Afri-Cola is the soda-pop that sponsored “Rumble in the Jungle”, a championship boxing match fought in the 70’s in Central Africa. Appropriately, Africola the restaurant in Adelaide’s East End also packs a punch.
South African chef Duncan Welgemoed, honed his skills at restaurants in France and the UK, including the Fat Duck with Heston, before heading up the kitchen at Adelaide’s Bistro Dom. Australian foodies have likely seen his larger than life personality on Masterchef Australia and The Chef’s Line.
Feeling a need to connect with his roots, Welgemoed opened Africola at the North Terrace end of East Terrace, November 2014.
The interior, designed by partner in crime James Brown, created a “shebeen” – a bold and colourful African-style bar and eating house where the menu required an Afrikaans translator.
Not one to get comfortable, the end of 2016 saw Africola reinvented. Version 2.0 lost the Braai (barbeque), kept the Chakalaka (spicy vegetable relish), rationed the Boerewors (minced beef sausage) and lost the Pap (polenta-ish). The new menu embraces Africa’s north with local South Australian produce at its core.
The wine list meanders from Clare Valley to the Barossa, into the Adelaide Hills, through McLaren Vale to Mt Gambier. Find Hills Apple Cider on tap alongside a couple of Adelaide brews while Mt Compass is the gin de jour.
Carnivores and pescatarians are well catered for, but the big surprise is the choice for vegetarians. Welgemoed apparently had a vego stint and decided to enhance the offer from simple side dishes.
Eggplant is lightly battered, topped with an onion and chilli jam then covered in shaved sheep’s milk cheese.
The cauliflower steak is roasted in turmeric butter then coated with pomegranate and tahini sauce.
Tahini also enhances the sprouting broccoli along with a sprinkling of chilli kick.
From the sea: smoked trout on rich baba ganouj (smoky eggplant) topped with roe gets a citrus boost with Australian finger limes.
Perfectly grilled, tender octopus shares the plate with charred avocado and salted jicama. Jicama, pronounced heek-uh-ma, is a turnip style vegetable, apple-ish flavoured and delicious.
Pork sirloin is glazed and comes with fire-roasted pumpkin both mashed and shaved. The crackling, bubbled to perfection, pops and melts on impact with every crunch.
Hummus topped with ground spiced lamb and crispy fried chickpeas is another textural standout.
The menu is tight, but deciding isn’t easy, so leave the decision making to Africola and opt for the “Feed Me” menu.
For $65 they’ll “feed you” and for an extra $45 they’ll “booze you” too. Tastes, allergies and preferences are noted and these guys know their stuff so why not let them take over.
Dessert was declined on this occasion. Not through lack of desire, especially when grilled figs come with honey mousse & dates and a rhubarb mess is sweetened with rose water then punched with Sichuan pepper. With luck, they’ll still be on the menu when we return in October!
Africola: it’s a place we love….