Drive an hour north, south or east of Adelaide and you’re deep into wine country. Barossa Valley, McLaren Vale and Adelaide Hills produce some great grapes, sure, but they are also home to a handful of restaurants distinguished by their commitment to fine dining. We’ve rounded up some of the best fine dining experiences beyond the city.
The menu at St Hugo transcribes a dialogue between head chef Mark McNamara (ex-Appellation) and chief winemaker Dan Swincer. McNamara crafts dishes that respond to characteristics in Swincer’s wines in texture and flavour. Book a seat at the chef’s table for a 3.5-hour guided meal overlooking the kitchen.
More than a luxury dining experience, the multi-million-dollar cellar door is redefining wine tourism with a new level of service. Packages start with four- or eight-course degustations and garden tours, and move up to tailored VIP tours. For a cool $150,000, guests participating in the “Sainthood” experience work alongside Swincer to blend and bottle a wine from their own private vineyard row – which is cellared for three years before being hand delivered by the winemaker to them. Also included in this premium experience are two nights luxury accommodation, private-jet transfers and regular deliveries from the St Hugo vault to tied you over while your signature blend matures.
Fino Willunga was among the first destination-dining venues to draw regular crowds from the city and suburbs. It has won a host of awards, only adding to its popularity. In 2014 owners Sharon Romeo and David Swain (who is also executive chef) packed up their trophy cabinet and moved north to the Barossa, setting up Fino Seppeltsfield in the winery’s original bottling hall.
Hospitality has always been the heart of Fino. Swain and Romeo engage with customers and local producers to deliver a personal and wholly enjoyable experience. From wine to food and even furniture – handmade by Seppeltsfield neighbours JamFactory – Fino beams with community pride.
The team at Hentley Farm has literally pulled the tablecloth out from under the fine-dining experience. It swapped crisp linens for beautifully stained timber tables, creating an immediate connection with the Barossa Valley landscape. And if you’re wondering what’s on the menu, sorry but we can’t tell you. Head chef Lachlan Colwill’s feasts range from 90 minutes to three hours and are comprised of dishes created or tweaked daily.
Colwill – who grew up in the valley – uses ingredients grown on the farm, be they wild or from the kitchen garden. Hentley Farm also has around 150 acres of vineyards and produces award-winning, single-block vintages. The dining room is in the farm’s stables, which date back to the 1880s.
Hentley Farm is one of only five Australian members of the Relais et Chateaux Association; a global fellowship of independent luxury hotels and restaurants.
Mount Lofty Ranges Vineyards
Mount Lofty Ranges Vineyards describes itself as “niche” and “barn-like”. Established in 2007, it’s a relative newcomer with a rustic-luxe feel.
The dining room opens out over production vineyards and has been designed to anchor the diner’s experience as they encounter the region through produce. The building features 500-year-old timber beams reclaimed from the now-demolished Port Adelaide Wool Stores, and a central, 360-degree fireplace.
Chef Matt Fitton moved to Lenswood – after resigning from his position at the Playford Hotel – to join restaurant owners Sharon Pearson and Garry Sweeney. Apart from the countryside, Fitton says what drew him to the venue was the opportunity to insert himself in to the hills’ food community and share its remarkable produce with customers.
HVR Mt Lofty House
Just a short drive up the freeway, the 165-year old Mt Lofty House has long been an icon of the South Australian culinary scene. And the new Hardy’s Verandah Restaurant – or HVR – is a bold step into the contemporary.
Capitalising on a sweeping view over Crafers and the Mount Lofty Botanic Gardens, it has a head start on most other establishments.
Four- and seven-course menus are served against this stunning backdrop, which also serves as a local larder for executive chef Wayne Brown. Brown forages for ingredients grown on his doorstep and presents them alongside regional produce. What’s different is his juxtaposition of Japanese-inspired cooking methods and ability to pair unconventional flavours in perfect balance.
d'Arrys Verandah Restaurant
d’Arenberg winery is renowned throughout McLaren Vale, and the deck at d'Arrys Verandah Restaurant is an ideal spot to survey the valley. The venue celebrates long-lunch culture and is only open in the evenings by appointment.
The kitchen is run by Peter Reschke, who adapts his award-winning menu in tune with the seasonal availability of local produce. Both a la carte and degustation dining are offered, and we recommend following the staff’s lead when it comes to pairing wines from the extensive cellar.