By Nigel Hopkins
Given the many guest chef events in which he participates, not to mention his consuming role as co-director of Tasting Australia, it’s little wonder that Simon Bryant looks for a life away from food.
“I’m so embedded in food I kind of run from it,” he says … but not entirely.
He does have his favourite restaurants – and their chefs, and although he can admire chefs at the top of their craft, what he really enjoys most is simple food.
“I’m actually a very simple person because when I’m a guest chef in a fancy kitchen I’m always trying to convince chefs to cook plain. And when I eat I don’t critique, I don’t even want to order – I just like to be fed.”
Which is why he so likes the humble Afghani family-run restaurant Parwana.
“It’s the ultimate in hospitality,” he says.
“They make you feel so welcome. It’s in their spirit that feeding people is a noble and good thing to do, and you can’t fake that. I can honestly say I’m happiest and most comfortable in places like this.”
Going more upmarket, he singles out Fino at Seppeltsfield in the Barossa, simply because he so admires co-owner and chef David Swain’s cooking.
“Fino is so relaxed, not uptight about anything, and the food isn’t messed with. David knows how to work with flavour, not against it – it’s beautiful food. And (co-owner) Sharon Romeo runs a brilliant outfit – she’s the most hospitable person in the world.”
Back in the city, Bryant points to Peel St.
“It doesn’t take itself too seriously but it’s one of the best things about Adelaide. There’s no friggin’ hoo ha, no wanker tongs or bubbles, just awesome food.”
He loves the farmer’s markets that have sprung up around Adelaide.
“We’re really very lucky,” he says.
“The Willunga farmer’s market was the first and it’s still the gold standard.
Unlike some farmer’s markets around the world it still has complete authenticity and it’s my favourite.
But the city farmer’s market at Wayville each Sunday morning is a tribute to people’s interest in great food – it’s a place where you come away with less money but richer for the experience.”
And when he really wants to get away from it all, Bryant goes bush – he heads to the desert with some Aboriginal mates, totally remote around Maralinga near SA’s border with Western Australia “where you can’t escape how old this country is”.
“You give up on showers, submit to the dirt and the chaos of camp, no emails – and it’s quiet. There’s a lot to be said for silence.”