A gully breeze blows softly through the sandstone courtyard as sunlight streams between overhanging trees. It’s a perfect day in the eastern Adelaide foothills as we settle in for a late lunch after a visit to a nearby winery.
The Topiary Café has quickly gained a reputation for delicious food in a lovely setting (Newman’s Nursery). And the rumours are true. There are special things happening thanks to a dedicated chef (and gastronomic artist) in the kitchen.
Each dish is plated with skill and flair. The prettiest of accompaniments accessorise a menu that reads like many others, and takes things to a whole new level of fabulous dining.
Unfortunately the same can’t be said for the service, where things seem messy at best. Over the course of our extended lunch, disordered wait staff deliver incorrect dishes and then take them away without explanation.
Main meals arrive before entrees and we are left pondering exactly what to do with our food when there is no cutlery other than the teaspoon from a (quite delicious) frozen palate cleanser served between courses. But the food shines. Thankfully.
Haloumi is pan-fried impeccably and served with a salad of red grapefruit, broad bean and a blackened peach sorbet that cuts through the squeaky and salty cheese, with smoked almond adding crunch.
A house made pot of paté has a decent layer of blood orange gel and is served with prune paste, pickles and lightly charred sourdough. The paté itself is light and fluffy, delicately balanced and moreish. The selection of wines is short but well decided, and the Oliver’s Taranga Chica Rosé from McLaren Vale matches nicely with the next round of dishes.
Port Lincoln Kingfish is cured in citrus and beautifully plated with refreshing avocado sorbet and quenelle of shallot sour cream and beetroot puree.
Chorizo crumb brings a salty element to the composition and nasturtium, flower petals and micro herbs are a sprinkled salad of sorts that mirror our floral surrounds.
Three tommy ru ff fillets are perched on a pillowy squid ink raviolo, with more of that chorizo crumb and a wild fennel salsa verde, charred leek and river cress. A lemon mascarpone is a new way to introduce citrus to seafood and I for one am a fan.
A round of pork belly is a take on meaty minimalism, hidden beneath a tailored purple cabbage leaf, cooked nicely and well rendered though without the expected crackle and perhaps a little on the salty side.
Accompanying potato is reminiscent of a traditional bake with much more flavour, and con fit carrot and sweetness from a green apple gel perks up the dish with an element of sweetness. Kersbrook Lamb is another dish plated with artistry in mind.
A glistening later of consommé relaces the need for sauce, soaked up by a spring grain salad with fresh asparagus that forms the base that is topped with a round of juicy lamb and a crème fraiche infused with a smoky tomato flavour.
Baby leaves and tendrils bring colour as they wrap their way around the dish resembling a miniature vine. The Topiary takes inspiration from the natural surrounds. The food is whimsical yet serious and flavours are spot on.
With a focus on service, this could just be one of those restaurants you’ll never want to leave. At the very least, you’ll want to stay for dessert.
The Topiary Café
Lot 406 North East Road, Tea Tree Gully
Opening hours: Monday-Thursday, 9am-4pm, Friday-Saturday, 9am-4pm, Sunday, 9am-4pm