I am an Australian freelance writer living in Adelaide.
Published October 19th 2011
Think you have to drive to the Barossa Valley or Mclaren Vale to enjoy quality wine and a meal? Drive along the southern expressway and exit at Reynella and you'll find yourself surrounded by smaller wineries that are definitely worth a visit. I dined at Walter's Bistro at the St Francis Winery Resort and my expectations were very different to what I experienced.
Without the menu supplied online, I really wanted an idea of the types of meals they serve and prices, given some winery's restaurants can be quite pricey. So I sent a quick email and promptly received a copy of the menu. I was pleasantly surprised to find enough variety at a reasonable price. There are entrees from bruschetta to satay skewers, mains including schnitzels, a burger, Caesar salad or oven baked chicken breast, seafood including garlic prawns, salt and pepper squid or fish and chips, steak or a pasta or lasagne dish. They even have a kids' menu with meals like nuggets/fish and chips or spaghetti bolognaise for $15.
The reason I'd wanted to visit was also for the wine yet I was thoroughly disappointed to find a wine menu just as I would at any other restaurant. There was no matching of wine with food or even promotions like, "Try our wine with your meal". I know it wasn't meant to be a wine-tasting and meal event but I felt as though I'd missed an opportunity to sample a local drop. Anyhow, I proceeded to order a bottle of my favourite, a sweet moscato. (Later, I would learn that despite its misleading name, St Francis' ceased operating as a winery in the 1970s.)
We were the only group of people in the dining room that evening, a wet wintry Sunday night in June. Two of us ordered the vegetarian lasagne. It was fine but nothing to rave about. Someone ordered the satay skewers as a main which was a sufficient serving but again, not so amazing that we'd rush back there. The staff member was however particularly helpful in agreeing to warm up a bottle of milk for a two-month old baby without fuss.
We didn't have dessert as a birthday cake was waiting at home but the desserts sounded enticing. A citrus tart, brandy snap basket, chocolate mousse, ice cream sundae or Baileys Affagato - a shot of Baileys and coffee with vanilla ice cream.
My impression of the bistro had been formed from driving past it. As a "resort" of 41 suites available, I'd seen green grass, a lake and outdoor seating which looked very appealing - it's no surprise that weddings, conferences and other functions can be hosted here. The reality though of eating average food in an average-looking dining room meant I left not feeling overly impressed. Maybe a drive to the Barasso Valley or Mclaren Vale isn't such a bad idea.