South Australia's McLaren Vale: A chef's guide

Scott Pickett grew up on a farm in Kangarilla, South Australia, and it influenced his passion for good produce. After early accolades working in hatted and Michelin-starred kitchens, Pickett opened his first Melbourne restaurant, Estelle, in 2011, and received immediate commendations.

Having expanded the Estelle concept into three different styles and venues, he recently opened a catering business, Mistress Estelle and Pickett's Deli & Rotisserie, at the Queen Victoria Market. 

See estellebysp.com

FAVOURITE TABLE

While McLaren Vale is dotted with great restaurants, I'd have to say my old favourite is The Salopian Inn – also where I worked as an apprentice before moving to Melbourne. The menu tells a story of the region, using only local and seasonal produce. I'd recommend indulging in the tasting menu to ensure you get a chance to try all the hero dishes. See salopianinn.com.au

LOCAL FOOD DISCOVERY

Quality Olive Oil is a cupboard essential and can elevate the most simple of meals. In my last trip to McLaren Vale, I stocked up on Lloyd Brothers Extra Virgin Olive Oil and have since been using it in all my cooking at home.  See lloydbrothers.com.au

BEST-KEPT FOOD SECRET

Maxwell Winery is home to a hidden treasure – the Lime Cave. From the outside it looks like a rustic shed, but behind the doors is a hand-carved limestone cave that is the most spectacular place to host a special dinner. The cave is 40 metres long and was carved almost a century ago. See maxwellwines.com.au

MUST-TRY FOOD EXPERIENCE

A trip to the Willunga Farmers Market is a must, kicking off every Saturday morning from 8am until 12.30pm. It's a regional hub for locals and visitors to come together over fresh, seasonal produce from the McLaren Vale region. I'm a sucker for a good market. See willungafarmersmarket.com.au

FAVOURITE INDULGENCE

A visit to McLaren Vale is incomplete without a stop at world-renowned winery d'Arenberg and d'Arry's Verandah Restaurant. With abundant views overlooking the rolling hills, a long lunch on the terrace is a must when exploring the region, and for those with a little longer to explore then I'd definitely recommend the seasonally changing degustation menu.

A BIG NIGHT OUT

The Barn Bistro is a great spot for an evening with friends and family enjoying quality local food and wine. The Barn is also home to a wonderful walk-through wine cellar, featuring one of the finest selections of wines from the McLaren Vale and Fleurieu region – the perfect place to pick up a bottle to take home and enjoy. See thebarnbistro.com.au  

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BEST TIME TO VISIT

March is a great time to visit South Australia as it's not too warm, making it pleasant for exploring the outdoors. The vines in McLaren Vale are also full of colour and the area really appears alive and bountiful. Food highlights in late summer include locally harvested figs, quinces, olives and apples. 

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