“It’s been a dream of mine these past 13 years to be in the city,” says David Swain, co-owner and executive chef of Barossa icon Fino at Seppeltsfield. “And now, it’s happening ... it’s quite amazing, really.”
The regional diner's much-anticipated urban outpost – Fino Vino – has finally opened on Flinders Street. When Broadsheet visits Swain and fellow co-owner Sharon Romeo a few days before the big reveal, we’re sitting amongst a collection of wine glasses, smeared spoons and leftover bites from the afternoon of menu sampling and wine tasting. There’s excitement in the air as the final dishes are tweaked, the shelves are stacked and the place settings are trialled.
There’s exhaustion, too. “This is the first time we’ve sat down,” says Swain, stroking the bespoke chairs surrounding the 22-seat table that graces the centre of the slender space. “It feels like home.”
“Above everything, we want Fino Vino to be an accessible space where you can come in for a drink if you want, or you can come and dine for hours,” adds Romeo.
The 70-seat wine bar and restaurant is a striking jumble of textures, where marble meets wood, leather meets iron, and rugged brick and stone walls are left naked. It’s the work of Adelaide design firm StudioGram, who have brought the brand’s regional charm to the city centre.
“It was always going to be StudioGram,” says Romeo. “They’ve done a variety of venues that all hold their own, and we love that. We wanted a regional restaurant in the city, without being too country, and we think they’ve executed it brilliantly.”
With a mix of booths, shared tables and bar seating, guests are encouraged to treat the space as their own. “If you want to come in at 5pm for a glass of wine at the bar, you can do that,” Romeo says. “We’re not a traditional restaurant in that regard.”
“We also really wanted to have a convivial space,” she says, gesturing to the shared table that runs down the centre of the room. “If a local walks into a regional restaurant, they’ll know another local, who knows the winemaker, who knows the grower, who knows the producer, who knows the staff, and that’s one of our favourite parts of being in a region ... it’s the relationships that you build and nurture. We’ve had that for 13 years and we want it still here – for guests to be convivial and social, whether they’re at the bar, the kitchen bar or the share table.”
In keeping with the ethos of using as much local produce as possible, the team has sourced many of the interiors from SA makers, too. The terracotta tiles that line the bar are made by Bennett’s in Magill, and the chairs are crafted by Agostino and Brown. The light fittings, joinery and tables were all made locally. There’s also still-life artwork by the late Port Willunga artist Bridget Ohlsson, which used to hang in Fino’s original Willunga venue.
The large open kitchen towards the back of the space is the star of the show, and it nods to the ethos Fino has held all this time, where produce and service take pride of place. “You can’t hide in there,” says Romeo, laughing as she points to the kitchen. “And that’s the point. You can’t hide behind any of the food either – it’s just simple.”
At the helm of the kitchen is Joe Carey, whose background with Dan Hunter at regional Victorian star Brae is the perfect match for Swain and Romeo’s produce-driven focus and low-waste endeavours.
“We’ve got some really great producers we’re dealing with, like dairy from herds of 20 cows,” Carey says. “There’s a lot of stuff happening in the world at the moment that we should be paying attention to, and if we can do our little bit in our jobs to minimise our impact, then we’re really happy with that.”
Every part of the animal or vegetable that comes through the kitchen is prepared in-house, with next to nothing wasted. Expect dishes such as house-wrapped dolmades using vegetable trimmings and grains, and King George Whiting (line-caught, then gutted and gilled in-house) dry-aged in kelp and served sliced in a dashi broth.
As far as drinks go, there’ll be a range of Fino sherries alongside a 100-strong wine list – mostly local drops and a few European bottles. There are plenty of local spirits, too. “Judging at the Drink Easy Awards ... the quality of Australian spirits blew my mind, so we have, confidently, a lot more Australian spirits this time, too, including bitters, digestives, whiskey, gin and brandy,” Romeo says.
The 13-year partnership between Swain and Romeo – who have garnered fans since their early days at Fino Willunga – is much celebrated in the South Australian restaurant scene. Since moving to the Barossa in 2014, the duo has continued to build a following.
“It’s been quite the process,” says Romeo of creating the new urban outpost, “but we’ve been overwhelmed with the support, excitement and enthusiasm from everyone in Adelaide. It’s really blown me away.”
“Hospitality is a challenge, full stop,” adds Swain. “But that’s always exciting. I think Adelaide is about to just kick it in the world. It’s been this place that’s never been quite forgotten, but it’s now having it’s time. It’s really exciting.”
82 Flinders Street, Adelaide
Tue to Fri 11.30am–11pm