South Australia & Victoria: 10 great places to eat in wine country
Having a tooth out is no way to start your first week back home after wine travels. But it has been a useful inhibitor on the food front after three weeks of indulgence Down Under. Here are 10 great places to eat.
Harvest Kitchen at Artisans of the Barossa: just under a year ago, Harvest Kitchen set up shop at Artisans of the Barossa’s cellar door. Tracy Collins and Pete Little are the couple behind it, Collins a Masterchef* finalist, Little a former Director of Food and Beverage for luxury Barossa property The Louise and their award winning restaurant Appellation. Middle eastern inspired sharing platters worked brilliantly well with the Barossa’s spice inflected wines, especially a mature John Duval Entity GSM 2005. Beetroot Skordalia with crumbled feta and flatbread, Spice fried eggplant chips with aioli, Ancient grain salad with vache curd and pomegranate molasses dressing – tick, tick, tick – highly recommended as, of course, is the Artisans of the Barossa wine list from John Duval, Massena, Schwarz Wine Co, Sons of Eden, Hobbs of Barossa Ranges and Spinifex.
Fermentasian: I’ve raved about Fermentasian in Tanunda before. Our large group enjoyed a parade of perfumed, pungent Vietnamese dishes from the Chef’s Table Menu and home garden (pictured). The wine list is biblical in size and spirit. Just go.
The Lane: the food at The Lane’s winery restaurant in Adelaide Hills is as fresh, contemporary and finesse-ful as the wines and surrounds. Cleverly matched too. A singular experience which you can read more about here.
d’Arry’s Verandah Restaurant: I guess the clue is in the name. d’Arenberg’s restaurant has a distinctly French influence and I was delighted to see lobster medallion with blue swimmer crab and prawn ravioli and lobster bisque still on the menu. Creative touches distinguish the wines and, it transpired, our palate cleanser too – a welcome lime and lychee sorbet with a splash of The Money Spider Roussanne.
Pipers of Penola: Coonawarra has a small but demanding population of food-loving winemakers and this pretty, intimate restaurant is where they dine out. I’ve eaten very well here before. This time, I thoroughly regretted not making room for the sugared yeast doughnuts, coffee & Frangelico ice cream, macadamia nuts, mint!
*Incidentally, in Adelaide itself I dined at a restaurant owned by one of Australian Masterchef’s first contestants. A stone’s throw from my hotel in the centre of town I’d throughly recommend Andre’s Cucina. Great gnocci (made fresh every day), nice wine list – the perfect neighbourhood Italian trattoria.
Ch. Yering Eleonore’s Restaurant: this historic 19th century homestead, now a five star hotel, has the most elegant dining room. At dusk, the view of the Yarra Valley is to die for. As is the food. The wine list hits all the right spots and provided an opportunity to show my Arblaster & Clarke group two vintages of Oakridge Chardonnay 864 – the 2011 and 2006, the latter filling out nicely, yet still so young. It was a fine foil for my pan roasted John Dory with broad beans, pea and wasabi puree, miso butter, while the tightly wound 2011 echoed the purity and minerality of my starter of Spanner Crab, apple, pickled daikon, water melon and sake gel (pictured).
Innocent Bystander cellar door: after the sophistication of Eleonores what better contrast than wood fired oven pizzas made before our very eyes at Innocent Bystander in Healesville. Gorgeous baked goods all round at this buzzy brasserie style cellar door/winery restaurant. I’m told the brownies are super good.
de Bortoli: no surprises that fresh pasta features on the menu at de Bortoli. How could I resist tagliolini al nero di seppia (squid ink tagliolini, spanner crab, prawn, tomato, chives, bottarga). Excellent. My starter of Coffin Bay oysters came interestingly dressed with lemon and olive oil – a first. It emphasised the bivalve’s fleshiness without detracting from its smack of the sea minerality. The food here is as thoughtful yet unfussy as the wines, with the emphasis firmly on top notch ingredients. Though the wine list was exclusively focused on estate wines, that was no hardship given the quality, depth and breadth of the offer.
Brown Brothers: amazingly I’d not previously made it to Brown Brother’s home in Milawa but, as I’d expected, the cellar door and winery restaurant is a slick affair. On my last day, rather wishing I had an elasticated waistband, I went for a starter and side of hand cut chips (yes, I know, not so very restrained but trust me, I had “helpers”!) Tempura zucchini flower, pumpkin, bread & butter zucchini pickles and lavosh had an unexpectedly earthy spiciness – tumeric, cumin. Very good. By the way, Caroline Brown showed me photos of the new Devil’s Corner cellar door/restaurant in Tasmania, at Freycinet on the east coast. Why am I not surprised that Ross “I could fish in a puddle” Brown has listed seafood and fish from Frecinet Marine Farm where we dined when I visited a couple of years ago. As you can see from this post, the location is stunning – another must see, seafood and eat it.
Taxi Kitchen: this, the scene of my tour group’s farewell dinner, had much to commend it. It was strange coming back to a city having been out and about in wine country for 10 days. But if you’re going to do city, might as well do it properly and, located in Federation Square, Melbourne Taxi Kitchen lets you wine and dine with a great view of the city’s skyline. The food is classic Australian fusion, humming with flavour and liberal in its use of Asian spices and condiments – as vibrant as the joint itself. I was very pleased, at last, to catch up with Four Pillars’ gin from the well stocked bar, located centre stage – we’d passed the distillery in Healesville. Great Aussie wine list too.