May 10, 2024
Wine & Dine

Lunch on the Hill

To celebrate SALIFE’s 20th birthday, we invited some well-known South Australians to luncheon at perhaps one of the state’s most iconic locations, enjoying a very parochial afternoon.

A procession of white-shirted servers marches down the path beside the iconic Adelaide Oval scoreboard. They’re bound for a long table, clad in a white tablecloth, topped with blooms from Studio Botanic.

The team is working like a well-oiled machine to host a very special lunch to celebrate SALIFE turning 20 years old, bringing together some of the state’s best food and beverage producers.

On the other side of the Oval in the Bespoke Wine Bar & Kitchen, guests are beginning to congregate and make their way across the hallowed turf to the lavish setting. It’s a fitting time to celebrate – not only is it this magazine’s birthday, December marks the 10-year anniversary of the first Ashes Test Match played at the ground following the Oval’s $610 million redevelopment that also brought AFL to the heart of the city. Today’s guests can’t help but reflect on their connections to this space.

In the kitchen, the Adelaide Oval’s chefs are preparing JooJu Coffee to feature in a dessert, while the brand’s founder and Port Adelaide Power legend and Brownlow medallist, Gavin Wanganeen, chats about what this Oval means to him.

“I actually never got to play here in my AFL era, but I did when I was 16 with the Port Magpies, back when this amazing new stand hadn’t been built,” Gavin, who retired in 2006, says. “I remember the velvet grass and how beautiful it was. I’m very envious of the current-day players who get to play on this regularly.” Although, Gavin admits it’s quite nice to have his name on a grandstand.

“That connects me and my family to this ground so I love coming to this Oval and watching the Power boys play, wishing I could still be out there.”

Today, Gavin’s connection to Adelaide Oval extends to the Oval Hotel, which stocks his JooJu Coffee pods in each room. A big coffee drinker, Gavin loved the speed and ease of pods, and after trying his first one, he knew he could make it better.

Table settings by In the Roundhouse, blooms from Studio Botanic and a little treat from Haigh’s Chocolates.
The brains behind today’s details was event planner and food stylist Annabel Bower.

“I wasn’t particularly happy with it so I wanted to make a great tasting pod.”

Gavin chats with another Port Adelaide alumnus, former captain, Tom Jonas.

“I’m pretty fortunate to have lots of good memories, having played a lot of games here,” Tom says. “Aside from the wins, the moment they play Never Tear Us Apart just before they bounce the ball is pretty special.

“But the one closest to my heart is actually as a spectator – watching my brother play a premiership for Sturt in 2016.”

As the group wanders on the grass, they’re served toasted brioche with Maggie Beer Farmhouse Pate and Spiced Pear paste.

Once everyone has made their way to the beautiful table setting, SALIFE editor Liz Walsh stands to thank everyone who has made the day possible, especially the Adelaide Oval events team. Liz has a special affinity with the ground, having spent four years as a sports reporter for The Advertiser. “I grew up with a sports-mad father who dragged me along to every Sheffield Shield match he could in the 1980s, so Adelaide Oval was very familiar to me,” Liz says.

“I loved David Hookes. Allan Border. Dean Jones. I have really fond memories of sitting crammed into the hot members’ stand for the Adelaide Test Matches each January as it was then, alongside my grandparents – my poppa with his transistor up to his ear listening to the commentary – thankful when the shade finally crossed over us in the afternoons.

A very special touch from the Adelaide Oval team was a happy birthday message on the iconic scoreboard.
The immaculate Adelaide Oval events staff ensured every detail ran smoothly.

“My standout memory of my years covering sport was the 2019 AFLW Grand Final between Adelaide and Carlton when 53,034 people crammed into the Oval to watch the Crows convincingly win.

“No one was expecting that record-breaking crowd number on that day, so much so that the Oval hadn’t opened up the Riverbank stand for seating. At about quarter-time, that upper stand was finally opened to the public and people just streamed in, filling it to the brim – I remember feeling staggered watching on from the press box as that happened: this match was already a quarter done, and yet people were still trying to find a seat. It was a momentous occasion for women’s sport.

“Just over a year later, in 2020, after the Covid pandemic hit, it was the opposite that staggered me: there I was, sitting in that same press box, but this time, there were no crowds. The sport had continued, but the stadium was empty. It’s a joy to now see people streaming back into Adelaide Oval to enjoy cricket and football and concerts once more.”

Today’s menu was designed by Adelaide Oval’s executive chef, Philip Pope, using ingredients sourced from well-known SA producers, including Ferguson Australia, whose half shell southern rock lobster is about to arrive at the table, accompanied with Something Wild burnt lemon myrtle butter.

Today’s drinks list features labels from the guests – Tom Jonas’s Hey Diddle Wines, Wynns Coonawarra and Penny’s Hill Wines.

Also on the menu is former Port Adelaide player Daniel Motlop’s Something Wild Gin in a Halls Lemon Twist Spritzer.

The much-loved soft drinks brand was brought back into production by Cam Ballard just weeks before the lunch after a long fight to win the trademark to remake the drinks. He’s celebrating by raising a glass with Daniel – a welcome refresher on this warm day. “It’s taken me about eight years from first trying to get the trademark to now,” Cam says. “There’s always that eye of the storm feeling but I’ll feel better once I’m looking into the rear-view mirror into summer.”

Icons of the food industry came together for today’s lunch, including Ferguson Australia and Something Wild who combined for the entree.
Maggie Beer with canapes.

While the guests reminisce on their favourite Adelaide Oval memories, in the distance, head groundskeeper Damien Hough is standing in the middle of the ground, hose in hand, watering the hallowed turf as he prepares it for the upcoming cricket season.

Adelaide Oval’s new chief executive officer Nick Addison looks over at Damien and says: “That’s where he does his thinking – that the ground’s getting watered is a bonus”. Nick, who was formerly with the Victorian Racing Club, relocated from Melbourne for the role a year and a half ago. A lifelong footy and cricket fan, Nick says he’s relishing being so involved in hosting the sports, however, his time has been so much more varied than that. Today, for example, is a great showcase of the other events the team hosts at this very special venue.

“What we like best is when people come to us and push us. We love when they ask if anyone’s ever done this or that. That’s when the team get excited and motivated,” he says.

The unique nature of his office isn’t lost on Nick – he organised a day not long ago for the staff to enjoy what makes their workplace so special.

“We allowed staff on to the ground – you can’t do it every day, but we need to have time where people can go out there, take their shoes off and have lunch or kick the footy.”

As the mains are served – Thomas Farms beef and Nomad Farms chicken – Nomad Farms’ founder, Tom Bradman chats about coming to the Oval as a child, and his very special tour guide, his grandfather, the great Sir Donald Bradman.

“I think I first came and sat in the ladies’ box with my grandma when I was a tiny kid,” Tom says. “When I got a bit older, there was always the five-day marathon to do, sitting out the back for the Test matches.

“I’ve got little kids so it’s a bit hard to do five days of Test cricket now but I do make it down every now and then and I’ve started to bring them along too.” Since the Oval’s redevelopment, Tom’s Nomad Farms has been supplying chicken to the venue – the company turned 10 this year.

Barossa Valley Cheese Company’s Victoria McClurg chats to Wynns Coonawarra’s winemaker Sue Hodder, while Katheryn and Greg Blewett enjoy their lunch. In the foreground are Keith Conlon, In the Roundhouse’s Brooke Bickmore and Pippa Wanganeen.
Pippa Wanganeen arrives in style.

“I don’t think we realise how lucky we are to have what is now a world-class grandstand as well as a really unique experience having all we do around the ground,” he says.

Tom recalls that the games Australia played against the West Indies when he was a child were some of the most exciting.

“I don’t want to take anything away from the current team, but that one-day team back then, I can’t imagine a more exciting team. There was some real individual charisma in the team; watching a team like that with what used to be an incredibly dynamic West Indies team, that was a highlight for me.”

The Salopian Inn’s Karena Armstrong echoes the sentiments about those times, and those particular teams.

“Those players had real character and being at the games was so much fun,” Karena says. “I remember one game I was down on the fence, and in those days, you could buy whole rotisserie hot chickens at the cricket.

“I remember a whole chicken carcass going flying over my head because someone threw it onto the ground.”

For former Australian cricketer Greg Blewett, this ground was his second home for nearly two decades.

Thomas Farms beef is served for main course.
Adelaide Oval CEO Nick Addison takes a different kind of lunch break at the office – with a Something Wild Gin and Halls Lemon Twist spritzer in hand.

“There was one Ashes series when Australia won from absolutely nowhere,” Greg says.

“Everyone thought it would peter out to be a boring draw but Shane Warne got the ball rolling and bowled England out. It looked like Australia wasn’t going to get the runs but Mike Hussey had a great innings.

“It was one of the great wins here at Adelaide Oval.”

Greg is here today with wife, Katheryn, founder of bespoke candle company, Nektar, whose candles feature in the Oval Hotel.

Perhaps the greatest enthusiast of the ground’s history is SA personality, Keith Conlon, who remembers his beloved Sturt in the 1965 Grand Final.

“It’s the biggest crowd ever here at the Oval for a sport – there were 62,543 people,” Keith says. “I’m towards the back, standing on beer cans, which I didn’t drink, trying to see the footy. We lost by three points to Port, our arch enemy, but the good news is, for the next five years, we won the Premiership.”

Keith has been going to the footy since 1963 with the group that call themselves The Mound Mob. “We had an Easter tradition where my mum would make us pancakes at 1am, then at 2am, we’d take four or five cars and we’d be in the queue at half past two in the morning, ready to run in as soon as the gates opened.

“When the Crows came into the AFL, we bought about a dozen seats at Footy Park and held them the whole time, and now we’re back here at this hallowed turf. For me, this is the real thing.”

Tom Bradman sampling the Ferguson Australia lobster.
Port Adelaide footy legend Gavin Wanganeen chats to Halls’ Cam Ballard and Nomad Farms’ Tom Bradman in the shadows of the Gavin Wanganeen Stand.

To finish, JooJu Coffee creameaux is served on a hazelnut Madeline, along with Beerenberg strawberry Eton mess and Haigh’s chocolate mousse truffle cake with tonka bean crème fraiche.

The cheese course has been provided by Barossa Valley Cheese Company, who also have something to celebrate this year, too – their own 20th anniversary.

Dotted on the cheese plates are giant red Beerenberg strawberries, plucked from their vines by the company’s marketing director, Sally Paech, that very morning.

Sally’s been with her family’s business for 15 years, and was living in country Victoria before that.

“I remember saying to mum 20 years ago, ‘There’s this new magazine called SALIFE, can you send me a copy?” Sally says. “She’d subscribe and send them to me because I wanted my little taste of SA.”

When Sally moved back to South Australia, the company was based in her mum’s home – her own office was her brother’s old bedroom and the boardroom was the dining table. Sally would have to explain what Beerenberg was to anyone she chatted to about the business.

“But now, everybody knows Beerenberg – I can’t think of the last time I mentioned it and somebody hadn’t heard of the brand.”

The magic of today may have been carried out by the Adelaide Oval team, but it was initially sprinkled by event planner and food stylist Annabel Bower, who is checking every napkin, reeling off instructions and keeping completely calm with lots of items still to tick off the list.

Tom Bradman’s Nomad Farms supplied produce for today’s main course.
Sally Paech from Beerenberg, SALIFE editor Liz Walsh and Pippa Wanganeen with a Henschke bubbles and cocktails in hand.

For Annabel, this ground is something special for so many reasons, least of all, for a fundraising event she held here in 2020 to launch her book and foundation, Miles Apart.

“More than 300 guests gathered in the William Magarey Room and the atmosphere was electric; it was a memorable and brilliantly orchestrated day,” Annabel says.

Annabel has also spent countless hours watching AFL and cricket with her children and sometimes, just enjoying the stadium quietly.

“I love the fact that nearly any day of the year, you can pop into the Oval, walk around the public concourse and enjoy the view. For such a massive structure, it certainly has soul. For me, it’s the heart of the city and has played host to many memorable days for me and my family.

“It is wonderful to be back at Adelaide Oval today, working with the events team again to put together a beautiful celebration for SALIFE’s 20 years – what a location!”

Annabel’s own past 20 years have been eventful. She trained as a chef in Ireland 21 years ago and upon returning to SA, she’s taken the paddock-to-plate philosophy that inspired her there and run with it.

“Over the past 20 years in SA, we have adopted this approach with vigour which is evident in the amazing farmers markets now dotted all over the state. We’re fortunate to live somewhere that produces outstanding seafood, meat, wine, chocolate, cheese and so much more all at our fingertips.

A quick trip into the Central Market and an indulgent gourmet feast is guaranteed. We’re also a very supportive state who love to get behind local producers.”

Fomer Port Adelaide captain Tom Jonas with a pour of his Hey Diddle Riesling.
Former Australian cricketer Greg Blewett and wife Katheryn soak up the sun.

As the last of the plates are out and the sun dips lower, Philip Pope is rounding out his efforts in the kitchen – just one of 17 here at the Oval.

He chats about game day and the 900-metre loop he does between the kitchens to ensure every aspect of the hospitality is running smoothly.

He says today’s menu reflects what he loves to cook, complete with a list of parochial ingredients.

“I’m so proud to use these wonderful South Australian ingredients,” Philip says.

“I use 80 per cent of these suppliers in our kitchens and it’s an ingredients list that any chef would be happy to work with.”


This article first appeared in the December 2023 issue of SALIFE magazine.

Subscribe Today! Subscribe to South Australia's biggest-selling magazine, showcasing the best of Adelaide and South Australia. From only $9 per issue
including free delivery to your door.
Share —