The seven-course Discovery Menu at Hentley Farm in the Barossa Valley is one of the country’s most sought-after – and for good reason. The three-hour feast is a parade of dishes made from produce collected from around the surrounding hillsides. But if you want a seat in Lachlan Colwill’s acclaimed dining room, you have to wait at least four weeks (or six come summer).
Thankfully, Shane Delia’s done Melbourne a solid: this May he’s handing Colwill the keys to Maha. Delia has invited the young chef and his team to Maha for the first of a series of events hosted in partnership with luxury watch and jewellery retailer Kennedy.
Delia met Colwill while visiting Hentley Farm to film a segment for the television series Postcards. The two chefs struck up a friendship as they foraged in the Barossa for wild-grown produce. “[It’s] one of the most beautiful regions,” says Delia. “It’s stunning.”
Delia is a huge admirer of what Colwill’s achieved at Hentley Farm. “Lachlan grew up in that area; he knows it and he understands the heritage. He has respect for the ingredients and the culture,” he says. "But he’s not confined by what’s been done in the past. He’s young and skilful enough – and experienced enough – to have a deep understanding of what can be done with the natural resources of the region. You really feel that.”
“[We want] to use this as a forum to showcase some of the country’s best chefs that the Melbourne public may not get a chance to experience,” says Delia. “You’re talking about chefs who may have small dining rooms, unbelievably long wait lists or, like Lachlan, are out in the Barossa, where you’ve always wanted to go but haven’t had the chance to visit.”
Held in time for Maha’s 10th anniversary, Delia describes the Unrestricted Dinner series as being all about chefs who “aren’t afraid to be unrestricted in their approach to cooking.” This particular dinner features one of Kennedy’s premium Swiss-made watch brands, Girard-Perregaux; known for its innovative artisanship. As creators of ‘Moments in Time’, Kennedy also asked Lachlan to create a unique dish that reflects a significant moment in time that has influenced his cooking, with the dish to be revealed on the night.
Guests will enjoy an eight-course degustation menu showcasing Hentley Farm classics. “They’re the things in our larger discovery menu that … people have enjoyed the most over the years,” explains Colwill.
Premium produce – such as Southern bluefin tuna from Port Lincoln served with chicken parfait and cured egg yolk, and fresh farm quail eggs served with quinoa, curry leaf and honey – will be shipped out from the Barossa.
“It’s a real restaurant experience, not a half-arsed version of what you would get at Hentley Farm,” says Delia. “You don’t have to be stuck with a wine list the chef and sommelier have chosen. If you want a Negroni, you can have it.”
Colwill returned home to the Barossa in 2012 to establish Hentley Farm after travelling the world and running kitchens in some of Adelaide’s top restaurants, including The Manse, where he was awarded Best Fine Dining Restaurant three years in a row. In 2009 Colwill won the national iteration of the prestigious La Chaine des Rotisseurs Chef Competition, allowing him to represent Australia in the international competition in New York where he placed third. After moving back to the Barossa he was hungry for something new. So he pioneered a menu founded on the idea of “discovery”; guests are never presented with a menu and instead are guided through the fruit, vegetables and livestock that’s grown on the property. “I wanted to have a restaurant where I understood the potential of the region,” he says. “I grew up in the Barossa, so I knew the farming practices.”
As a kid, Colwill foraged for wild fennel, figs and olives with his family: “I knew where the mulberry trees were around the Barossa Valley. If I opened a restaurant here at least I knew where to tap into these excellent resources.”
Hentley Farm is located on a 128-hectare property with a working winery and substantial gardens on-site. The farm provides the restaurant kitchen with fresh herbs, vegetables and livestock – chickens, quails, pigs and sheep. Life in the Barossa’s rural setting both challenges and inspires Colwill’s cooking. “You have to adapt to the climate around you more so than you have to in the city.”
In a city restaurant, Colwill says, the process of sourcing ingredients is backwards: you order produce and often learn later something isn’t available. But at Hentley Farm the kitchen is guided by the seasons and what prospers during them. A frost in the morning might mean Colwill has to jump on his motorbike to go foraging for wood sorrel, scrabbling around the places he’s seen it growing in nearby fields or roadsides. “You feel quite connected to everything,” he says.
While the logistics of trucking high-end Barossa produce across state borders is daunting, Colwill is quietly confident about the dinners. “If you go in well prepared you can have a great time and meet lots of people,” he says. “The majority of clientele that come through the restaurant are from Melbourne … so I’m hoping we see some familiar faces.”
The first event in Kennedy’s Unrestricted Dinner series takes place at Maha on Monday May 21 and Tuesday May 22.
Places are extremely limited. Book seats now.
This article is produced by Broadsheet in partnership with Kennedy, Australia's finest luxury retailer of the world’s most desired watches and jewellery. Kennedy provides a memorable experience for its clients with personalised service and exceptional product knowledge. Find your nearest Kennedy boutique.