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We all know its world-class wines; lately, however, the Barossa Valley has also become a gourmet hub. From breakfast in the bush to four-hour lunches, there is a meal to match your mood. Add some of these eating experiences to your next Barossa itinerary.
CRAFTED BY HAND
At Seppeltsfield's new restaurant, Fino, it's not just the food that has been artisanally crafted: the plates have been, too. For their second Fino restaurant (the first is at McLaren Vale), owners Sharon Romeo and David Swain collaborated with craft organisation JamFactory to have the plate ware, the cutlery and even the tables made by local artisans.
"Barry Gardner has made the most beautiful knives for us," says Romeo, who commissioned work from several local artisanal craftsmen. "For us, it was very much about building relationships with a new region."
Naturally, Fino has also built relationships with the best local food producers, showcasing produce from Hutton Vale lamb to Barossa Birds in the menu. Expect jazzed-up comfort food such as pig's head, green olives and almonds on brioche, or lamb and vegetable pie. After dinner, head upstairs to JamFactory's in-house outlet, where you can visit the artisans at work in their studios and perhaps even take home a piece of your own.
It takes just a moment to scoff one of Harvest Kitchen's empanadas, but creating these flavour-packed morsels is a much slower process. Over three days, the beef is first rubbed with salt, then braised with stout and fig and aromatics, before the sauce is reduced for six hours and the entire contents folded into pastry.
Harvest Kitchen may offer drop-in, all-day dining, but that doesn't mean they believe in taking short cuts. Former MasterChef contestant Tracy Collins and her business partner, Pete Little, who opened Harvest Kitchen earlier this year, source local, organic produce which they cure, ferment and pickle in-house.
"The producers are people we already know, whose products we already use at home. It's a big Barossa lovefest," Collins says.
Housed in the Artisans of Barossa tasting room, the cafe's menu ranges from small bites to hearty meals, served all day. "We didn't want to dictate how people ate; we wanted them to wander in at any time and choose what they ate," Collins says.
There is plenty to satisfy vegetarians and vegans, including the moreish roast baby carrots with harissa and labna.
THE LONG LUNCH
They know a thing or two about marketing at Hentley Farm. The boutique winemakers came up with clever monikers for two of their best shiraz: one is called The Beauty; the other, The Beast. The names reflect their characters – one elegant and refined, the other big and bold – but also stick in the mind.
They also know a thing or two about food. The winery's striking restaurant, housed in the former stables, has become known as one of the Barossa's best. Chef Lachlan Colwill has built a reputation for his degustation menus, which come in two options: the two-hour meal or the four-hour meal. Local boy Colwill uses the farm's own produce, as well as foraging and drawing on local orchards and even home gardens for ingredients which appear in a series of small and sensational dishes. He particularly has a way with crackers, such as the exquisite puffed quinoa cracker topped with curry leaf, curry spiced lemon and a lightly poached quail egg. Other winning combinations include Smoky Bay oysters with passionfruit juice, or ox tail yakitori with kohlrabi, wood sorrel and coriander.
A TASTE OF HISTORY
Ever tried wine tasting in an old underground wine tank? That immersive experience is part of Yalumba's Different Perspectives tour, which takes visitors behind the scenes of the historic winery. "Yalumba is 166 years old, and has been owned by the same family for five generations," says Yalumba's Tess Fisher. "This tour is a chance to explore some of that history."
The private tour takes in some of the elements that make Yalumba unique, including the in-house cooperage where the barrels are made by hand. Yalumba is the only Australian winery to make its own barrels. The highlight, however, is definitely the tank tasting, and not just for the ambience. An elaborate selection of small bites accompanies the tasting: think delicious shredded quail with apple and prosciutto, and an 18-month-old grana and caramelised onion tart. Four serves of each bite mean you get to try them with different wines.
"Our wines are made to go with food, so we wanted to get people thinking about what they might want to cook to go with each wine," Fisher says.
BREAKFAST IN THE WILD
How do you like your weekends away? Are you a slow starter, lolling in bed until late and whiling away the afternoon until it is time for pre-dinner drinks? Or are you the mile-a-minute type, keen to squeeze as much into every day as you can?
The Barossa's most luxurious accommodation, The Louise, caters to both speeds. If you want to take it slow, it will deliver breakfast to your room, book you in for a leisurely dinner at the acclaimed on-site restaurant, Appellation, and generally make it easy for you.
If, however, you want to tick off as much as possible, it will put together a program for you that includes exclusive tastings with winemakers. The don't-miss experience, however, is one that is worth getting out of bed early for.
Breakfast with the Kangaroos delivers exactly what it promises. In a pretty clearing amid dense bushland, you get to enjoy a picnic breakfast while wild kangaroos graze nearby.
"There's more to the Barossa than great food and wine," says The Louise's Ruby Stobart. "This experience is a chance for our guests to explore the lovely bushland: and gives them some breathing space that is so important to a reinvigorating holiday."
Qantas has several daily flights to Adelaide from Sydney and Melbourne. The Barossa Valley is an hour's drive from Adelaide airport.
The Louise is the area's most elegant accommodation. Rates start at $600; see thelouise.com.au. The Novotel Barossa has tennis courts, basketball and volleyball courts and an outdoor pool. Rates start at $239 for a bed and breakfast package. See www.novotelbarossa.com.
The writer was a guest of Brand SA.