date of visit: Sunday 29 July 2012
I have no problem sharing my opinion on food or wine. I write a blog, so that is perhaps evident. However, one thing that fills me with terror is the not infrequent question that begins “Where should …”. These questions can be simple (“where should I go for lunch?”), complex (“where should I take some colleagues from Hong Kong who want to eat seafood? The budget is no more than $50 a head …”) and the downright scary (“where should I go for my 40th birthday?”).
Faced with that last question, I actually put together a short list of venues, which I figured would mean I wasn’t ultimately responsible if the event turned out to be an utter failure. Fino, out of Adelaide down at Willunga, was the final choice for lunch. I guess 40th birthdays are a big deal because it was an impressive turn out of over 20 people. Which was great, because I hadn’t actually eaten at Fino – my suggestion was based on its reputation …
The Sunday of the lunch arrived and Willunga was heaving with its annual Almond Blossom Festival. We found Fino a little hard to spot (it’s next door to the Alma Hotel which you’ll see from the road with no problems). We also found parking a little tricky but a short walk, particularly after lunch, was all good.
Fino has an à la carte menu, but in a large group such as ours, we had the shared menu, which was $60 a head. I’m a big fan of this because it removes the bother of reading the menu and, ostensibly, quibbling over the bill. There was certainly no shortage of food: while the platters might have looked on the small side coming out of the kitchen, by the time we worked our way through the 5 or 6 courses we were all replete.
We started with fish (which I think was blue eye) served with celeriac remoulade, followed by brussels sprouts with lentils and Chèvre, house made chorizo, slow cooked pork, and dry aged scotch fillet served with goodies such as hasselback potatoes and gravy. For dessert, there was no apple pie in the house so we shared ice cream terrine and crema catalana.
Fino’s wine list is short but tidy. We started with a Deviation Road Loftia sparkling (were money no object I probably would have chosen the Larmandier Bernier …), followed by Alpha Box & Dice’s Rebel Rebel Montepulciano which hit the spot down my end of the room (and not just with me!). We wrapped up dessert with a selection of the PX sherries. I opted for the Bodegas Alvear (as recommended by our very affable and competent waitress*) which made me wonder why more restaurants don’t offer a range of decent sweet sherries rather than what is often a dull beyond all belief selection of dessert wines.
At the end of the day, the table I was on spent $105 a head. I thought that this represented excellent value, given not only the amount we had to eat, but also to drink. The service was great: the meal was well paced and the staff had an easy mix of professionalism and casualness that sat well with the feel of both the restaurant and the food.
The food is fiercely local and seasonal. One dish was garnished with a herb from the waiter’s garden, the chorizo was house made. The least local things were the free range pig and grass fed cow which were from Clare and the Barossa (respectively, I think). That’s a serious eye on food miles.
The food is also simple. If you are after a meal with bells and whistles then Fino isn’t the place to go. If, however, like a couple of people in our party, you haven’t eaten Brussels sprouts for over 20 years, the simple pairings of fresh ingredients will undoubtedly convert you.
The same weekend we visited, Fino was listed in The Australian’s Hot 50: Restaurants Lighting up the Country. It’s very easy to see why.
Get yourself a booking.
* On this note, I personally prefer the use of the word “waiter” for waiting staff of either gender. However, I realise that if I write many readers will think I am always served by blokes!