A team of established local restaurant identities are on to a winner with Herringbone.
Finding an established venue was a win for the team at Herringbone (head chef Quentin Whittle and manager Paul Tripodi; formerly of Stone’s Throw and Ben McLeod; Peel St Restaurant). Previously occupied by the Halifax Street stalwart Panacea, the interior has been treated to a coat of white paint and basic refurbishment that features namesake tiles wrapped around the bar and kitchen. I’m pleased that they ditched the signature Panacea chairs; these were an unfortunate remnant of the early noughties when high-gloss black was, well, the new black. It’s classic blonde timber Bentwood chairs for Herringbone, matched to clean lines of timber tables and concrete floors that are framed by a rear window overlooking the enclosed patio with a weeping tree at its centre. My date and I muse over less-fortunate trees that have been lost in similar design escapades but are pleased to see that this internal courtyard features a removable canvas roof.
Our attention turns back to the table and the dish that arrives within minutes of ordering. A sign that after only four short months the kitchen is in good order. White beans are blended into a puree that is enjoyably seasoned and topped with slightly charred, crispy and utterly delightful fried brussels sprouts that have me forgetting childhood traumas caused by this innocent little vegetable. Slivers of toasted garlic have our attention and both are combined with unblended white beans for a little more texture. A light pesto added to the mix has us greedily piling this tasty fare on top of crunchy fried bread and leads to polite yet insincere conversation about who is taking the last bite. (It’s me, of course; I’m getting the bill.)
We take a slight risk with our next selection, Herringbone’s bollito misto, but it wins our hearts after the first bite. Heart also happens to be one of the ingredients in this terrine version of a traditionally boiled meat dish, forcing my date to question her offal ethics. A textural combination of miscellaneous meats not only changes minds, but also forms a delicious blend that is nicely balanced with sweetened mustard fruits (a fancier version of glazed fruits) and a piquant salsa verde. A stack of pickled cucumber adds a third option to combine with the terrine, making each bite a new and surprising, albeit very meaty, flavour-filled adventure.
A generous plate piled high with a sectioned roasted chicken arrives next. It’s difficult to describe the perfection of the crispy skin and tender flesh but the lip-smacking crunch is satisfying to say the least. Poulet pieces swim in a light-coloured gravy captured during the cooking process, adding another layer of flavour to this already delicious dish. Red harissa (usually poured over, but requested on the side) offers heat and another dimension. Braised cabbage looks and tastes much better than aforementioned childhood history (and related trauma) dictates. Chinese celery leaves do look and taste the same as regular celery leaves but I’m just as happy to appreciate the provenance of this ingredient as I am the free-range poultry claiming hero status in this five-star dish.
The grand finale is as unanticipated as it is divine: toasted fennel seeds are blended into a house-made ice cream that together form an absolute delight. As someone who adds fennel to any dish that will allow, this dessert has me regretting sharing with my date. Crunchy pieces of biscotti might be gingerbread but it could be the wondrously zingy citrus curd and lightly sweet caramelised peach confusing every one of my dessert senses. Candied citrus peel adds a decent bittersweet punch, topped only by the sprigs of fennel thrown on top for good measure.
Topping this menu might be a difficult feat but the wine list manages it. South Australia’s regions feature heavily and Herringbone sure does aim to impress, with local favourites such as Deviation Road’s Altair Rose sparkling, Ochota Barrels’ Gewürztraminer or Murdoch Hill’s The Tilbury Chardonnay sure to match any combination of dishes from the menu. Or desserts, for that matter.
72 Halifax Street
Tuesdays: 5.30pm to late; Wednesdays to Fridays: 9am to late; Saturdays: 5.30pm to late