THE WEEKEND AUSTRALIAN MAGAZINE, DECEMBER 3-4, 2016
STORY: CHRISTINE MCCABE
A superior hotel breakfast buffet is one of the joys of travel. At the Mayfair Hotel in Adelaide, chef Bethany Finn puts on quite a spread: salmon rolls with crème fraiche, eggs Florentine, Barossa bacon and homemade granola topped with tiny flowers. But the highlight is a honey trolley arrayed with fresh honeycomb, crunchy bee pollen and little pots of golden elixir in a dizzying array of flavours: white clover, dandelion, Coorong mallee, orange blossom and “roof top”.
For those not content with scouring the state’s apiaries, Bethany keeps her own hives on the roof of this privately owned hotel, opened last year following a $55 million redevelopment of the landmark 1930s Colonial Mutual Life building on King William Street.
It’s a handsome building in a prime locale and a popular bolthole for visiting artists and performers. The façade is rather Gotham City with fearsome gargoyles glaring down on scurrying passersby and topped with a quaint, pitched conservatory-style room that now houses the Hennessy bar, one of the best sunset possies in town.
Two terraces, one barely a metre wide, have you up on the 13th floor with the gargoyles to enjoy long city views to the Hills while tucking into mini pie floaters and downing savvy libations courtesy of newly arrived French mixologist Emilie (late of Firmdale Hotels in London). She makes a mean “honey trap”, a delicious caipiroska spiked with ginger and the hotel’s golden stuff.
Honey is a theme here, from cocktails to little cakes shaped like old-fashioned beehives, but it forms only a small part of a whimsical food philosophy that celebrates the golden era of hotel dining. In the basement Mayflower restaurant, Bethany’s team wheels out meticulously restored early 20th century serving trolleys laden with joints of meat or little cakes, choux swans and other déclassé sweeties.
The menu runs the classics gamut: a sensational lobster bisque en croute, duck pie, chateaubriand (served with attendant theatricality), lamb Wellington and a steak tartare delicately flavoured with capers grown in the Southern Flinders Ranges. There’s caviar, freshly shucked Coffin Bay oysters, a proper prawn cocktail and a mainly South Australian wine list including premium wines by the glass.
The hotel owners’ commitment to supporting local industry extends beyond the menu to the fitout of the 170 contemporary guestrooms, decorated in soft shades of grey and taupe. Adelaide marble is used in the bathrooms and on countertops; the mirrored wardrobes and glass table lamps are locally made, as are the chandeliers in the Hennessy bar. Even the mattresses are made in Adelaide.
Every guestroom is configured differently, based on the dictates of the heritage building (room 1201 has a long view to the ocean); each features an enormous television, super comfy bed, coffee machine, French teas and a minibar stocked with local goodies. In-room spa treatments are available from Adelaide Hills-based clinic DermaZen.
A quiet, residential mood and unbeatable location make the Mayfair a great choice for a weekend in the city but it’s the old-fashioned sense of hospitality that really chimes: food inspired by Bethany’s memories of lunching in elegant railway dining rooms with her grandfather; sommelier Jai choosing the right wine every time and Emilie whipping up bespoke cocktails with elan.