First impressions count and Mount Lofty House is well ahead of the game even before you set foot inside the property. The historic home, built by Arthur Hardy in 1852 and immersed in English-style gardens, beguiles from the moment you swing into the drive. An arched portico shields the imposing front doors. As soon as you enter, the warmth of the Arthur Waterhouse lounge beckons from the right with its picture window and crackling open fire. At check-in a glass of the house-produced Sequoia sparkling, named for the magnificent trees that have survived on the property from its earliest years, is offered before the paperwork. The chardonnay/ pinot noir blend is made by local wine rockstar Taras Ochota from grapes grown nearby in the Mount Lofty House vineyard and more than 700 metres of altitude ensure a crisp, clean wine that sets the mood for what lies ahead.
Glass in hand, we are led down the garden path to the newly-built rooms on the escarpment overlooking the verdant Mt Lofty Botanic Garden. Each suite is utterly private with its view of the softly rolling hills and Piccadilly Valley uninterrupted by any structure or road. The design is restrained luxury with natural finishes of sandstone and wood and local artwork setting a warm and very inviting tone. A little instruction is required to put the technology in the room to best use. Blinds, lights, even music can be adjusted with the touch of a panel and optimum settings for various times of the day have been helpfully pre-programmed. The suite is on two levels with a generous bathroom near the entrance that has its own courtyard with fountain and fishpond to contemplate while sitting in the full-size tub. That’s assuming you can turn your gaze from the ever-changing view of the valley laid out below.
Sunset is best viewed, even in winter, from the private balcony at the front of the suite. A day bed with plenty of cushions and a throw rug, along with a bottle of the Sequoia sparkling or a selection of locally produced wines to sip while watching nature’s display keep the chill at bay. Inside, the gas log fire throws out a decent heat to thaw the hands once the sun has disappeared.
Dinner is once again being served in Hardy’s Verandah restaurant. It is clear that the staff of Mount Lofty House are delighted to be welcoming diners back. The enclosed verandah creates a long room that easily accommodates the majority of tables at the window where the twinkling lights of the Bridgewater freeway exit and Mt Barker township beyond can be admired as you dine.
Sommelier Liinaa Berry greets us in the bar and leads us to our table. The short walk is long enough for her to convince us that we need to start with a glass of ‘off the beaten track’ French bubbles. The 2018 Domaine Breton La Dilettante Vouvray méthode traditionelle chenin blanc from the Loire Valley. The delicate wine with hints of apricot and orange does not disappoint. It is also a match for the amuse bouche that arrives promptly – a rice cracker dusted with Davison Plum and a tiny mouthful of Asian flavours of fresh pineapple, prawn and chicken, a tantalising hint at what is to come.
The menu at Hardy’s Verandah changes frequently to allow the kitchen to fully explore the bounty of local and seasonal ingredients. There are two options available, à la carte or a seven-course degustation, with or without wine matching.
Come to Mount Loft y House for the food but stay for the wine. The list that Berry has pulled together deserves long perusal. In addition to the incredible local wines, including verticals of Ashton Hills pinot noir, Penfolds favourites and many Australian treasures, the list traverses the globe, plucking interesting and unusual wines from France, Italy, Austria and more and bringing them alongside the very best our own country produces. One meal will not be sufficient to cover the many delights within. However, put your rust in Berry and she will take you, one glass at a time (or sometimes two, if she wants to see what you think of a more edgy pairing) on a fabulous journey.
We start with what the menu describes simply as “crab, pepper, caramel coconut” and “venison tartare, pickled enoki, turnips”. Both dishes are well-proportioned and lovely to look at. The crab is fresh and textural the venison almost creamy and perfectly aligned with the wintery weather, despite being a cold dish. Berry pairs the crab with Rippon Gewurztraminer from Central Otago and the venison with… rosé! Domaine Gavoty Grand Classique Côtes de Provence Rosé from Provence, which works a treat.
Next is pork loin, celeriac and serrano ham and trout, house made cultured whey, baby spinach, pickled fennel. The discs of pork are evenly cooked, lush and juicy, offset by a sliver of salty serrano ham. The dish sings alongside Domaine des Tours VDP de Vaucluse grenache from Southern Rhône, produced on sandy soils just above the cult vineyard of Châteauneuf-du-Pape Chateau Rayas.
The trout is veiled in its foamy sauce but delivers mouthfuls of delicate, almost sweet flavour that is enhanced by sips of Gentle Folk chardonnay from the Hills and Clos du Tue Boeuf Les Buissons Pouilleux sauvignon blanc, again from the Loire Valley. A sav blanc, but not as you know them.
Mains are flathead, mussel and saffron broth, chorizo and Wagyu brisket, Riverine striploin, scallop and pearl onion. Sides of potatoes with mustard onion dressing and broccolini with preserved lemon dressing are not really needed but very tasty all the same. Because the meat dish comes presented in two very different ways, Berry advises separate wines for each part – and they work. Jean-Luc Jamet Côtes du Rhône with the striploin and Hutton Vale shiraz from our own Eden Valley with the brisket which loved its sweet fruitiness. The fish gets Unico Zelo Slate Farm fiano from Clare Valley – delicious.
Dessert comes with the package and because the serving sizes have been appropriate for a multi-course meal, we are keen to try a couple of the day’s offerings. Yuzu mousse, avocado ice-cream could be challenging for traditionalists but it works with the Vincent Carême Vouvray Premier Trie Chenin Blanc first pick botrytis from Loire Valley. Dark chocolate ganache, hazelnut, wafer is lifted to blissful heights by sips of the rare Toro Albala Vieja Cosecha PX 1973 from Montilla-Moriles, Spain. A viscous, smooth finish to a delicious food and wine adventure.
But the best part of the night is yet to come. A short stroll downhill to the flickering fire, another cheeky sip of bubbles before retiring to the enormous bed for a silent and peaceful night’s rest.
Note: the kind staff will advise you to close the blinds on retiring to avoid being woken early by the sunrise. Do not take them up on this. Watching the sky turn from burnt orange to pink to blue from the comfort of your bed is well worth an hour less of shut-eye!
Mount Lofty House and Hardy’s Verandah
1 Mawson Drive, Crafers
The Adelaide Review stayed as guests of Mount Lofty House
Amanda is a journalist, editor and publisher who has dedicated much of her career to independent media in South Australia. She is currently editor and publisher of The Adelaide Review.
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