Last September Tom Tilbury entered the Coriole kitchen for a one-night-only eight-course “chef off” with then-head chef Tom Reid.
Nine months on, his step into the Coriole fold is a little more permanent. The celebrated chef has relocated his formerly Robe-based restaurant Gather Food and Wine to the idyllic McLaren Vale winery. Reid left his post last month to seek a new venture.
It’s no small homecoming for Tilbury, who grew up in the southern wine region before opening his fine diner on the Limestone Coast in 2014. “My wife’s parents are from down that way [near Robe],” he tells Broadsheet. “We were spending a lot of time down there and we thought it would be nice to have our young children close to their grandparents.
“I also saw the opportunity to have [a place] like Gather there … to create a business with a bit of following in a region that didn’t have anything else like it.” He says the crowded market in places like the Adelaide CBD and McLaren Vale can make it harder for a new business to thrive.
But it was “on the cards a long way back” to eventually bring the brand home. “It’s always been a dream of ours to open a regional restaurant, so we did that but we wanted to move it to another regional area.
“We outgrew the building as well,” he adds. “Coriole has Sea and Vines, music festivals … and access to the CBD close by. We have more room to do a broader range of things.”
City diners got a taste of Tilbury’s prowess in April at Tasting Australia’s Naturale Glasshouse Kitchen dinner, where he cooked alongside Brooklyn’s Carlo Mirachi (Blanca, Roberta’s) Melbourne’s Dave Verheul (Embla) and Sydney’s Brent Savage (The Bentley). Tilbury's dish was an artful mix of kingfish sashimi, Coffin Bay octopus tendrils, beach mustard and sea grapes.
It’s indicative of the intricate, inspired and hyperlocal dishes Tilbury will deliver at Coriole – an evolving menu driven by seasonal and sustainable produce. Dishes such as pork hock with cardoon, quince and puffed pork skin, or beef cheek with blackened pumpkin, pumpkin-seed paste and cracker in beef jus will change regularly – but Aylesbury duck is a keeper. “We have a good relationship with our farmer, so that will be a mainstay,” says Tilbury.
Straying from the tasting menu presented in Robe, Gather at Coriole centres on grazing-style share plates. “It will change a lot,” says Tilbury. But he’s staying true to his “gather” philosophy; many of the ingredients are sourced from the kitchen garden, which is set to expand. There is also a five-course “Let Us Feed You” menu. You can pair your meal with a selection of Coriole wines, naturally, or splurge on a bottle from the international list.
The dining room has undergone some “little adjustments”, says Tilbury. But the site can pretty much hang its hat on its spectacular views – a picture-perfect garden and rolling hills viewed through the floor to ceiling glass walls. For Tilbury, it’s a “typical McLaren Vale” setting. “I’m loving it. We're a little bit lucky.”
There are also plans to host some “pretty cool dining experiences” in the 20-seat wine cellar. “That’s later on down the track, once we iron out everything.”
Gather at Coriole
Chaffeys Road, McLaren Vale
Thu to Mon 12pm–2.30pm