Food reviewer Paul Wood travels to the Barossa Valley to check out what Sharon Romeo and David Swain are up to in their new home, Fino Seppeltsfield.
The turning of the soil at Seppeltsfield Winery last year marked a new beginning for one of the stalwarts of Barossa history.
Entrenched in a past filled with wine, the company needed to offer a new world of food and art to guests if they wanted to be a worthy station in our culinary revolution. Saying farewell to their former home must not have been an easy decision to make for Sharon Romeo and David Swain of Willunga’s acclaimed Fino restaurant, but a chance to turn the tide was too appealing to pass up.
After U-Hauling to a trial period in the new abode, sale signs recently went up at their former Fino address and they are now fully committed to a life in the Barossa dirt. For better or worse. It’s a tough job being the newest recruits in a country community steeped in tradition.
You need to be cautious not to offend the neighbours, and gaining the right kind of reputation is critical to a seamless transition into a local way of life. But with a humble approach to fine cuisine and some carefully managed poaching (of staff and some of Fino Willunga’s renowned signature dishes) they have formed a team that is quickly gaining them the same recognition as before, if not a little more.
Arriving on a blustery winter day, we’re ushered out of the cold to a table in front of a mammoth fireplace that divides the new restaurant from Seppeltsfield’s tasting room.
This place has heart. You can feel it in the walls and see it as the winter sun beams through the rafters. Furnishings are sparse, yet nicely designed. For a space that would have housed dirty barrels and winemaking equipment in days gone by, it is clean without being clinical.
Rustic chic, but not in a post-assembly kind of way. Ordering from the Fino menu is less about what you want and more about what you can’t possibly live without. One of everything, please.
A meaty dome of Barossa Birds chicken liver parfait is as ideal as the free-roaming lives these locally sourced birds lead, deliciously seasoned and plated with crunchy caper berries, radish and thinly sliced toast. This starts things off nicely. Extra toast is offered as we scrape the last of the parfait off the dish. They know it is too good to waste.
The Barossa Valley is responsible for some delicious cheeses thanks to local artisans at the Barossa Valley Cheese Co. Their Haloumi, unlike others, is mild, squeaky clean and a pleasure to devour. Myponga walnuts imported from Fino’s old neighbourhood add a nice coarseness, and lightly roasted pumpkin and seeds add crunch and flavour. This is a pretty little dish beneath leaves of coriander and is unexpectedly fresh in flavour for something so hearty. Mayura Station Wagyu pastrami is splayed on a slate and sprinkled with florets of cauliflower and sprouted rye.
Slices of Durdin duck sausage are piled beneath a crispy skin duck breast. Duck on duck is a beloved combination, and this dish brings comfort with tasty Kangaroo Island blue lentils and some barely roasted beets that burst with flavour, swimming in a marvelous reduction.
Limestone Coast Black Angus fillet is served with anchovy butter and charred cos. The butter is outstanding, though the steak doesn’t excite like the other dishes. It’s what comes from setting such a divine benchmark in earlier courses, I reason. Dessert is a Seppeltsfield DP57 Tokay and muscatel semi-freddo, chocolate shortbread and hazelnuts.
This is one of those make-you-weak-at-the-knees desserts where guilt is quickly replaced with absolute pleasure. Romeo’s influence on the menu is a silky rich vanilla crème catalana hiding beneath the wicked crack of a torched toffee shell.
Two regions filled with wine have been irrevocably drawn together by food, thanks to Fino’s delicious duo whose passion is topped only by their tireless determination. They might have moved house, but they haven’t lost integrity.
And with fabulous food, sumptuous wine, rich history and generational tradition, that Barossa Be Consumed ad finally makes sense. All it took was a little encouragement from a couple of new Barossa locals who have what it takes to make the most of breathtaking surroundings.
730 Seppeltsfield Road, Seppeltsfield
Lunch seven days a week, dinner on Fridays and Saturdays 8562 8528 fino.net.au/seppeltsfield