Entrance to the suite
I'm in suite 28 at the Louise. I'm going out for dinner at 7:15pm but you can call me any time before that.
There is a television in the bathroom here :) Plus a rubber ducky :D
Welcome fruit and cookies
In the pouring rain I make my way with John Baldwin, my tour guide to a suite at The Louise, one of the Small Luxury Hotels in South Australia. I had heard all about it and met the owner Jim Carreker at a Small Luxury Hotels lunch a while back. Having stayed at so many SLH establishments, I know that the SLH seal is one that I know that I will be well and truly indulged.
TV in bathroom
I am shown to my suite. It's spacious and when I step in the fireplace is roaring and the tile floors are heated which is huge welcome as the wild, whipping winds outside are battering the windows. I settle into my suite. The Louise is all suite hotel and legend, has it that there an outdoor shower in each suite. I peer around the corner and next to the indoor shower is indeed an outdoor shower! You can be naked, outdoors and private all at the same time!
The back verandah
The rooms are well appointed with complimentary house baked chocolate chip and macadamia nut cookies, port, espresso machine, organic teas, robes and slippers, a BOSE CD player as well as a selection of magazines and books. All lights have dimmer switches and the amenities provided are a mix of a brand called Vive and Molton Brown. And something rather thoughtful is when housekeeping noticed that I drank Earl Grey tea they stocked up the Earl Grey with a generous supply of it. These are the small thoughtful touches that I appreciate.
The outdoor shower
Breakfast is eaten in your room and you simply fill in the form and hand it in or phone it in by 6pm the evening before. Local produce features prominently on the menu and these items are marked by an asterisk. In some months (sadly not on while I am there), guests can have breakfast with the kangaroos at an additional $135 per person.
Do you know when you go somewhere, there is always one place that everyone asks you if you're going to visit? For South Australia, it's the legendary Appellation restaurant located here at The Louise. Only earlier that day I had bumped into Appellation's Mark McNamara at the Barossa farmer's markets where he was buying provisions for tonight's dinner. He is a lovely, approachable chef and a rarity in that he seems to enjoy engaging with his diners.
That evening at 7:30pm it is pitch black, pouring rain with the winds furiously pounding and even though I've packed three pairs of shoes for my trip, one pair is suede heels that just aren't suited to an evening out in this pouring rain. I had left my umbrella outside the door and went to grab it. It's not there.
The Appellation's kitchen garden
I panic. Who has been into my courtyard area (accessible by key only) stealing my umbrella? It's dark, and I start to worry and go back into the suite and look around for it. Nothing. I look outside again, suddenly the harmless looking plants look like they could be harbouring strange umbrella pinching creatures. I grab another umbrella and have it poised, ready to strike at any strangers and leave my suite. I apologise for being late and the maitre'd at The Appellation tells me not to worry, that it probably went skyward! So much for umbrella stealing plants...
The wine room where they cure smallgoods
Ruby from The Louise and I make our way to the table. The dining room seats just 48 people and there are two dining sessions: 6pm and 8:30pm. Guests of the Louise can book up to a year ahead to eat there whilst the general public can book up to 30 days in advance. We have a choice-the wine flight tasting menu or a la carte. I just have to try the wine flight tasting menu for $260 that takes about three hours-after all what better way to see the best of Mark's kitchen. Also people can book the tasting menu ahead of time but on the night there are only sixteen of them set aside for those that haven't prebooked it.
"We have rainwater, would you like still or sparkling?" Matthew the sommelier asks. OK I should pause here and explain two things. Matthew is actually Mark's son and he is the sommelier here. His sister Sarah Jane also works here as a waitress and Mark's wife does the book keeping for the Appellation so it's a real family affair. Also you were asking about the rainwater? Yes they collect their own rainwater in a tank only a few metres away and they carbonate it themselves for sparkling (a light, lovely fizz) and as a result there are no food miles on it and the water is complimentary.
I'm quietly squealing at the theme of the menu. It's "Everything Old and New Again" and I just love the idea of redoing food from childhood. The Appellation is also unique in that the wine is selected in conjunction with the sommelier Matthew and Mark and the food is created to match the wine, not the other way around. All of the wines on the Wine Flight menu are local wines. They hold three goblets, the highest amount, in the Australian Gourmet Traveller 's 2010 Australian Restaurant Guide among other accolades and one can BYO here. Mark setup the kitchen garden in December 2009.
Turkey Flat Non vintage Barossa sparkling shiraz
We start with a toast with a sparkling shiraz which is a very South Australian drink used much like champagne. It's sweet and delicious and pretty much like a red wine version of sparkling wine.
Terrine of avocado and roasted sweet red peppers
We start with a triangular terrine of diced avocado encased in a tomato and red pepper shell which is fruit strap thin but easy to cut through with a coriander and lime drizzle.
There is a choice of three breads, all baked on the premises: a ciabatta, a light rye with caraway seeds and a raisin and fennel bread. I choose the raisin and fennel and it is sublime with the butter. Ruby tells me that the sourdough starter here is nicknamed "Arnie" and sometimes Arnie gets overfed and pops out of his jar! How very Governator ja!
Pristine Cupid oyster, Berkshire pork belly and Worcestershire jelly served with Seppeltsfield Flora Palomino Fino with a twist
I am quite in love with these pristine oysters they're harvested when they're about 2/3 of the size of other oysters which means that they're packed full of flavour. The brininess of the oyster combined with the texture of the pork belly at first has you thinking that it is a mouthful of seared tuna steak which is very interesting. It comes with a paper thin disc of Worcestershire jelly on top. How they come up with these ideas I'll never know. I'll just be quiet and sit here thanks and leave the ideas up to the experts.
Matthew brings us over an interesting bottle to try, it is a natural Sauvignon Blanc wine by winemaker Tom Sobrook in the Adelaide Hills. It is made without any additives using a wild yeast that is 2000 years old. It is cloudy in appearance and is quite good and I wonder if I would go well with this wine as it doesn't have any additives (I'm allergic to more than a sip of most alcohol).
Grilled South Australian scallops
The item that got Mark so excited at the Barossa markets was the scallops. In South Australia they can generally only get frozen scallops but in his travels to Sydney Mark has seen fresh South Australian scallops so he pushed the suppliers here to get them. They are hand dived which is why they are so hard to get (and $2 each when you buy them). Up until Christmas last year he received five dozen scallops a week. This dish is a grilled scallop with roe on with a lime butter sauce and flavours of ginger and coriander. The scallops were live and you can definitely taste the difference both in flavour and texture, particularly the texture.
Grilled Toastie of wild caught snapper, parsley, lemon and caper butter served with 2009 McLeans Farmgate Barr Eden Riesling
This had to be my favourite dish-well for starters I love toasties and this was absolutely adorable. It was a slender, perfectly cooked piece of wild snapper covered with a very thin buttered crust of sourdough. The aroma was that of toast and Mark explains that he wrapped each piece of snapper in a very thinly sliced butter sourdough and then fried it in a dry pan. It comes with a square of potato and a parsley, lemon and caper butter sauce. Divine. And I could possibly even do this at home. He suggests that even if you can't get your bread that thin, you could always roll it flatter. Clever!
The Appellation Chef Mark McNamara
Little pie of Spencer Gulf king prawns, asparagus, chervil, cauliflower and leek served with 2002 Henschke Louis Eden Valley Semillon
In a homage to a vol au vent, this little pie is filled with finely minced Spencer Gulf prawns and asparagus and sits in a creamy cauliflower and leek soup. The pastry is lovely and buttery and they use the local Carême pastry here.
Paella of fine barley, black beans, Westridge rabbit, garlic and rosemary served with 2007 Hewitson Old Garden Mourvêdre
The Paella is made using barley and black beans and Mark tell us an interesting piece of history. Did you know that originally paella was not made with seafood but it was made with rabbit? Neither did I! So this is a fitting homage to the very original paellas. The texture is lovely with the barley and the black beans and rabbit complement it very well and it is finished off with rosemary flowers. The wine is an interesting match and Matthew calls it "animalistic" which is the first time I have heard a wine described that way. And it kind of is!
Salad of blood oranges, pink grapefruit and fennel with tiny wild olives
This is a palate cleanser with a difference: the blood orange salad was refreshing with blood oranges, pink grapefruit slices and thinly sliced fennel and pitted tiny wild olives.
Waygu filet mignon, crumbed cutlet of Hutton Vale lamb and black pudding served with 2005 Yalumba The Signature Cabernet Shiraz
I'm getting rather full at this stage so I pace myself. This is a version of the traditional mixed grill. When I was a waitress (the world's worst I should add and I think I only got tips out of sympathy) I handed out mixed grill after mixed grill. And they never looked as good as this. We start with a wagyu filet mignon wrapped in prosciutto (full blood wagyu from Myoora), a crumbed lamb fillet with an edible "bone" aka celeriac and a black pudding that isn't a black pudding. It is instead made of mushrooms. Each element is delicious although I should warn any fans of mixed grills that this may spoil a mixed grill for you forever. I particularly enjoy the lamb and the mushroom black pudding. Underneath the mushroom black pudding is a streak of tomato. Ruby tells me that it takes eight tomatoes to make that streak of tomato such is the concentration of flavour.
Croquette of Waechters duck confit with beetroot glaze and butternut puree served with 2006 Murray Street Vineyards Benno Shiraz Mataro
I met Matthew Waetcher the duck supplier at the Barossa Markets that day and Ruby says "This is the only duck we'll buy". The duck meat is said to be exceptional and I have to agree. The croquette is crumbly and crunchy, like a chickpea crust and goes perfectly with the sweet, earthy beetroot and sweet butternut puree.
Refreshing granita of Hock, Lime and Lemon
This is a granita of hock, lime and lemon using Bickford's lime cordial, home made lemonade and Hocks wine.
Anise infused soufflé of dark and rich bitter chocolate served with 2010 Burge Family Wines Shirappa fortified Shiraz
I'm not a huge fan of aniseed so I am a bit wary but the anise is subtle enough and goes well with the chocolate. There is a ring of anise soaked sponge in the airy chocolate souffle.
_ _The macaron flavours are chocolate with an apricot centre, lemon mascarpone and almond and a hazelnut macaron with a chocolate hazelnut centre.
I go back to the room and decide to brave the chill and take an outdoor shower under the skies! I brought out the rubber ducky to keep me company.
So tell me Dear Reader, do you get excited when a chef comes out of the kitchen to talk to guests?
NQN travelled and explored South Australia as a guest of the South Australian Tourism Commission
Seppetlsfield Road at Stonewell Road, Marananga, Barossa Valley, South Australia
Tel: +61 (08) 8562 2722