Hot Plates: The Pot by Emma McCaskill, Adelaide

Author: David Sly
Photography: Michael Murphy (portrait), Ryan Noreiks (food)

An Adelaide landmark has begun an exciting new chapter under Emma McCaskill.

Adelaide institution The Pot Food & Wine has taken on a new lease of life with the arrival of Emma McCaskill, former co-executive chef of Magill Estate. Since leaving the Penfolds signature restaurant in January, McCaskill scouted sites for a place of her own, but by happy coincidence found that restaurateur Simon Kardachi was keen to refresh one of his landmark sites. Kardachi, whose interests include Press, Proof, Osteria Oggi, Maybe Mae and new hotspot Shobosho, opened The Pot in 1999 as intimate fine diner The Melting Pot, before switching to a more lively bistro style with The Pot Food & Wine in 2010.

The arrival of McCaskill in the kitchen, and on the name of the restaurant - it's now called The Pot by Emma McCaskill - signals a desire to bridge the two eras through an inclusive, no-nonsense menu built around strong technique and an exacting command of ingredients. Poise without the pose.

Fried pork bun with chilli sauce.

McCaskill confidently follows her instincts rather than trends. Eschewing ubiquitous chicken liver parfait, she leads with a snack of smoked eel on toast, topped with slices of pickled baby beetroot and herring roe, bringing together strong yet supple flavours.

Comfort dishes strike deep notes of satisfaction without leaning schlubby. Fried pork buns with a clean, fiery chilli sambal. A big hot bowl of handmade noodles with crisp tofu, sesame broth and nori. A huge burger packed with shredded smoked pork shoulder and red cabbage.

The integrity of hero ingredients shines in main courses, particularly seared organic saltbush lamb loin on almond hummus, its Middle Eastern notes underlined by a lively salad of grapes, mint, parsley and pomegranate jewels.

Fenugreek chicken on celeriac purée.

Mayura wagyu, a favourite of McCaskill at Magill, appears here in a slightly humbler form - oyster blade, perfectly grilled and served simply with wasabi and lime - but is no less impressive for it.

The star attraction is fenugreek chicken on celeriac purée, offset by slices of salt-baked celeriac, and celery leaf, its spicy pop and crunchy textures playing nicely off the juicy chicken cutlets.

The wine list remains strong - eclectic and contemporary, spanning many styles and countries of origin - and will be refreshed under the experienced eye of sommelier and restaurant manager Michael Murphy.

Port Lincoln sardines on toast, pickled chilli, dill.

McCaskill says this first menu is but a sign of where she's heading, and will change more as the kitchen is overhauled along with an update to the dining room by Studio-Gram, the firm that gave Osteria Oggi and Shobosho much of their snap, crackle and pop.

It's a new chapter for an Adelaide institution, and all signs point to it being required reading. Get your taste today.

The Pot Food & Wine, 160 King William Rd, Hyde Park, SA, (08) 8373 2044, thepotfoodandwine.com.au







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