The top 10 fine dining restaurants in South Australia
Jock Zonfrillo is a culinary crusader. He’s a chef with a vision, intent on painting a picture of Australia on a plate.
1. Orana, Adelaide
At his small fine-dining Orana on Rundle Street, he caters to adventurous diners who come from all over to graze upon his artistry.
The Scottish-born chef who adopted South Australia as his home in 2000, immerses his guests in a mind-blowing array of indigenous ingredients, either sourced from prime suppliers, or foraged locally. There’s the expected: Spencer Gulf prawns, succulent kangaroo, crocodile and Kangaroo Island marron, for instance.
Then there’s the completely unexpected: green ants, native pepperberries, bunya nuts, and sea parsley, all grown wild on the Australian continent, all filed under “bush tucker” by the majority.
Across upwards of 20 seasonal courses and small plates, Zonfrillo creates powerfully original dishes that critics rave about for being exquisite and adventurous, yet unpretentious, and which have enshrined his elegant eatery, and Adelaide along with it, in the echelons of destination dining.
2. Hill of Grace, Adelaide
As is cricket club tradition, it was intended to be for members only.
Luckily for food and wine lovers everywhere, the welcoming folk of Adelaide are very generous. It was decided to open it to the public for dinners five nights a week. And so, a legend in the making was born.
The resulting fine dining restaurant Hill of Grace is aptly named – it’s effortlessly graceful, a calm, elegant space where everything happens just so.
Also as the name suggests, Hill of Grace is a place of pilgrimage for lovers of South Australia’s world-famous wines.
It’s home to the planet’s only complete (and priceless) collection of Henschke’s legendary Hill of Grace shiraz vintages dating from 1958 to now, encased in a glass cabinet lining the main thoroughfare into the restaurant.
The pilgrimage doesn’t end there.
Hill of Grace is home to an extraordinary South-Australian-only, carefully-curated list of a little over 150 wines.
Of course, there’s a brilliant food offering to go with, and it too, is distinctly South Australian. Chef Dennis Leslie uses native fruits and plants alongside flavours from his Asian upbringing and French training.
And there is a remarkably good team delivering it all, from the warm yet professional setting- and occasion-appropriate welcome, to the seamless and discreet service, tending to the a la carte or degustation offerings.
3. Appellation at The Louise, Marananga
Quintessential Barossa – that’s Appellation at The Louise.
All that is great about South Australia’s most historic and famous wine-producing and food-growing region is not only represented here, but distilled down to its finest.
This is country dining at its very, very best.
The ever changing menu draws on what is available from the kitchen garden and nearby food producers, with a slow food policy that sees more than 85 per cent of edibles that arrive on the table sourced from within 30 km of the restaurant.
Executive chef Ryan Edwards’ a la carte and five-course tasting menus are refined rusticity. They balance South Australian country flavours and freshness with extraordinary technique.
And then there’s the wine list. No less than 500 different drops are on offer, quite a few of them rare and covetable Barossa finds.
Seasonal, local and perhaps just a little bit Bacchanalian, it’s worth checking in to the upscale accommodation of The Louise so you can relax and partake to your heart’s content before rolling into a nearby luxurious bed.
4. Hentley Farm, Seppeltsfield
Corner Gerald Roberts and Jenke roads, Seppeltsfield. Phone: (08) 8562 8427. See hentleyfarm.com.au
Barossa-born Lachlan Colwill’s global experience, including a stint with Tetsuya’s in Sydney and Jean-Georges in New York, has seen him hugely decorated.
And he’s brought the penchant for accolades to his Hentley Farm restaurant, a multiple restaurant of the year award winner, at Hentley Farm winery, in the heart of his South Australian homeland.
Unrestricted by location in approach, Colwill's adventurous menu recognises the expectations of an international clientele; he brings sophisticated cutting-edge and even theatrical food to a rural setting.
He offers no menus, just an intriguing, often playful menu based on foraged and farmed produce that is 90 per cent sourced from Hentley Farm itself, as well as local producers in the Barossa.
The restaurant offers the Du Jour menu, four courses and some nibbles, to be enjoyed over a two-hour sitting, or the Discovery menu, a culinary adventure that takes four hours. Matched with the award-winning Hentley Farm wine list, a sustainability ethos and a gorgeous timber and stone setting, this is a unique and wonderful destination dining experience.
5. Magill Estate Restaurant, Rosslyn Park
No name is more eminent to South Australian wine than Penfolds and the Magill Estate Restaurant, developed for South Australia’s most celebrated winery, honours that heritage, providing a sensory encounter inspired by the wines and the blessed terroir that produces them.
And it starts as soon as you arrive. Even the décor and architecture immerses guests in the “spiritual home of Penfolds”, with lighting accents of Penfolds red warming the space fronted by huge windows with sweeping views of the Adelaide Hills vineyards.
To others, wine might be the afterthought but co-head chefs Scott Huggins and Emma McCaskill have created a menu that cleverly showcases Penfolds’ stellar vintages and other, carefully selected wines.
The modern Australian menu constructed from rich regional and seasonal produce, is a degustation to be savoured with two levels of matched wines.
Dishes comprised of the finest seafood and produce of the South Australian land glorify their accompanying drop while an expert sommelier explains how everything works together – though, if on offer (the menu changes daily), the beautifully marbled Mayura wagyu matched with a snifter of Grange needs no explanation at all.
6. The Tasting Room, Mayura Station, Millicent
For more than 150 years, historic Mayura Station on the Limestone Coast, South Australia’s first pastoral lease, has been home to prize beef, fed by fertile hills, a moderate climate and a reliable supply of beautiful clean water. Today, it produces award-winning wagyu beef that’s considered among the world’s best and in hot international demand.
But before it all gets shipped off to Japan or select local outlets, the good people of Mayura hold back some of the best cuts to provide a dining opportunity that represents the concept of paddock to plate at its purest and which is a pinnacle of pleasure for steak lovers.
The Tasting Room, awarded Best Formal Steak Restaurant in 2014, caters for a small number of guests who sit in the kitchen, watching chef Mark Wright prepare their meal before them.
It’s a degustation with Mayura’s best as its star, matching with superb local Limestone Coast and Coonawarra wines. Along the way, he explains the history of Wagyu, his preparation techniques and the prime ways to cook the delicacy to perfection.
7. Sean's Kitchen
Yorkshire-born Sean Connolly is inspired by the same principles which underpin the best of South Australian dining: “generosity, imagination and a healthy respect for excellent produce” are those principles and they are things his grandmother taught him as a young aspiring cook.
That’s why the world-renowned chef’s latest New York brasserie-inspired restaurant is an ideal fit for Adelaide.
Sean’s Kitchen, at the historic Adelaide Casino pays homage to South Australian provenance with the fresh and down-to-earth approach Connolly is famous for.
Find fire-grilled Spencer Gulf prawns, local scampi, prime South Australian beef done tartare style, slow-roasted local lamb, award-winning artisan cheeses from Woodside Cheese Wrights of the Adelaide Hills, South Australian oysters and more on a menu that proudly lists its local suppliers such as Richard Gunner’s Fine Meats, Saskia Beer Barossa Farm Produce and several Port Lincoln seafood companies.
The wine list showcases carefully picked South Australian vintages from the various regions, such as the ’98 Jenke Late Disgorged Sparkling Shiraz from the Barossa Valley and the ‘13 Mollydooker The Violinist Verdelho from McLaren Vale, among a superb selection of national and internationals.
With two private dining rooms, a chef’s table and a unique museum of ham, it’s a place with a sense of occasion, though you’re welcome to come any time.
8. The Enchanted Fig Tree, Kangaroo Island
If you were to conjure up a world combining the childlike adventure of a Narnia novel with the magical realism of the late Nobel laureate Gabriel Garcia Marquez, you start to get a sense of the wonder diners feel inside the Enchanted Fig Tree on Kangaroo Island. The Hannaford family’s storied history with the island is well documented and Rachel Hannaford with partner Sasha Sachs have created an almost otherworldly pop-up restaurant inside a 150-year-old fig tree on the remote Snellings Beach.
The nearby beach is spectacular enough but what fills visitors with a sense of wonder is the old tree where the boughs stoop to the ground and grow new roots. With sand underfoot the boughs create small green rooms filled with life. Diners are enclosed in a soft, private leafy sanctuary filled with dappled sunlight.
Off to the side Hannaford and Sachs have erected a small field kitchen where they turn out carefully crafted Mediterranean, Mod-Oz fare showcasing the island’s exquisite produce. Fresh seafood, local lamb, cheeses, bread and pastries all sit on the menu in one of the world’s unique dining experiences. It’s open Wednesday to Sunday through to the end of May (before the leaves fall) and should not be missed.
9. Kenji, Adelaide
Kenji Ito’s eponymous Japanese diner has been packing a local Adelaide crowd in for years. His ability to meld incongruous flavors on the plate while paying homage to traditional Japanese cuisine ensures this is one of the city’s best culinary nights out.
Wander in and the understated yet stylish décor matched with an interested charm from the attentive front-of-house staff immediately work to soothe a tired diner after a hard week. Chef Ito’s creations celebrate the diversity of South Australian produce including local seafood such as prawns, oysters and tuna. Local Wagyu beef done in panko crumbs make for a new take on Katsu Curry.
Desserts include modern classics such as crème caramel fused with bean paste and yuzu sorbet. There’s a smart list of quality sake, shochu and plum wine complementing a solid wine list.
10. Windy Point Lookout, Belair
Every great city has its big occasion restaurant; the institution which continues to win hearts and palates over many years. Adelaide is well endowed with fine diners but Windy Point has been delivering its mix of fine cuisine, deft silver service and an extraordinary view for over 30 years.
While diners have been enjoying the vista of a South Australian sunset and twinkling city lights below for over three decades, chef Justin Miles ensures the food remains fresh and contemporary. Sure there are nods to retro dining with a duck confit, beef tartare and oysters done five ways but Miles’ menu inserts a glint of the contemporary into every dish.
Highlights include a Quail Roulade and Scotch Egg with a cumin yoghurt, pickled vine leaves and golden beetroot. Harking back to the trailblazing genius of the now retired legendary Australian chef Phillip Searle - a Flinders Ranges Orroroo Kangaroo Saddle with carrot salad, baba ghanoush, shaved baby beetroot and Persian feta melds Searle’s oh-so natural partnership of kangaroo and beetroot with a Middle Eastern twist. It’s stylish food designed to showcase South Australia’s wondrous produce and wine so first-timers should probably undertake the full journey and enjoy the book-ahead seven-course degustation menu.