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Royal Family pub, Port Elliot

The year’s first Tuesday. Alex, Max and I are in one of my favourite beer gardens.

In each of the last two Septembers I’ve come down here to a townhouse overlooking Knight’s Beach for a writing retreat. After each big day of introspection and prose, I enjoy a late afternoon ale in this glorious pub.

The beer garden’s coastal and festive in that loosely shared sense, with ten or a dozen big wooden tables scattered on the lawns. Today, as a mark of familial solidarity we’ve all decided upon a chicken schnitzel but with varied toppings (parmigiana and Kilpatrick minus the sea boogas).

My ridiculous generosity continues as I treat myself to a Pirate Life South Coast Pale Ale which seems geographically appropriate down here on the south coast, masquerading as the Fleurieu Peninsula. Increasingly, it’s my occasion beer. Fruity and summery, these are fine qualities in a refreshment.

The boys are hugely grateful for their tumblers of room temperature tap water.

Strolling into the airy and light and old front bar we’d noticed opposite how the queue to the (doubtless award-winning) Port Elliot bakery stretches a decent drop punt along the footpath. Hopefully, the bakers have prepared well for the masses so that most accusatory of rhetorical questions need not be asked, ‘Who ate all the pies?’

Between claiming our booked furniture and ordering, some folks have mistakenly pinched our chairs so upon our return I merrily shoo them away. I’m sure they welcome my inserting them into their correct place in our messy universe. At least that’s how I interpret the audible absence of their cussin’ at me.

The boys and I plan our week.

Jetty-jumping. Ascending The Bluff. Exploring Goolwa and Hindmarsh Island. There’s also the Murray mouth, which I can reveal, for the hydrologically unexcitable like me, lacks a little star power. I had hoped for towering waves and deafening crashing and Niagara-like power. I wouldn’t invest any coin in a Murray Mouth theme park just yet. But it was important to view it during these times of biblical flooding.  

While waiting monk-like for our poultry Alex and Max pop next door to the surf shop while I peer at the racing form with Stony Creek and Maree gallops on the menu. Nothing takes my fancy, so I wander back outside.

As the late Victor Lewis-Smith often asked in his restaurant reviews, what made me pleased to be here?

The food was honest and tasty. My beer was great as is always the case with early-January-on-holidays-beers. The boys’ excitement at the beginning of our languid week with busy days and cricket nights ahead of us. Our tremendous fortune and the soft charms of this inviting pub.

Schnitzels inhaled; we drive back to Victor Harbor for our Granite Island pilgrimage. We’ll follow the horse-drawn tram out along the new causeway.

Our week is underway.

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Sunday lunch review: J & F Pizza at 58 Cellar Door and Gallery, Port Elliot

For me life’s biggest dilemma remains: is Friday or Sunday the best day for a long lunch? Saturday is often hijacked by sport, shopping, and lawn-mowing but makes up the trifecta. I’m also a fan of strapping on my boots for a Friday lunch marathon that concludes dangerously close to the first appearance of twinkling stars.

But let me tell you about last Sunday’s lunch.

It was set by a leafy vineyard. There were families with kids on the balcony enjoying the mottled sun and a boisterous, happy group was gathered inside for a 60th birthday. We were close to the woodfired pizza oven, and a great vocalist and guitarist in Pat Ramm accompanied our meal and conversation.

We were guests of 58 Cellar Door and Gallery and particularly J & F Pizza run by two local mates, Josh and Frazer.

With champagne, two Meechi Pale Ales (brewed in nearby Langhorne Creek) and a bottle of Thunderbird Cabernet Sauvignon the refreshments were sorted, and our formidable batting lineup was set.

Frazer and Josh are always looking to keep their pizza menu dynamic and so offered us a Four Cheeses pizza as entrée. It was zesty and subtle, and I hope it finds a long-term place for it was an excellent start to our lazy afternoon.

Throughout, we spoke of footy and family and friends and art.

After a digestive interval the main event was upon us: Prawn pizza and one that was half Hot Salami and half Margherita.  At this point there might’ve been mutual food envy. All looked and smelt appealing, and the Hot Salami was especially delicious with the olives and pickled chilli working with and not against the salami.

The acoustic music continued with covers of Neil Young and The Eagles providing a relaxing soundtrack while over at the birthday gathering those good folks were settling into a rhythm too.

Back in my foggy uni days there was a local joint that did a dessert pizza, and I was once tempted although like many student culinary experiences it was horrible.

However, J & F Pizza do a Lemon Curd pizza which with its delicate blend of curd and basil is a fantastic way to round off a lunch at 58 Cellar Door and Gallery.

Moving toward summer and balmy holidays, when you’re next down around Port Elliot on the Southern Fleurieu, I urge you to sample the fine work of J & F Pizza. Find them on (08) 8554 3149 or at no58pizza@gmail.com.

It’s Sunday lunch (and afternoon), done right.

*disclaimer: we luncheoned with Frazer’s parents, Chris and Letitia