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Life on Mayfair – Mayfair Hotel & Mayflower Restaurant, Adelaide

Bethany Finn understands essence of fine dining hospitality like few others. Having crafted perhaps Australia’s finest classic British- and European-influenced dining menus for Adelaide’s 5-star Mayfair Hotel, she’s an executive chef with a rare talent. Her level of customer care and focus is a positive driving force; around her, the wait staff are elevated by her warmth, humour and focused leadership. She’s vivacious, sharp-witted, and her energy is infectious. As a diner in the hotel’s basement Mayflower Restaurant I feel special.

Freshly Shucked Oysters with Champagne mignonette dressing

The simple palate teaser Coffin Bay oysters are difficult to pass up on her menu. This time of year they have a mineral freshness and, served with a delicate champagne mignonette, they prove sublime eating. Flown in from Port Lincoln, they have a short journey from seawater to kitchen before providing a foretaste of the gems South Australia has to offer.

The sommelier pours a 2016 Torbreck Barossa Valley Saignée rosé. Saignée, a French word meaning to ‘bleed’, is the process of making a rosé-style wine from lightly coloured first-crush free run juice from red grapes, in this case from old vine mataro or mourvèdre fruit. Exquisite candy apple aromas lift from the glass and a soft savoury spice details its pleasantly dry palate. I am in doubly good hands.

Being a sucker for a classic prawn cocktail, it’s a joy to see this no-fuss fresh offering on the menu. The divinely fresh South Australian king prawns, iceberg and cos lettuce are paired with Bethany’s Marie Rose dressing. It is heat-spiked with sriracha hot chilli sauce adding a little kick. A squeeze of lemon balances its bite.
Robert Johnson Vineyards 2014 Adelaide Hills Chardonnay is the suggested pairing. It is subtle with a clean nose of lychee and stone fruit, and also boasts a fine minerality. It’s light and refreshing as its citrusy edge dances on the palate, but it manages an extremely gentle, soft mouthfeel.

I admire the fine pastry twists that form the golden base of Bethany’s duck and tangerine pithivier. This is her art and she paints it well. A sweet rich fragrance lifts from the plate. Topped with a spiced cherry compote and side of roasted golden shallots, this is classic French done right. With respect and care, I cut into the flaky pastry to reveal an interior of succulent confit leg and thigh meat. Tender, flavoursome, it makes a perfect winter-warming meal. Everything about my dining experience is comforting. The dining chairs are plushly velvet; the table set with crisp white linen and fine stemware. Soft lighting filters through clusters of gold and black pendants.

At one end of the dining room an enlarged watercolour, a dreamy-beautiful female face by British fashion illustrator / artist Cate Parr, adds a modernist splash of primary colours to enliven the space. To one side there’s a row of banquette seating backed with a glass wall that connects to the restaurant’s wine cellar. Inside, wine cases and enticing magnums share space with a collection of racked fine and rare wines, many local. The cellar walls are the building’s own beautiful stone foundations; their craggy textures and tones, a unique feature visible from the dining room, add a historic warmth that connects diners with Adelaide’s past.

If you haven’t walked the streets of Adelaide recently, or indeed at all; I suggest you do. There is such an impressive mix of colonial, Victorian, Federation and post-war heritage architecture to see – and a fine collection of it within a few minutes of the Mayfair.

Duck and Tangerine Pie, shallots and cherry relish;

Duck and Tangerine Pie, shallots and cherry relish;

The 170-room independently owned Mayfair Hotel opened in 2015 in the heritage-listed Colonial Mutual Life building on King William Street. It is complemented by the six-story ‘jewel box’, an addition that houses the Diamond function space and additional luxury rooms. In stark contrast to the basement restaurant and café/bar, the rooftop Hennessy Lounge is a cocktail bar featuring cosy interiors and a slender outside terrace that provides wrap around city and Adelaide Hills views. Two indoor break-out lounge spaces are dressed in a a playfully sophisticated style: crystal chandeliers and cowhide floor coverings mix with Atelier Versace gold-trim arm chairs and groups of leather tubs.

The service is again attentive, energetic and professional. I request the bar’s signature drink, The Honey Trap, featuring honey from the hotel’s very own rooftop bees. Chef Bethany is an apiarist in training who imported Ligurian queen bees from Italy for the hive. (They came by post! Air mail, we hope.) The Honey Trap is made with a ginger and honey syrup shrub base. That’s topped with ice, vodka, lime juice and a decent drizzle of the Mayflower rooftop leatherwood honey. Complex, round and with more fresh, acidic ‘tang’ than expected, it’s certainly not too sweet. All round, a well-crafted, well-balanced creation.

Mayfair Deluxe King Room and bathroom

Mayfair Deluxe King Room and bathroom

The rooms at the Mayfair feature award-winning South Australian-made mattresses that are so comfortable and popular, the hotel does a roaring side trade selling them post check-out. The walls are neutral in tone, allowing the crystal embellishments, soft furnishings and bathroom marbles to sparkle ever more brightly. I fall in love with the Art Nouveau gold-leaf umbrella wall sconces beside the basin, a beautiful touch. Rooms feature the best in modern creature comforts. A massive LCD Smart TV instantly loads up movies on demand. The wifi provides decent download speeds with no dropouts, and a respectably well-stocked mini bar is not over-priced. With in-room dining available it is very tempting to cocoon oneself inside. But step out! You can do far worse than interact with the hotel staff. I get a strong impression that top-tier management and the owners treat their staff with great care and respect. Only such positivity and trust in their abilities can provide the foundation for the enthusiastic professionalism I encountered. There are smiles and warmth wherever you turn, beginning with your first step inside the door. The helpful and informative concierge made check-in and check-out a breeze and left a firmly positive memory. These guys are just awesome.

Mayfair’s lower-level dining space doubles as its morning breakfast room, when the European buffet is extensive. The housemade guacamole and chia seed and coconut puddings expand the choice as welcome highlights. Guests can also sample six varietal honeys – wildflower, peppermint box, white clover, blue gum, dandelion and the rooftop leatherwood honey – as well as bee’s pollen, an addition that when topped on honey provides a lovely semi-firm waxy texture and earthy taste. Omelets made to order are a specialty and the automatic coffee machines brew a decent cup, inviting a second and a third!

It is surprising to learn that Adelaide has few 5-star properties, and therefore doubly pleasing to find that the Mayfair delivers such perfect and refined hospitality, in the spirit of the best European heritage hotels. Chef Bethany Finn is an incredible bonus, ensuring that the Mayflower is one of South Australia’s dining highlights.

Mayfair Hotel
45 King William Street, Adelaide, South Australia
Tel 08 8210 8888