Adelaide in the 1960s – Most Relaxed and Peaceful City
Adelaide, as Henry Blofeld saw it in the late 1960s. Adelaide is the most relaxed and peaceful of the Australian cities I visited, and yet it has about it a musty flavor of the past. The city center, laid out with all the neat precision of a geometry box, with the streets running north to south and east to west in exact rectangles, is filled with stately Victorian buildings made from the local freestone.
They make an appropriate backcloth for the statue of Queen Victoria, but the people themselves have none of this reserve. It is a city where people tend to live and mix only in their own groups, but they are relaxed with it. Their society may instinctively maintain its inherited protocol and class base, but I found it pleasantly unselfconscious about it all, and as far as I was concerned, nothing was too much of an effort to see that I had what I wanted.
Without the business and wealth of Sydney and Melbourne or the expanding horizons of Perth, Adelaide is content with itself and has more of a small-town atmosphere. But it is a city that gives the impression that it has what it wants and is happy to hang onto it rather than have wild ambitions for the future.
From this small city center, the suburbs stretch lazily away to the foothills of the Mount Lofty Ranges. Of course, Adelaide has changed in recent years as industry and commerce, with all the trimmings, have tentatively explored the city. There are the inevitable tall new office blocks that look like so many glass matchboxes piled on top of each other, but somehow the calm of this cathedral city remains.
The airplanes circling overhead leave behind a roar that is intrudingly harsh, and the pneumatic drills clatter much more distastefully. Adelaide is short on good restaurants, but one of the best, Ernest’s, is on the banks of the lake. I dined there on a glorious evening, and the glow of the city lights as they were reflected out of the water more than made up for the tables, which were crammed too close together.
The drinks in Adelaide were good, many of them coming from the nearby Barossa Valley, but the best drink I drank, like the best food I ate, was given to me in private houses. The motels, as they did everywhere, produced a diet that was based on oysters or prawn cocktails and steaks or fish, and there was nothing very imaginative about the cooking.
There are not many ways of cooking a steak, but some good sauces would have been a help. The best way to eat the Australian rock oysters for me was to eat Oysters Kilpatrick, which I discovered in Adelaide. The oysters were cooked with small pieces of bacon and Worcester sauce, and later some French mustard helped.
By the time all this had happened to them, they were no longer oysters, but the combination produced a good taste. I was rather disappointed by the Australian oysters, but maybe this was bound to happen as I am a passionate lover of English mud oysters.
The rock oysters are very small, nowhere near the fulsome taste of the larger mud oysters. In Australia, natural oysters and most restaurants have two or three different ways of cooking ‘them as well, always with a small pot of tomato sauce in the middle of the dish.