Villa in the vines
Australia’s finest regional restaurants. Although Appellation’s dishes are highly refined, in the villa McNamara prefers to create a more casual, shared food experience.
Hors d’oeuvres are followed by a delectable starter platter of dainty filo tarts filled with caramelised onion and locally made Ballycroft quark (an old Barossa standby that I remember my nanna making) topped with lachsschinken (salmon ham) and house-smoked by Linkes butchers in Nuriootpa, where family doyen Graeme is the keeper of many secret recipes.
Smoked salmon, meanwhile, is served with a delicious salad of sweet potatoes roasted with almonds, pumpkin seeds and a mild curry powder.
The main course is outstanding: slow-cooked Hutton Vale lamb from a picturesque property on the outskirts of Angaston. Hung for two weeks, the lamb has been roasting at Appellation for four hours.
McNamara bastes the beast with Prue Henschke’s verjuice before popping it back in the oven and turning up the heat. The dish is accompanied by a fabulous vegetable tagine, the cooking juice obtained from small, sweet tomatoes.
The McNamara and Carreker alliance has been a boon for the Barossa, providing visitors with a level of excellence equal to the world’s best lodges.
Fans of Relais & Chateaux, the Carrekers scoured Europe, New Zealand and Australia for the perfect wine region to open a small-scale hotel devoted to good food.
Charmed by the Barossa, they took over the dated Hermitage near Seppeltsfield before transforming it into an elegant boutique hotel built around McNamara’s kitchen.
‘‘ We are very rare in Australia, running a fully staffed but very small restaurant [only 30 seats],’’ he says. ‘‘ We do all our own baking, make all pastries and handle all the butchery.’’
McNamara also accompanies Jim Carreker on research trips, in a continuous effort to refine The Louise and Appellation experience. (They are recently back from the wine regions of South Africa.)
For dessert, our chef turns to a Greenock grower, who through some sort of alchemy not understood by those living in this hot, dry place, produces outstanding, fat, sweet cherries that are combined with boysenberries and strawberries, sauteed in sugar, popped in a delectable shortcrust pastry flan and served with a verjuice sabayon. It’s a fitting finale to our Barossa feast. Ever the professional, McNamara sets to tidying the kitchen before placing a plate of house-made truffles on the table. We draw straws to see who nabs the last port wine and peppercorn chocolate.
Come the morning, everyone has gone off the idea of self-catering (another Atrium option), so it’s off to the Barossa Farmers Market for bacon and egg sarnies and steaming mugs of strong coffee. Christine McCabe was a guest of the South Australian Tourism Commission and Atrium at Greenock Creek.
For more information on Atrium at Greenock Creek in the Barossa Valley, phone (08) 8562 3714; www.atriumresidence.com.au.
Swish digs: Atrium, set on a golden hillside at Greenock Creek with long views across the Barossa Valley, is handy to countless cellar doors