Passionate about produce and an irresistible food culture, the region is known for fresh food, talented producers and paddock-to-plate menus.
The McLaren Vale Wine Region isn’t only famous for its grapes, it’s also renowned for its abundant farmgate providores, boutique grocers, kitchen gardens and farmers markets. Each provide an insight into the amazing food scene, with restaurant and cafe menus offering you all things fresh and local.
It’s all about paddock to plate, giving you a taste of what comes from the seas and soils around us. “Local produce demonstrates authenticity,” says Nikki Govan, co-owner of the Star of Greece restaurant in Port Willunga. “Our menu, and many of those in the region, is about being local wherever possible. We love to feature regional produce and name the supplier on the menu. It provides our guests with a connection to the region.”
One of the best places to start your local produce journey is the famous Willunga Farmers Market – the first farmers market established in South Australia. “We have some amazing producers in the region,” says market manager Jenni Mitton. “We’re also seeing passionate, emerging young farmers on the Fleurieu, choosing to grow sustainable seasonal produce for the community in which they live.” There are over 80 producers at the weekly market, so you can taste some of the region’s best, all in one morning. Local charcuterie, olives, fruit, vegetables, sauerkraut, cheese, bread, pastries, cakes and coffee – the list goes on. Grab a coffee and a toastie as you wander, then fill your basket with fresh Fleurieu produce and enjoy a picnic.
The market is a go-to for local chefs, too. “We see lots of local chefs shopping at the market regularly, including Tom Jack, head chef at Mitolo’s Bocca di Lupo, and chef Peter Reschke from d’Arry’s Verandah Restaurant,” says Jenni. “It’s really important for us to source ingredients that are as local as possible,” says Tom Jack. “We search for produce that complements and evolves from traditional Italian fare for our menu.”
As part of the local food culture, restaurants and wineries have their own kitchen gardens. The Salopian Inn is famous for its kitchen garden, grown at the property of owner and chef Karena Armstrong, with many of the fresh herbs and vegetables featuring on the menu. Coriole is also famous for its extensive gardens and new restaurant Gather is making the most of the kitchen garden next to the cellar door. “All of our produce is sourced through local farmers and small business or from our garden to showcase the best of the region,” says head chef Tom Tilbury. “It’s all about celebrating the ingredients with an understanding that when quality is high, the ingredient will speak for itself.”
Nearby, Maxwell Wines capitalise on their unique limestone cave where the kitchen and garden team grow a range of mushroom varieties, all featured on the restaurant menu. They’ve recently expanded their gardens too, aiming for guests to taste as much as possible from the estate. “At the moment, we’re using about fifty to sixty percent of our own produce on the menu, we’re hoping that will grow to about ninety,” says chef Fabian Lehmann. General Manager Jeremy Maxwell is proud of the recently established kitchen garden. “It’s a two-part garden with micro herbs and salad close to the winery, enabling chefs to head out mid-service. On the top of the hill, within the vineyard, that’s the productive garden with vegetables,” Jeremy says.
The Kitchen Door, Penny’s Hill, is well known amongst local farmers and producers, as their ethos is driven by supporting local on their ever-changing menu. “Using local produce is key to sustaining the community and enables us to tap into the rich resources that we have around us,” says Kate Boden, restaurant manager. From local cheese to chickens, the menu is packed to the brim with beautiful local ingredients.
Keep an eye out for local fare at casual eateries and cellar doors around the region, too. There’s local chocolate, as well as cheese and charcuterie popping up on many tasting boards. The Harry’s platter at Harry’s Deli, Wirra Wirra features local cheese and meats, as well as Moorish patés from smallgoods producer Little Acre Foods (also available from Willunga Farmers Market, Three Monkeys and Blessed Cheese).
Olives are also a specialty and great to experience through the region’s olive trail.
No matter where you go, ask a stallholder, a shop owner or your restaurant staff member to tell you what’s local. You’re sure to take home a story or two. So, treat your senses and taste the region.
To complement the fresh produce of the region, savour the flavours with a range of organic and biodynamic wines.
- Angove Family Winemakers
- Battle of Bosworth
- Cradle of Hills
- Gemtree Wines
- Kangarilla Road
- Lino Ramble
- Maximus Wines
- Paxton Wines
- The Farm Willunga
- Spring Seed Wine Co
- Wirra Wirra Wines
- Yangarra Estate
- Blessed Cheese
- d’Arry’s Verandah Restaurant
- Home Grain Bakery
- Hortas Restaurant
- Hugh Hamilton Wines
- Maxwell Wines
- McLaren Vale and Fleurieu Visitor Information Centre
- Oxenberry Farm Wines & Cafe
- Scoop SA
- Star of Greece
- The Currant Shed
- The Salopian Inn
- The Victory Hotel
- Three Monkeys Fine Foods
- Woodstock Wine Estate