Wine country food, South Australia

What better way for a teetotaller to spend the festive season than a trip to the wine regions of South Australia? I may not drink wine, but I enjoy the fabulous restaurants that seem to accompany great cellar doors. Add to that the beguiling sceneries and often-striking architectures, the artisanal food producers who situate themselves in these environs, there’s a great many things an alcohol-intolerant can love about wine regions.

The husband planned a 5-day trip to South Australia, and we spent most of it meandering around the wine regions of Barossa Valley, Clare Valley and Adelaide Hills.

Our first stop was not a winery, but the famed Maggie Beer’s Farm Shop. This seems de rigueur for all visitors as the shop/café was packed. The entire range of Maggie Beer products are stocked, and you can taste-test almost everything. If you expect restaurant food here, be warned. The café primarily serves a picnic box of one of Maggie Beer’s very moreish pate, salad and bread. I went for the Pheasant Farm terrine ($20), which was wrapped in a flaky sour cream pastry and served with cabernet sauce and salad. BL had the special of the day, an onion tart ($18) with roasted capsicum relish.  The bitter orange cake was dreadful; it was wet tasting. This food is pricey even if they taste nice.  As we were staying nearby, we later returned to purchase pate (the orange and muscat is delicious!) and cider for a pre-dinner snack.

After wandering around the Seppeltsfield Winery complex, it became obvious that first night’s dinner had to be at Fino at Seppeltsfield, a restaurant situated where the original bottling hall once operated. The charming hostess gave us a copy of the menu to take away when we made our booking. The restaurant opens out into a split-level courtyard, where some diners chose to dine under the stars. We shared entrees of wagyu pastrami, cauliflower and sprouted rye, and mussels, cockles, tomatoes, yellow split peas and bottarga. The wagyu pastrami was meltingly tender, and complemented well with the crunchy cauli and nutty rye. For mains, we shared cod and a young chicken. The cod was grilled, then a fillet side was mashed with buttery potatoes (the waitstaff explained ‘brandade’ on the menu). Different and fabulous.

The following day we headed out to Clare Valley, where heritage buildings rub shoulders with boutique wineries. We took a pit stop at Mr Mick, a cellar door and a restaurant. The kitchen specialises in small, shared plates (in my world, if we are dining together, your dish is always fair game). The crispy soft shell crab with thai style dipping sauce had great crunch and went well with the tangy sauce. The panko-crumbed barramundi with mango salsa was perfectly cooked, but the pork belly skin was rubbery even though the meat itself was tender, if a touch dry.  The polenta crumbed spinach and mushroom arancini was nice.

I was introduced to German food at the iconic tourist town of Hahndorf, situated in the wine region of Adelaide Hills. It was originally settled by German immigrants, and now proudly showcases its heritage with German cuisine, crafts and is probably the best place to purchase a cuckoo clock in Australia! At The Haus, BL and I shared a huge plate of wursts (bockwurst, bratwurst and cheese kransky), with mustardy potato bake, sauerkraut and red wine sauce. Oh, and a pretzel. This was surprisingly good; the wursts were flavourful and the accompaniments were all delicious. The chewy pretzel is perfect to mop up gravy. Their desserts come from Jenny’s Gourmet Bakery (a delivery had just been received when we visited). We had a slice of the German apple cheesecake (I’m pretty sure this concoction does not exist in Germany); the apple seemed to be more a garnish, but it was still a tasty treat. Be warned, the serving sizes here are massive.

However, my favourite food experience in the wine regions of South Australia has to be the myriad of cherry orchards dotted around the regions. There are dozens open to the public (even pick your own) and a cherry map to track them down. You can even try the various varieties (we tasted about ten varieties) before purchase. We stopped at three orchards, and ate our way through juicy, sweet Lapin, Stella, Regina and Sweetheart cherries. Most of the cherries were picked the day before, and were simply bursting with flavour.

A standout feature of the dining experiences was just how genuinely friendly the staff is at each of the establishments. It could be the country air, or it could just be the warm South Australian nature. If you love fresh flavours and country hospitality, South Australia wine regions are the simply perfect.

Maggie Beer’s Farm Shop
50 Pheasant Farm Road
Nuriootpa, South Australia
Ph: 08-8562 4477
Open 7 days 10:30am – 5pm

Fino @ Seppeltsfield
730 Seppeltsfield Road
Seppeltsfield, South Australia
Ph: 08-8562 8528
Lunch: Open 7 days
Dinner: Fri & Sat  6 – 9:30pm

Mr Mick’s Kitchen
7 Dominic Street
Clare, South Australia
Ph: 08-8842 2555
Lunch: Open 7 days 11am – 4pm
Dinner: Fri 4 – 9pm

The Haus
38a Main Street
Hahndorf, South Australia
Ph: 08-8388 7555
Open 7 days, all day

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