Current Issue #477

Good Country:
Magnificent Millicent

Mayura wagyu beef cattle
Margarita Zelenskaya
Mayura wagyu beef cattle

The south-east town of Millicent (proclaimed in 1870) is the ideal base camp for exploring the varied attractions in the region.

Louis and Barbara Leake run Evergreen, a former Freemason’s lodge they converted into a B&B. The warm couple represent gold-star country hospitality. Louis also volunteers in Millicent’s visitor information centre and is well-placed to speak about his town.

“Millicent is a typical small rural town that’s struggling to have a clear statement of vision for our future. To address this, someone has suggested a massive windmill be built in the main street,” he says. This is because Millicent draws tourists wishing to drive close to the district’s 130-odd windfarm turbines, which form the largest windfarm development in the southern hemisphere.

Michael X Savvas
Wind turbines outside MIllicent

Millicent is also a gateway to other Limestone Coast charms. The number of coloured pins that guests at Evergreen have stuck on the world map to show their birthplaces illustrates Millicent’s popularity with Australian and overseas visitors alike.

“People stay here because it’s between Adelaide and Melbourne,” says Barbara. “The other reason is because it’s the hub. You can get to Naracoorte, the beach, Mount Gambier.” Louis adds, “From here, I could take you on a minibus to anything you wanted to see: forestry, crayfishing, canola, and the most modern dairy farms, where robots allow cows to milk themselves. I can even take you to a forest where mushrooms glow in the dark.”

Another magical place that entices many tourists to Millicent is the nearby Mayura Station. Established in 1845, Mayura Station had the first pastoral lease in SA, making it the state’s first European farm. Now it’s a renowned beef producer, specialising in wagyu beef.

Michael X Savvas
Barbara and Louis Leake

Mayura’s Tasting Room offers a paddock-to-plate food event that could rate as the greatest meal of your life. You can taste a selection of the finest cuts of wagyu beef, prepared, cooked and plated to perfection. Part of the fun is to eat in the ‘kitchen’ alongside the grill and watch the chef cook the meat while explaining its features. Pairing the beef with a wine such as the lovely (and local) Cape Banks pinot noir enhances the experience. As do other small touches, such as drinking sencha tea from warmed teacups and choosing your own personal steak knife from a tray, like selecting weapons for a duel.

Scott de Bruin, managing partner of Mayura, explains wagyu beef’s enduring appeal. “Wagyu beef has intramuscular fat with marbling. All the streaks of fat are within the muscle. The fat content has a very low melting point. As you cook, the fat disappears and then melts.”

Another factor in Mayura beef’s high quality is the diet de Bruin’s cattle are given, with a mixture that includes chocolate to sweeten the taste.

Lake McIntyre
Michael X Savvas
Lake McIntyre

According to de Bruin, many Dutch people settled in the Millicent district, including his father, who purchased Mayura in the late 1970s. De Bruin continued the family cattle business, and his dream was to produce the best steak he could. Numerous prestigious awards and informal compliments (such as the visitors from Hong Kong who flew to Adelaide and drove to Millicent just to try his restaurant) confirm that de Bruin has surpassed his dream. In May, Americans purchased one of his cows for $280 000, making it the most expensive female cow sold in Australia. Sir Sidney Kidman (the Cattle King) was another internationally known South Australian with a successful cattle business. If Kidman were alive today, he and de Bruin would probably be in business together.

Apart from being a centrepoint for interesting destinations, Millicent has wonderful areas for picnics, walking and bird spotting, Lake McIntyre, and a lake- sized swimming pool. The Leakes explain what else they love. For Louis, it’s Millicent’s “lovely soft climate, as opposed to the harsher inland climate”. Barbara says that “country people have a different outlook, and every week, someone will bring me something (fish, lemons, carrots). It’s a very caring community. Millicent’s the most giving town I’ve ever been in.”

Michael X Savvas

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