Sit back and en­joy tast­ing the Fleurieu at a re­gional eatery that is this year’s great sur­prise

The Advertiser - SA Weekend - - COVER ST -

Clock­wise from above: Cape Malay snap­per with dried scal­lops; Culi­nary team Lind­say Durr, Bren­dan Wes­sels and Ben Som­mariva; roasted al­monds with bit­ter choco­late, mus­ca­tels and amaretto

Drop Sec­ond Val­ley into the coast­line of most other parts of the world and the de­vel­op­ers would be scram­bling over each other to build mari­nas, con­dos and beach­side bars. Luck­ily, it’s our lit­tle se­cret, an un­touched sum­mer play­ground where you can camp un­der the pines, ex­plore pi­rate caves and hook a squid on the pint-sized jetty.

Just up the hill, on the main road to Cape Jervis, Leonards Mill has also flown un­der the radar in re­cent years.

It’s easy to see how the old stone flour mill, chim­ney jut­ting sky­ward, pad­docks of sheep on all sides, has at­tracted in­vest­ment from a steady flow of dream­ers since it was first brought back to life in the mid-’80s.

Cur­rent own­ers, Alan Greig and Jane Mitchell, fell for the place five years ago. They wanted to make it a din­ing des­ti­na­tion but strug­gled to at­tract and keep the right peo­ple. Then, ear­lier this year, a young South African cou­ple ap­plied for the po­si­tion. Their CV, most re­cently at the revered Lake House in Vic­to­ria, seemed the per­fect ground­ing, but it was their pas­sion for the re­gion and the Mill it­self that got them the job. Since then Bren­dan Wes­sels and Lind­say Durr have gone about their work qui­etly, track­ing down their cho­sen pro­duc­ers, and de­vel­op­ing a sig­na­ture style that, if you look closely, is in­cred­i­bly de­tailed. Best, though, to sit back and en­joy.

Out on the deck in the midst of a per­fect spring day, the signs are promis­ing. Fresh flow­ers, an or­gan­ised if in­ex­pe­ri­enced ser­vice bri­gade and plenty of happy faces.

House-baked bread comes with an earth­en­ware flask of ex­cel­lent lo­cal oil.

A golden-topped pie and roasted poussin, from a list of “Sim­pler Fare”, head to other ta­bles. Tempt­ing. But we’re here to try the more am­bi­tious “A Taste of the Fleurieu” menu.

The first plate ar­rives cov­ered by a glass cloche that is lifted to re­lease a waft of ap­ple wood smoke. The trick might be dated but what’s un­der­neath is some­thing else. Strips of king­fish sashimi, brushed with yuzu, are barely touched with smok­i­ness. Lit­tle cones of pick­led daikon filled with daikon-soaked ta­pi­oca pearls bring crunch and pop. Strips of grilled squid are pure, sweet and another tex­ture again. A base of bonito aoli amps up the unami. The in­spi­ra­tion is Ja­panese, but the ef­fect is as in­vig­o­rat­ing as sea spray.

A small brick of pork belly from pigs raised a few hills away at Parawa shows all the care of its up­bring­ing. The melt­ing flesh is part­nered with cele­riac (in a puree and as re­moulade), ap­ple (pick­led and com­pressed), cel­ery (leaf and stem) and a crum­ble of black pud­ding.

Show­ing one in­gre­di­ent in a va­ri­ety of guises is chef Bren­dan’s mo­tif. In the snap­per dish in­spired by his home­land’s Cape Malay com­mu­nity, he chops cauliflowe­r into a fine cous­cous, blends it to a silky puree and steeps flo­rets in curry so­lu­tion like a pic­calilli. Two spice­coated snap­per fil­lets are golden brown on the sur­face but pure white and moist be­neath. A rel­ish of ap­ple and raisins adds raj to the taj. Tally ho.

Fab­u­lous lamb from Kan­ga­roo Is­land – discs of seared loin and leg meat braised, shred­ded and pressed – is al­lowed to shine in a sim­pler en­sem­ble with jus, na­tive suc­cu­lents and onion as a purée, charred shal­lot and pick­led shal­lot. That pickle is too acidic and dom­i­nant, I reckon.

Desserts are Lind­say’s do­main but take the same cues as the other cour­ses. Balls of barely-set but­ter­milk cream are adorned with three types of ap­ple (caramelize­d, jelly and dried), an oat­meal crum­ble, hon­ey­comb and honey sponge. It’s break­fast turned into a dessert you’ll re­mem­ber for some time.

The same can be said for the en­tire ex­pe­ri­ence. It’s this year’s great sur­prise and, if the chefs stay put and the ser­vice de­vel­ops more con­fi­dence and fi­nesse, the Mill will soon be right up there among our re­gional din­ing elite.

The se­cret is out. MUST TRY King fish sashimi with yuzu, daikon and dashi pearls ALSO CON­SIDER Hent­ley Farm, Barossa Val­ley; Ellen Street, McLaren Vale Grenache Cup Barossa ver­sus McLaren Vale judg­ing. It was one of my faves on the day with its glo­ri­ous fra­grances of fruit, herbs and spices and more-ish medium bod­ied rich­ness.

Even though it only in­cludes 2 per cent carig­nan, He­wit­son team wine­maker Stephen Dau­ris says it adds more body

ways,” Stephen says.

Now that carig­nan is also bonve­dro, more ad­ven­tur­ous wine­mak­ers have gone out of their way to showcase it. Woods Cramp­ton is a duet be­tween Aaron Woods and Ni­cholas Cramp­ton mak­ing some very smart mod­ern Barossa wines in small quan­ti­ties, and hav­ing ac­quired the fruit from an old carig­nan vine­yard they now have gone out with a 100 per cen­ter, The Woods Cramp­ton 2013 Bonve­dro ($25).

It’s vi­brantly coloured in the glass with aro­mas of dark spiced, almost mulled fruit, re­tain­ing a grapey pres­ence and pretty per­fumes be­fore de­vel­op­ing and pow­er­ing-up in the mouth, plenty of bright fruit acid­ity with medium to full weight. A fas­ci­nat­ing drink.

They also have crafted a red blend that is now more an Ibe­rian blend than Rhone, The Woods Cramp­ton 2013 The Big Show ($20), which is 45 per cent monas­trell (the Span­ish word for mourve­dre or mataro), 35 per cent bonve­dro and 20 per cent gra­ciano. It has all those thing that make sim­i­lar so-called Mediter­ranean blends so grit min­er­als and crum­bled earth yet amaz­ing juicy fruits, here with a palate

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