THE EXPERT: Asher Blackford, executive chef, Southern Ocean Lodge
After heading up the kitchen of Peppers Mineral Springs Retreat in Daylesford, Victoria, and before that at Emirates One&Only Wolgan Valley Resort in NSW's Blue Mountains, Asher Blackford took over the kitchen at Southern Ocean Lodge in 2017, continuing its tradition of spectacular cuisine referencing the incredible produce available on Kangaroo Island, South Australia. See southernoceanlodge.com.au
Kingscote Farmers' Market is a great way to start the day on Sunday. D'Estrees Bakery's croissants are as good as you will get anywhere, served fresh from the oven each morning. You can select from croissants, pastries or spectacular sourdough, all made with extraordinary love and flavour.
And what better to wash it down than a coffee from Emily Woskett at Mini Delights' pop-up caravan kitchen and bar, made with the same amount of TLC as the croissants.
Then spend the morning wandering around the markets seeing what the locals have to offer from the many stalls around and enjoying the spectacular backdrop of the Bay of Shoals winery.
The pork and chive dumplings at Cactus Cafe & Restaurant should not be missed: sensational hand-made dumplings made with the island's free range pork, pan-fried and served swimming in a split sauce of chilli oil and black vinegar and topped with crispy onions and coriander. These are a must-have on any day off that I can get to Kingscote. As an extra bonus, the owners Yen Leow and Louis Lark are great for a chat and make the whole experience feel like you have popped into a friend's house for a cup of tea (or dumplings and beer).
KI Fresh Seafood is a true Australian coastal fish and chip shop, serving up the best of the best of Kangaroo Island seafood. Not only is this where I get most of my seafood for Southern Ocean Lodge but it is almost a ritualistic stop whenever I head to Kingscote. Crumbed King George whiting served with perfectly crispy chips, a garden salad and tartare sauce, how can you go wrong?
KI Spirits on South Coast Road has been winning awards for many years for its exceptional gin for good reason. The Old Tom Gin is an old style "bathtub" gin and KI Spirits has won medals in the International Spirit awards for this delicious drop. At the distillery it is served as it should be: strong. Fever Tree tonic, one huge ice sphere and some dehydrated citrus complement the Kangaroo Island botanicals in the flavour profile of the gin. Sit back in KI Spirits' sunny garden and sip on one or three of its marvellous gins. The Mulberry gin mixed with ginger beer is a must-try as well.
Jack Ingram is a former executive chef at Southern Ocean Lodge who enjoyed his time on Kangaroo Island so much, he and his partner, Vanessa, decided to open their own restaurant nestled into the hills of Penneshaw with a ridiculously good view of the Eastern Cove Bay. Not only is the food world class but the wine list is full of goodness from both the island and the world. And the service from Vanessa and the team is warming and welcoming. The seasonal menu changes with the produce that is at its peak, but one of the standout dishes is the caramel flan with coffee ice-cream. It is cooked to perfection with the perfect wobble and texture and served with a bittersweet coffee ice-cream. My mouth is salivating thinking about it.
If you're eating with us at Southern Ocean Lodge, a pick on our menu is the KI marron tail with roasted avocado, sea succulents, lotus root crisps and marron bisque. KI marron, farmed by local Scott Wilson, is one of my favourite local ingredients. It's farmed by locals, supporting locals and the knowledge and understanding of the process from start to finish are the reasons it's so good. We forage for the sea succulents at one of many spots around this wild, pristine island. This dish is a real taste of KI.