Review: Hentley Farm

Top of the wozzer fine dining establishments in the eastern states are crying out for voluntary administrators.

For the first time in the history of the world there is no entrant in the ‘fine dining’ section of the South Australian Restaurant and Catering Awards. Nobody. Into this nervous sector steps a fresh contender. In the Barossa. On a dirt road. Are they mad? We shall see.

Two menu options are available. An eight-course ‘Discovery’ menu and a four-course ‘Du Jour’ menu. Both menus are available with or without matching wines. With the exception of fizz, all the wines are restricted to Hentley Farm’s own wines. I won’t tell you any prices now. You should take a break to charge your glass with a liberal dose of Hospital Brandy.

Hentley Farm kindly provides a map on their web site. It is a simple and quick drive from Adelaide on the A20. Aim for the corner of Gerald Roberts Road and Jenke Road, Seppeltsfield. DO NOT take Jenke Road. You will encounter something playfully called a ‘ford’. It looks like it has been crumbling for years. No wonder Barossans complain about their council. What do they do with the rate money? Miss Nerves-of-Steel shot across the ford with rhythm and ease. Her first (and only) glass of red did get slammed I noticed.

While we were finding our bearings, and there are many bearings to find, we were presented with four jasmine rice crackers. Two crackers were spread with an ointment of asparagus and mustard oil cream. Two had a lavish coating of mushroom floss. Floss that wasn’t made by complicated machinery then bought at a Chinese grocery. This floss was made in the kitchen, in a fiddly, disheartening way, where a large bag of mushrooms becomes a teacup of floss concentrate. The dish resembled common prawn crackers after two years in a strict Swiss Finishing School.

Our table went undressed to show the beautiful simplicity of its design. Cherry wood. Naked and proud. We had white cloth napkins of course. A greedier restaurateur could have squashed 10 people around our table.

I have to tell you that there is no menu, except for the one given to you after the event. Dishes are brought from the kitchen by one of the chefs. Chef explains the dish and fields questions.

Keep in mind that these dishes will change rapidly when spring eventually comes. Meantime I have tried a dish of raw wild Kingfish (an important distinction now so many are farmed) with almond cream, sausage ‘tartare’ (Barossan sausage, at a wild guess) and wild rice that had been shallow fried on a high heat. A weird thing happens to the wild rice. It twists around and puffs up, looking like a worm, a maggot or a gent. Gents are maggots that are destined for fish hooks. Ideal for scaring small children. Grabbing a handful and eating them is especially good. Eeeeyeoew. Yuk. Gross. Jobbies. A healthy after-gross snack, too.

The Kingfish et al was twinned with a Rosé. On the back label of any Grenache Rosé is written: smells/tastes/reeks of bloody strawberries. Nonsense most of the time. The Hentley Farm 2011 model did smell and taste of strawberries. Real strawberries, not sweet strawberry cordial. $23 at the cellar door.

A small rich dish is made from a mix of fresh and dried exotic fungi. Cloud ear, Enoki and many more. Later on I would expect wild local Slippery Jacks and even Porcini mushrooms fresh from vineyards. The hot fungi are topped with a layer of kitchen made frozen powdered tarragon. The tarragon gives off heady fumes as it melts. 

You might have Hay Valley lamb with turnip, kohlrabi and pan juices poured on at the table by a chef. One piece of lamb is cooked sous vide for 24 hours at a low temperature. A lamb fillet more traditionally cooked. Did you catch ‘pan juices’ in all that? Could this be the end for the ghastly, pretentious, misused, mispronounced word ‘jus’? I’ve had enough of jus. Go away jus.

The wine served with the lamb knocked me over. The 2009 The Beast Shiraz has an ecclesiastically regal purple hue. Possibly the exact colour of the Pope’s silk underthings. Its mouth-filling weight keeps on going forever. It costs $79.50 at the cellar door and is still one rung off the top. 2009 Clos Otto is the big gun at $150. Andrew Quin is the winemaker. He is being gushed over already.

Tom, the newly appointed manager, is ex Magill Estate. Chef Lachlan Colwill looks more peaceful than he did when he worked for the Trims. Chef James scurried off and immediately checked what I said about gents.

The pervasive sense of confidence is no doubt the fruit of many years of planning. Choosing and invigorating a top group of people is a skill founder Keith Hentschke must have. Along with the money to repair and rebuild buildings from the 1840s so exquisitely well. He even had the nous to let Lachlan in on the kitchen design. There is a Pacojet.

Want one.

Yes, Hentley Farm is expensive. But excellent value for excellence. And, let’s face it: you’re worth it.

The cost:

Du Jour menu food and paired wines – $115, Du Jour menu food only – $80, Discovery menu food and paired wines – $210, Discovery menu food only – $155.

These prices do not hint at the surprises served during the meal. The egg with no egg in it, for instance.

HENTLEY FARM

Corner of Gerald Roberts Road and Jenke Road

Seppeltsfield 8562 8427

hentleyfarm.com.au

Hours: Lunch Thursday to Sunday and dinner Saturday.

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