South Australia has myriad choices of first-class restaurants, cafes, cooking classes and wine bars.
Owners Jim and Helen Carreker always wanted Appellation to become the pinnacle of regional food and their careful development of the luxurious hilltop property The Louise has paid off in spades. Chef Mark McNamara (much loved in the Barossa for his long-time commitment to food and culinary excellence) works with growers and producers, understands the heritage of the valley's food culture and grows about half the garden ingredients used every day. The seasonal 10-course tasting menu isn't simply about matching a wine with each course - the wine flight is as important as each dish and is always a vinous adventure. The wine list features some great back vintages of Barossa shiraz, as well as Australian and international favourites, discoveries and treasures. No wonder it gets so much press.
Appellation, Seppeltsfield Road, Marananga, (08) 8562 4144, see appellation.com.au.
Petaluma's Bridgewater Mill, Adelaide Hills
It's always a joy to take visitors (and oneself) to this beautiful Adelaide Hills restaurant and tasting room. A swift drive up the freeway and three right-hand turns end in bucolic beauty and, yes, a brook and a real water wheel. The beautifully restored mill deserves a sensual menu and chef Le Tu Thai delivers this every season. Exquisite flavours and textures, superb style and good service make this one of Australia's finest regional experiences. A current highlight is the ocean trout confit with broad-bean nage and radish salad, while the pistachio beignets with poached green apple, rhubarb ice-cream and jasmine syrup is redolent of spring in the Hills.
389 Mt Barker Road, Bridgewater, (08) 8339 9200, see petaluma.com.au.
Fino, Fleurieu Peninsula
There are regulars who have never seen the menu. Nor the wine list. They have so much trust in both David Swain (the chef-partner) and Sharon Romeo (manager-partner), they just ask to be fed and watered. And it's not a bad way to go, especially on a Saturday after admiring the farmers' market on the doorstep. The menu changes daily as Swain finds what's perfect that day: what never changes is this partnership's commitment to giving each diner a sense of the seasons and the region.
8 Hill Street, Willunga, (08) 8556 4488, see fino.net.au.
The Lane Vineyard, Adelaide Hills
This is the country painter Hans Heysen loved and lived in - majestic gums, voluptuous hills, magical light and a sense of freedom. The contemporary cellar door at The Lane makes the most of the view and the light and there's a cinematic reveal every corner of the way there. The wine-friendly menu features "tastes" alongside entrees and mains, a bid for relaxed casual grazing that's so appealing in this setting. Classics are married to local specialties: gourgeres come with blue swimmer crab; King George whiting with sauce vierge; vanilla creme with fragrant local figs. Hans and Sallie Heysen would have loved it.
Ravenswood Lane, Hahndorf, (08) 8388 1250, see thelane.com.au.
The Manse, Adelaide
It's a shock to see into the kitchen as you walk through to the bar: the staff are so young. Where did they get the confidence to produce food this good? It's not brash but some of it is sweetly brazen - cornflake fried ethical foie gras with pineapple and muscatel jelly - and all of it is gorgeously presented but never to the cost of flavour. The wine list is excellent and the decor mod-elegant. Dining here is rewarding and satisfying - maybe it's all that youthful energy rubbing off.
142 Tynte Street, North Adelaide, (08) 8267 4636, see themanserestaurant.com.au.