There is something quite magical about being in a beautiful heritage building, lounging back in a leather armchair, and watching clouds forming out the window, dancing and twirling amongst the trees, and zipping through the gully outside.
Soaking up the ambiance of the new front bar at Mount Lofty House, before dinner, almost entices you to stay. The bar certainly speaks to the days of old, when character rooms, brimming with quality, embraced you as you entered.
After reintroducing ourselves to the newly renovated front of Mount Lofty House – in the heritage wing – the charm of the building and its incredible position nestled in the Adelaide Hills, speaks for itself. There’s no doubt why this location was chosen for the Hardy family’s Summer home, away from the scorching heat of the plains, protected by the canopy of the trees surrounding the oasis.
It was always the perfect place for an amazing weekend away, and now with the addition of a brand new, high-end dining experience – HVR Hardy’s Verandah Restaurant – the missing piece of the puzzle at Mount Lofty House is in place.
Officially launching on February 23rd, the restaurant is already in operation, fine tuning its offering whilst final touches are being put into place. New artworks will fill the dining area shortly and the floors of the new wine cellar have just been poured – ready for the ever-developing wine list by sommelier Patrick White. It was the perfect time to visit and check out what was on offer.
There is nothing about HVR however, that screams ‘newly opened’. The service team are slick and well versed in the food and in the history of Mount Lofty House. The presentation of the dining experience – flawless. The venue itself harnesses the best of the heritage of the building, and modern comforts which allow you to spend the entire night dining, without noticing the time fly by.
We were looked after by Jack on the evening we dined – and we couldn’t have been luckier. His long standing experience at Mount Lofty House has carried him well into his new role at HVR, allowing us to ask any and all of the questions we had, with the confidence that he knew the answers, or was happy to source the information for us. His appreciation for the food and the processes that were undertaken in its preparation, helped to build our anticipation for each and every bite.
With two options – a 4 course ($109pp) and a 7 course ($160pp) degustation, with or without matching wines, you can tailor your experience to your budget or your time frame. We chose the 7 course experience, beginning our meal at 7pm and leaving just shy of midnight. We could have hurried the night along, but enjoyed meandering through the taste sensations as the unfolded at our table.
Our first glimpse of the style of food that was to adorn our plates, came in the form of a two course Amuse Bouche. We began with a chicken skin parfait, bursting with rich, salty flavor. Finding out that you could press chicken skin into essentially a thin cracker-like base for other delights to sit upon, was something I’d never considered before. Amazing. Of course, I’ll try it at home and fail, but what better reason to come back for dinner at HVR another time.
Next up we had a local salt & pepper Squid ink cracker – with poached squid, garlic shards, fried garlic, garlic creme, pickled chili, foraged local herbs and soy sauce. It was delicious and my husband Steve is still talking about it.
The second Amuse Bouche was dehydrated wagyu with black caviar followed by a palate cleanser soup served up in a tiny little bottle, complete with cork. An apple, ginger, pear, fermented dichon (Japanese radish) soup.
The first wine of the night was actually a sparkling made using the traditional champagne method, from Mount Lofty House’s own vineyard. It turns out they have two working vineyards on site – for Chardonnay and Pinot noir. What doesn’t this place have?
While we awaited our next course, the abundance of accents floating around in HVR played testament to HVR’s commitment to staffing, drawing their team in from around the globe. With key staff being head hunted from interstate and overseas, quality is first on their agenda.
The next dish was a cured in-house Kingfish with cultured cream, pickled kohlrabi and native seaweed slivers. A yuzu kosho (Japanese citrus and chili paste) gave the dish some kick, while the pickled, soy shiso leaves rounded off the flavour palate nicely.
In a nod to head chef Wayne Brown’s Japanese food experience and previous role at Sydney’s three-hatted Quay in Double Bay, the kingfish has been paired with a sake, sourced specifically for the dish. Sake with its high alcohol content (around 17%) isn’t for everyone but teaming it with the kingfish worked perfectly. While I didn’t finish the glass I certainly enjoyed the complementing flavors.
Keeping with the seafood theme, the next dish was also a winner. The blue swimmer crab with pippies, green grape reduction and macadamia milk & shaved Jerusalem artichoke. The Caitlin Riesling which matched the course, cuts through the richness of the blue swimmer crab and tied in nicely.
A sign of the success of the night, the meal, and the others guests enjoyment, was evident when the table next to us asked about accommodation to stay the night. Because who would want to leave (or rush).
Next up, a confit ocean Trout with crispy skin. Subtle and delicate. Fermented blueberry juice, roasted beetroot purée with fresh garden peas, brown butter sour cream and foraged Garlic flowers. The trout melted in our mouths. The dish’s delicate flavoring paired incredible well with the flavours surrounding it. It was sensational on the palate with a striking juxtaposition of earthy tones from the beetroot, with fruity acidity/tang from the fermented blueberries,
Moving on from seafood, was a Pork jowl course, with fresh scallop and dehydrated, slivered and thinly sliced scallop with an sour Umeboshi (Japanese plum) marmalade. The incredibly smokiness of the pork was a delight. The black vinegar added a nice thick acidity, while the Cane sugar crisp between the pork and scallops delivered a great crunch and sweetness to the dish.
Clearly a highlight of the night was always going to be the Wagyu course. A pure blood, 9 point marbled wagyu with smoked salt, fresh grated wasabi (from a stem out the back) and roasted garlic. The trick is to eat it all together. If you think the garlic crisps are chips and pop one into your mouth before beginning, like my dear husband, you may need to embrace the cab sav to cleanse the ol’ palate.
Dessert came in the form of a sour plum Sorbet with chantelle cream base, grapefruit chards (bordering on toffee but it hasn’t quite caramilised) with house-made citrus whiz fizz (predominantly orange) served up with liquid nitrogen for added drama. Delicious but eat it quickly before it melts.
All the drama happens around this next course which features a dark chocolate orbe with gold leaf sitting atop a foraged berry jelly with fresh sliver cherry. Caramelized buck wheat shards, and house made cherry ice cream and berries complete the picture. Add some dry ice for effect, some theatre thanks to Jack, and viola, a memorable dish to round off the night.
Petite fours are divine and served in spectacular fashion, but at this point in the night, we were well and truly full, and ready to retire to the gorgeous Tower Suite overlooking the pool.
The final word? Don’t miss this food spectacular. As the team make this amazing restaurant their own, it can only get better. It’s just what Adelaide needed. A fantastic all-in-one offering in a spectacular location only ten minutes out of the city.
The view from HVR while you dine