Current Issue #488

Restaurant Review: Acacia

Restaurant Review: Acacia

Picture-perfect new coastal eatery brings a stylish edge to dining in the West.

It has taken an eye for design and a little conceptual genius to pull the combination of Art Deco and seaside dining off, but Henley Beach’s newest addition Acacia has found its place as one of the coolest new venues in the area and secured its own stylish following of dedicated customers.

It’s a winning combination for an unlikely hospitality duo and their committed kitchen. Photographer Elissa Mercurio and partner Juan Londoño cut their teeth in a CBD based café co-working project that combined drinking, eating and working (aptly abbreviated to D.E.W) before heading out West to the shores of Adelaide’s favourite beachside locale to open Acacia just 12 months ago.

They’ve added something very special to the newest corner of Henley Square formally occupied by fish ‘n’ chip joints and that ramshackle bar that served oysters in shots of tequila, with other newcomers Melt Henley and Seasalt helping to generate a groundswell of sun seekers with taste.

In this relatively compact but well-designed space, Acacia pulls off restaurant quality food and service with customers spilling out onto the pavement for daily breakfast. It offers a more refined lunch and weekend dinner menu inspired by the seasons and features plenty of locally-sourced seafood infused with native flavours and ingredients.

Our first taste arrives accompanied by a smoldering pile of leaves, a little theatrical entrance that stimulates the senses. The dish showcases the freshest
of scallops, sliced and served cevice style, spread across the plate and artfully arranged with slivers of strawberries, lightly charred peas, radish and mint – all of these ingredients offer subtle flavours and silky textures. A pale pink foam resembles the crash of waves across the plate – more whimsical theatre. An effort to highlight the scallop doesn’t go unnoticed. This is a dreamy little dish with thoughtfully selected ingredients put together without too much fuss.

Head Chef Duane Tilka continues to showcase his culinary talent in the next dish, going the full 360 on flavour and offering a completely different point of view. Tuna carpaccio is accented with bold flavours and arrives with less theatre but plenty of punch. Easily the star of the day, the tuna itself is coated in lemon myrtle and splayed across the plate, topped with scattered roasted puffed rice, coriander and strands of Korean chilli that is less spicy than the regular kind but no less flavoursome. Garlic florets add a light bitterness, a taste turned on its head with a subsequent bite of blood orange. And then there’s the ponzu eggplant which provides a zingy interlude before washing the lot down with a glass of Unico Zelo’s Orange Wine, Esoterico – a winning combination.

The main hoorah is listed on the menu simply as duck breast and confit leg but this is, in fact, another taste sensation. It seems that citrus is a reoccurring theme in the dishes at Acacia and the whole orange puree takes this non-complying duck a l’orange to a whole new place. Piquant, tangy, zingy – whatever you call it, this provocative stuff needs to be bottled.

Full marks to the chef who managed to get so much caramelized flavour into usually bitter radicchio, too. The other puree on the plate is artichoke, providing a nice base with pops of colour and flavour from edamame beans, celery fronds, and what I think is a foraged weed. Weed or not, the slight bitterness rounds out the five taste-sense combination. Tender slices of duck breast are bettered only by the confit leg, shredded and piled beneath the salad.

There’s only one dessert on Acacia’s menu, another citrus winner in the form of a yogurt mousse with fennel granite, mandarin gel and thyme meringue, scattered with segments of fresh citrus. Fresh. Tart. Delicious. At first glance, Acacia might seem a little overdressed for the beach, but we can’t all survive on fish and chips, can we?

3/269 Seaview Rd
Henley Beach, South Australia, 5022

Mon – Thur 7 am – 4 pm
Fri – Sat 7 am – 11 pm
Sat – Sun 7am – 4pm
(08) 8221 6502

Photography by Sia Duff


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