TOP 100 QUEST: HENTLEY FARM, Barossa
I had girlfriends visiting from Melbourne and when I asked “Is there anywhere you’d particularly like to dine?” the answer was an immediate “Hentley Farm”. Why? Because chef Lachlan Colwill had recently made an appearance on Masterchef – it was a classic case of chef-crush! I hadn’t been there for a while and I love a good wine region lunch, so I was keen and managed to score a Saturday lunch booking.
Hentley farm is in the Barossa at Greenock Creek, and while the construction is 1800s, after some clever restoration it’s where rustic meets contemporary. To complement the surrounds, Lachlan has constructed two menus – four courses for $105 or eight at $180 (both with optional wine pairing). It’s undoubtedly modern food but with a hint of the traditional incorporating farm-grown and wild-foraged produce and the best the region has to offer. Lachlan’s originally from the Barossa and has worked both here (he did great things at The Manse) and overseas.
I figure, why have four courses when you can have eight, so naturally we did the full ‘Discovery’ menu. First, the snacks – a board of Soy roasted almonds with baby cos and raddichio with a jersey cream, chive and honey dip. I appreciated the freshness and simplicity and the mix of sweet and savoury. Then came a thin wafer of potato with tuna, peppers and mustard, a quinoa cracker with quail egg, curry spice, preserved lemon and lavender flower and then a rye cracker with lamb, blue cheese, onion and fennel pollen. All nice and light. We agreed that the tuna was our favourite. Then, much to our delight, Lachlan appeared and delivered Oysters with passionfruit and rosemary, complete with dry ice dramatics. Oysters with passionfruit? I know it sounds odd, but somehow it worked.
With the snacks finished, we were excited about what was coming next. (I should mention, you don’t get the menu in advance so it truly is a ‘discovery’). First up – fresh, gleaming Kingfish with bread and butter pine mushroom. Three pieces served in a small wooden bowl with chopsticks. Kingfish is my favourite fish to have sashimi-style and I was in raptures over this.
The Tuna with chicken liver, egg yolk, iceberg and sunflower was a combination of fresh, crunchy, and creamy. It was topped with cured egg yolk and sat on a burnt butter sauce. A well-seasoned and downright comforting dish. My friend and I had a mild disagreement about the inclusion of the lettuce – she thought that iceberg lettuce was way too pedestrian for such a dish, but I think iceberg is totally underrated and was necessary in this case to cut through the richness.
The next course just blew me away. A broth. Yes, a broth. A broth so hearty and meaty with such depth of flavour, we just couldn’t believe there was no meat involved in its making. Rather, it was made from the humble and rather unattractive-looking vegetable kohlrabi and served with pickled vegetables. I never thought I’d rave about a broth but for me, this was the highlight of the entire meal. I can’t get it out of my head!
Next, a stack of quail, Jerusalem artichoke, rhubarb and mint. The quail came in the form of a juicy breast and the stack was accompanied by a rich, thick jus. And that fresh mint was an excellent addition. The last savoury course was Kangaroo with dill, cucumber and a blue cheese sauce. Really good! Best kangaroo I’ve had. Great texture, good flavour, and the blue cheese sauce wasn’t at all overpowering.
We were pretty full by this stage but we still had sweets to come. First, the pre-dessert ‘egg’ – sour cream, passionfrut, and poppy seed served in an egg shell. The first dessert was my favourite – Chocolate, pine, mushroom, port. I’m so glad that desserts are incorporating savoury elements these days. Then second dessert was the Mandarin, clove, thyme, kumquat – we all found this one a bit too sweet – even the pleasant bitterness of the cumquat wasn’t enough to counterbalance the sweetness. And just when we thought we could eat no more, out came the after-desserts! AUGH! Stomach pump please!!! A log of wood boasting wine marshmallows and popsicles plus some Kitchener buns, all accompanied with mint tea. While these final sweet things were completely unnecessary, I did like those buns and the mint tea helped us digest our lunch.
While we practically rolled out of that place pretty much in a food coma, I spoke with someone only last night who went last week and did the four course menu – she said they left still hungry. Let that be a lesson… unless you’re a particularly small eater, always opt for the Discovery menu.
The Hentley Farm wines are excellent and the service was absolutely faultless and judging by the pre-lunch staff briefing and bonding session that we witnessed when we arrived, there appears to be a real sense of team and purpose. It’s evident that they want diners to have a fine experience from beginning to end. This was my third visit to Hentley Farm Restaurant and I have to say, my best. I’m really grateful that we have places like this that I feel proud to take people, particularly interstate and overseas visitors.