including their signature cold rolls consisting of rice paper with prawns, roast chicken, vermicelli and fresh herbs accompanied by a Kos Kong sauce. Mains range from $17 through to $21 per person, good value in my book.
Like the Ruby Raja, Mangosteen offer a banquet option on their menu and for minimum of 2 people the cost will be $34 per person for 3 courses.
If it is more pub fare you are looking for, maybe give The Gully a go, formerly known as the Tea Tree Gully Hotel, established since 1854 and given a massive makeover several years ago.
Recently acknowledged in 2015 as Australia's Best Beer Garden, the Gully certainly provides several comfortable spaces within its complex for dining or simply catching up with friends or family for a quiet drink. One of the highlights at The Gully is the Harvest menu on offer, which boasts the very best local and seasonal produce available including Atlantic Salmon and Kangaroo Fillet. However if you want the more traditional pub fare, then you won't be disappointed.
Options are available for dining in the Dining Room, Front Bar or in the Beer Garden and prices for mains range from $18 to $29 per person in the Bistro and $17 to $30 in the Garden. Seniors Meals are also available from Mondays to Fridays and mains will set you back between $12 and $15 per person - a real bargain! The Gully also caters for the kids with a good Kids menu with mains accompanied by a free soft drink and sundae.
A slice of good old British pub atmosphere complete with old red phone box greets you as you arrive at the historic Fox & Firkin, housed in an former Flour Mill dating from 1853 and believed to be one of Tea Tree Gully's oldest historic buildings. If you are into beers, there are a great selection of UK beers on tap and dining options are either inside or outside in the beer garden.
A good selection of mains range from $17 to $22 per person or for seafood platters, $28 per person and grazing plate to share, $37.
I was fascinated when I looked at the dessert menu and noticed they have a homemade Chocolate Guinness Cake served with Bailey's sauce and Vanilla Icecream. Didn't try but on my bucket list at some stage!
Incidentally every Saturday night the Fox and Firkin offer live acoustic music and an open mic night once a month on a Sunday evening.
After having your fill of good food and drink in the area, you may wish to inject a bit of history into your veins by a visit to the Tea Tree Gully Heritage Museum, which is open on the third Sunday of each month from 1 pm to 4 pm. On the site of the Old Highercombe Hotel, built in 1854, the museum offers a good collection of history from the Tea Tree Gully area display over two floors, including a Reading Room, Nursery, Dining Room, Bedrooms, Kitchen, Pioneer Room and a large Main Room as well as a Bar/Post Office, the latter room used as the Tea Tree Gully Post Office from 1880 right up to 1963.
Venturing outside in the grounds you will find the display pavilions offering a slice of what life would have been like in early colonial days in the area, including a replica of "Clarrie's Shed" filled with eight exhibits entitled "From Slab Hut to Food Bowl - Life in early Steventon". There are also pavilions which showcase the wine industry as well as local agriculture, a blacksmith shop and some good examples of local forms of transport.
Apart from a post office, the building housing the museum was also at one time used as a school, a hotel, a library and council office, as well as a private residence.
The cost to visit is only $5 per person or $4 concession and children under 16, free. Devonshire teas can also be purchased for an additional $5 per person.
Haines Memorial Park adjacent to North East Road in Tea Tree Gully resembles the typical "village green" layout and really enhances and complements the historic buildings surrounding the park.
The park was named after William Haines, a pioneer of the Tea Tree Gully district and was created in 1909 coinciding with Arbor Day and symbolically the first tree was planted in the park on that day. Featuring a grand rotunda in the middle, the park is ideal for individuals and families to wander around, making the most of the spacious surroundings.
One of the historic items within the park is the drinking fountain also erected in 1909 with the park itself utilised in the early days by travelling shows and circuses. However the park was left in a bad state following these visits and posed a health threat to the village. Hence the local council took over control of the park and converted it to resemble that of an English village green, a feature that became quite common in a lot of South Australian towns.
A whole range of exotic trees including English Oaks and Plane Trees were planted by children along Perseverance Road nearby.
The Arch of Remembrance was built to commemorate those who served both during World War One and Two and was opened in 1950. A great interpretation exists on various plaques around the war memorial describing the contribution by the local community to numerous wars fought by Australians.
The memorial garden is quite pleasant to wander through and on Anzac Day of each year, the area acts as the focus for commemoration ceremonies and the laying of relevant wreaths.
I found Tea Tree Gully a worth-while diversion and a great introduction to exploring further into the Adelaide Hills.