Ringland: A Taste of Oz at The Swan Inn
DAVID WAKEFIELD I've never been to Australia - although I hope to put that sad omission right before very much longer. So my knowledge of the vast continent's people is largely gleaned from friends who live out there, others who have visited, and the folklore that's grown up during my lifetime about the Australian character.
I've never been to Australia - although I hope to put that sad omission right before very much longer. So my knowledge of the vast continent's people is largely gleaned from friends who live out there, others who have visited, and the folklore that's grown up during my lifetime about the Australian character.
Boyhood memories of Bill Kerr (in Hancock's Half Hour) and actor Chips Rafferty have been spiced in a lifetime's love of cricket by the distinctive voices and dry humour, of Jack Fingleton, Alan MacGilvray and Richie Benaud on the radio and telly. I have, I suppose, developed in my own mind a composite version of the typical Okker: He's a combination of the admirable Alf (you flamin' Hoon) Stewart, of five's daily soap Home and Away, and Steve Irwin, the Crocodile Hunter, whose ability to dangle the world's third most venomous serpent inches from his face while telling it “Strewth, mate, you're a bit cranky today” has won him my undying admiration.
My imaginary Oz man is, well, a man's man, if such things exist. Which surprises me slightly when this quality is laid alongside Australia's more recent impact on the culinary market. The Pacific Rim style of cookery can be found over a vast area, but seems to have made its chief landmark in Australia. It's a fusion of flavour combinations in which unlikely mixes do, in fact, work. And if you need further proof, then take the very pleasant, meandering drive out to the village of Ringland, where there's a small, but important outpost of Rim cooking.
You may also want to watch:
A Taste of Oz is tacked on the rear of The Swan, the popular village pub, and is the brainchild of the pub's current owners, Darren and Clare Emmett. Big, bright and airy, the restaurant, complete with bar at one end, is suitably decked out in Antipodean décor - yes, including boomerangs - and Aboriginal art. We happened to dine beside a splendid panoramic view of Sydney harbour, while, facing me, was a vista of the equally impressive waterfront at Perth, Western Australia.
The place was full on our visit; indeed, it had taken me three weeks to get a table, which is a fair indicator of the Taste's popularity. Having eaten there, I am not surprised, for it is highly impressive in its imagination and the quality of its food.
- 1 Bar splashes out £500,000 on outdoor dining area
- 2 Police action over 'slavery' flag flying in Norwich garden
- 3 Owners put Tudor mansion wedding venue up for sale for £3.9m
- 4 Former car showroom could make way for 146 student flats
- 5 Boss who boasted of lavish lifestyle is bankrupt with £100k debts
- 6 'It was divine' - Why this seafood platter is receiving rave reviews online
- 7 'Shocked' couple almost given wrong Covid jab
- 8 Former pubs, schools and leisure centres among arson-hit sites
- 9 Why teacher was right to report Confederate flag to police
- 10 'This is nature' - Sadness as cathedral peregrine chick dies
Although thoroughly determined to enter into the spirit of this occasion, neither my wife or I, being Pommie wusses, could summon up the will to sample crocodile or kangaroo - although I understand that both are excellent. We began, somewhat less adventurously, by trying the antipasti starter for two - a shared platter of humous, anchovies, sundried Italian tomatoes, green and black olives, charred piquillo peppers, feta-stuffed baby peppers and caper beans, served with delicious rustic bread. At £7.95, it was more than satisfying, but left us in some anticipation of our main courses.
My wife chose the Oz Fish Pot (£13.50) an enormous, steaming container of all things fishy, including half a lobster and mussels, all swimming (not literally!) in a sumptuous broth flavoured with Asian vegetables, and with more of that knockout Rustic bread.
My choice was the Dashi salted chargrilled tuna (£11.50) served with wasabi and soured cream mashed potato and a simple side salad. Wasabi is a traditional Japanese condiment used widely in native cuisine, and is also widely used in Pacific Rim recipes.
My tuna was both generous in size and superbly flavoured, and the mashed potato quite the best I have tasted for its wonderful, smooth consistency. Meanwhile, my wife was sniffing at the flavours from her fish pot while administering the coup de grace to her half lobster with a pair of nutcrackers, the mere sight of which made my eyes water. Believe me, the rustic bread was put to good use mopping up the remainder of that delicious broth.
Our choice of wine was a little more difficult. While big fans of Australian wines, we both have to admit a preference for the dry whites from New Zealand, and the Anapai River Sauvignon Blanc, from the famous Marlborough vineyard, was a snip at £12.95. Its fruity, gooseberry freshness complemented our fish dishes perfectly.
The drinks menu is particularly interesting at A Taste of Oz in that its wines are matched by traditional Aussie (Tooheys, Coopers) and Kiwi (Speights) beers, and some fairly amazing cocktails (Flying Kangaroo, Loose Goose, Gin and Sin and Liquid Lamington) which range in price from £3.95 to £4.50. When I tell you that the latter contains Kahlua, Malibu, Bailey's and cream, you can see why I don't use the description “amazing” lightly.
We didn't try them, but, judging by the increasing level of bonhomie in the room, there were several who did!
So, food and drink of a very high standard, and cheerful service to match. If it's half as good in Australia, then I can't wait to get there! However, if you don't fancy flying 12,000 miles or so, then A Taste of Oz is possibly the next best thing.
t A Taste of Oz at The Swan Inn, 1 The Street, Ringland; 01603 868214; firstname.lastname@example.org
t Where is it? A stone's throw from the river. Get there either from the Costessey direction (from the roundabout at Easton) or off the Fakenham road at Drayton or Taverham.
t Disabled acccess? Yes, it's all on one level, and there are appropriate toilet facilities
t Parking? There is a big car park at the restaurant, or visitors can park on nearby grass verges.
t Do I need to book? Well, it took me three weeks to get a table, so yes, do.
t Suitable for children? The restaurant website makes it very clear that children are welcome.
t ... and veggies? Likewise. And those with special diets can also be catered for by calling in advance.