If you’ve ever been to the Adelaide Hills, you’ve likely had that “I could live here” moment. Its gorgeous undulating landscape is a place that has long captured the imagination of artisans, foodies and creatives wishing to escape the city.

Chef Andre Ursini knows it well. Making his name on Masterchef, before building a legacy at Andre’s Cucina & Polenta Bar, he’s since gone on to open restaurant Orso, with deli Willmott’s Gastronomia next door, and multidimensional culinary concept Villetta Porcini in the Adelaide Hills.

“I was brought up in the foothills of the Adelaide Hills,” says Ursini, who now calls the tiny village of Mylor home. “The hills hold some of the best-kept secrets in Australia. It’s a wonderful lifestyle. There’s been an explosion of amazing food and beverage experiences, and so many great retail options.”

We asked Ursini to highlight a selection of his personal favourites.

SHOP

Three Birds
You never know what you’ll find at this eclectic giftware and food shop in the heart of Stirling. “It’s the type of store where, if you’re on holiday, you’ll spend 45 minutes there and always find something to take home,” says Ursini. “It’s full of small-batch artisan products and food items, all amazing quality. My wife especially adores it. They have amazing pickles and preserves, too, from local label Up the Hill.”

DRINK

Ambleside Distillers
Walking the tree-lined main street of Hahndorf, proclaimed “Australia’s oldest German town”, is like stepping into a European-themed movie set. Nestled among the heritage facades and German theatrics is Ambleside Distillers, where founder Matt Dickson uses local botanicals to make a distinctly Adelaide Hills gin.

“Walking through Hahndorf is a bit like being in a performance,” says Ursini, “so it’s nice to take an intermission and have a cheeky G&T. Matt’s an ex-carpenter and is always up for a yarn. He’s done a beautiful wood-panelled fit-out to the building, and the staff are passionate about the drinks they’re making.”

EAT

Fred Eatery
Located in Aldgate, a tiny satellite town of Stirling, Fred Eatery has an Asian-influenced and ever-changing menu, with a focus on local ingredients. There’s also a homewares store attached called Fred Living, and the elegant space includes a mezzanine lounge, library and courtyard. Dogs are welcome, too.

“Fred Eatery is all about freshness and quality,” says Ursini. “They make really great food and they just know hospitality. There are always different pastries on their counter and the coffee is excellent. It would fit perfectly into a capital city CBD. I stop there all the time for a pastry and a coffee.”

Hokey Pokey
When Hokey Pokey ice-creamery says it sources locally grown produce for its artisan ice-cream, you can be sure it’s serious. Locals are invited to donate surplus fruit from their properties, and Hokey Pokey will make ice-cream out of whatever comes in. Don’t be surprised to see residents dropping off boxes of plums, lemons, rhubarb and freshly picked herbs. The biodynamic milk and cream comes from South Australia’s own organic Paris Creek Farms.

“One to watch out for is the mandarin sorbet,” says Ursini. “My daughter is obsessed with it. They also do a great range of sweets, chocolates and old-school lollies.”

Villetta Porcini
In the valley of Mylor, where the wild mushrooms flourish, stands a stone cottage set within an enchanted forest. This is Andre Ursini’s Villetta Porcini.

Some call it an “anti-restaurant”. There’s no website, no opening hours and getting a booking might take you more than a year. After registering a request to dine, you then wait for an invitation to arrive in the mail (yes, the actual mail). From there you have seven days to make your way to the hills, where you’ll follow a winding path through the butterfly glades and pine trees to this fairytale setting.

“It’s really captured people’s imaginations,” says Ursini. “You get transported and you never want to leave.”

Dining here tells you what Ursini loves about the Adelaide Hills. There’s a bounty of fruit and veggies growing in the gardens, the air is fresh and the Italian-inspired food pays homage to Ursini’s first Adelaide restaurant, Andre’s Cucina.

“It’s like coming into a home and experiencing genuine hospitality,” says Ursini. “I love being able to show people this incredible place.”

STAY

Tinyhome Private Escape Bridgewater
If there were a place to stay that mirrors Ursini’s vision of warm, bespoke hospitality, it’s this minimalist and stylish country retreat for two.

Tinyhome sits in the middle of an organic farm, so expect cows to keep you company. A timber deck bridges three separate buildings: a bedroom, kitchen and living room, and bathroom. The footprint might be small, but it doesn’t skimp on the home comforts, including a queen-sized bed, yoga mats, a coffee machine and a firepit for chilly nights. The kitchen even comes stocked with craft beer, wine and locally sourced breakfast provisions.

“I love the idea of little cabins in places that feel remote, even though this place is only 20 minutes from the CBD,” says Ursini. “It’s pretty special.”

This article is produced by Broadsheet in partnership with American Express and its Shop Small program, encouraging Australians to support small business while travelling domestically. Learn more about Shop Small.