If the region known as the Limestone Coast isn’t very familiar to you, here’s a name I bet you do know. Coonawarra. That extraordinarily tiny strip of terra rossa soil that pumps out those extraordinarily huge red wines. Are you with me? Right, well the Coonawarra is just one beautiful part of the rich Limestone Coast. This area is positively packed full of national and internationally listed heritage sites and fantastic produce, and it’s within easy reach of Adelaide. And Melbourne. And everyone on holidays.
Choices, choices. Where else can you build a plate with your choice of lobster, wagyu beef, lamb, game and even emu, native preserves, honeys, strawberries, all of it local? The good folk of the Limestone Coast have it covered.
You can find all the details for these great South Australian destinations and much, much more. Eat local SA – and eat happy!
This dilemma really calls for a coffee and a little refreshment, so we will start at diVine Café in the heart of Penola. If ever there were a place to stop and smell the coffee, this is it. Award-winning local roasters Mahalia Coffee are specialists who adhere to the practice of profile roasting, adjusting temperature, time and technique in the way of trained chefs (which they are, by the way). At diVine Café, Mahalia is the brew of choice, so we know we’re off to a good start.
The cafe serves up a spread of fresh baked delights including cakes, tarts and biscuits made memorable by local goodies such as Kaz’s Googs free range eggs, Mayura Station wagyu beef, Meeky’s bacon and Hillbilly fresh veg. Their show-stopping Coffee and Chocolate Tarts are made with more of that locally roasted Mahalia coffee, and the Mayura wagyu also turns up in freshly baked baguettes teamed with bacon, vintage Cheddar, cos lettuce and cherry tomato salsa. Along with their cakes, chocolates and tarts, diVine Café turn out their own fruit paste and lavosh, perfectly poised to share with a selection of local Limestone Coast cheeses. Rest easy, gluten and wheat free options are easy to find on the menu here too.
Coonawarra Station Restaurant
That famous terra rossa soil of the Coonawarra area turns out more than gutsy wines. It also grows the pastures that feed the beef served up at Penola’s Coonawarra Station Restaurant. There’s an architectural nod to the farming history of the area in this restaurant’s corrugated iron and timber fit out, and the focus indoors is all about individual ingredients chosen to shine on the plate and palate. Hand-picked veggies from the restaurant’s hydroponic and organic veggie garden are grown specifically to partner up to that beef, and the menu also extends to trout and yabbies from Penola Springs and the world-renowned seafood from nearby Robe.
How about some of those Penola yabbies in a creamy tomato-based bisque drizzled with Pendleton lemon-infused olive oil and served with chargrilled lime? Meat lovers and fans of Mexican food will enjoy the spicy riff playing through dishes such as the show stopping ‘some of everything’ meal of Coonawarra Station Restaurant’s BBQ hanger steak – and skewers, skewers and more skewers (think Cajun chicken, prawn and bacon, and cumin-spiced pork) – plus guacamole, sour cream, house-made salsa and a flour tortilla. Bring a good appetite with you to eat here!
Along the road a ways, the mood is mellow at Rendezvous@Bushmans Inn. An intimate table by the fireplace or outside on the verandah is soon laden with promise. Local Dorper lamb cutlets are served with a Greek-styled salad, and the Limestone free range Angus rib eye steak arrives atop a sweetcorn patty with onion rings on the side. These are surely dishes created to soothe the savage appetite all that fresh air can cause.
For a lighter touch, try the Roasted Shallot and (locally grown) Tomato Tart for a reminder of how tomatoes used to taste. The ciabatta and herb bread rolls are baked on the premises and the spuds served up as golden fat chips are also local, along with the crisply fresh greens in the Hillbilly Salad.
If you’ve never been to Robe, well frankly, you’ve missed out. Half of Adelaide hightails it down to this gem of a destination every summer to swim, go beachcombing and enjoy the local food (the other half come down in the winter for hot chocolate and bracing beach walks).
Robe played a pivotal role in the development of South Australia’s economy, ever since Nicolas Baudin first sailed past in 1802. The town is justly famous as a major colonial port and still holds centre stage as home to the much sought after Southern Rock Lobster, or crayfish, as the locals like to call it.
Since it’s a seasonal and flavour-driven vibe at Sails Restaurant in Robe, spring and summer are all about that lobster. Actually, Southern Rock lobster has its very own section on the menu. If lobster thermidor in a pie with a nut and herb crust and a tarragon emulsion isn’t your first love, you can go all minimalist and have it served simply with cocktail sauce or lemon butter.
And if you’ve had enough lobster (really?), enjoy the sustainably farmed beef from the good folk of Woakwine Organics as brisket and porterhouse, teamed up with a prawn toast and Chinese slaw – a new take on turf and surf. Look out for other chef’s favourites including shark, Coorong cockles from the folks at Barakel and Coorong mullet, not to mention the sea herbs harvested from nearby sand dunes and reefs. They’re all part of the reason this restaurant picked up Best Seafood Restaurant in SA in 2013.
The Veg Shed
It’s tempting to work up a shopping list with so much variety on offer locally. After all, you will be sharing your shopping with chefs in the know, who snap up produce from this region to showcase in their restaurants back in Adelaide and interstate. And where better to stock up than The Veg Shed in Naracoorte, where more than 20 local growers are showcased on the shelves, including Jenny Wisbey, Limestone Coast Cheese, Dickin’s Delights and Mahalia Coffee.
You can pick up locally produced meat, bread, honey, juice, preserves, olive products, small goods, fruit pastes, condiments and seasonings, popcorn and eggs here, along with the local apples, onions, potatoes and pumpkins those chefs love too. That means whatever we cook will be as good as theirs, right? OK, maybe not, but we can have fun trying!