The Royal Croquet Club, held in Victoria Square, is one of the largest Adelaide Fringe Festival hubs boasting performance venues, pop-up food vendors, temporary bars and plenty of non-stop entertainment. Adelaide Food Central and other fellow ‘foodies’ were invited to an exclusive tasting of the Royal Croquet Club’s gustatory offerings, with the night aptly titled ‘A taste of the Royal Croquet Club’.
Seated in the Pit House’s rustic-themed ‘Pit Yard’ with its delicious meat aromas wafting past we eagerly awaited our eleven course Royal Croquet Club ‘degustation’, which showcased a number of current Adelaide eateries including Street ADL, Gin Long Canteen, Penny University and Naya, coupled with the return of some of past years pop-up eateries with the likes of Mangia, Mangia! and Jamaican Me Crazy.
First up was the Naanizza (aka naan pizza) from Naya consisting of toasted naan bread topped with chicken tikka, melted cheese and butter chicken sauce. It was a colourful and delicious fusion between a curry and a pizza. I was surprised as to how well such a combination worked. The naan was perfectly toasted and held up well to the butter chicken sauce, whilst the coriander added a touch of freshness to this ‘pizza’.
Next up was the Fire Pit Pumpkin with spiced macadamia, wattleseed chèvre and crispy saltbush from Street ADL. Who knew a vegetarian dish could be oh-so-tasty! I could have easily eaten an entire pumpkin like this. I loved the spicy hit from the macadamia nuts, which was well balanced by the creamy goat’s cheese (chèvre), but even more so I loved the crispy saltbush leaves; a unique textural element that complemented the soft cooked pumpkin. For the more carnivorous among us the Street ADL pop-up also offers a Fried Pork Burger, a Hop Dog and Pork Dog.
Out next was one of the better presented dishes on the night, Jamaican Me Crazy’s Jerk Chicken with marinated boneless jerk chicken, rice, Haitian slaw and chipotle dressing. The chicken maintained its juiciness on the inside whilst having a wonderfully charred exterior which provided a subtle smoky flavour.
Following on were three fresh salads from Penny University and Gin Long Canteen. I found the Brown Rice Salad from Penny University a tad bland in texture and flavour, however, the Quinoa Salad was scrumptious with the corn kernels and black beans adding a nice textural element. Nonetheless the salads from Penny University along with Smoothies and Coconut Water Quenchers from Plantation Juice Co, who share a stall with Penny University, are great alternatives for vegetarians and the health conscious. The Seafood Glass Noodle Salad from Gin Long Canteen was a big hit at the table with its refreshing flavours. The salad had a good ratio of seafood to noodles and a lovely chilli kick that lingered on the palate.
We also tried a Combination Bánh Mì from Bánh Mì Vietnamese Rolls. The baguette roll was crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside and was packed with a decent amount of meat and fresh vegetables.
Michael Weldon, who works with the Little Miss Group in Adelaide writing menus and overseeing the food at Little Miss Dive Shop and Crab Shack, is also at the helm of Doc’s Diner at the Royal Croquet Club, which offers an American-inspired menu of burgers and hot dogs. We tasted the Fish n Chips from the ‘Big Kids’ menu. The fish was coated in a crispy golden batter and the chips had just the right amount of saltines and crunch. I was ready to order a cone of chips just to myself!
The Pit House was next in line to wow us… and wow us they did! The Pit House has a menu devoted to items cooked over a giant fire pit. The Pit House’s Salmon-on-its-back and Smoked Tomato Salad was the standout Royal Croquet Club dish for me. Although I may be a touch biased given that salmon is my new found love. The salmon was perfectly cooked and flaked apart with minimal effort. I absolutely love, love, loved the crispy, salty, charred salmon skin! The salad reminded me of a Caesar salad with a twist and a delicious twist at that!
The last savoury item for the night was the Paella with chicken, vegetables, mussels, saffron, lemon and herbs from Comida Catering Company. The rice was well cooked; however, I would have liked to have seen more meat and seafood in our serve.
With our pants well and truly bursting at the seams it was finally time for dessert. Mangia, Mangia!, an Andre’s Cucina project, served up a simple yet delicious sugary delight in the form of a Zeppole with vanilla gelato, choc ganache and roast almonds. I was left wanting more! The Italian menu at Mangia, Mangia! also offers some savoury alternatives (although who says you can’t have dessert for dinner) with House-made Gnocchi with Lamb Ragu, Polenta Chips and Paninis. Whilst Scroll Ice Cream, the latest ice cream craze to hit the streets of Adelaide, showcased some of their most popular flavours; the Nutter Butter, a decadent blend of crunchy peanut butter and Nutella and my personal favourite, the Pav-Lover featuring chopped fresh strawberries and meringue.
To round out the evening and in keeping with the food theme we were treated to a preview of the hilarious Steve ‘Woko’ Jackson’s Half Naked Chef – Burnt to a Crisp! show, one of the many performances you can catch at the Royal Croquet Club.
What was noticeable by the end of the feast was the diverse range of cuisines from around the world that was on offer at the Royal Croquet Club this year. There really is something for everyone with many of the vendors offering tasty vegetarian options and healthier choices which are a far cry from the typical grease-laden fast food you come to expect from festival events. Make sure you visit the Royal Croquet Club, which runs from 12th February to 14th March, to enjoy the laid-back festival vibe along with some flavoursome festival eats and drinks.
Adelaide Food Central would like to thank all the pop-up food vendors and crew at the Royal Croquet Club for their generous hospitality and culinary delights on the night. All food and drinks were provided free of charge.
Words by Kelly Betterman
WHERE: Victoria Square, Adelaide