A freelance writer, reviewer and broadcaster passionate about South Australia's fabulous wine and food.
Published July 20th 2015
Food for thought
The restaurant in this unpretentious stone cottage has been around for less than 10 years, but in that time has 4 times won South Australia's Best Regional Restaurant and was Restaurant of the Year in 2009. Added to these are three more awards for Australia's Best Small Wine List and Hall of Fame winner for the same in 2011. Oh - and by the way - chef/owner David Swain also scored Outstanding Use of Regional Produce by a Chef at the Australian Produce Awards in 2010!
It's no wonder that the town of Willunga holds Fino and its fabulous food very close to its heart. And now comes the sad news that the backbone of the restaurant, Chef David and his business partner, Front of House dynamo Sharon Romeo, will be selling up to concentrate on their new venture (Fino at Seppeltsfield) in the Barossa Valley, after being headhunted by winery owner Warren Randall.
Obviously, it was time to get down there and sample the menu again before it was things changed, so my partner and I did exactly that the other day.
We've always been keen on the degustation menu, specialising in fresh local produce - just sit yourself down, let them know any dietary restrictions and then allow the staff to feed you. This time, we started off with some juicy, fat Coffin Bay oysters, with grated horseradish and beetroot, then followed them up with salted cod croquettes and a surprising dish of fresh brussel sprouts with goat curd and almonds - which was the 'Dish of the Day' according to the other half! And although the kangaroo loin and braised tail was pretty special, my pick was the Morcella ( a Spanish black pudding) with slippery pine mushrooms picked in nearby Kuitpo Forest. Unusual and delicious.
We'd taken a couple of bottles of our own wine, to take advantage of the Friday 'locals' special', which gave us corkage-free BYO, but the wine list is still one of the best in the country, with some choice vintages from Europe as well as Australia. The other great winter offer is the Market Lunch - 2 courses sourced from the Willunga Farmers' Market held weekly just outside the front door.
David Swain is already dividing his time between the McLaren Vale and Barossa Wine Regions, so Ben Sommariva (formerly of The Kitchen Door) was in charge of the kitchen and doing a fantastic job. Alex was being Sharon and although he's a little larger than the 'pocket rocket', he's still providing the sort of service she insists upon.
Behind the scenes
In a region blessed with some outstanding eateries, this definitely has to be one of the best around.
Fino is open from Wednesday to Sunday for lunch and on Friday and Saturday nights for dinner. Bookings on 08 8556 4488.