By David Sly
Published: Friday, November 10, 2017
The quality of dining experiences throughout regional SA is on the rise, with smart conversations between chefs and local farmers resulting in an extraordinary array of delicious meals to remember.
1. The Enchanted Fig Tree, Kangaroo Island
The Enchanted Fig Tree is a feasting dream at remote Snelling Beach on Kangaroo Island. With three concealed dining spaces beneath the canopy of a sprawling 150-year-old fig tree, it looks like a scene from Alice in Wonderland (pictured above).
Set-course lunches are served here during summer, but once the leaves fall in autumn, service is relocated to the nearby Shearing Shed, dressed in gypsy antiques from the colonial era. Dishes show significant Mexican influence from chef Rachel Hannaford’s travels, proving a nice fit for local meats, seafood, vegetables and chillies.
2. Fino at Seppeltsfield, Barossa
Grandeur has returned to historic 1860s winery Seppeltsfield, with its refurbished bluestone cellars attracting plenty of visitors, and Fino Restaurant is at its core.
The sharp regional food philosophy of chefs David Swain and Sam Smith (pictured below) is captured on delicious plates designed to share.
Sit at outdoor tables beneath towering palms, in the airy former bottling hall, or in alcoves converted from slate-lined fermentation tanks. It’s fair reward that Seppeltsfield won the 2017 Australian Tourism Gold Award for wineries, distilleries and breweries.
3. The Currant Shed, McLaren Vale
The Currant Shed in McLaren Vale is flourishing after a cool mod makeover. The simple galvanised iron pavilion’s windows and dining patio provide views that stretch across lush lawns to an idyllic lime orchard and vineyard setting.
A relaxed, yet serious regional menu from chef Dioni Flanagan confidently pursues original combinations with luscious texture and rich, comforting flavours. The lime tart – made from fruit from the orchard – with fresh coconut is a notable signature and a must-try. Brisk, friendly and informed service completes an impressive dining package.
4. fermentAsian, Tanunda
fermentAsian has been a culinary trail blazer, introducing fresh multicultural flavours to the Barossa’s well-known German heritage.
Chef Tuoi Do’s clever amalgam of North Vietnamese and Thai culinary influences strikes deft balance in flavour and texture, from her signature starter of pork and sticky rice wrapped in betel leaves to the bewitching deep flavours in her snapper yellow curry.
Impressive recent additions to the venue include a new bar, function room and terrace, and a temperature-controlled room dedicated to housing an extraordinary global wine selection.
5. The Lane Vineyard, Hahndorf
Just a few kilometres from Hahndorf’s main street, The Lane Vineyard enjoys an Adelaide Hills setting that could have been constructed by an art director – rolling hills in the background, neat vineyards, and gnarly old gum trees that ebb away from the winery restaurant’s large deck and dining room.
Chef James Brinklow shows great culinary poise, embracing prime local produce to conjure dishes of flair with an element of surprise. The latest addition is the Chef’s Table experience, where guests are seated at the end of the kitchen ‘pass’ and treated to an exclusive menu made on the day and matched with wines.
6. The Tasting Room, Millicent
At The Tasting Room, part of Mayura Station near Millicent, guests can taste the finest wagyu beef at its source. This is a steakhouse like no other, within sight of the cattle feeding lots, where resident chef Mark Wright tutors diners through various cuts prepared in different ways.
It’s a tour de force for beef lovers, hitting dizzy heights of pleasure for evening meals from Thursday to Saturday (and other times for groups by appointment).
7. 1802 Oyster Bar + Bistro, Coffin Bay
Settled in the lower Eyre Peninsula, Coffin Bay’s 1802 Oyster Bar + Bistro is a seafood lover’s heady dream come true – a restaurant overlooking oyster leases.
The tempo here is slow and languid, like the gently ebbing tidal water. Our tip: sit on the deck and enjoy an array of local seafood, like oysters prepared a dozen ways, within sight of where they were plucked only hours before.
8. Pipers of Penola, Penola
Rural flavours and formal, city-style dining combine with easy grace at Pipers of Penola. Chef Simon Bowen sources superior regional produce and tweaks dishes each season to avoid complacency.
His wife Erika leads a crisp service team within the pretty white timber cottage, with its distinctive high gable roof and discrete interior artworks. Famous Coonawarra brands pepper a strong wine list that extends to fine vintages from around the world.
9. The Loxton Hotel, Loxton
The Loxton Hotel shines as a star Riverland dining attraction, thanks to chef Greg Janssen sourcing outstanding regional produce. The hotel’s impressive bistro menu identifies more than 30 notable local suppliers, including Durdin’s ducks, Kolophon capers, and farmed venison served with Santalum Grove quandongs.
Greg’s also known for cooking locally farmed Murray cod, stuffed with Riverland signature ingredients of almonds and dried fruit, and dressed with blood orange, lime and orange.
10. Seed Winehouse + Kitchen, Clare Valley
Once the Chaff Mill restaurant, Seed Winehouse + Kitchen has become an important dining focus for Clare. Chef Guy Parkinson and restaurant manager Candice Leighton – both from the Hunter Valley – have rejuvenated the old icon to great effect, and renovations have refreshed the rugged stone-and-galvanized-iron building.
There’s a large bar for casual eating and drinking, while the Italian-influenced menu sets an important quality benchmark for the region.