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To complement its outstanding collection on wine, the State Library has been collecting menus seriously since 1990. Before that date, the Library had acquired a few menus from hotels and restaurants, as well as menus for official occasions, private dinner parties and, as part of its shipping collections, some shipboard menus. Most of these were donated by library staff or members of the community, or had been acquired as part of archival record groups.

Noteworthy among these donations are a number of menus from the South Australian Hotel, which pleased discriminating diners from 1879 to 1971, as well as menus from the glossy hotel dining rooms of the 1950s and 1960s. Both of these groups of menus were donated to the Library by Barry King, a former chef at the South Australian Hotel. The Library also received a collection of Victorian menus, many of them annotated, from Melbourne restaurant critic, Rita Erlich.

The Library’s oldest menus are two Belgian menus from 1844 and1856, and the oldest Australian menu is for a dinner and a banquet held in honour of Prince Alfred, first regal visitor to South Australia, in 1867. There are menus for private and official dinners held at Parliament and Government Houses, Adelaide, as well as in public buildings, clubs, and private houses in South Australia and elsewhere.

There are menus which show the growth in popularity of culturally distinctive cuisines, once exotic, now thoroughly familiar to a culturally diverse nation. There are menus which show a diversity of imagination and design. Some menus are a puzzle, revealing no clear details of the occasion or the place or the date. We would be delighted to hear from people who can supply any of the missing details.

Menus featured here are South Australian unless otherwise specified, and are only a small selection of the hundreds of menus and wine lists held in the Library’s collections. Many menus also have wine lists, while others are wine lists alone.

The 100 or so menus selected for inclusion on this site are grouped under the following headings, with some appearing in more than one group. Within each group the menus are in chronological order, unless otherwise indicated.

The 19th century

Hotel du Commerce a Bruges [Belgium] 7 February 1844
The oldest menu held by the Library.

Menu Bruges [Belgium] 13 October 1856
The second oldest menu held by the Library.

Menu [Belgium] 26 April 1897

These three menus above come from an amazing album of wine ephemera associated with the wine trade. Called Viniana, the album was compiled by Ellic Howe, a connoisseur of both wine and typography, and consists of about 160 items from the 18th to the 20th century. There are labels, wine lists and invoices, many from Burgundy, together with menus, advertisements, lists of wines sold at the Hospices de Beaune between 1899 and 1906, and notes on some wines drunk by Ellic Howe.

Government House 31 October 1857

The earliest Australian menu held by the Library.

Breakfast of marriage of P.Walter Duffield and Florence Eva Kirkpatrick 15 August 1878.

This amazing wedding breakfast was given by Mr & Mrs Samuel Cornish at Beverley House, Glenelg, their home on the banks of the Patawalonga Creek, on the occasion of the marriage of Mrs Cornish’s sister, Eva Kirkpatrick, to Walter Duffield, of Para Para, near Gawler.

Banquet given for the Adelaide Jubilee International Exhibition 1887

City of Adelaide for Prince of Wales Birthday 9 November 1888

Moorakyne House, Robe 15 August 1890.
Moorakyne House was built by George Ormerod, a wealthy pastoralist in 1853 as a private residence. A motel and holiday flats now stand on the site. The menu, handwritten in French, features a releve course following the soup/fish and before the entrée. Note ‘Anchois a la Florentine’.

Affairs of state

City of Adelaide for Prince of Wales Birthday 9 November 1888


A luncheon in honour of distinguished guest the Right Hon. R.J. Seddon from
New Zealand held in the 1,000 cask room at Auldana Winery 29 May 1906

State dinner for the Prince of Wales, Grand Central Hotel 13 July 1920

Corporation of Adelaide dinner, Hotel Richmond 31 August1931

Dinner for the Governor-General, Adelaide Club 3 June 1939

Parliament House Menu 29 April 1986

State luncheon for Dr Kohl, Hyatt Regency 5 October 1988

Luncheon for the Honourable Hubert Humphrey, Vice-President of the United States, Hotel Canberra 19 February 1966

The South Australian Hotel

An Adelaide icon, the South Australian Hotel, known affectionately as ‘The South’ was built at 147 North Terrace in 1879 and demolished on 26 June 1971. It was an elegant hotel and the place where visiting celebrities stayed, most notably The Beatles in 1964. The first menu in this section is part of the collection of Barry King, the hotel’s last Executive Chef, who donated around 400 of its menus to the State Library of South Australia, thus providing a wonderful record of the sadly missed institution.

South Australian Hotel 11 May 1944

Commonwealth Press Union dinner, South Australian Hotel 19 November 1955

25th Annual Conference of Commonwealth Chamber of Fruit & Vegetable Industry, South Australian Hotel 14 September 1965

Confrerie des Chevaliers du Tastevin, South Australian Hotel 6 March 1968

South Australian Hotel 16 December 1970

The Adelaide Club

The Adelaide Club is a gentlemen’s club formed in 1863, out of the ashes of The South Australian Club, which lasted from 1838 to 1843. Its menus feature strongly in the menu collection as it has often been host to special occasion dinners for visiting royalty and vice-regality, as well as other V.I.P.s.

Adelaide Club 21 May 1937

Dinner for the Governor-General of Australia, Adelaide Club 3 June 1939

Confrerie des Chevaliers du Tastevin, Adelaide Club 29 August 1969

Modern Pickwick Club annual dinner, Adelaide Club 28 July 1990

On board ship

T.S.M.V. Manunda at sea. 16 July 1953
Example of an Adelaide Steamship Company passenger ship.

Orsova dinner 24 December 1970

HMCS Protector dinner 30 September 1984

HMV Britannia Melbourne 16 March 1977

Some special occasions


Old Colonists Banquet, Glenelg 29 December 1913

Dinner to commemorate the Opening of the Hotel Richmond given by Charles R.J. Glover, Adelaide’s first Lord Mayor and owner of the Hotel Richmond 3 May 1928

The Wongana Circle, dinner to Wongana wives, Hotel Richmond 24 September 1938

Adelaide City Council dinner to A.H. Gerard 4 August 1966

35th Maccabi Carnival Ball 30 December 1967

Magarey Medal Presentation dinner 9 September 1974

Dinner for Michael Broadbent of Christie’s wine auction department, Bulletin Place, Sydney given by Len Evans 4 February 1977

St Valentines Day Ball 12 February 1982

Kings Ball, McLaren Vale Bushing Festival, Woodstock Winery 28 October 1989

State Library of South Australia Foundation inaugural dinner, The Institute 9 May 1997

Grand Bradman dinner for Sir Donald’s 90th Birthday, State Library Foundation, Adelaide Convention Centre 27 August 1998

Associations and business dinners

SA Chamber of Manufacturers, John Martins 1 December 1948

Commonwealth Press Union dinner, South Australian Hotel 19 November 1955

Food Technology Association, SA annual dinner 21 June 1956

SA Chamber of Manufacturers Better Food Exhibition 1958

5DN Starve Din Din Loway Out 3 December 1962

Australian Optometrical Association Golden dinner 19 October 1963

25th Annual Conference of Commonwealth Chamber of Fruit & Vegetable Industry, South Australian Hotel 14 September 1965

Wine and food societies

The International Food and Wine Society (IWFS) has groups around the world.

The Bacchus Club, Barossa Valley Branch, annual vintage dinner, Angaston Hotel 6 April 1960

The Bacchus Club, Barossa Valley Branch, Yugoslav dinner, Angaston Hotel 19 May 1967

The Bacchus Club, Barossa Valley Branch, Australian classics, Vintners Restaurant, Angaston 22 May 1987

The Bacchus Club, Barossa Valley Branch, Bicentennial dinner: Australia rediscovered, Vintners Restaurant, Angaston 13 May 1988

The Bacchus Club, Golden Bacchus 50th Anniversary dinner, Alphutte Restaurant 23 June 1989

IWFS The Pursuit of Excellence Council dinner 15 September 1986

Confrerie des Chevaliers du Tastevin

The South Australian chapter of this international organisation holds dinners twice a year, hosted by a different member. The specially printed cover for each menu usually comes from the parent organisation in France is and features interesting images.

Confrerie des Chevaliers du Tastevin, Adelaide Club 29 August 1969

Confrerie des Chevaliers du Tastevin, Middlebrook Winery, Cover: Statue of Liberty 14 February 1987

Wine dinners

Wine Week Ladies’ dinner, Highway Inn, 7 October 1958.

Novelty ‘menu’ in the form of a souvenir napkin from one of the fashionable suburban hotels of the period. It notes the food that will be served and the accompanying wine, and also gives a list of the toasts.

10 years of Magill Estate 1983-1992 9 November 1994

Best of Barossa banquet, Hyatt Regency 1992

Magill Estate – Penfolds Grange/707 dinner 26 May 1997

Henschke celebrating 40 years Hill of Grace 1998

Wine shows

Barossa Wine Show, 21st judges dinner, Wild Olive Restaurant 23 September 1997

Clare Valley Winemakers gourmet dinner 14 May 1988

International Winemaker of the Year 1989

Restaurants

Cheong Liew with Moët & Chandon, Adelaide Hilton 20 March 1997
Cheong Liew is an Australian national treasure. The Good food guide 2001 (Melbourne: TheAge 2000) says ‘The idea of any self-respecting foodie visiting Adelaide without visiting the [Grange} home of kitchen god Cheong Liew is close to blasphemy. The Malaysian born master chef who turned fusion into an art form continues to amaze and inspire.’ You can read about the man and his food in My food by Cheong Liew with Elizabeth Ho, illustrations by Timothy John (St Leonards, N.S.W.: Allen & Unwin, 1995).

Haggers Restaurant 1988
Klaus Lemm took over Haggers from Dennis & Cheryl Hagger. Lemm had been the chef at the Regent of Melbourne before he wrote a book called Culinary reflections.

Magill Estate Restaurant 1998
The restaurant is located on the site where Max Schubert created Grange Hermitage.

Uraidla Aristologist
The Uraidla Aristologist was an innovative restaurant using fresh local produce ‘Tuscan style’ in the Adelaide hills in the 1980s and early 1990s, with chef Jennifer Hillier and Michael Symons, who wrote the interesting One continuous picnic: a history of eating in Australia (Adelaide: Duck Press, 1982).

Hotels, inns and taverns

Vine Inn, Nuriootpa, luncheon 9 November 1956.
Despite its location in the Barossa Valley, the only item of German origin is ‘saurerkraut’ (sic).

The artistic, ethnic and offbeat

Liste des grands vins fins, Etablissements Nicolas, Paris 1935
The French wine merchant Nicolas issued striking-looking wine lists, decorated by leading artists, . such as that by Darcy over many years. They are now much sought after by collectors. This one is in the Cellarmaster Collection of Rare Wine Books.

Private dinners

Moorakyne House, Robe 15 August 1890.
Moorakyne House was built by George Ormerod, a wealthy pastoralist in 1853 as a private residence. A motel and holiday flats now stand on the site. The menu, handwritten in French, features a releve course following the soup/fish and before the entrée. Note ‘Anchois a la Florentine’.

Dinner at 3 Bellair Court, Toorak, Victoria 3 December 1977.
One of several private dinners to honour Dr Simon Borten, a member of several wine and food socities and well known in food and wine circles in Australia and England. The Library is fortunate to have acquired a selection of menus from dinner parties he gave or attended.

Clichy, Collingwood 18 November 1982.
Donated by Victorian food critic, Rita Ehrlich.

The Single Bottle Club, 16th dinner, at Len Evans’ Loggerheads 1992