The White Dove Restaurant

When I was a kid, a day trip from Adelaide to Port Noarlunga was considered the ultimate exotic getaway. You had to clamber down crumbling, craggy red cliffs to stake out your sun baking spot on the shimmering white sand below. A lattice of aging grey timber fastened with sturdy rust- red iron bolts formed a jetty that connected the cliffs with a natural marine reef that exposed its mysteries to the world at low tide. Of course, these delights are still there, but the town itself has entered a period of sleepy gentrification with the strategically placed 1920’s McCloud Guest House on the Esplanade, home of The White Dove Restaurant, a silent reminder of a time now past.

The dining room over looks the sea and exudes an atmosphere of ‘Old World Raffles’ with its original brown brick fire place, worn dark-stained timber and elaborate white moulded plaster ceilings supported by soaring white plaster columns. It’s an expansive space, simply decorated, with a few large potted plants that keep the white linen-clad tables well spaced.

For 15 years, Hna Noai has faithfully recreated the recipes that she learnt from her mother and grandmother and together with her husband, Luc Kleim, send out richly flavoured dishes of great complexity from their kitchen. Vivacious daughter, Jenni, who heads up front of house, describes her parents food as ‘home cooking’. Believe me, it would be a very lucky home indeed to enjoy dishes of such sublime excellence. The menu is extensive and offerings range from the mellow and subtle flavours of southern Thailand to those more arresting and robust, found in the north and across to the Malaysian border.

Stand out dishes include Tom Yum Coong, a classic Thai prawn soup, heady with lemon grass and chilli ($6.90) and Keo Roll, three plump, rice paper wraps filled with chicken breast mince, fresh coriander, mint and peanuts ($7.90). Coconut Beef, a stir fry with Noai’s own red curry sauce and basil was hot, seductive and moreish ($13.90) and Basil Prawns with fresh garlic, a touch of chilli and stir fried with Noai’s own basil paste was subtle and sensational ($18.50). Vegetarians are well catered for with a separate special menu. It’s easy to over order as the serves tend to be generous – but even if you do, you will find it almost impossible to resist what’s on your plate.

The wine list is relatively brief and features many from boutique makers at nearby McLaren Vale. However, BYO is graciously welcomed if you prefer. Service by the before mentioned Jenni is both professional and knowledgeable and delivered by one of the warmest, genuine friendly smiles I’ve seen. Now, if I could only get them to move their restaurant a little closer to home.

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