Kangaroo Island’s FOOD AND WINE offerings are as much of AN ALLURE as the BEAUTY of its RUGGED COASTLINE, finds Anita Jokovich.
EAT, DRINK, RELAX. REPEAT. This seems to be the mantra on Kangaroo Island and one that feels wholly appropriate, as I embark on a three-day food and wine tour with Kangaroo Island Odysseys. KI (as the locals affectionately call it) is Australia’s third largest island after Tasmania and Melville Island, and lies 16 kilometres off the coast of South Australia’s Fleurieu Peninsula. It’s home to 450 kilometres of rugged coastline, and a diverse range of wildlife including sea lions, koalas, pelicans and, of course, its namesake – the kangaroo. (You might expect to be greeted by the island’s mascot at every turn, but instead you’ll need to keep a sharp eye out for them dozing under trees off unsealed roads.) While the island’s natural beauty is a big drawcard, its food and wine offering is an equal contender, meaning it’s fast becoming the place to go for a gourmet escape. The first stop on my odyssey is the Enchanted Fig Tree, where what looks at first glance to be a street-side hedge turns out to be the restaurant itself. I walk through an archway and find myself within the huge overgrown branches of a 150-yearold fig tree, which form the shape of a large igloo. The space is naturally divided into smaller ‘rooms’, furnished with dining tables dressed in elegant white linens and soundtracked by the quiet, reverent murmuring of other diners. It’s magical and enchanting. What follows is a nine-course degustation menu in which chef Rachel Hannaford takes us on a culinary journey of locally produced and sourced foods that are indigenous to the island. Rachel is one half of Hannaford and Sachs, KI food specialists whose forte it is to produce wildly imaginative food experiences like this one, through their Gourmet Island Dining series. Our host for three days is Rachel’s brother, Nick Hannaford, who tells us of his family’s threegeneration-spanning history on the island. In the 1940s, his grandfather transported a house from the mainland, settling here on the North Coast. In the early 2000s, Rachel and Nick set up LifeTime Private Retreats, which grew to become a collection of five private beachfront houses that showcase the island at its best. The accommodation is both luxurious and homely, furnished with eclectic finds and artworks partnered with ocean views. Later that evening, we experience another unique foodie experience courtesy of the Gourmet Island Dining series. Beach Taverna takes place in a ramshackle shack on Snellings Beach and sees Rachel cook an intimate dinner inspired by her boppa (grandfather), while pelicans mill outside at the ocean’s edge. It’s a surreally beautiful setting, and as the sun goes down, we are told of the many marriage proposals that have taken place here. And of how staff have discreetly left a few slightly overly amorous couples to it. The next night, it’s time for dinner in the Shearing Shed, which is draped in velvet curtains and decorated with chandeliers and candlelight. The scene looks set for a Shakespearean play – and in fact each meal of the tour is a theatrical event in itself. KI is also home to several producers who are making their mark on the Australian food scene, and over the course of three days we experience a gin tasting at award-winning Kangaroo Island Spirits, lunch at the Islander Estate Vineyard and cheeses from Island Pure Sheep Dairy. While my time here is long enough to see the passion of the producers, and the beauty of the land, I know I’ve only scratched the surface of this unique and abundant island.
CLOCKWISE FROM ABOVE: King George whiting with island spuds at the Islander Estate Vineyard, with its signature rosé; Dinner at sunset at the Beach Taverna; A hidden entrance to the Enchanted Fig Tree; A Kangaroo Island western grey. OPPOSITE: Kangaroo Island has 450 kilometres of rugged coastline.