Under its old ownership, the Stag proudly flew a banner proclaiming it to be the worst vegetarian pub in Adelaide.
I never visited.
A new owner, and The Stag Hotel has been entirely reinvented. At the invitation of The Stag’s new fine dining restaurant, Vardon, and Zomato, I was given the opportunity to visit just 6 days after the doors swung open.
Rose, the marketing manager for The Stag, greeted us warmly and shared some exciting news.
Upstairs, a Moet et Chandon Champagne Bar has opened, serving Moet et Chandon, Veuve Clicquot, Dom Perignon, Krug and Dom Ruinart.
Restaurant Manager Tom Duggan had us immediately at ease, introducing the two wines for the evening, which are used for functions and not on the restaurant menu.
Eminently helpful, Tom brings a wine list for me to peruse.
Varied, interesting, and with a lot to tempt from the top end of the list. 1998 Dom Perignon anyone? Just a cool $1,250.
Inside the restaurant is Scandanavian in style, but with more warmth, from deep grey carpet, and dark brown leather booths.
It is bright thanks to a huge octagonal light well in the roof. If booths aren’t your style, there are also tables, including outdoors on Vardon Avenue, the restaurant’s name sake.
In a nice touch, the bar leaves on display the wines available by the glass, allowing you to take a closer look if you like.
On tap are premium imported beers, an Aussie one, as well as a local Hills Cider Company cider.
Dividing the booth area from the bar is an impressive perspex wine cellar.
Entrees are served, including the heirloom fruits and vegetables, served with celery seed and citrus dressing ($17.50).
Italian favourite Vitello Tonnato ($18.50) is raw beef (in Italy about 18 months old, but here in Australia usually veal), which is served with tuna mayonnaise.
Mains were served then, including a Baked loin of Ocean Trout ($32.50).
Guitar string pasta ($29.50) – I know it as Tajarin (tie-yar-reen) an egg yolk rich hand cut pasta from the North West Piedmont region of Italy. Here it is served with blue swimmer crab, lobster sauce, and bottarga.
My Beetroot Risotto ($25.50) is creamy with butter, but also made with grated beet, which is soft but still with a bit of bite. With less rice, it is fresher, lighter and not so carb-heavy.
Pistachios are perfectly roasted, and dusted with just a smudge of cumin, which you get little bursts of flavour from.
Really richly buttery and oniony Colcannon ($9), or Irish mashed potato, also has lovely pieces of kale in it.
Head Chef Camillo Crugnale, formerly of Assaggio, comes out to meet us, and to share his philosophy. He is so warm and friendly.
Desserts were served, including this Passionfruit and lemon curd tart ($13.50).
Served with moscato jellies, the Creme Fraiche Pannacotta ($15.50) was popular.
My dessert was the stunning Belgian Chocolate & Hazelnut Moelleux ($14.50). Served as a ring of flourless cake, it has a centre of chocolate sauce, and a crown of waving gold leaf.
Sweet cherry sauce creates Cherry Ripe flavours, and the dessert is topped off with a licorice like star anise ice cream.
But wait, there is a cherry on top. This one is filled with Kirsch, oh to have a bowl of these amazing, boozy cherries!
Introducing each dessert are two of the young chefs, encouraged by Camillo to share their perspective with us.
If you have any room left, the Italian style, dark and less sweet hot chocolate looked amazing, served with it’s little biscotti.
I simply cannot wait to return to have another taste of the Piedmont at home in Adelaide, in the form of tajarin pasta.
Each dish at Vardon, The Stag is a modern, fresh interpretation of the classics, cleverly seasonal, beautifully presented and delicious. Service was faultless. Go!
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