It’s time to go up country, people. The Clare Valley is an easy 90 minute drive from Adelaide and it’s a haven for a food-loving soul in need of some R&R. Yes, you can do it in a day, but why would you? When a long weekend comes calling, this is the place to be.
My lifelong love affair with dry white wine started in the Clare Valley. This was back in my (only slightly misspent) youth of course. I have a memory of borrowing my mother’s stately Triumph 2000 to drive a gaggle of university bods up to Martindale Hall for something or other, and feeling like a real live grown up having been let loose with her precious car. It would be the first of many trips to savour what sun and fertile earth can produce when they buddy up and play nicely.
O’Leary Walker Wines
It’s traditional to start these little expeditions at a winery, so let’s do just that. O’Leary Walker Wines opened their new cellar door in Leasingham in 2010. Warm stone and timber come together here with a panoramic view of historic Watervale and a hint of the Riesling Trail.
Care to nibble while you make your cunning plans? Right then. This is platter central and what a great way that is to taste your way around the neighbourhood. Check out the Burra Bakery ciabatta, Simpson Rices Creek olives, London Hill’s Ma Waldron Spicy Relish and Mathie’s Meat Shoppe smoked lamb chops, leg ham or mettwurst. That’s more than enough to tickle anyone’s taste buds. The dips are made in-house here and watch out for the rhubarb and pinot relish, also a house specialty.
Artisan’s Table and Wine Bar
Cool days call for nestling and the Artisan’s Table and Wine Bar is excellent at that. They can be found nestled themselves, right in the heart of the Clare Valley, turning out a modern take on old school wine bar food. They’ve swapped the dark varnish and tiny tables of the trad French bistro for comfy couches, bright, light space and lots of timber, and reached out to the cuisines from the Mediterranean to the Middle East for bright flavours to go with their relaxed approach.
Doing it local here means the breads and lavosh feature Four Leaf Milling organic flour and they, along with the fettuccine and pate, are all made on the premises. The menu kicks off with the house’s own chicken pate, made with lovingly raised Greenslade chicken, or you can taste your way around the valley with the antipasto platter. Local Clare ducks give their all to a warm Sichuan Duck Salad, Warrick Farm olive oil is melds with the bright lemon and peach flavours to dress the prawn salad and, to finish, Rohde’s free range eggs star in a luscious Crème Pastry Caramel.
Check out Artisan’s website because it’s a great one for visitors new to the area, starting with a nice clear map and moving on to a menu festooned with wine suggestions and nice clear indications of which dishes are, or can be, gluten free or vegetarian. This makes dining with special requirements a breeze to plan, to which I say bravo!
At Wild Saffron, the vision is to become the Clare Valley’s food HQ. This is really a very sensible ambition for this self-described “habitual host”, whose business is part restaurant, part gourmet store, part catering business and all fun.
This is the place to get the inside scoop on the latest new produce and brands – and there’s plenty of them. You will find luscious jams, jellies, chutneys and sauces from the likes of Patly Hill Farm, London Hill and Ambrosia of Auburn alongside the fabulous wholegrain dry pasta range made by Pangkarra Pasta from their own wheat and olives, extra virgin olive oil and dukkah from the folks at Simpson Rices Creek.
Local Simpson Rices Creek and Mathie’s Meat Shoppe bacon head up the breakfast menu here, teamed with ciabatta made in Burra, while Greenslade chicken is teamed with a basil mayo in a lunchtime baguette. Even the snags hail from local saltbush-fed lamb. All that and seriously good coffee too. Hmm, it could take a while to make the move to our next stop.
Mathie’s Meat Shoppe
There’s nothing like a local to inspire, so when you taste Mathie’s Meat Shoppe smallgoods at O’Leary Walker Wines or Wild Saffron I, for one, won’t be surprised if you decide a visit to Mathie’s Meat Shoppe in the heart of Clare is essential to your visit. It’s a very convenient way indeed to stock up on some of the finest Clare produce for the larder. There’s Dunira Lamb, Greenslade Lamb and Saltbush Hogget just to get you started.
Let me just digress here for a moment, if I may, and talk about hogget. This older meat fell from favour years ago, replaced by our national love affair with lamb. But hogget is chock full of intense flavour that will bring a slow-cooked casserole or stew to vibrant life. Give it a go. Your grandmother would definitely approve.
Now, where was I? Oh yes, back with the lads at Mathie’s Meat Shoppe. Their bacon is an award winner and so is their ham. These, plus mettwurst, pepperoni and pastrami are all made on premises along with their multi-award winning sausages (national champs for three years running as it happens). Grab some of those super fresh Rohde’s free range eggs while you’re there so you can recreate a real Clare Valley breakfast when you get back home. And you can order again later online with collection from the Shoppe or delivery to Adelaide.
I’m rounding out my visit with a stop at Terroir Auburn. Auburn is a sleek little spot, almost unfairly advantaged in the ‘short holiday getaway’ stakes, and newcomer Terroir Auburn showcases them lovingly in their locavore-inspired menu.
This restaurant is seriously seasonal. Their meat is from Day’s Quality Meat and Mathie’s Meat Shoppe, their flour is from Four Leaf Milling and it’s Fleurieu Milk Company cream and milk and Rohde’s free range eggs all the way. Everything else is grown on the plot by the restaurant team or nearby producers, including one wonderful local chap who has been around long enough to forget more about growing vegetables than most of us ever will ever learn.
So it’s more than okay to feel downright seasonally righteous when you order the Roast (Mathie’s Meat Shoppe) Pork Chop, Grilled Belly, Broccolini and Horseradish, or sink blissfully into a dish of Mocha Panna Cotta with White Pepper Churros and Mulberry. (Flights of fancy about rushing home to turn over your landscaped garden to veggie plots are only to be expected.)