Lofty views in the hills
Updated: 2012-04-28 09:32
By Han Bingbin (China Daily)
It was a dizzy bus trip up to the Adelaide Hills, and we finally end up on its eastern slope gathered on the terrace of the Piccadilly Restaurant, stunned into silence by the view before us. We were to experience a meeting of heritage, organic produce and culinary pride.
The flourishing green of Piccadilly Valley spread out as far as the eye can see, and blended into the dim light of an overcast sky with low-hanging clouds.
The valley is home to some of Adelaide's proudest organic produces including Buzz Honey, Woodside cheese, Hahndorf Smokehouse meats, Adelaide Hills Cider and Adelaide Fruits.
The restaurant's close relationships with the growers and farmers make it possible for its menu to be inspired and driven by the very best of seasonal treats, like venison.
My only knowledge of eating deer comes from a TV drama in which a Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) emperor, after being served a bowl of venison, declared it too tough and unpalatable.
But in front of me is a platter of tender and juicy meat, braised long and slow in local port wine. It is sweetened with blue gum Buzz Honey and other aromatics and served with parsnips, heirloom carrots and baby beetroots.
The somewhat traditional selection is lightened up by a creative dessert of mandarin orange parfait and lemon curd served on a thin bed of honeycomb. A glass of sweet Tomich Hill Gewurztraminer soothes the sour aftertaste.
Our host, Piccadilly's general manager Craig Dodd, also served up a helping of history.
Piccadilly is part of Mount Lofty House, converted now to a boutique hotel. The mansion was built by politician and lawyer Arthur Hardy between 1852 and 1858 and served as the Hardy family's summer residence when the heat in the valley got too oppressive.
It later became their permanent home.
Here at this secret English garden villa hidden among the azaleas, the admirable food and wine tasting tradition probably started from as early as the time when the Hardys were known for holding great dinner parties.
The coachman at that time used to be instructed to send the carriages off at 10-minute intervals to prevent collisions going down the narrow gravel roads.
During this time, Hardy also experimented with the acclimatization of numerous plants including vines, walnuts, English oaks and azaleas. The result of his interest in growing fruits and herbs was a 0.4-hectare plantation of walnut trees and a fruit garden where there were luxuriant currants, gooseberries and other similar fruits.
Unfortunately, bushfires in 1983 destroyed all but the stonewalls, and the ruined house was restored to become a boutique hotel.
But through all the changes, one thing remained true - and that was the continued appreciation for naturally grown fruits and herbs. The latest extension is an organic kitchen garden from which fresh herbs are sourced.
The vineyard of Chardonnay vines, a small part of which lies in the backyard of the old house, is still managed following organic principles.