Born in Yorkshire, raised in Shropshire, travelled the world. Lived in Adelaide and currently in UK. Love travel, ancient history, horses, cello playing, the unusual and obscure, and pottering in my own back yard. Visit my website www.wadders.co.uk
Published April 15th 2013
Listening to strains of Edith Piaf, sitting at a table with chequered cloths, and surrounded by vines, fairy lights, and French pictures, you could easily be forgiven if you thought you were in a rustic bistro in the south of France. However, you're actually in a French restaurant being run by an English couple in South Australia – you couldn't get much more of an international input.
The Lavande of Callington is a delightful little French restaurant, only about a 45 minute drive from Adelaide. Callington started off as a mining town when copper was discovered in the area in 1950. It was named Callington after the copper mining town of Callington in Cornwall, Great Britain, and the little town has still got many of the original miner cottages so it's worth taking a drive or stroll down some of the streets, too.
The restaurant was the former police station and dates back to 1867. The historic building adds to the ambience, and the atmosphere has a very relaxed, Mediterranean feel about it; there's even a note on the blackboard advising you to consider ordering an aperitif as food may take a while to prepare. If you want food quickly, I suggest you head elsewhere, but if you're after a relaxing, lazy, meal, where you have time to savour the flavours, here is definitely the place to be. This is definitely a place where mobile phones should be banned.
The food is probably a lot more appetising than what was offered to the original occupants back in the 1800s. The menu has a range of French inspired dishes to tempt your tastebuds, such as Beef Bourguignon Pie, Baked Eggplant Gratin (which was apparently popular with the French lavender harvesters), and Provence on a Plate. There's also a selection of very tempting French desserts including Tartlet au Citroen and Gateau au chocolate. For those who are after something a bit lighter, try one of the appetisers; we settled on a mixed platter of French dips with French bread, and pate served with French bread. There are also Devonshire teas (not quite French I know), and cheese and biscuits as lighter alternatives.
For wine connoisseurs, there is a small selection of Cotes du Rhone and Châteauneuf-du-Pape to choose from as well as some Australian wines. While waiting for your food, enjoy the ambience and take some time out to admire your surroundings.
The portions were perfect for what we wanted, and looking at other tables, the mains appeared very generous. We thoroughly enjoyed the subtle flavoured dips and the smooth pate – washed down with a crisp sauvignon blanc.
The owners Chris and Terry Wilkinson have worked hard to make the restaurant and surrounding gardens what it is today. When they bought the building 15 years ago, it was almost derelict, but with a lot of imagination they have created what they call an 'oasis in the desert'. The restaurant is just a part of the building complex which has several other buildings surrounding a courtyard at the back, and a number of gardens to explore. This is where Chris and Terry live, so take a stroll around and Chris positively encourages you to peep through the windows to see how they've tastefully furnished the house. "It makes us keep the place tidy," she jokes.
Each garden has a different theme, so there's an array of plants and flowers to see. At the front there is the Lavender Garden which, with over 500 different lavenders will look stunning when it's in flower. Just to the side of the restaurant is a vegetable patch which leads round to the Pottagers Garden with numerous vegetables and medicinal herbs.
As you continue round through the colourful shaded gardens, interspersed with little ponds and fountains, terracotta pots and Romanesque busts, you could be forgiven for thinking you really were in Provence, particularly when you reach the Mediterranean courtyards. This is enclosed by the old cells which have now been converted to living quarters. Chairs have been thoughtfully placed throughout so you can sit and soak up the tranquillity.
Great article, well written. I have visited Lavande about three times now, with All Seasons Tours and all three times have been an amazing experience, food, music and atmosphere. I highly recommend it.
I was so looking forward to our lunch here as i love all things French. A bit disappointed after such a great write-up. Pre-ordered food as requested so they wouldn't run out yet one dessert not available. Waitress started every sentance with 'sorry but'! Also pastry in beef bourguignon pie was not crisp- it was like it had been microwaved. Garden wasn't impressive and lavender wasn't in flower but perhaps after a hot summer not to be expected.