The Leigh Street Wine Room
The Leigh Street Wine Room
Leigh Street Adelaide South Australia 5000
leighstreetwineroom.com – reservations are highly recommended and can be made from their web site
phone 0499555461 [infrequently answered!!!]
Owners Nathan & Sali Sasi
Chef Nathan Sasi
Sommelier Shaun Lau
open Tuesday to Thursday 4.00 pm – late, Friday and Saturday 12 noon – late, Sunday 3.00 pm – 10.00 pm other times by prior arrangement
generalisations to be fair, being so utterly disillusioned with all but a handful of Adelaide dining establishments, the Leigh Street Wine Room had been put to one side in the expectation that it would be just another menu that appeared to have been written by a single hand, perhaps with very minor adjustments. At first glance of the menu it appeared ominously so. Olives, house cured meats, sandwich, chicken liver parfait, sashimi are depressingly on just about every menu of similar venues in Adelaide. How well they are done is of course the difference, but except for the sashimi and the sandwich we were able to avoid every one of these items for something less common and very delicious, in fact some of the best food we have eaten in Adelaide for quite some time.
Plus, had we known the wine list was purported to be in the majority ‘all natural wines’ we would probably never have tried. Our level of understanding of ‘all natural wines’ from those that we have tasted has been underwhelming [more about the wine list follows at the end].
small observations Leigh Street Wine Room is one of the very few restaurant/bars where there is no salt and pepper on the table and you don’t need it….everything was perfectly seasoned for our palates but maybe not for Nordic or Chinese diners where salt tolerance is high. But that is a different argument and I have always felt that a chef has the right to come out and slap anyone who reaches for the salt and pepper before tasting their food. One of my pet hates is perpetuated… five or three pieces to share…..multiples of two is the proper math so you don’t have to cut one piece in half or give your share up, all the while wishing, you didn’t feel the need to be so selfless.
Generalised moaning over, there’s much to celebrate about the blissful food of chef owner Nathan Susi. First bread just arrives. Later there was a feeling of guilt that we had consumed so much of the divine Nolans Road organic EVO… we should have been charged extra! Having judged olive oil with Olives South Australia for fifteen plus years there are some benchmarks. This exquisite oil is just another fantastic oil probably not submitted for judging because the bottle displayed no medals. Minimum silver, probably gold. If you are looking for an excellent Extra Virgin grab a bottle of this. Classed as Robust it bears none of the often, unpleasant bitterness, feisty greenness or lack of balance of some robust oils. Perfectly balanced with a long fresh fruity mildly citrus end palate it was wonderful.
So, we’re already feeling pretty happy when our sashimi arrives and my dining companion groans knowing I am going to start bitching about the five pieces instead of six….Kingfish sashimi, Harissa, Finger Lime … 21. Beautifully balanced the harissa had been processed to a firmish smooth sauce consistency and had the perfect balance of heat not to kill the delicate flavours of the kingfish and then the intriguing finger lime caviar with its slightly bitter pithy lime taste and crunchy explosion in the mouth adding an extra dimension to the dish. Having resisted sticking my fork into my dining companion’s hand and slyly grabbing the fifth piece she graciously gave it up.
pictured left….Kingfish sashimi, Harissa, Finger Lime
Next came the sandwich King George Whiting Sandwich, Butter Lettuce, Hot Sauce…18 To be honest there are a few of these around town and none of them really rock my boat. Partly it is the bread which always seems like supermarket squishy white with crusts removed and whilst it was quite tasty, unlike my companion who ooed and aahed, I thought it was unremarkable. The menu read butter lettuce but it was shredded so the silken softness and distinct taste of soil grown butter lettuce was lost and more of a bite might have been expected for hot sauce. The whiting, more likely weedy whiting than King George, was nicely crumbed and fried in clean oil. Fresh King George is not just hard to come by, but so expensive an $18 total price would seem too cheap. My companion loved this dish and I would have loved it more without the bread, just a couple of soil grown butter lettuce leaves and some tarragon mayonnaise.
above….Roasted Abrolhos Scallop, Celeriac Puree, Raising Dressing
right….Pigs Head Fritti, Zuni Style Pickles
It is quite a brave chef in South Australia who puts Sydney Rock oysters on their menu. We did not order oysters but Clyde River Oyster, Chardonnay & Pepper Berry Dressing…5 ea could be tempting when we next visit. They are in season unlike South Australian oysters which will most likely not come back into season until the end of March early April 2020. Equally the Albrolhos scallops only recently available again on the open market. Roasted Abrolhos Scallop, Celeriac Puree, Raising Dressing …7 ea were stunning with neither the celeriac puree or the raisin dressing overriding the very delicate flavour of the scallop. Before you whinge about the price they are an expensive product and were handled perfectly.
Next came Pigs Head Fritti, Zuni Style Pickles…12 These took me back to Mistress Augustine’s days where we often served French style half a pigs head until the ears became more valuable and the rest often went to pet food. You could only buy the heads without ears and it takes a seasoned diner to cope with an animal so clearly exposed on the plate. They looked so mutilated without the ears we just had to stop. Sasi’s fritters were terrific, little crumbed and fried pressed cubes with enough pickles and ‘praise be’ enough mayonnaise that we didn’t need to fight over it. They were very good but for my taste it was more like pressed confit pig’s cheek than pig’s head and they were missing some finely minced gelatinous skin and fat mixed back through….I appreciate not to everyone’s taste and would still order them again.
Having tried several recipes for ricotta gnocchi and decided they were more texture than taste and if gnocchi were going to be made it would be potato gnocchi where the taste of the potato, when they are good, stays at the front. Sheeps Milk Ricotta Dumplings, Pecorino, Black Pepper…22 offered a promise of a bit more flavour and delivered a subtle milky sweetness a delicate flavour and excellent texture that was not overridden by the simplicity and almost blandness of the accompanying juices. Seven instead of six or eight, but by this time we had eaten quite a lot of food and can’t remember who got the odd one.
Having been sat in a position to watch the room A Selection of Cured Meats Made in House…22 and Mixed Leaves & Herb Salad, Jauma Wine Dressing…8 and Potato Scallops, Sour Cream, Chive…8 seemed to be going to almost every second couple at the bar. Hardly a big enough spend to keep them in business and on top of that these diners were missing out on some of the best food around town at the moment. Whilst we did not have a salad we did have the potato scallops [potato fritters for South Australians] they were great and such a great way of doing potatoes where you don’t get that nasty pre-cooked taste. Eight dollars for salad and potato scallops is too cheap both should be around the eleven to twelve mark, especially if they are so popular and in the instance of the potato cakes dish very filling, substantially sized cakes.
above….Sheeps Milk Ricotta Dumplings, Pecorino, Black Pepper
So, we had come to the end of the food we had ordered and decided we were up for a little more. Potato Scallops, Sour Cream, Chive…8 three and fought over to the last crumb. My companion screwed up her nose to the Grilled Beef Tongue, Horseradish, Green Sauce…13 and still not completely trusting this newly found chef after having had a near death experience with grilled tongue in Adelaide it was easily passed by. Having at the end of the meal developed a level of trust in Sasi’s cooking if it’s on the menu next time I’ll order it. I asked for the Rigatoni, Tripe & Sweetbread Ragu, Mint…22 without the pasta and was told by the waitress that she would have to ask chef. On return I was told the chef wouldn’t do it. The answer made me laugh because forty years ago I used to be a chef like that with my head stuck up my arse until I finally realised it wasn’t about me. Very often in a couple one is finicky and the other eats anything put in front of them. These small and occasional compromises meant these diners came with me as I learned more and more about cooking to the point that brains and our offal roll [no bread, wrapped in crepinette five types of offal] were among our best-selling dishes. The ragu was tasty enough but it was only the tripe that was actually discernible, and it would have been nice to have a few small pieces of sweetbread as well.
We did not have cheese or dessert. When we return, we will try and resist some repetitions if they are still on the menu and definitely be looking at more of the menu and dessert.
left….bread just arrived..of course the cost is factored in but it’s a nice touch
It is very rare to find a wine list where there is nothing to recognise as having been tasted before. Unfortunately, no Champagne [French from Champagne] on a list always puts me offside. It’s one of my passions and I love nothing better than trying a glass of something I haven’t tasted before. A glass of sparkling from the Loire had to suffice.
My companion chose to have a gin and tonic with orange. The gin was the Never Never Distilling Co. recently highly awarded and the tonic was Tonic No8 by StrangeLove which is similar to Fever Tree so widely available now it has become common, but with a slightly finer effervescent bead. The focus is definitely on wine but if you serve spirits and charge top dollar a shitty vegemite glass and a couple of suspect orange chunks is pretty disappointing. We had a go last night with the same gin, filtered water ice and Fever Tree Mediterranean tonic with a long strip of pithy orange rind where you get plenty of the oil from the rind and a single orange segment which was good, but it was with lime rind, single lime segment and a handful of crushed soil grown basil that won the prize.
above….restaurant has quality wine stemware
I support any establishment that invests so much time and money in writing and storing such an extensive list, but the lack of wine knowledge on the floor was very disappointing. Luckily this is my dining companion, Alex Burridge’s area of expertise with a wine making degree and particularly knowledgeable about French Burgundies and French wines in general. Her feedback is encompassed in the descriptions below. Mind you her first comments on learning the wine list was 100% ‘natural’ was “gee I hope they aren’t all cloudy and orange”, and “I regard all wine as natural”. Anyway she warmed to the very eclectic list with many hard to source wines that aren’t often seen around town. Clearly someone had taken care to curate the selections, the end result being described by Alex as somewhat offbeat but fascinating.
If you want to write a list like this and sell them, you need a sommelier and assistant sommelier who intimately knows the list and one of whom is on the floor at all times. This is something that is promised on their web site’s FAQ along with the fact they do not accept BYO. The wine list at the Leigh Street Wine Room is not a casual list with some 400+ wine and the financial investment must be huge…..without the right person on the floor repeated returns to have conversations at the bar meant our wine selection took way too long.
The Austrians are well represented on Leigh St’s list. We have both been lucky enough to try some incredible Austrian and German Rieslings. In the German selection there is a standout 1947 Joh Jos Prum [my birth year] at forty years old and more recently picked at random from many we have been lucky enough to taste. Also enticing were 2003 Weingut Max Ferd. Richter, a 2003 Graacher Himmelreich Riesling Kabinett and Clos Ste Hune.
The benchmark is high and trying something completely unknown was hard. We settled on the 2017 Von Hovel Saar Riesling Feinherb which was loaded with mouth dripping acid with balancing residual sugar, and attractive floral overtones and was excellent for its price point, naturally not quite having the unflinching elegance of some of the other Germans and Austrians we have tried.
It did however, go very well with the fried food in our menu choices and we suspect that if we are to enjoy Sasi’s food we are going to be pushed more and more out of our comfort zones. Publishing their extensive wine list on their web site would be a really good idea because it would allow some research before coming to the restaurant prepared.
Having been open for five months service should have been better, had more knowledge, been less familiar and not tried to bluff their way through wines they clearly didn’t have a clue about. The best floor staff are those with a kind of multiple personality disorder who get that each table is different and are smart [or mad] enough to be able to perfectly pitch to every table.
The Leigh Street Wine Room is a great addition to Adelaide dinning. It is possible to hope that with a little more time and confidence chef Sasi will ditch some of the menu items that are commonly found in Adelaide from his menu and replace them with delectable morsels of his own creation.
No annoyingly unidentifiable foam, miniscule dots or pin head cubes of anything. Good robust flavours and generous portions…we can’t wait to go back!
diner advice if you’re going for a glass of wine and a snack don’t take up the seat for hours on end or you’ll send them broke. Reservations for five plus are forced to take their ‘chef’s menu $75’ which I get for ten or more but five, when I suspect their average head food spend is not much more than $30 per diner is a bit of an ask.
Take a jacket because it’s freezing in the restaurant. We thought it might have been something to do with the fact that their wine is stored on one wall [not ideal] but we were told no. We were also told no when we asked for it to be a bit warmer. Understanding that if a dining room is comfortable for diners it is sweltering for floor staff doesn’t really make the no answer any more palatable. Take a jacket!