Review: Hill of Grace

Slightly out of the CBD, Hill of Grace is worth the steps across the footbridge. Leslie lines up; slots it through the middle, and the crowd goes wild.

Reputation is everything in this fickle dining scene – difficult to gain a good one but much easier to get a bad one. Competition is strong and the first few months after opening a new restaurant can be a tough slog for new kids on the block.

I guess it must’ve taken some weight off the corporate box’s shoulders when the Adelaide Oval partnered up with Henschke wines, already a name synonymous with prestige, quality and deeply embedded roots – both in the vineyard and on the palates of aficionados of our state’s finest drops.

The decision about who to put up front may have been a tougher one to make, but Dennis Leslie was a sound first draft pick. Fast on his feet and with skills beyond many others in the field, Leslie knows the business and is already making a mark in his corner of the stadium. His corner features 100 seats set amongst dining grandeur.

The restaurant space features lofty ceilings and makes good use of timber paneling that brings warmth seconded by dimmed lighting and plush carpet. Views through to the kitchen give patrons a look into the world of the hard working team behind the dishes.

Tuesday night dinners are a quiet affair at the best of times, but we are still greeted with enthusiasm and hospitality professionalism as if it were match day. Ushered to our table set along the panoramic windows overlooking the floodlit pitch, I can’t help considering the power costs of impressing the 20 or so diners inside.

Leslie’s dishes have always been spectacular, though it feels as though he has a little more flexibility in this menu. This is clearly influenced by his Filipino heritage while still showcasing the best of the best local ingredients. We settle with a four-course select menu matched with wines.

An eight-course degustation seems a little too extravagant for a Tuesday night, though there is always next time. Starters feature a succulent little hoard of tamarind and buttermilk roasted quail, pickled kohlrabi, and a tamarind chutney that is so delicious it needs to be bottled and sold. Mountain pepper and lemon myrtle baby squid is served with saltbush, tomato and a squid ink sauce.

An entree of mullet, laing, cockles and shaved squid is plated with precision with intertwined tendrils atop a small but succulent fillet of mullet, bordered by two deliciously salty pipis plucked straight from Goolwa’s sand.

Moving onto some meaty mains, the milkfed lamb served with a bunya nut puree has a subtle chestnut taste that goes well against the native currant just soaking into the surrounding greens.

Oniony forkfuls of bistek kangaroo mop up an enjoyable carrot puree. The tres leche cake is a cirtus explosion – tart, sweet, bitter and creamy all at once. Calamandi curd and sorbet are lip-puckeringly good, and crunchy mandarin adds some zing to each mouthful of this delightfully punchy dish.

Toasted stout sour dough ice cream, roasted dates and pecans, feijoa custard and marshmallow is not a combination I can even pretend that I’ve considered eating before, but throw in a verjus jelly made with a Henschke wine and I’m convinced (by our insistent waiter) to give it a try.

The dish is a work of culinary art and every spoonful brings a new surprise of refined texture and taste. Slightly out of the CBD, Hill of Grace is worth the steps across the footbridge. Leslie lines up; slots it through the middle, and the crowd goes wild.

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