We made a pit-stop at Port Elliot Bakery eager to sample some of the local offerings and warm up with a hot latte. I was intrigued by their enormous version of the German Bienenstich or Bee Sting Cake, a buttery brioche that derives its name from the glazing of honey onto the top of the cake just before baking. A textural delight, the moist cake is sliced into two, inch and half thick slices and stuffed with sweet, yellow custard, the top half crusted with crisp almond flakes, crunchy rolled oats, a delicate sprinkling coconut flakes (ubiquitous on most Australian desserts – it seems to be an obsession Down Under) and the glaze of honey that seals all the crispy, crunchy goodness into place. As you bite into it, snap, the contrasting textures are an absolute adventure for your mouth and the sweetness of the custard just right unlike the sickly sweet confectioners cream stuffed between the sugar doughnut cream-pie Kristina opted for.
Fairy lights faintly illuminating darkness welcomes you, rickety chairs and wooden benches surrounding stone hearths breathing bright fires warmed huddled groups. It seemed like we were entering a mysterious, secret world, the setting almost reminiscent of the movie set of End of Days were the few remnants of humanity gather around canisters and open fires, the mood almost solemn. The air of sobriety however is a mood that hovers between 6.30 pm and quarter past seven. After 7.30 the place is infiltrated by large groups armed with eski’s (drink coolers on wheels) since the place is BYO, offering only a house red and white and a raucous crowd takes over the joint. Upon arrival we walked straight into what I assumed was the kitchen, politely asking if I could enter eager to catch the pizza process in action. But in fact it is an ’open kitchen’ cum front office to place your orders, customers reading the menu that swirls around in colourful, artwork upon a blackboard above the wood-fire oven.
Usually I am fussy about seating outside, (ok, I have to admit I am fussy and uptight about most things when it comes to food) particularly when it is the onset of winter and 10 degrees C. But tucking my sweater over the palms of my hands and doubled over trying to retain optimum body warmth envisioning the pizza it felt like an adventure, having to earn my feed. We opted to go with the two courses, starter and main for $37 per head.
Out comes a anti-pasti platter of crusty sour-dough bread, roasted veggies: red peppers, carrot, green beans, Kalamata olives, three lumps of feta cheese, liquid gold – a luscious straw hued olive oil with a peppery kick, dukkah with pistachio hints and toasted almonds that were unlike anything I have tasted anywhere else – bursting with flavour.
Having cleared every morsel of the starter platter we sipped on house red taking the place in. Next up three succulent lamb koftas with a fresh mint-yoghurt (could have been punchier with more mint, but hey).
We decided to do one large and one small pizza. The large we did two ways, one half with generous torn basil, Italian herbs, buffalo mozzarella and the other half with fresh, tender king prawns, perfectly cooked squid legs and a single oyster. It came out on a unfolded cardboard box, no cutlery, no plates and we dug in, enjoyed it thoroughly and only realised the former were missing halfway through relishing the squares of pizza and wiping tomato sauce and crumbs from around our mouths. Sometimes going back to the basics makes for a real treat.