You are spoilt for choice in the vale with every option from bakeries to fine dining and everything in between. On a recent weekend stay there, I was lucky enough to sample a range of foods, from an iconic South Australian chocolate to the dining equivalent of artistic masterpieces (in my humble non food critic opinion).
First stop was a visit to the FruChocs shop in the McLaren Vale main street which is a must. You can sample, then wander through the shop at your leisure learning the story of the famous confectionary and the families behind it. The Menz family of bakers and chocolatiers originally made the FruChoc in the 1940s, the Robern Dried Fruit Company bought the Menz business in the 1970s and now over 40 million of the little choc apricot treats are made every year, as well as a range of other chocolates they make.
If you haven’t tried them put them on your list, but be warned they are addictive. So popular are they, that in 2005, the National Trust recognized them as an icon of South Australia and they also received the South Australian Food Industry Awards, Hall of Fame status. Just a couple of other food items that you may have heard the Menz brand name behind are Crown Mints and Yo-Yo biscuits. Robern Menz are now also the makers of Violet Crumble and the soon to be revived Polly Waffle. Chocolate lovers rejoice.
Across the road from the FruChoc shop is the Hotel McLaren and Magnums Bar & Bistro. Good honest hotel food with a salad and vegetable buffet and very popular with locals. As you’d expect a great selection of wines on offer too.
Further along the Main Street you will find the award winning McLaren Vale Bakery. The range of freshly made food is mouthwatering with the usual range of bakery food on offer but also some items with a wine region twist. Fancy a chicken and chardonnay pie, or beef and burgandy? You can get them here as well as vegetarian and vegan food options. Dining in lets you take in the unique décor too. So that’s what you do with the lids of broken dishes!
On to a little more fine dining and you can be truly spoilt at Serafino winery and restaurant. The food is an absolute work of art, as much a feast for the eyes as the belly. The menu changes seasonally but the summer menu consisted of such gorgeous creations as zucchini flower with burnt eggplant, sofrito, buckwheat, buerre noisette and smoked tahini. Not sure what it all means, me neither but that didn’t matter the moment it arrived.
Equally as delicious and pretty, was the braised lamb neck, burnt onion, brik heirloom carrot and chard. Another divine dish, heaven on a plate. Not somewhere you would dine every day perhaps but certainly nice for a change. To see what else is on offer visit the Serafino website for seasonal menus and prices. serafinowines.com.au/food/restaurant/
A last indulgent afternoon was spent at S.C. Pannell winery for a Sunday session to round off the weekend nicely. Perfect weather meant dining on an outdoor deck with a magnificent view over the vineyards, listening to a local guitarist and indulging in more incredible food and wine.
Here I could highly recommend the Chilli Crab Roll with steamed rice noodles, blue swimmer crab, chive and chilli and the Turkish Lamb Dumplings with tomato butter, yoghurt and sumac. The food is tasty and really well priced and the wines to accompany were perfect. In fact we couldn’t go past the Nebbiolo Rose, a beautiful dry rose which is perfectly described by the winemaker as ‘a Swiss Army wine’ – it goes with everything. He was right!
The McLaren Vale wine region, perhaps more than any other I’ve visited in South Australia certainly has a very strong food game that is well worth saving the pennies to indulge in when you’re visiting. McLaren Vale is around 40 kilometres south of Adelaide and the McLaren Vale Lakeside Caravan Park is within walking or very short driving distance to all of these establishments.