What we really love about eating local across the regions of South Australia is the huge variety on offer. We have just about every imaginable and indulgent ingredient available somewhere across the state, from the fresh-caught seafood of the coast to the hidden fruit bowls of the outback. There’s a lot of local foodie love to share.
As we take our first dazzled steps into daylight savings time in South Australia, relaxed evenings and balmy sun-filled lunches are the order of the day. Time to get out of town for a spring fling at your pick of dozens of regional restaurants where local produce has star billing.
The season is bright and the food mood is light all around South Australia this month. Start your itinerary wrangling right now on the Eat Local SA website or mobile app for lots more great regional restaurant choices.
Admiring the edibles
Let’s start with a wander in the gardens at Coriole Vineyards. A lazy stroll here makes for a perfect aperitif to dining at the vineyard restaurant. The estate and its gardens wrap around the cellar door and restaurant like flaky pastry around a beef Wellington, with a spectacular backdrop of the Fleurieu ranges thrown in for good measure.
The gardens are the kitchen’s source for many ingredients on the menu, ranging from greenery such as celery and fennel, ruby red rhubarb and fragrant armfuls of herbs. Plates designed to share is the philosophy here, and Coriole’s own olives with house made garlic tapenade are a great way to start lunch. Coriole also produce their own olives and olive oil, and you can’t get much more local than that.
From just a little further afield at Currency Creek comes the inspiration for spring on a plate, in the form of broccoli tops with sprouting lentils, moreish garlic chips and fermented black garlic aioli, while Southern coast line caught squid gets gentle respect, pan-fried with parsley and fennel from the garden and preserved lemon and Willunga beetroot cuts a dash with cocoa nib crumble and the house made smoked beetroot ketchup.
The winter favourite of Richard Gunner’s Coorong beef cheeks with Coriole kitchen garden nasturtium puree, baby carrots and potato dauphinoise has now made way for locally caught kingfish ‘bacon’ created by salt curing, cold smoking and a bit of vacuum machine magic. The end result is an intriguing bacon texture and subtle flavour that melds with native finger limes, kohlrabi, karkalla and wild wood sorrel from the Coriole gardens.
A fine finish
We can take a stroll through history if we head north to Fino Seppeltsfield restaurant and food bar in the bottling hall at the renowned and rejuvenated Seppeltsfield winery. There’s a lot to take in – not just the dishes on offer but also the tables at which we sit, and the plates and knives we use. These have been created especially for the restaurant by the artists of South Australia’s famous Jam Factory, which now also has a store and studio space in the Seppeltsfield village.
What to do with those knives and plates though? Let us count the ways. SchuAm Berkshire pork terrine with caperberries and pistachios perhaps, or Gawler River quail served with Domenico Torzi’s Kalamata olives, toasted buckwheat and chilli. And that’s before we even get to the main course choices, which include crumbed Barossa Valley Cheese Company feta adorning grilled artichoke from the Barossa Farmers’ Market and served with green wheat and walnuts, or the Hutton Vale lamb shoulder, slow cooked to an unctuous standstill and accompanied by sweet carrots from Farmer Hayden, pickled chilli and yoghurt.
The Barossa Farmers’ Market is also Fino’s favourite source for precious early season broad beans, teamed with Barossa Birds chicken and topped with almond bistilla. But right now, it’s all about wild asparagus at Fino, because nothing says spring quite like asparagus. Fino source theirs from Ellen and Kane in nearby Lyndoch and serve it as an entrée with salted ricotta made in house with Jersey Fresh Milk.
Trust us, we’re chefs
In the same neck of the woods is Hentley Farm. If ever there was a restaurant where we should leave choosing the dishes to the chefs, this is it. Their new dining room has just opened and the chef team here have truly embraced the lifestyle change from city to country, these days finding themselves much more closely connected to the land, so that the dishes they serve are often the result of wandering in the kitchen garden, picking, tasting and letting their creative juices flow.
Hentley Farm offer two set menu options: a du jour four course lunch or a seven course discovery menu with added surprises – but they don’t publish menus for either of these experiences. No matter. They’ll likely be using local Jersey Fresh milk and the coffee is from Barossa Coffee Roasters. But that’s just the start. There are chickens and quails in the garden, and lambs in the paddock.
Those chickens are very special, by the way. They are French Wheaten Maran chickens, known for their famously coppery bronze eggs with fluorescent orange yolks. These eggs have become a house signature ingredient, so watch out for them right across the menu. You’ll find their versatility celebrated as the hero of a dish here or a sumptuous finishing touch there.
Asparagus from the neighbour’s garden is a current favourite too, served as a tartare with shallots, chives and almond cream made with almonds from the Barossa Farmers’ Market. The chefs like to give the local SchuAm pork a Japanese touch, grilling the scotch fillet over wood and charcoal and serving it with sushi rice and their own kohlrabi, lightly pickled.
Blending for a blissful meal
The Lane Vineyard
Casual bliss is the official order of the day at The Lane Vineyard, where the view across the Adelaide Hills is an elegant backdrop to a menu designed with their single vineyard wines in mind.
We could try a little wine matching with Adelaide Hills pork torchon (that’s pork that has been tightly wrapped to shape it before cooking, but you knew that, right?), served with a herby persillade and gribiche, or perhaps with a soft Adelaide Hills egg, partnered with charred broccoli from the garden and mellow French Comte cheese.
For the carnivores amongst us, real reward lies in the patience and skill behind the 35 days dry aged Hereford rump, served with pickled horseradish, black garlic and kale from the vineyard garden.
There’s something special about tasting flavours while you are gazing on the vineyards and gardens that nurtured them, and diners are encouraged to pop back to the tasting area mid-meal if we like, just to try a different combination or three.
Eating our way down the peninsula
Leonard’s Mill Restaurant
At Leonard’s Mill in Second Valley, local names abound. Fleurieu Milk, Alexandrina Cheese Company cheeses, Wakefield Grange beef, Fleurida Goats, Scoop SA and Cicada Olives. With all this goodness on the doorstep, it’s no surprise the Mill has an entire Fleurieu tasting menu as well as the restaurant’s miller’s menu. They also offer a six course degustation, and they’re not in the least fazed if diners want to leave all the decision-making to them while we sit back and relax.
There’s more spring vegie love on this menu, in the shape of Scoop SA’s baby beets teamed with port and red wine vinegar in the sous vide, before serving with buffalo curd and baby radishes that have been pickled and compressed in a hibiscus vinaigrette. Another favourite is Scoop SA’s whole celeriac, baked in a salt crust and presented with a celeriac puree, picked celeriac for acid balance, Jerusalem artichoke and roasted turnip. Lovage from the restaurant garden is the basis of a clean, intensely celery flavour to finish the dish. Watch out too for local saltbush here and there on the menu, it’s a trending garnish right now and delivers an inner ‘chippies’ moment with its salty tang.
Meatier fare includes a riff on the Mediterranean with Fleurida Boer goat, slowly cooked and then wrapped in Arabic style pastry and served with dates, smoked Fleurieu Milk yoghurt, more of those teeny Scoop baby radishes and radish shoots, an acid cut through from the restaurant garden grown, house made preserved lemons and a side of bulgur wheat and parsley salad.