After more than 20 years, public dining is returning to the historic Ayers House.
When it first opened back in 1973, the venue’s restaurant was the height of fancy dining, and the first silver service restaurant in South Australia.
Owner Richard McLeod purchased the venue in 1991 with partners, and while they kept the restaurant side of things running for a while, they eventually closed it and the venue has been dedicated to functions and weddings for two decades.
Not that everyone realised.
“People still call up every week wanting to book a table,” laughs Richard. “They ring up and say, ‘well it was my favourite restaurant?'”
Named after the property’s former resident Henry Ayers, Henry’s Table is the next chapter in the story. Opening on February 20, the bar and restaurant has a new name, a new look and, and slightly more relaxed dining.
“This isn’t going to be a special occasions restaurant. We don’t want people just coming for their 25th wedding anniversary, although they’re welcome and they’ll be well looked after,” he said.
“We’ve put a menu together that can be more everyday dining. People can come once a month, and not break the bank.”
Leading the kitchen is chef Paul Groves, who ran Michelin Starred restaurant Dunberry Lodge in Ireland.
They’re calling their menu ‘no rules’, referring to their refusal to stick with a specific cuisine. On the menu you’ll find house-made pasta dishes and steaks, which are all dried in-house, alongside a Korean chicken dish, a Turkish-inspired braised lamb shoulder, plus gluten free, vegan and vegetarian options.
Or the Bebek Betutu is a whole spiced duck, marinated overnight and cooked for four hours in a banana leaf. It will feed four as an entree or two as a main, and needs to be ordered 24 hours in advance.
For groups of eight for more, there’s the Prixe Fixe menu, with two ($59), three ($72) or four ($85) course options.
The only Australian wines you’ll find on the menu are strictly from South Australia – there are more than 100 of them – plus a specially selected list of reasonably-priced international drops. And they’re keeping the cocktail list traditional, but stepping things up by using top-shelf spirits.
You can also have a drink outside the restaurant, with the front bar area also getting an update. The restaurant’s full drinks list is available, plus a short menu of small plates – think oysters, salt cod croquettes, and polenta chips. You can grab a stool at the high benches, or settle into a low, leather couch with a leafy outlook.
To update the space, Richard called on old friend, award-winning designer Adam Dale. The two first met when they first worked together at the Arkaba more than 30 years ago, and have stayed close ever since.
Adam has spent the past two decades based in London where he initially worked in fashion, designing outfits for young Princes Harry and William, and Zara Phillips. He’s now a highly-awarded interior designer, whose clients have included Madonna, Princess Dianna, Elle McPherson and royal families all over the world.
Adam worked with Richard’s wife Jules to create a space that works with the heritage of the building, but brings in a touch of modernity.
All of the furniture has been designed bespoke in London, from the chairs and tables, to cupboards, wine racks and even some of the art. Everything has just cleared customs and is on its way to the restaurant to be set up just in time for opening.
The restaurant will take inspiration from the colours of the Australian land, with pops of Eucalyptus green and saffron yellow, against walnut floors. Everything has been carefully selected, right down to the smell – a bespoke salted grapefruit candle in amber glass created by a local candle maker.
It’s a space where they want you to settle in and relax. And they’ll never do double sittings, so there’s no risk of being rushed off your table.
“The tables are oversized and spacious. We want people to feel welcome – the whole ambience will be really special, but it will feel like home,” says Adam.
If you book in during their opening week, they’re offering every diner a free glass of Pol Roger to toast the new restaurant. Ayers House is also hosting a number of Fringe shows, and if you have a ticket to any of them, you’ll get 10% off the bill in the restaurant.
Or want to get a taste of the restaurant’s history? Henry’s Table is paying homage to its predecessor with a return to silver service for an event during this year’s Tasting Australia.
Henry’s Table is opening February 20 at Ayers House, 288 North Terrace. Open Wednesday to Saturday – the bar from 5pm and the restaurant from 5.30pm.
For bookings, visit henrystable.com.au or call on (08) 8224 0666.