Current Issue #487

Restaurant Review:
The Guardsman

Sia Duff

Located in the Adelaide Railway Station, The Guardsman is probably seen by more people than any other restaurant in the state. And it wants to provide something for all of them.

For years, regular commuters have barely noticed the 1928 Railway Station building, but ongoing restoration works are drawing attention to its grandness. No project is more eye-catching than The Guardsman, which literally sparkles from its three year, $6 million refit. On entering, my eyes are instantly drawn to the central bar with enough gleaming brass to furnish a New Orleans first line.

It’s a fitting centrepiece, and it houses one of the most parochial drinks lists in the city. The 20 beer taps are all dedicated to local brews, while the wines and the majority of the spirits are also drawn from across South Australia.

I’m surprised to see there’s even an agave spirit made at Mount Compass. Looking over the list gives me plenty of time to admire the original jarrah floorboards and checkerboard tiles before I settle on Prancing Pony’s locally brewed version of the Purity session IPA. Light and zingy with more than a hint of grapefruit it temporarily transports me to the Hills in summer as I head to a plush green booth for two with a mustard stripe.

Sia Duff

Despite the opulent furnishings, my eyes are continually drawn against my will to the incongruous tv screens against the back wall. The fans watching the footy there have an enviable selection of local craft beer, but the juxtaposition undercuts the grandeur of the venue somewhat.

The menu is more cohesive, marrying pub classics with a gourmet flourish and a few more speculative dishes, so there really is something for everyone.

Fittingly, for a restaurant near what was once the terminus for trains from all over the state, it reads like a paean to South Australian produce. Port Lincoln sardines, Kangaroo Island garlic, Limestone Coast beef and Riverland lemon are all namechecked on the roll call of regions.

Eyre Peninsula seafood is particularly well represented, and on a cold night I can’t go past the Kinkawooka mussels.

As soon as I take the lid off the pot I’m engulfed in a cloud of garlic-scented steam that tells me I made the right decision. The rich, creamy white wine sauce has some celery and onion, parsley for freshness and a hint of ocean jus from the plump bivalves. It’s perfect, and the toasted Turkish bread alongside it is put to good use soaking up the sauce.

Elsewhere, the menu accompanies overwhelmingly South Australian touches with influences from further afield. Even so, I’m a little surprised when the shoulder of lamb arrives in a balti dish with a mild curry gravy.

Topped with a generous garnish of saffron threads, it’s richly spiced without being overly spicy. Fortunately, the garam combines harmoniously with the lamb, which still has just enough fat to be succulent, and the texture is superb. It’s soft enough to be pulled apart with tongs and the meat and accompaniments are generous.

Sia Duff

There are bowls of refreshing mint and yoghurt dip, grainy hummus and a sharp pickle. These, together with the plain couscous topped with pomegranate seeds and almond flakes, place this dish somewhere between India and the Middle East. The Fattoush salad pushes it towards the latter, with finely sliced radish and onion, a garden of herbs and toasted pieces of flatbread so large I initially mistake them for slices of haloumi.

The serving sizes are undoubtedly of the crowd-pleasing variety, and I soon realise that if I want to try dessert I’m going to have to ask for a takeaway box.

Then another. Finally there’s enough room on the table for The Guardsman’s take on a Fruchoc.

Atop the dark chocolate covered dome is a shard of meringue sprinkled with freeze-dried raspberry and lime zest. It tastes exactly like another confectionery aisle staple, but I’m pretty sure Fruit Tingles aren’t South Australian. The remaining elements are a looser approximation – an upper layer of vanilla custard and peach is more trifle than Fruchoc – but the decadent chocolate mousse beneath is dense without being overly sweet and complements the apricot base perfectly.

As I finish, the adjacent concourse starts to fill up with dejected Crows fans getting ready to depart as one. I’m glad I’ve chosen a venue where it’s easy to pick a local winner.

The Guardsman
Adelaide Railway Station

Alexis Buxton-Collins

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