There is a small issue with saying this is one of the oldest buildings in Adelaide, as technically it burned to the ground in 1983's terrible Ash Wednesday bushfires. The property was originally owned by Arthur Hardy, a joint grazier, lawyer and crown prosecutor, who became one of the richest men in the state. He built Mt Lofty House during the 1850s at the peak of his career, which became a Gatesby-esque setting for grand establishment parties. The party did not last, and the Hardys had to sell the property after living beyond their means. It has passed through many hands since, including those of a hippy commune during the 1970s. In 1986 it was renovated and turned into a boutique hotel, which it has remained since - the last ten years under the guide of the Horbelt family, who have restored it to its former glory.
It's perched on top of Mount Lofty, which has the grandest views in all of Adelaide, including across the lush Piccadilly Valley and the Mt Lofty Botanical Gardens. Adelaide city is about 15-20 minutes before it, the airport 20-30 minutes.
Every effort has been made to keep the grand feel of the house, with common spaces including a library and games room, and impressive grounds with a small pool, tennis court, barbecue and wood fired pizza oven. The focus here, though, is on wines and they have converted an old ventilation chamber into a cellar which houses 6000 bottles of wine, all arranged in order of importance; Adelaide Hills first, South Australia, Australia, then the rest of world. All guests are invited to the cellar for a glass of house sparkling wines from their own vineyard; choose between the Summit, a collaboration with Howard Vineyard (who lost some of their vines in the recent fires), or the Sequoia, a collaboration with Taras Ochota from Ochota Barrels.
It's hard to ignore the sweeping views of Piccadilly Valley when I first wake up, even if they are bizarrely covered in fog in the middle of summer. Two double-doors open up to a private balcony from which to enjoy the view from. Inside, immaculately presented and spacious rooms, furnished with a four poster bed and forest green velvet armchairs that reflect the colours of the scrub around us. There's unique touches, such as the miniature library; and the retro rotary dial phone on the side table which actually works. There's a bottle of Howard sparkling, two water bottles and two large chocolate chip cookies waiting for me on arrival.
Hardy's Verandah Restaurant has splendid views which guests can enjoy over four or seven course menus with matched wines (and generously poured, might I add) from classic Adelaide Hills winemakers such as Henschke and Ashton Hills as well as new school labels like Koerner. With a Korean chef in place, the food focuses on South Australian ingredients with an Asian influence. Highlights include a tea smoked quail with preserved chilli caramel and King George Whiting, a South Australian classic, but the creativity prize goes to dessert which is plated to look like an Aboriginal painting, created with chocolate, ice-cream, meringue and berries. And although the menu might be expensive, the emphasis is on comfort - in fact, it was insisted that I do not dress for dinner - so the atmosphere is very relaxed.
For breakfast, the friendly Patch Kitchen and Garden has a cosy vibe with great coffee down the road in Stirling. But what is undoubtedly a distinct advantage of staying here is its close proximity to the wineries within the Adelaide Hills. Start with pizza for lunch at destination wine bar Lost in a Forest. For dinner, head to the hip Summertown Aristologist, a natural wine bar that focuses on sustainable small plates. It pays to book an Uber ahead of time - they're around, but you may need to wait.
Offering luxurious accommodation minus the stuffiness you may expect, Mt Lofty House is the obvious choice in the Adelaide Hills, and more widely, Adelaide.
Rooms start at $ 379 per night. 1 Mawson Dr, Crafers SA 5152; mountloftyhouse.com.au
The wine, the views, the rooms and the food are all outstanding.
Time is too short to fully appreciate the beautiful surrounds and all the services on offer.