Eating Flinders Feral Food at the Prairie Hotel, Parachilna

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They’re serving up Flinders feral food at the Prairie Hotel in Parachilna.

Sounds delicious right? Immediately makes me think that the Prairie Hotel is serving up roadkill. That is absolutely not the case, but there are certainly some less common ingredients on the menu.

They’ve created a whole culinary experience around the food that can be found locally in the Flinders Ranges, And that is why I am driving almost 500km from Adelaide just to eat Flinders feral food at the Prairie Hotel.

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A Little Background about the Prairie Hotel

The Prairie Hotel is a long way from anywhere. It’s not even really a town, just a house or two along side a now disused railway siding. It was originally opened in 1876 when the town was growing up around it to support the railway.

The Parachilna siding was originally on the main rail line from Adelaide to Alice Springs, eventually taking the Ghan all the way to Darwin. The line was shut down in 1980, and what little was left of the town crumbled into dust.

The old railway line passing through Parachilna

Parachilna sits on traditional Adnyamathanha land to the west of the Flinders Ranges. Its name comes from their word “patajilnda”, which means “place of peppermint gum trees”.

In 1991, Ross and Jane Fargher bought the rundown old pub. They are locals, their family owns the nearby Nilpena Station, and the Prairie Hotel was their local pub.

Since they have taken over, the Prairie Hotel has been transformed. It still has the country pub vibe, but it is now a destination in its own right.

Now the hotel offers a range of accommodation options and experiences, along with the unique fine dining restaurant and more relaxed pub meals.

A brewhouse has just opened, where you can taste some beer brewed right here in the Outback. The whole pub is also a small art gallery, where you can admire art from local artists and depicting the local area.

The recent renovations have seen the addition of a small brew operation.
The walls of the pub are adorned with art.

The Prairie Hotel has become a real hub for the Northern Flinders Ranges of the last few years.

It has been the base for international movie stars (like Kate Winslet and Harvey Keitel) when movies like Rabbit Proof Fence and Holy Smoke were filmed in the area.

It has also starred in one of Australia’s best loved soaps, Home & Away. It even has its own song “Prairie Hotel, Parachilna” by John Williamson – although I’m fairly sure the film clip was not filmed there.

The colours of the Flinders Ranges

Getting to the Prairie Hotel, Parachilna

When you see this sign on the highway, turn left! (Or just come in your helicopter like those in the background perhaps?)

There is really just one way for most people to get to the Prairie Hotel – drive! The Prairie Hotel is 475km from the Adelaide City centre, almost directly north!

You would want a good six or seven hours to drive each way, so it is not a day trip.

At the very least, you could drive up one day, stay overnight, have dinner at the hotel then drive back the next day, but I recommend staying for at least two nights so that you can enjoy some of the stunning scenery in this part of the Flinders Ranges.

There are one or two alternative ways to get to the Prairie Hotel – but they won’t suit most people.

Firstly, if you happen to own your own light plane, you can land nearby and arrange a transfer. There’s not an approved airstrip at Parachilna itself anymore, but they are working on that.

The second way is to join a tour. This three-day tour from Adelaide, for example, includes lunch at the Prairie Hotel, or this seven-day trip includes an overnight stay.

The Prairie Hotel Experience

When visiting the Prairie Hotel, there are two different types of experiences. You can do as I have done this time and stop in for lunch.

There is the fine dining menu available in the Gallery Restaurant, which is open from Wednesday to Sunday, 12pm – 3:30pm. Reservations are essential.

If you haven’t reserved or don’t want such a fancy meal, there is a smaller version of the menu available to visitors in the Brew Bar.

Again, it is open from Wednesday to Sunday. Bar hours are from 11am to 5pm, but the kitchen is only open during the restaurant hours of 12 – 3:30pm. Dinner and breakfast are not available if you are not staying at the Prairie Hotel.

And that is the second option, to stay here for a night or two. The stay comes as an all-inclusive option with a drink on arrival and both breakfast and dinner included in the rate of the room. They do have two-night packages available,

A view of the back of the pub where the accommodation is.

The Prairie Hotel is an adult experience, and as such they do not cater for children under twelve. For kids twelve and above, adult rates apply.

Note the the hotel is only open in the cooler months of the year, generally from March to November. It is simply too hot to be enjoyable in this region in summer anyway.

The Prairie Hotel is a great base for exploring the surrounding area, such as Parachilna Gorge, and the popular drive through Brachina & Bunyeroo Gorges.

You can visit the nearby town of Blinman and do a mine tour to learn about the local mining history.

Nearby is also South Australia’s newest National Park, Nilpena Ediacara National Park, which began to welcome visitors in 2023 for the first time. Here you will see some of the oldest fossils found anywhere on Earth.

The scenery as we head south again after lunch.

Eating Flinders Feral Food

I love this concept of eating food that is found in the local area, particularly when some of it is using meat from the feral animals in the region and helps towards removing these pests from the environment.

For a few years now I have been trying to work it into one of my Flinders Ranges trips, but timing just hasn’t been quite right.

One trip we were there the week before they reopened after the summer, and the next time they were closed for renovations. We weren’t having much luck.

The other issue stopping me from doing this trip was my change to a plant-based diet. How was I going to eat at a restaurant that based it’s whole menu around feral food?

Recently there has been an addition to the menu, and now there are vegan options available. So this review is also for all those people who do not want to eat the Flinders feral food.

The menu for the Gallery Restaurant, August 2022

While not quite as feral as the signature mixed grill, the vegan options do include native bush ingredients that are not common elsewhere. I am excited to see there is even a vegan dessert, something that is often not the case.

There are also vegetarian and gluten free options on the menu too. So while my husband enjoys his Feral Mixed Grill of goat and camel, kangaroo and emu, I will be eating the vegan versions.

For visitors who do not have dietary restrictions, there are two Feral Feast Banquets available. You will need a minimum of two people, but you will then get a selection of different items from the menu allowing you to try a few more dishes.

We arrived a little early for our booked time and took advantage of the time to stretch our legs after the drive. Simon enjoyed a “Fargher Lager”, one of the local beers, which he declared “not bad!”.

Along with the Fargher Lager, there were three other PBP (Parachilna Brew Project) beers on tap too.
That’s about all there is in Parachilna – with a Fargher Lager to enhance the view

We took a look around the pub, which also doubles as an art gallery. There are also nods to the fossil history of the area and the local wildlife. We settled in the out door area to wait until it was time to head to the dining room.

This shows about half of the outdoor area where we waited before our meal, and many others sat to eat from the bar menu

Or perhaps I should say dining rooms. There are a collection of rooms that are used for dining, which is perfect if you are travelling with a group. You can have a whole room to yourself.

The rooms have a rustic feel to them, and the walls are adorned with more art, mostly local, some indigenous, some not. It all appeared to be for sale though, so if something takes your fancy, you can probably take it home.

One of the dining areas – this one was eventually taken by a group on a bus tour

Just minutes after we ordered, our entree appeared. We were mindful that we were ordering three courses, so chose to share some Ciabatta with saltbush dukkha.

For a simple dish of bread, olive oil with balsamic vinegar and dukkha, this was delicious and a great start to the meal. We were excited for what was to come.

Old man saltbush dukkha, olive oil, bush tomato balsamic with ciabatta

Our main meals were the roasted cauliflower for me, and the feral mixed grill for Simon. We also ordered sides of potatoes and mixed greens.

As my cauliflower was placed in front of me I immediately thought “uh oh, I’m never going to be able to eat all this.” While I am no big eater, this was a generous portion in anyone’s language.

There was half a cauliflower and quite a lot of the hummus, which I know can be filling. The combination of the veggies and the spices was really tasty and full of flavour.

I enjoyed it so much I almost cleared my plate, but again, I was thinking about the food to come.

Roasted cauliflower, hummus, golden raisins, red peppers and saltbush dukkha

Simon’s Feral Mixed Grill was simply the four different meats presented in some different ways. He had not eaten emu or camel before, and goat only in curries.

The way I would describe what was on the plate was an emu pattie, goat chop, kangaroo fillet and camel sausage – but of course they are described much nicer on the menu!

Feral mixed grill, camel boerewors, kangaroo fillet, emu mignon, goat chop, saltbush jus

While keen to give it a go, Simon was not convinced he would like all of the meats. The goat turned out to be his favourite, which unsurprisingly, he declared to be just like a lamb chop.

The kangaroo was better than any he had eaten before too. The emu and camel were both tasty, neither as gamy as what he was expecting. All in all it was a good plate of meat, cooked well and enjoyable.

While both our mains were good, we have to say we loved the potatoes.

We had ordered them with the butter on the side so that I could eat them as they were and Simon could add the butter, which he enjoyed telling me made them even better.

There’s not much to be said about the mixed greens, but they are always nice to have with a meal.

Crispy twice-cooked potatoes, lemon myrtle beurre noisette (which we had on the side)

There was a little wait until dessert arrived, but that was a good thing as at this stage I was thinking I had eaten one or two too many potatoes! Simon had ordered the quandong pudding, and I had ordered the sorbet.

That may have been my only option on the menu, but I was excited to find there was an option. It’s relatively common to find a vegan main meal on most menus, but very rare to find a vegan dessert too.

Unfortunately they had run out of the desert lime sorbet,  but they were able to replace it with coconut ice cream instead, still with a sprinkling of freeze-dried desert lime.

This is how simple a vegan dessert can be – and it was delicious, and just the thing since I was feeling so full.

Coconut ice cream with freeze-dried desert lime

I love quandong, but Simon isn’t so familiar with it. The tartness of it is often an acquired taste. This pudding may just have been the thing that changes his mind as he loved it.

Quandong pudding, quandong jam, cream and mascarpone

Overall we really enjoyed the meal and we are glad we made the effort to come to the Prairie Hotel for lunch. For a little pub in the middle of nowhere, it became a bustling hub over the lunchtime hours.

The dining rooms were completely full, both with independent travellers and a bus tour that stopped in. The front bar area and the outdoor area which was empty when we arrived were also full.

There were people sitting out on the front verandah too.

If you are in the Flinders Ranges – or even if, like us, you’re not – then it is worth planning ahead and booking lunch or a stay at the Prairie Hotel to enjoy this unique dining experience.

Looking for more things to do in the Flinders Ranges? Try these posts
21 Great Things to do in the Flinders Ranges
Riding the Pichi Richi Railway
Visiting Quorn

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About the author

Josie Kelsh is South Australian, born and bred, living here for her whole life. Travelling all over the world has shown her exactly how amazing South Australia is to live and travel in and she uses her passion to show it to you the way a local sees it.