The route and soundtrack may have changed slightly over the years (I still think the Cinema Paradiso soundtrack is hard to beat), but on arrival it can seem as if little else has. Dining options in Willunga’s slightly daggy cousin are heavy on fish & chips and simple takeaway, and many of the winery restaurants further afield represent a significant step up. Enter The Little Rickshaw. It’s the kind of place that’s small and personable enough to be memorable without being so fancy that it needs a special event to justify a visit.
When I arrive I immediately see why. To call the interior cosy is to indulge in serious understatement. Michael, who works the floor and greets us on arrival, generously suggests that the interior of the former blacksmith’s workshop seats 25. Looking around at the mixture of booths and high tables beneath restored stone walls I can’t help but wonder where they could possibly fit, but I’m assured it’s been done. Fortunately I’m visiting on a beautiful day that heralds the onset of summer; the sky is blue, the sun is warm and a gentle sea breeze drifts over from the beach. More importantly, one of the tables in the back has just become available.
The Little Rickshaw is just a few minutes from the roundabout on Main South Road, but the small courtyard with three tables is the very picture of serenity. So much so that we completely forget to look at the menu as we sit in the dappled shade of a peach tree enjoying the sweet scent of jasmine and the sound of birdsong mingling with the trickle of a water feature. Not that Michael minds. He’s a laid-back presence on the floor, the kind of guy who’s happy to have a bit of a chat and who’ll describe a wine as “smashable”. In the case of the Gargoyle sangiovese, he’s right – it’s made to be drunk in a shady courtyard on a warm spring day. The rest of the wines are equally light, and keeping the selection to a dozen options from smaller local producers makes decisions simple.