I love food, and to say I love to eat is an understatement. For me, to dine out is a luxury, a way to connect with friends over food and have a night out of the kitchen at home. There is something about the perfect meal that fills you with joy and brings people together. Have you ever connected in a special way over a meal that was terrible?
I wouldn’t say I’m a fussy eater, I eat everything except rocket/arugula (it’s an abomination), but I do enjoy food that is on the slightly fancier, adventurous and creative side. When I first came to the Riverland it was a little tricky to find such places as there is a strong dine at home culture compared to a dining out culture like you would see on Gouger St, Adelaide.
Fast forward a few years and there are quite a few places bringing their ‘A’ game and giving you some great options dine out for the night. Here are my favourites…drumroll please……
Murray River Queen- aka the Queen
Since reopening in Waikerie, the Murray River Queen‘s Wok on Water Thai restaurant has been super popular and has provided the people of Riverland West with Thai food! I personally have been blown away by the quality of service and food in the restaurant and find myself making excuses to return or get takeaway again and again.
Besides the amazing Thai food, what I love about the Queen is that she is right on the River, literally as it is a floating restaurant. Once a historic Murray River paddle steamer, the Queen capitalises on the natural assets of the Riverland and the River can be viewed from anywhere on the boat.
What I really also love (ok so much to love!) is that the Queen is a regional cellar door where you can taste many Riverland wines, beers and ciders. A great spot if you are strapped for time and can’t travel around to all of the cellar doors and breweries.
Consistency is key to keeping customers loyal and the Renmark Club are always consistently great when I dine out here. A large menu littered with local produce and interesting combinations leaves me taking 15 minutes and 30 re-reads to chose something for dinner!
The Club is one of the Riverland’s only venues that is situated right on banks of the Murray River and and has unobstructed River views. It’s absolutely spectacular to see the River from the Club at night and vice versa.
There is a great community atmosphere at the Club and I really enjoy the range of events they organise from balcony sessions in summer to specialty three course dinners. It’s the effort they put in the helps keep me interested and loyal to the venue.
I confess, I have only eaten at Ruston’s for private events and during their month long Greek take over with Andy Symeonakis Boutique Catering while resident Thai chef, Jimmy, was away. However, the photos of Jimmy’s creations on their Facebook page are reason enough for me to make dinner reservations…for the next spare moment I have which is probably in 2017!
The rustic venue, set on Australia’s largest rose garden, is a popular choice for special events and also those special Friday or Saturday nights when you don’t want to cook, or are looking for a bit of spice. Takeaway is also available but it’s nice to dine out at Ruston’s because then you have a chance to browse local artwork and creations on display.
An Eat Local SA venue, The Loxton Hotel is a great place to move away from the chicken schnitzel and pepper gravy and live on the wild side and try locally farmed Thai style Murray Cod. A relaxed and warm bistro scene and open view kitchen lets you sit back and relax, sip on a glass of vermentino and watch the flurry of the kitchen delivering seasonally inspired meals. The Hotel regularly has live music and their Laneway Live event in the second half of the year is worth a look.
Mallee Fowl Restaurant
The Mallee Fowl is tucked away off the Sturt Highway amongst quiet mallee scrub, just as an actual mallee fowl nest would be. The ‘nest’ has an eclectic mix of Australian memorabilia from street signs and caps to musical instruments, animal traps and campfire billy’s hanging from the ceiling. The walls are covered but this is something I love, there is always something to look at or point at and talk about over dinner. I actually spotted a few items that my Dad has on display at his house like the West End mirrors with the Clydesdale horses pulling a cart!
The nest feels a bit like someone’s home, you can browse the wine cellar (instead of a list) and your food is cooked in the dining area and we all know the best parties always happen in kitchens.
You wont find any bush rangers here, but you will find some good old country hospitality and hearty homestyle meals (delicious potato bake). The menu is filled with all things Australian, even one half of our coat of arms. I enjoyed nibbling on the grazing plate which was filled with different styles of kangaroo meats, olives and dukkah. Looking forward to visiting again soon, I just have to try the smoked crocodile!
So not technically somewhere you should dine out on a first date, but if you are short on time, or passing by at eating hours, I would recommend stopping in at Viewpoint Cafe which is also a popular truck and traveller stop. You wont find the normal truck stop grease laden burgers and soggy yiros here, no sir!
I think this is the “cleanest” feeling servo I have ever been in and eaten from. Fridays here are “Sushi Fridays” and the display cabinets are full with generously sized fresh rolls and sandwiches. Their BLT sandwich is my go to, it’s tasty, fresh and I don’t feel like I need to find grease blotting paper afterwards.
And just for a bonus, it has a great view of the River and deliciously good (and strong) coffee!
Is your mouth watering and tummy grumbling? Maybe it’s time to dine out at one of these fantastic places and get a little bit fancy.