Carpentaria Grill

Think of all the wonderfulness in nature that comes wrapped in such an unassuming exterior that, if you didn’t know better, you would just pass on by. Opals, bee hives, thunder eggs…. even the phrase “they’re just a diamond in the rough…”

Some, like the sea urchin, still look unappetising inside, but are a culinary gemstone (so I hear…) Such is the Carpentaria Grill at Borroloola.

Drive in its general direction along Robinson Road; blink once too often and you’ll miss the signs pointing to the grill. Sure, the joint has its own illuminated sign to distinguish itself from the Savannah Way Motel, with which it is connected to, but even that signage is too small. My first time visiting and I passed by several times.

While in Borroloola for work recently I visited the Carpentaria Grill for dinner. Externally, the place is a reflection of the rough and ready, build anything anywhere persona of town: weatherbeaten, paint work faded, covered in red dust, secured behind a high chainmesh fence and just one part of a much larger complex of more of the same. Structurally it comprises a raised and roofed deck area flanked on one side by a kitchen, ice cream cabinet, drinks fridge, cashier and wine cellar housed within a transportable building. On the other side is another transportable building seemingly unassociated with the grill. This deck forms an open dining area, walled on one side with the Grill entrance from the street, and on the other side open to the Savannah Way Motel – all in all therefore not unlike a mess hall in a mining village or remote area construction camp.

The interior continues the pattern from outside. Additionally, mixed artefacts adorning the walls range from the usual pub kitsch to others that presumingly have nostalgic value. Wobbly tables, plastic yard chairs and a huge TV complete the scenery.

I have visited several times before, and have nothing but praise for the food. Quality and quantity. I would have to describe the menu as pub food, and on this visit I ordered the crumbed lamb cutlets and vegetables. Lashing out on this visit, I swapped the mash for fries.

The meal was promptly served on a large oval plate packed with steamed vegetables (the usual suspects; cauliflower, broccoli, carrot, pumpkin, and corn) and golden fries. On top of the layer of veg and fries spilling onto the table were three of the largest lamb cutlets I have ever seen. The crumbing was uniform, intact and golden. The only way to get into the cutlets was to start on the fries and veg to make room on the plate for laying them down.

The veg… sure, it’s hard make veg sexy, especially plain veg, but it was not overcooked and still had bite, which I appreciated. The trick, I found, was to eat the veg first and leave the good things to later. The fries, in this instance, compliment the veg well and were piping hot and simply delicious with added salt. By removing the bottom layer first, this left the cutlets to savour…

Juicy and tender cutlets. Full of flavour and cooked perfectly. The crumbing may have been a tad overcooked for my liking – but that’s just a personal thing. There was no point in adding a little bit of everything on the fork with the meat as the lamb was up there with the nicest I’ve ever had. I just wanted to taste the lamb alone. Overall, given that veg is veg, the quality of the meal was hard to knock. Considering the mountain of food served, you couldn’t say it wasn’t value for money.

Let’s put it this way, with the quality of the meals at the Carpentaria Grill being consistent visit after visit, I haven’t wanted to venture further and try anywhere else for dinner at Borroloola. Or even explore whether there is anything else in the township.

Drive by and you’re likely to miss it. Step inside and push past the rough and ready interior and only the fussiest wouldn’t be happy with the experience.

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