From Adelaide to McLaren Vale: The Ultimate South Australia Eating & Drinking Guide

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It’s appetites of audacious proportions in South Australia, as we discovered on a recent whirl through its epicurean highlights.

The state has long held a reputation for its wilderness wonders and adventurous inducements; and now this philosophy has trickled into gastronomic glories. In a mere 5-10 years, there’s been a surge of gourmands showcasing their delectable wares to locals and the world over. And why not? It has been long revered as a wine wonderland…so it only makes sense that all things culinary rise to the occasion of such fine sips.

Industry insiders such as Jonathan Milne of Barossa Taste Sensations explain that it has indeed progressed from rudimentary to ravishing. And the diversity of pleasures is endless: from the boutique cosmopolitan blessings of Adelaide city, to the neighboring and acclaimed wine regions of Barossa and Mclaren Vale, to the sandy, sun-soaked beaches of the Fleurieu Peninsula, there’s much to behold and digest.

Our recent gustatory mission played out thusly…

 

Adelaide

Adelaide Central Market

Since 1869, this beloved market has been a haven for chefs and locals seeking premium food and wine products. All locally sourced, there are about 90 artisan / mom & pop run shops under one roof. We urge you to begin your epicurean journey here and sign up for a Markets Highlight tour. Consider it an orientation of sorts – ideally guided by Mark Gleeson, founder of Adelaide Central Market Tours. In addition to tasting fine fare from local purveyors (such as smoked kangaroo and triple-crème cheese), you’ll get the full scope of the bounty that South Australia has to offer – and it’s a prime place to connect with locals, get a glimpse of everyday life, and ask for recommendations. If you’re keen to bring home tasty souvenirs, gift yourself (they ship internationally) one of their Williams and Taylor Hampers that is brimming with goodies (oils, spreads, crackers, chocolates, etc.) from the Adelaide Hills and Fleurieu Peninsula regions.

 

 

Parwana Afghan Restaurant

In Torrensville, a suburb of Adelaide and about 10 minutes west of the downtown core, is the Parwana Afghan Restaurant, a family-run affair that has turned tragedy into triumph. Zelmai and his wife Farida Ayubi fled from Afghanistan in 1987 in the midst of the chaos and suffering of the Cold War, and the latter proceeded to share her culinary prowess in her new home of Adelaide. Since 2009, locals and tourists flock to Parwana for convivial home cooked meals that are permeated with fond memories of her home country. Order the manty, dumpling pleasure pockets that are brimming with shredded carrots and sautéed sweet onions. They’re topped with a beef mince sauce and drizzled with garlic yogurt, and what results is a soft creaminess colliding with a toothsome chew. And then tuck into du pyaza, lamb pieces accented with a spice blend tossed with garlic and split peas. A mountainous pile sits on homemade naan; unctuous and gamey, and the succulent morsels are topped with tangy onions and fresh herbs.

Gondola Gondola

Opened in 2015, the space is named after the little rickshaw boats that float up and down the riverways of Thailand and Vietnam; and the ambiance straddles that of a casual dining space and boisterous hole-in-the-wall. Owner Tuoi Tran offers Southeast Asian fare with a particular focus on Thai and Vietnamese flavors. Start your meal off with a Blue Moon cocktail that utilizes house blueberry gin, coconut syrup, Sangiovese verjuice, and sparkling sake. Then try the house favorite banh xeo: a large egg pancake with crispy edges that is sandwiched with minced pork, prawns, sprouts, mint coriander and pickled veg. Here you willingly play with your food by using the lettuce leaves provided and haphazardly fashion everything into a freeform wrap. Be sure to have napkins in spades – it’s downright messy fun.

 

 

 

Prohibition Liquor Co Pty Ltd.

In 2013, two pals – Adam Carpenter and Wes Heddles – decided to team up and pursue their passion for gin. From avid enthusiasts, they’ve turn their pet project into a lucrative and thriving business. Gin is still in its infancy here and a boutique industry, with about 25 artisan distillers in all of South Australia; but all this young blood has generated much innovation and creativity – most especially at Prohibition Liquor Co Pty Ltd’s new Tasting Room on Gilbert Street. With guidance from gin ambassadors like Danny Stone, order a flight tasting of their finest, which features Prohibition Original, Bathtub Cut, and Shiraz Barrel Aged. Our favorite of the bunch? The Bathtub, which happens to have highest proof in all of the Southern Hemisphere. Bracing alcohol shock-value aside, the nose gets a thicket of vanilla perfume with an herbal undercurrent, the tongue is peppered with star anise, cassia bark, cardamon and a healthy stretch of cinnamon, ginger, and almond roundness.

Orana

This dégustation menu is a cultural anthropology into South Australia’s gastronomic history and heritage. Chef Jock Zonfrillo’s award-winning restaurant on a busy stretch of Rundle Street champions the country’s indigenous communities and respective ingredients. With 16+ years of research, he’s galvanized support and fostered a profound respect for these people, which is given reverence through his innovative dishes. And the 11 courses are a veritable ode to the land and sea. With a decidedly modernist presentation, each showcases a star ingredient that’s bolstered by rigorous techniques and ancestral providence. With a duration of three hours, it’s hard to choose a favorite – but the majestic scarlett prawn roti warrants a standing ovation. Theatrically presented, the prawns are touched briefly with radiant heat from coal fire –  and needing no other embellishment, the freshness of this crustacean and its sourcing from nearby Queensland speaks for itself. The supple and sweet flesh get sandwiched with squishy, crusty roti and dollops of fermented chili. The combinations collide and in your mouth, creating blissful moments of magic.

 

 

 

Barossa

Artisans of Barossa

Considering that the oldest Shiraz and Grenache vineyards in the world are found here, it’s obvious why Barossa is considered the heart of South Australia’s wine country…and one of the 18 primary wine regions in this state. But if you want to hit the ground running and not feel overwhelmed (there are 170 winemakers, and 500 different grape growers, after all), get the perfect primer and a guided tasting at Artisans of Barossa. If you have one hour to spare, we urge you to take the Barossa Enthusiast class; part of the Educational Series from their Wine School, it’s a crash course on the Barossa wine region. Under one roof, they feature a brotherhood of six different wineries that showcase the beauty, complexity, breadth and depth of terroir found in the Barossa Valley. From the experts, you’ll taste Shiraz, Grenache and Riesling from Hobbs of Barossa, John Duval, Massena Barossa Valley, Schwartz Wine Co., Sons of Eden, and Spinifex. What you’ll come to learn is that the minute variances in elevation or soil composition (there are 36 different types alone) drastically affect what you taste in each glass – and it’s just glorious to sample such diversity from one region.

The Farm Eatery and Experience Centre

This family affair started by kitchen personality Maggie Beer has amassed a uniquely delicious empire. First there’s the DIY gin school (the first of its kind in Barossa), the cooking classes, the little pheasant and duck farm (where she makes her famed pâté), the onsite vineyard, and then the invigorating fare at the newly opened namesake restaurant, just shy of 6 months old. Keeping it fresh, light and airy at The Farm Eatery, the concept is as free-flowing as their bohemian state of mind. The menu at the restaurant changes every day; but if you see Mount Crawford mushrooms on the menu, order post-haste. Sautéed in butter and garlic salt, the unabashedly umami-bolstered slices sit on a cushiony bed of rice polenta. The whole shebang is topped with crispy jerusalem artichoke crisps and a rainshower of aged parmesan. It’s a textural wonder, indeed.

 

 

St. Hugo

Founded in 1847 and situated along the meandering waters of Jacob’s Creek, it’s where sapphire skies kiss jade vineyards. Here you’ll find fanciful flights in numerous incarnations. There’s the Prestige Experience, where you’ll be whisked around on a private helicopter flight through wine country; it’s followed by an eight course luncheon with wines to perfectly pair with contemporary Australian fare such as Hugo Chardonnay with rabbit perfumed with hazelnuts, chook, mustard and capers. But if you don’t have all day to spare, opt for a Past, Present and Future tasting. You’ll delve into vintages not yet released (future) and taste your way towards current and past favorites, getting to savor an evolutionary unfolding through three Shiraz and three Cabernet Sauvignon selections. From tannins to acid and sugar levels, you’ll surprise and impress yourself as your palate is able to home in our these tasty touchpoints. Then wander outside and soak up the two hectare old bush vineyard with a glass from their Vetus Purum range – deemed the crème de la crème. Then revel in the Single Vineyard Barossa Valley Shiraz (2010). Hand-picked from 75 year old Rowland Flat vines, the wine is sophisticated and deeply complex with overtones of plum, spice and clove with heady chocolate backnotes. Texture is robust with refined tannins.

fermentAsian

The spice route leads here – Vietnamese Chef and owner Tuoi Do plays with flavor, spice, and everything nice in her modern Southeast Asian restaurant. A mainstay since 2010, it’s a celebration of all things local, but showcases Asiatic fare by way of her ethnic roots and inspiration. Fare is always fluid and contemporary; worlds and tastes converge in her luxuriously buttery Mayura Station wagyu dish that’s draped with coconut scented Massaman curry, layered with a medley of aromatics that include cinnamon, bay leaves, red chili pepper, garlic and ginger. And save room for dessert: black sticky rice is interwoven with sweet coconut, topped with globs of translucent coconut jelly and a quenelle of refreshing sorbet. Also remember to capitalize on their vast wine list (over 1400 selections from Australia and the world are featured), letting their seasoned sommeliers take the driver’s seat and pair each course with a local wine.

 

 

Yalumba

Located in Angeston, one of the four major towns of Barossa, Yalumba looks fantastic for its age at 169 years young. It is indeed the oldest family owned winery in Australia, with its fifth generation currently reigning over the company. Take in the landscaped gardens and clock tower (dating back to 1908) before diving in to their Yalumba Unlocked experience. Of the highlights, one is the visit to the cooperage – it is in fact the only winery to have one in all of the Southern Hemisphere. Here you’ll see deft tradesmen masterfully bend natural elements to their will – transforming wood and metal into barrels for aging wine. The private museum cellar houses prized historical wines from Australia and beyond, with an aim to celebrate provenance and the best of the best. And if you want a taste, they host an annual and highly sought-after Barossa Vintage Festival, where you can enjoy centuries old wines (about 20-30). In the meantime, toast to the the present and quench your thirst with a flight tasting, while learning about the geography of Barossa (main areas comprise Eden Valley and Barossa Valley), soil composition and much more through your tasting journey of six wines expressing the terroir of the area. From Riesling and Viognier to Grenache, our favorite is undoubtedly the Yalumba Steeple Vineyard Shiraz (2014). This award-winning wine sources grapes solely from Steeple Vineyard. It’s a structured red with balanced acid and tannins; red berries and black spices on the nose, vibrant red fruit on the tongue with sage undertones.

Seppeltsfield Wines

It’s not everyday you get to taste something that’s 100 years old; but that’s exactly what this winery offers. With 420 acres of ancient vineyard, it’s classified as a historic village and winery; Seppeltsfield opened in 1851, and their legacy is founded upon fortified wines. In fact, their bragging rights are having the longest unbroken lineage of tawny ports in the world (from 1878 to the present) due to visionary and founder Oscar Benno Pedro Seppelt – all of which are available for purchase. But the time-trippy tour you must opt for is their is Centenary Tour where you can taste their premium fortified wines, culminating with sips of their 100 year old Para Vintage Tawny from 1918, direct from the barrel. Offering a thick, voluptuous consistency that straddles a runny honey and treacle, this port is deep, dark, rich and aromatic – like aged balsamic vinegar. The tongue is tantalized by heady Christmas spices (nutmeg, mace, cloves, cinnamon), sticky chocolate pudding, and a leathery musk.
The sprawling property also houses artisans (knife forgers, artists, jewelers,etc) at their Jam Factory. But make time for Vasse Virgin Barossa, for handmade skin and body care, which extends into a line of artisan foods and live oils, the latter from their personal 250 olive groves in Barossa. Carve out time and take an informative olive oil class, which guides you through a spectrum of tasting characteristics and how to enjoy it like a fine wine.

 

 

Hentley Farm

Hentley Farm is set upon undulating hills on the banks of Greenock Creek in Seppeltsfield. Opened in 2012, the boutique single estate vineyard hosts a prized namesake restaurant, converted from its original state as a horse stable. We tried the lunchtime Du Jour tasting menu, which is envisioned by Chef Lachlan Colwill. With savant like aptitude, he and his culinary brigade transform local, sustainable produce and combine unlikely ingredients and textures you wouldn’t otherwise expect to work together. It’s hard to choose a favorite, but the bluefin tuna captivated our hearts and stomachs. Caught from nearby Port Lincoln, the buttery rose-hued flesh is seared gently and topped with crushed sunflower seeds; it’s nestled beside intoxicatingly heady chicken liver (yes, it works). The proteins are draped with a sheet of iceberg lettuce and topped with curls of shaved salted egg yolk. They gild the lily even further with golden drizzles of perfumed brown butter over the dish. It’s paired with a gorgeous glass of Hentley Farm 2016 Stray Mongrel, which is a blend of Grenache, Shiraz, and Zinfandel from Barossa Valley. A thicket of pear skin and raspberries on the nose, red fruits on the palate dominate with grippy tannins – sans any drying effect. In a word, our tasting notes were written as…“WOW.”

Bar Louise

Barossa is often called the Napa Valley of South Australia – so it’s not surprising that the region is a tapestry of fine dining establishments. But sometimes, you just want to tuck into a massive, juicy-sloppy burger with reckless abandon. Thankfully, Bar Louise and its new Chef Daniel Murphy can satisfy that desire. The casual sister to their award-winning Appellation restaurant, Bar Louise is where you can carve out a spot on the patio, watch the sunset with a local brew and munch on juicy double-decker Coorong angus beef cooked medium-rare; it’s topped with a gooey melty cheese blend, pickles, beetroot spread and horseradish mayo. And who knew the most divine doughnuts in the world would be found in South Australia? But yes, you might hear angels singing as you sink your teeth into vanilla spiced doughnuts slathered with thick jersey cream and house made blackberry jam. The oblong doughnut-discs are the ideal ratio between hefty / weighty and light / airy fluffy clouds. The sandy sugar exterior further adds crunch to the velvety plush interior.

 

 

McLaren Vale

d’Arenberg Cube Restaurant

With 80% of all premium Australian wine coming from South Australia, d’Arenberg Winery in the McLaren Vale region is no exception – founded on the art of excellence and challenging conventions of what a winery can be. It is a living puzzle of tastes and wickedly fun. Family owned and purchased in 1912, its regal history is counterbalanced with quirkiness and whimsy. With over 60 wines to its name and use of 25 different grape varietals from McLaren Vale’s diverse terroir, Chester Osborn – fourth generation family winemaker – has upped the proverbial ante with the recent opening of the experimental restaurant d’Arenberg Cube in Dec 2017.
Inside this towering four-story Rubik’s Cube, your senses are inundated and assaulted with sights and sounds via Osborn’s personal vino-art collection (either crafted by him or commissioned from local talents). As you fumble towards ecstasy and sensory overload, by the time you ascend to the top floor, your sense of taste, smell, sight, touch and sound have been ideally primed and heightened for their tutored tastings. Then descend one flight of stairs for their extravagant-eclectic tasting menu, The Pickwickian Brobdingnagian (note: Jonathan Swift reference) luncheon, which spans 3-4 hours, with 11 courses and acclaimed wines to pair. With Chef Brendan Wessels at the helm, techniques are finessed and refine, the presentation is bold, sophisticated and avant-garde; but above all else, it’s gracious great fun – in fact, it really feels like you’ve tumbled down the rabbit hole, à la Alice in Wonderland, and are experiencing all things wild and wacky.
Favorites include the Barramundi Bush Coal with vegemite aïoli, that’s paired with their effervescent Lucky Lizard (Chardonnay), Adelaide Hills, 2016; and Scallop Silk with sea grapes, sudachi, and kosho, paired with The Money Spider (McLaren Vale, 2017) made with Roussanne grapes. The citrus/creaminess from the scallop plays off well with the wine’s tropical notes of honeydew melon, white flowers, and ginger. It pleases the palate with its lingering fresh finish and vibrant acidity.