August 17, 2013

South Australia: A day in the Barossa

We’d tootled up the Murray River for three days and arrived at Walker’s Flat for our day in the Barossa Valley. There is soo much to do and see here, but in a day we had to be ruthless. But what happened turned out to be the best lunch, quite possibly ever, that we ended up only visiting 2 places…

Maggie Beer

You may know Maggie from her appearances on Australian Master Chef. Or not. To be honest, I was a bit flummoxed, but her shop has such a great reputation that this had to be our first stop. Food is served here in the cafe, and you can book a cooking class too, but as we had a fancy pants lunch booked just down the road, we dashed in for some tastings.

Maggie Beer, Barossa

Maggie Beer’s cookbooks

This is the beauty of Maggie Beer’s farm shop. Jars of everything are opened and plastic spoons by the dozen are used every minute. We may well have almost consumed her entire pate display, but our group ended up buying at least 6 pots, so that made up for it. My favourite was the duck, sherry and green peppercorn pate. She sells jams and glazes, relishes and tea, toppings and ice cream, soups, vinegars and oils, sauces and fruit pastes. Plus pasta, cookbooks, aprons and accessories. We grabbed flat whites to go and jumped back into the van for our next stop.

Hentley Farm Wines

This was the highlight of the day, and in fact we spent an extra hour here enjoying a 4-course lunch that was actually a sneaky 8, that our whole day got replanned, but here’s why I loved it so much…

Hentley Farm Barossa Valley

Hentley Farm restaurant

Hentley Farm has had much acclaim. It’s been rated as one of the Top 10 experiences IN THE WORLD for foodies. It also took out best new restaurant in the coveted SA Restaurant & Catering Awards 2013. So what are they doing that’s so awesome?

Hentley winemaker

Hentley vineyard manager Greg (right) waxes lyrical about the $150 bottle The Beast with his assistant wine maker Sammy, the guy with the crazy hair!

Not usually open for lunch on Mondays or Tuesdays, our group of 11 were in for a treat when they offered to open with a wine tasting and a tour of the farm including the chance to meet the assistant wine maker with his wild hair before we headed over to the restaurant for our treat.

SPOILER ALERT – THE MENU IS USUALLY A SURPRISE, BUT I’M GOING TO SHOW YOU PICS!

The 4-course wine matched lunch. Cost A$115 per person.

We sat down as the only guests on a Monday and the lovely Alana brought out tapioca bread with mushroom floss and mustard oil. This wasn’t even counted as one our courses, more a pre-lunch amuse boush.

Then came a bowl of oysters on rosemary, 1 each.

And now we got started, the first official course was this divine snapper tartare under puffed wild rice and parsnip. It was so light and paired perfectly with the 2012 Riesling.

Hentley Snapper tartare

How they puffed this wild rice I don’t know, but the result was a light and crunchy texture on top of the snapper tartare. Sooo good!

Then this piece of theatre: a bowl of creamed broccoli quinelled into a bowl, then hot red cabbage broth was poured over. The broccoli was seriously so fresh I reckon it had only just been picked. I could drink this soup every day! It was paired with the 2011 Project wine.

Hentley Broccoli soup

The broccoli and red cabbage soup

The “3rd” course, or main, was this slice of perfectly cooked medium rare beef with wound up ribbons of swede and a bechamel sauce with leaves and flowers. This was matched with my favourite wine of the day: The Beast, a big 2010 Shiraz.

Hentley Farm beef

The beef with swede curls

Hentley Farm lunch

Chef James demonstrates his egg topper

Then the pre-dessert dessert was this clever little egg shell filled with orange curd and topped with yoghurt and poppy seeds.

Chef James came out to say hi and the first thing we all wanted to know was how he got the tops off those eggs so perfectly, so away he went and returned with his little cutter and gave us a demo.

All up James and his team whipped out 8 little courses for our 4-course menu.

The whole 2-hour lunch was full of surprises and the wines were so delicious we cancelled our plans to visit Yalumba (which is also a stunning winery) and to wander through the little shops of nearby Angaston.

Hentley Farm lunch

How clever is this?!

By now we’re feeling more than a little happy with all the delicious dishes and their generous matched glasses, and then comes the actual dessert: coffee ice cream with quince, almond biscotti and coriander, paired with their delicious port (sorry, fortified wine). I loved this so much I bought a bottle to bring home.

Hentley Farm dessert

The main dessert

Just when we thought it was time to go, out comes one last treat – these little chocolate-dipped ice cream pops and toasted marshmallows.

Ice cream pops

Treats to leave with…

Then with just enough time to run next door to the cellar door and buy up large, we added several bottles to our party and off we went – to do just that!

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About Megan Singleton

Megan

Megan Singleton is a travel writer, blogger and radio correspondent. She's been gallivanting around the world telling stories for the last 16 years and has her suitcase always half packed (or half un-packed!) Follow along on Facebook or Twitter and sign up for monthly newsletters if you want to keep up with the journey!

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