Steeped in history, The Currant Shed’s 100–year–old McLaren Flat building houses one of the south’s most intriguing restaurants.
Featuring ingredients thoughtfully picked from the kitchen garden or foraged from nearby properties and coastal surrounds, the new home of head chef Dioni Flanagan (formerly of The Kitchen Door at Penny’s Hill and Mantra on King William) allows her to source the finest local and seasonal ingredients to create accents and flavours that truly represent McLaren Vale.
And, of course, with food comes wine. After making his mark as sommelier for Penfolds Magill Estate and then wine director for the acclaimed restaurant Orana, restaurant manager Joshua Picken’s curated wine list shows that he hasn’t lost his sense of adventure. Between glasses of estate- grown Shottesbrooke, we sample some of the finest drops from South Australia and the world with an adhoc selection of some of his favourites seamlessly matching each course. Picken also gets credit for the refurbished dining area, with a restrained Scandinavian vibe that should contradict the bones of the rustic tin-shed interior, but doesn’t.
Our first small bites appetiser features three succulent, lightly pickled mussels that sit in their shells atop chilled stones. A plate of fried kale arrives in its own little garden setting, topped with purple petals and finely grated cheese that packs a salty punch. This seems like an indulgent movie-snack of sorts; crunchy, lightly oiled and moreish.
The next course comes in three parts; served on muted earthenware that allows the textures and colours of each dish to stand out. The first is locally caught tommy ruff, displaying light grill marks and a sensational slightly smoky flavour, topped with crushed almonds and garden greens. Second is rare beef, placed carefully between crisp stalks of broccolini, baby rocket leaves and pickled walnuts. Third, thin shavings of cured kangaroo takes us on a little outback adventure filled with flavour, matched with a chargrilled cos heart for crunch and slivered tomato segments that deliver sweet acid.
Here with a group, I manage a taste from each of the main courses served, while demolishing my own. Lamb is roasted, shredded and reformed into a cylinder that hides beneath a delicate layer of sliced baby turnip. This dish is both restrained and robust, wonderfully textured and served next to an heirloom carrot puree, topped with saltbush.
Silvery flathead gleams beneath a salad of pea tendrils, greens and yellow zucchini fresh from the kitchen garden. Slow-cooked goat is served as a light stew, with a meaty gravy, tender chickpeas and a scattering of nasturtium leaves. Pungent and balanced, this is a dish that confounds the senses with the typically heavy, game flavour subdued by apple and horseradish.
The final instalment is a masterful end to a meal of imagination and spirit. A perfectly formed tart shell is filled to the brim with lime curd and topped with coconut sorbet and sherbet. This tangy dessert has gained a regional reputation and no wonder. A hand-formed pear tatin is uneven but no less enticing; topped with fresh chevre and drizzled with orange blossom syrup, it’s tempting just to pick up and eat with your hands. A dome of peach sorbet nestles between fresh berries and crunchy granola. Offering all the elements of a refreshing and, dare I say it, healthy dessert to round out the last four courses of gluttony.
The Currant Shed is a culinary journey that is certainly worth the journey down the Southern Expressway. Simply presented and thoughtfully prepared, The Currant Shed showcases the surrounding regional terrain in all its glorious flavour.
The Currant Shed
Open Thursdays to Tuesdays
104 Ingoldby Road, McLaren Flat
Photography: Jonathan van der Knaap