Country Style - - COUNTRY CHEF - Mt Lofty Ranges Vine­yard is at 166 Har­ris Road, Lenswood, SA. (08) 8389 8339; mt­loftyrangesvine­

Mt Lofty Ranges Vine­yard in the Adelaide Hills isn’t one to be rushed. For a start, it’s worth en­joy­ing the jour­ney, as you slalom past farms and cot­tages in the dap­pled light un­der the trees. But also, un­less you’re well ac­quainted with the road, it’s not with­out its chal­lenges. There you are fo­cus­ing on the twists and turns — this hair­pin bend and that un­ex­pected dip — and sud­denly you’ve driven right past a rus­tic cor­ru­gated-iron building tee­ter­ing on the side of the hill, and re­alised that was it. Once in­side, perched above a val­ley with vines stretch­ing in ev­ery di­rec­tion, it all makes sense. Head chef Matt Fitton re­mem­bers be­ing mes­merised by the view when he came here for his wife Vic­to­ria’s 30th birth­day early last year, and feel­ing that a win­ery awarded five stars by James Hal­l­i­day war­ranted a more so­phis­ti­cated food of­fer­ing than the sim­ple pies and plat­ters they were do­ing at the time. A sous chef at The Play­ford ho­tel in Adelaide, Matt wasn’t on the hunt for a new job, but he quickly re­assessed. “I just saw the beauty of it and the op­por­tu­nity, and thought, ‘I need to try and take that be­fore some­body else does.’ ” He made his feel­ings clear to own­ers Sharon Pear­son and Garry Sweeney, and in Au­gust 2015 joined the team with carte blanche to re­design the menu. What he has cre­ated is am­bi­tious. To pro­duce this stan­dard of restau­rant fare in a tiny kitchen with just one oven and two staff is im­pres­sive, but Matt puts it down to two key things. First, prepa­ra­tion. “Ev­ery­thing’s planned around mak­ing th­ese three hours of ser­vice as easy as pos­si­ble,” he says. And sec­ond, cu­rios­ity. “I think that’s what sep­a­rates peo­ple who just en­joy food from the ones with real drive and pas­sion for cre­at­ing it. A bit of cu­rios­ity, and a will­ing­ness to try things and some­times stuff up.” And does Matt miss any­thing about work­ing in the city? “Not at all,” he says. “The only prob­lem I find is that peo­ple are al­ways late for book­ings be­cause we’re up such a windy road.”

FROM LEFT The scenery at Mt Lofty Ranges Vine­yard prompted Matt to take over the kitchen; the din­ing room makes the most of the view; the win­ery’s own­ers, Sharon Pear­son and Garry Sweeney. Slow-cooked pork cheeks with herb freekeh, kale & white bean puree The 2015 Sassy The Ivor Arneis pro­vides a har­mony of al­mond, pear and le­mon notes with the per­fect weight and tex­ture for this dish.

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