Hill of Grace, the latest addition to Adelaide’s dining scene, offers an exclusive view – the inside of Adelaide Oval. Chef Dennis Leslie gives The Adelaide Review the low-down prior to the restaurant’s official launch.
As Adelaide Oval’s Executive Sous Chef, Leslie has spent the last year producing food for hundreds of functions and thousands of people at the Oval. On match days the catering team stretches to serve a maximum of 55,000 people, including 3500 to 4000 people who are served plated meals in the corporate, events and Audi Stadium Club member areas, and 320 people who enjoy a buffet lunch in The John Halbert Room. Hill of Grace, in the Audi Stadium Club members’ area, seats just over 120 people. When Dennis joined Adelaide Oval mid last year, the notion of opening a new fine dining restaurant at the Oval was still just that. However, the restaurant was originally intended for the exclusive use of Audi Stadium Club members on match days only. “It was only this year, when the AFL season started, that [management] committed to having the restaurant open to the public five nights a week,” Leslie explains. Things moved quickly after that and Hill of Grace launched at the end of August. Located on the eastern side of the Oval, Hill of Grace takes its name from Henschke winery’s acclaimed Hill of Grace – the restaurant is now home to the world’s only complete set of Hill of Grace Shiraz. This priceless collection dates from 1958 to the current release. “Henschke is an iconic winery in South Australia and the Henschkes loved the idea of [the partnership],” Leslie says. “They love the cricket, too, so it was a good match.” Local wine lovers will be happy to know that Hill of Grace serves only South Australian drops. While Henschke wines naturally take pride of place in the wine list, diners can choose from more than 160 wines by local wineries. It’s this commitment to creating something special that will help determine Hill of Grace’s success as a regular dining venue – after all, an upmarket restaurant at Adelaide Oval was always going to do great business on match days. But Leslie and the team are banking on diners visiting on non-match days, too. “I’d like to think that this restaurant is for [everyone], for all occasions,” he says. “We did a lot of market research and we think we’ve got a good product.” Leslie’s food is influenced by his love of Asian and native Australian ingredients, his Filipino heritage, his time as Executive Chef at Hilton Adelaide and, specifically, at The Brasserie with its Seriously South Australian menu, as well as his time in England where he worked in restaurants favouring classic French technique. “People who have eaten here so far have commented on the different flavour profiles and combinations.” Indeed, a quick glance at the menu reveals the enthusiastic use of interesting ingredients like calamansi, (Philippine lime) tamarind, kohlrabi (a type of turnip), quondongs (a native fruit), muntries (a native berry), kumquats and feijoa. Working with Leslie in the Hill of Grace kitchen is a small but dedicated team. “It was important to get the team right. You can’t pull off good food without having a good team,” he says. It’s clear that Leslie is happy in his new home. Moreover, the location of Hill of Grace has a special significance for him. “I grew up watching cricket here when this was just an old tin shed. The restaurant is where I used to sit with my dad or whoever took me to the cricket. It was three or four levels down but this is literally the same spot.” Hill of Grace Dinner: Tuesdays to Saturdays. À la carte or eight-course degustation is $295 with matched Henschke wines or $175 without wine Lunch: Fridays. Three-course is $85 or four-course $105 Audi Stadium Club, Adelaide Oval 8205 4777 adelaideoval.com.au hungryaustralian.com @HungryAustralia