Best Of Adelaide, Part One: The Hills

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Our Garden

Like the errant boyfriend who sniffs dismissal in the air, I find that most cities, as soon as I resign myself to leaving them, suddenly turn on the charm.  

Adelaide, however, has been a pretty beaut beau all along, which makes the parting harder.    

I could fill a book with all the things I love about this little city, nestled between the ocean and The Hills, and surrounded by wineries and culinary artisans.  

But Melbourne (and the moving van) beckons, so a post (or two) will have to do.   

No doubt I have made serious, egregious omissions - please share your favorite haunts.   

Let's blow the lid off Australia's best kept secret!

p.s. The reason we're moving is that my lovely spouse has taken a new job in his home town, Melbourne.  More than a few girlfriends pointed out that it might be easier to replace the man than our home, but I decided to keep him.  xo

The Adelaide Hills
My heart aches at the thought of leaving The Hills.  The plains has its attractions, but in truth I can't understand being in Adelaide and wanting to live anywhere else.  (I'm leaving, so I can say these things.) 

Think winding, tree canopied roads (verdant in Spring and a riot of reds, yellows and purples in Autumn), lush meandering English gardens, ceaseless birdsong, and, the ultimate luxury, space.  

Here are just a few of my favorite spots - some good for visitors, some best suited to locals - in our beloved  Adelaide Hills.

Mathilda Bookshop 
Owners Jo & Gavin have created a brilliant local bookshop that not only sells a beautifully curated selection, including latest releases and timeless classics with a heavy emphasis on cooking and gardening sections (reflecting local pursuits), but puts on a stellar series of book-readings with notable authors.  Many of these include tasting held at the Stirling Hotel, with luminaries such as Bill Granger, Luke Nguyen & Adriano Zumbo, and Maggie Beer.  Get on the newsletter mailing list so you don't miss out.  Their presence on Main Street continues just across the road with the delightful Three Birds, a homewares and gift shop with a difference.  Again, Jo's unfailing sense of taste is on display with a store full of beautifully made and presented selections, for people big and small, that you're unlikely to find elsewhere in Adelaide.   If this is what a monopoly looks like, bring it on!

Organic Market And Cafe 
First, the cafe.  The soups are sublime (and not a Nazi in sight - just plenty of hippies).  The bakewell slice tastes like Christmas.  The scones with jam and cream are so beautifully wholesome that you'd swear this kind of treat can only do you good.  The iced tea is a magical elixir, and the rye sourdough toast served with unsalted butter and Hank's jam is the best ever.  The market side of the equation is tiny and there isn't much (if any) choice, but it's the very best of everything. That's all I ask for, really.

Stirling Cellars & Patisserie 
Located behind the Stirling Hotel and adjacent to Foodland, this little corner of Stirling is the ultimate one-stop-shop.  The Patisserie's glass and marble pastry case is filled with delicacies from local baker Chris Broadfoot, of Woodbake fame: crusty loaves, simple filled baguettes (try the Thai chicken or Ham and Cheese - perfection), cocktail-sized lemon tarts, mushroom fromage ("quiche" doesn't do it justice), and salted caramel chocolates - what more could a girl need?  Oh, yes - a coffee.  They make the best (and no longer blink when I ask for a latte with three shots).  The decor and presentation live up to the food.  All pitch perfect, with everything you need for the ultimate picnic hamper, and you can grab a bottle of bubbles to boot.  Heaven.

Bird In Hand Sparkling Pinot 
This entry is included as a product, rather than a destination.  I have never visited the winery but, if volume is anything to go by, I am an authority on what's known in our house as "the local drop."  Light pink, bubbly, a bit sweet - it goes down like cordial.  Nectar of the Gods and, for me, the taste of an era.  

Shaw & Smith 
For my money, this the best Australian sauvignon blanc going - everything else is 'also ran'.  The cellar door does an elegant tasting accompanied by a perfectly portioned sampling of local cheeses.  The settling is sublime.  If they were to open a restaurant, my happiness would be absolute.   

Three things I despair of ever replacing: our garden, our GP, and our butcher.  If you do not live in the Hills, it is worth the petrol to come and shop here; if you do, I can't imagine why you'd shop anywhere else.  Seriously.  Kane Illsley, proprietor, farmer and 4th generation butcher, is old school.  Don't expect to pay for your ribs and run without a friendly, "So, what are you gonna do with it?"  I always provide an essay-length answer.  It's a wonder he still asks. The pork, beef, lamb and poultry are all free-range and, judging by their size, products of the jurrasic period.  A word of advice: ignore recipe quantities and simply tell him how many people you're planning to feed.  One of his super-chickens equals three undernourished pygmies from Coles.   And, as if further reason to visit were needed, he sells the best fish in Adelaide: Salty's, provided by my good friend Steve Manteville, who is as passionate about his product as Kane is about his.  Once I learned that the "Wicked Wild Salmon" came from Steve, the circle was complete - I now had everything I needed in the Hills and would never have to leave again.  So much for that plan!

Maggie Beer 
Without doubt, Maggie Beer is South Australia's greatest ambassador, culinary and otherwise.  A trip to the stunning Barossa Valley would be incomplete without a visit to Maggie's Farm Shop in Nuriootpa, where you can chose from a variety of picnic baskets featuring Maggie's signature pates and small goods, a glass of wine and finish it all off with with a cup of ice cream (I'd drive the 1.5 hours just for a taste of her Burnt Fig, Honeycomb and Caramel).  If you're an early riser with a prodigious appetite, you could time it to hit the Barossa Farmer's Market for breakfast, followed by a stroll down historic Angaston's main street, a play on the retired Trolley Car at the Nuriootpa's Trolley Reserve, and be at Maggie's for lunch.  My kind of day.

The Adelaide Hills is a cheese lover's paradise and no cheese course could be complete without Edith.  A French style goats cheese, Edith is creamy and mild, with an intriguing tang.  If you're iffy about goat's cheese, try this - it's a game changer.  If you're in Woodside visiting the Cellar Door, the Woodside Providore is worth a look in for some exciting, hearty fare including a memorable rabbit and prune pie - yum!  Bribe the children with the promise of a takeaway milkshake or smiley face biscuit, leaving you free to peruse The Antique Garden. The proprietor is kooky but kind, and her taste is exceptional - we've haven't left empty handed yet!  A great way to cap off your drive home from the Barossa.

I don't know where I'll be in ten years time, but I do know that I will still be dreaming of Siemers Tandoori Lambchops, Garlic Naan Bread and Prawn & Basil Curry.  Tucked inside a stone villa next to Aptos Cruz Galleries (housed in an old church, filled with a contemporary art and a stunning selection of furniture, lighting, and design books), you could whiz right past if you're not careful.  The interior is a bit faded, but in a charming way, like grand dame down to her last, well-worn peacock feather.  In colder months, request a table by the fire; in summer, enjoy the tiny back garden terrace.  And don't forget to order extra mint sauce - you'll thank me.

Beerenberg Farm 
How it is that the clever people at Beerenberg Farm get us to pay for the privilege of an experience usually reserved for migrant workers is a mystery, but we do - happily and annually.   'Pick Your Own Strawberries' has become a 'don't miss' experience on our calendar, and the jam we (sometimes) produce following our visits pays dividends for months to come.  Warm strawberries, fresh off the vine, taste like sunshine - not that any of mine have met the mouth before the scale (cough, cough).  It's also a great excuse to visit Hahndorf, where a stop at Udder Delights Cheese Cellar Door is a must.  How do you know if you're a yuppie?  Open your refrigerator; if you find goats cheese, you're a yuppie.  If so, brand me with a capital Y, 'cause you'll never open mine without spying a jar of Udder Delights Marinated Chevre.  Just like bacon, it makes everything better.  Dot in on pizzas, crumble it through salads, smear it on crisp bread and top with slices of ripe tomato.  Best of all, save the oil it comes packed it - it's liquid gold and makes best salad dressing base imaginable.  Build your own picnic basket with delicacies from the shop store to enjoy on the verandah, or grab a map and embark on the Adelaide Hills Cheese & Wine Trailsweet reward for your toil in the sun.  

p.s. Apologies for the lack of photos erratic formatting. Blogger is driving me mad - I sense another kind of address change on the horizon.


  1. What a wonderful round up! You make me melancholy for Adelaide - let me know when you are settled and good luck wit the move! KG

  2. Oh my goodness. You make it sound all so enchanting. And yes, makes me a tad sentimental for the town too. Best of luck for the big move though - a new adventure awaits. And hopefully you will discover the little pocket of Melbourne which will charm your heart as much as the Adelaide Hills.


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