Africola’s Nikki Friedli loathes the phrase ‘farm to table’.
For Friedli, it’s more complicated than that. In her eyes, ‘farm to table’ doesn’t encapsulate the struggle undergone by producers, and the profit margin for restaurants.
Friedli, who is well-known in hospitality circles as Africola’s Restaurant Manager, is passionate and confident, speaking candidly about the importance of hospitality professionals paying attention to producers, and even taking steps to grow their own produce.
“If you’re growing your own broccoli,” she says, “you’re aware of the process, aware of the grunt work involved in tending to that broccoli.”
Friedli tells me she is currently studying horticulture, and it is her dream for Africola to one day have its own garden. According to Friedli, being out in the elements forces a consideration for the environment, and places the work of producers in the forefront of the mind.
This is a philosophy Africola does its best to embrace, having long purchased produce from the biodynamic Ngeringa Farm.
“They’re amazing,” Friedli says. “Ngeringa Farm don’t spray the produce, and everything we get is delicious.”
Alongside produce, Africola also purchases wine from Ngeringa Farm, and is gaining national recognition for its list, having recently received a nod in the 2019 Wineslinger Top 50, along with East End Cellars, The Exeter, Hellbound, Mother Vine, and The Summertown Aristologist.
Known as “the wine gurus’ guide to the best haunts across Australia right now”, the Top 50 is decided by a team of 100 wine and hospitality experts, comprised of winemakers, sommeliers, and journalists. The trophy winners are then chosen from the Top 50.
Wineslinger awards the “sum of the parts”. Venues are chosen based not only on wine concept, but food, staff, setting, and that “special something”.
Freidli tells me Africola has a focus on South Australian wine, with a few choice bottles from elsewhere.
“First and foremost, a wine has to be delicious,” says Friedli. “Then I like to focus on the farming and viticulture practice.”
Friedli says she isn’t overly phased about the sulphur content of a wine, and is instead more concerned with the sprays used, and the sustainability practices.
“I like to work with winemakers I can meet and form a connection with,” says Friedli.
When I ask her about her favourite wines at the moment, she laughs, claiming it is a rather difficult decision. After some thought and initial protest, Frideli names two choice wines. The first is Jayden Ong’s Chestnut Hill Mount Burnett Chardonnay.
“Jayden makes wine really conscientiously,” she says. “He’s a pretty great guy.”
The second of Friedli’s current favourites is Frederick Stevenson’s Montepulciano.
“It’s light and juicy and fun,” she says. “Plus, the label is amazing.”
Friedli says Africola’s Spring wine list is currently in the works, and as the weather warms up, the menu will naturally take on a lighter, more approachable feel.
Her partnership with Africola’s head chef and owner Duncan Welgemoed is also key to the well-respected and critically acclaimed institution. The two were friends beforehand, when Friedli worked at Golden Boy, and Friedli has nothing but compliments for the celebrated culinary talent.
“He has a really fantastic thing going at the moment,” she says.
Africola is currently celebrating a number of national accomplishments, scoring a place on the Australian’s list of the Hot 50 restaurants by state, as well as, of course, the Wineslinger acknowledgement.
In terms of the next few months, Friedli says the focus is on preparing for Summer and the Adelaide Fringe Festival, and brushing up on staff training.
After all, hard work begets success.
You can find Africola at 4 East Terrace, Adelaide SA.