GATHER FOOD AND WINE, ROBE, SA
I just had the most amazing dining experience in Robe – yes, Robe South Australia, just shy of a 4 hour drive from Adelaide. It’s not a place many of us would head to often, but it was Gather Food and Wine that took me there, a restaurant opened by Tom and Sarah Tilbury.
The name ‘Gather’ comes from the gathering of people, but also Tom’s love of gathering ingredients from the wild and the garden to create dishes with a difference. He’s all about local, seasonal, sustainable and low food miles, his previous experience including d’Arry’s Verandah, the Botanic Gardens Restaurant, Mapo Korean, Coriole and Cullen Wines. Why settle in Robe? Well, Sarah was born and raised in the area, plus the immediate surrounds offer a smorgasbord of unique produce. It was the natural choice.
You’ll find Gather at the end of the main street, just opposite the big pine. With sandstone walls and timber beams, the place itself started out as an 1800’s wool store and more recently a garage. It seats around 40 inside, plus there’s a rather nice garden you can sit in when it’s not too cold and windy. We managed to score a beautiful calm sunny day so we were able to enjoy the outdoor experience and after driving such a long way, the ‘Let us Feed You’ menu was an easy decision – I was more than happy to let Tom decide our menu.
And right from the word ‘go’, it was sheer excitement as course after course of beautiful freshness and flavour arrived until we could eat no more. First course – Robe southern rock lobster with sweet corn chawanmushi in lobster bisque – absolute perfection. I wasn’t quite sure how Tom would be able to keep up that standard for the entire meal but he somehow managed to. Next were fresh radishes from the garden, picked only 20 minutes prior, with butter and parsley powder, then quandongs with a fromage blanc, and house made crusty bread.
Next, Tom proudly announced that the next course was his favourite seafood (and probably mine, after oysters) – cockles – but no ordinary cockles – these were big, juicy, meaty Barakel cockles done in butter and lemon with leek and fennel. Superb! Then, the courses continued – succulent local boar fish, free range Aylesbury duck, Struan Valley pork, and a final savoury dish of lamb. Each course was matched with brilliant local wines. We were getting a little full, but we managed to squeeze in a palate cleanser of passionfruit sorbet in prosecco before not one, but two desserts AND finally cheese (just to completely stonker us!)
Spending a little time with Tom over lunch it’s easy to see how passionate he is about his food and how much he’s inspired by the surrounds and the changing seasons.
For me, this was undoubtedly one of my most memorable experiences. Gather Food and Wine is definitely worth the kilometres travelled, and definitely worth every cent and more.