As you make your way down Almond Grove Road through the heart of Willunga, the road becomes lined by almond trees in glorious blossom. Petals spiral in the breeze, as chickens and sheep roam freely among the trees. That’s when you’ve arrived at Papershell Farm, a labour of love from Surahn and Jessica Sidhu.
When the couple purchased the 10-acre orchard in 2017, it was barren and in decay after decades of intensive farming practices, heavy machinery and sprays. Almost five years later, it’s been completely transformed. They’ve regenerated the land, renovated the homestead, built a greenhouse, and planted native trees, shrubs, vegetables, flowers and herbs.
“Compassion was a huge issue, spraying was a huge issue and the place was just kinda unloved, and so we put a lot of love into it,” says Surahn. “Initially we sold the equipment and put most of our energy into regenerating the soils … we put a lot of work in, but we knew at some point we wanted to open something that was sharing our space.”
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The old cracking shed has also been reactivated – as the newly opened Almond Door, a cafe and cellar door inspired by both the hi-fi jazz cafes of Japan (“a small contained space where service is the focus,” says Sidhu) and Italy’s agriturismo farmstays.
“Things we serve here are the things we’ve grown and the things we’ve made,” Sidhu explains as he presents a hand-carved dish filled with Papershell’s almonds. “This was made in Willunga. This was made from the trees in the orchard and we serve the almonds on them. We talk about the circular economy a lot, and we want this place to be an example of what a new farm looks like and what new farmers look like.”
As light dances through the glass entrance of the timber hut, Surahn runs his guests through tastings of the farm’s painstakingly prepared almonds – all grown, harvested and sorted by hand by him and Jessica. A fireplace crackles in the background, classic jazz reverberates from one of the many cassettes you’ll spot behind the bar (in a previous life, Surahn was a touring member of Empire of the Sun). The room is lined with produce from the farm: lemons, grapefruits, herbs and vegetables that guests can take home with them.
“It’s nice to give things away,” says Surahn. “It’s a huge boon for the community. They’ve taken the time out to spend money here, why not give them freshly picked goods?”
Almost everything you see within the cafe’s walls is prepared on-site, from the farm’s Space Echo shiraz (handmade from biodynamic fruit from Yangarra; a glass is complimentary with every tasting), to the handmade spoons lovingly carved from offcuts of the orchard’s almond trees and locally made pottery (both of which are available to purchase).
The food menu reflects the Sidhus’ reverence for the greater Willunga area, with Papershell’s almonds served alongside pates, rillettes, pickles and cheeses sourced from local producers. The drinks list packs in some of the Fleurieu’s finest producers: you’ll find chenin blanc from Brash Higgins and grenache from The Hedonist, beers from South Coast Brewing Co and a couple of fizzes from the farm’s Rain Dance brewing branch, such as the Spider Cider. Coffee, tea and Gather Brewing kombucha are all available as well.
“Almond Door” at Papershell Farm
203 Almond Grove Road, Willunga South
Sat 11am–8pm (by booking only)