Mystery dining at The Enchanted Fig Tree
So far we have spend most of 2022 on the road. 6 months exactly, on and off, criss crossing all States and Territories of Australia except Western Australia which borders were last to reopen, sadly too late for us.
It has been one of the best road trips in the GX, exploring out of the way places, meeting like minded people and of course, sampling regional produce at local eateries. From low key pie shops to lively pubs, trendy cafes and bustling farmers markets, we have loved tasting regional Australia. Out of the dozens of venues we visited, one restaurants stands out. It is in the Special Occasion category, being on the pricey side, but the quality of the food, the location, and the theatrics are what made me fall in love with it. I might even plan a future road trip back there…
Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you…
The Enchanted Fig Tree – Kangaroo Island, SA
The dining highlight of our tour of Kangaroo Island, back in March, has been a long lunch at the Enchanted Fig Tree on the beautiful north coast. More than food, it’s a whole experience : from the stunning drive to Snelling Beach, the magical setting inside the fig tree, the fig cocktail on arrival, attentive service, fig based menu and foraging for fruits afterwards…I didn’t want to leave!!!
The Enchanted Fig Tree is one of the dining experiences offered by South Australia based Gastronomo Wilderness Dining. The setting is inside an actual fig tree, planted 120 years ago by early settlers. Its canopy has grown to reach over two stories high, and its leafy circumference spans an area large enough to accomodate two 50-seater buses parked together. Inside, the vines have naturally created ‘room-like spaces’ suitable for 45 guests to sit comfortably and this is where the dining takes place.
The venue is open on selected days for lunch during spring and summer, and each year offers a different menu curated by the resident chef, Stephanie Vass, at the time of our visit, mid-March. The aim is to showcase local produce, including figs and mulberries from a nearby tree, with flavours “ that include a hint of local history, a splash of fairy tale, and a sprinkle of the unexpected! ”
The experience starts with a fig tree cocktail, while we wait: sticky fig syrup from The Figgery, with a dash of Kangaroo Island Spirit gin, tonic water, fresh figs and a peppercorn leaf. The accompanying canapes are deliciously charred semi dried figs and walnut cream. The tone is set.
Then we are led thru the fig leaves along a green path to the awesome dining area, where wooden tables and chairs await. There is a copy of Edin Blyton children’s books on every table, where the drinks list is hidden. It reads like a collection of magic potions, mostly hailing from South Australia and Victoria. I can’t go past the local sparkling Islander Estate Petiyante to get us started.
Appetisers arrive: a kangaroo and black olive kofta toped with deep fried saltbush atop horseradish cream, and a smoked salmon kebab with beetroot and caramelised onion.
The entree is a retro classic celebrating the produce from the sea, in the form of a prawn cocktail salad revisited with the addition of fresh herbs.
There is a welcomed pause before the main, and I take advantage of it to stretch my legs and walk around the fig tree. The limbs are massive and ladden with fruits. So much so that the staff is encouraging us to help ourselves to the wild figs after lunch. As the end of the season is near, the fruits would go to waste otherwise.
The main is a generous serve of slow cooked KI beef, with roast potato, broccolini, seeds and fig leaf. It is served alongside a bowl of quinoa, feta and roast vegetable salad. The meat is ever so tender and the island grown potato full of flavour. We choose Guroo Shyrah as the accompanying wine, another KI production.
( I note there are a few plates of fish served at the table nearby, and we’re told that while the beef dish is the default main, there is a seafood as well as vegetarian option, should you mention your preference at the time of booking. You still won’t know what the exact dish will be on the day, as it is up to the chef. But if you’re into sharing, it would be nice to have two different mains. )
We finish with the restaurant’s signature dessert and my absolute favourite: a Heritage bombe Alaska with fig tree oil and dust, dark chocolate coated mulberry mousse inside and a streak of mulberry balsamic vinegar. There is also a sweet dollop of mulberry compote on the side. And to keep with the mulberry theme, I order the mulberry sunset cocktail to sip slowly under the shimmering tree light.
To say that this dining experience is one of a kind is an under statement, and as I write this, I wish I was transported back. The Enchanted Tree has recently reoponed for the 2022/2023 season through to 10 April 2023. If you worry that I might have spoilt the surprise with the menu, don’t. While the magical setting will remain the same, the menu won’t be, as the chef likes to tweak the theme every year and actually doesn’t give too much away. It’s all part of the mystery and fun.