Clover at Howard Vineyard


date of visit: Sunday 5 February 2017

disclaimer: I was a guest of Howard Vineyard

It’s been six years since I last visited (and ate) at Howard Vineyard. Six. I know this because I went there with a couple of friends, one of whom was visiting from England, and a three month old who had just discovered his voice. We had a very pleasant lunch, punctuated by a shouty baby. It was mid-week and hopefully we didn’t disturb too many other diners.

Although I’ve been on many visits to the Hills since, we’ve not made it quite as far as Nairne on many occasions. However, since late last year, Howard has been on my radar due to the newly released Blanc de Noir. I’m a big fan of sparkling wine and have wanted to try it.

So when Howard Vineyard dropped me a press release, announcing the return of Heather Day (former Masterchef contestant and the brains behind HeyDay butter) to the Clover restaurant kitchen, along with an invitation to lunch ‘yes’ was a very obvious response.

Andy and I left a disgruntled Master 6 (‘why can’t I go to lunch too?’) with my parents and headed for the Hills on a rather overcast afternoon.  The Clover restaurant is indoors but does have a large outdoor seating area, which on this particular Sunday was hosting a group of 60 (!) – so we were very pleased to be tucked away inside.

Naturally I had already sussed out the short menu online. The philosophy is seasonality, with many ingredients foraged or sourced from the kitchen garden. The menu’s focus is predominantly Asian with dishes designed to share. There are just three small plates, three large plates and three sides. Personally, I find short menus a LOT more reassuring than long ones. I eat everything so it’d be a big call (or a rubbish menu!) to find myself in a position of not wanting to eat anything. A short menu is indicative of a competent kitchen that knows its limits and would rather produce a small number of different dishes well and consistently, than attempting a cast of thousands.

That said – if you are a picky eater, you should definitely do your homework prior to heading to Howard!

For groups of four or more there is a ‘feed me’ option which is just $49 per person. However, as a group of two, we ordered one small plate and two large plates. We did consult with our waitress about how much we should order and she said this should be fine but if we were needing more, extra plates wouldn’t be a problem.

First out, however, were our drinks – Clover Sauvignon Blanc for Andy and a glass of the Blanc de Noir for me. You can’t taste the Blanc de Noir at the cellar door but you can buy yourself a glass of it. I cannot recommend that course of action highly enough!


Next came the dumplings. They are prawn and pork and you receive ten with a lovely sharp and sour soy and shallot dressing. The dumplings were packed full (always very important – no one likes an explosion of steaming hot water on biting in!), with good flavour and I loved the dressing. The sourness of it, combined with the saltiness of the soy, made the whole lot incredibly moreish. Andy thought the dressing was too sour, so that the sourness obliterated other flavours. I beg to differ on that one.

For our large plates we had gone for the BBQ pork and the Cambodian beef vermicelli salad. The other alternative is the Major Tom’s spicy chicken (described as ‘with a sweet and sour glaze’). One look at the words ‘sweet and sour’ was enough to put me off that one. 

However, we were VERY fortunate, because a little mix up saw us receive the Major Tom’s chicken instead of the beef. We were told that as the chicken is the most popular dish, the kitchen would like us to try it while our beef was prepared.


What a happy, happy accident because that chicken was soooo good. I’m not sure how it’s been done (and frankly, why spoil the magic?) but it’s almost like the chicken has either had a very light batter and then fry or the skin has been left on and crisped up. Either way, you have a bowl full of beautifully moist chicken with an almost crispy outer, in a delicious sauce, with some gentle background heat, that is not at all anything like I would imagine when I hear ‘sweet and sour glaze’. It’s topped with bean sprouts for extra crunch and some fresh chilli for extra zing. If you only try one dish at Clover, it might as well be this one. I can see why it is the most popular dish.

The BBQ pork is served almost san choy bow style – with lettuce cups, herbs, cucumber, crushed peanuts and what Andy described as a BBQ sauce. The pork was lovely and moist but for me, this was my least favourite dish as it lacked the flavour punch of the others. Andy disagreed.


Finally, the Cambodian beef, presented on top of the noodles, with herbs, carrot, bean sprouts, peanuts and crispy shallots. Alongside it, a really refreshing dipping sauce redolent with fish sauce and chilli. I loved this dish – and not just because I love noodles. But also I loved the combination of flavours and textures, especially the additional heat from the dipping sauce. It was very easy to eat and adjust each mouthful as you went. I was very careful to ensure I polished off as many of those crispy shallots as I could!

By this point, it transpired that our original order would have been enough for the two of us. Despite a couple of good attempts at polishing off the chicken, we ended up leaving some on each plate. So if two are dining together, I recommend one small and two large plates.

We finished off the meal by sharing the sorbet – the flavour of the day was lemon and it was like eating frozen lemon curd with the extra fresh lemon zest. It was a delicious combination of super sweet and super tart (and super lemony) all at once. The sorbet was not at all icy – it was almost creamy with a stretchiness to it. It was also a MASSIVE portion. Neither of us would have been able to eat one on our own and we even left quite a lot.

We then headed over to the bar to taste through the wines. At this point, the folly of the sorbet became obvious. Our palates were shot with sweet, lemony flavours – and guess what? Not only did they swamp the wines, they really didn’t work with them at all. My advice? Taste wine first, eat second. Or eat, taste wine and then eat sorbet. 

Although this isn’t a piece about wines – I do want to point out here that Howard Vineyard is one of the few wineries that makes a straight Cabernet Franc (well, actually, they make two). Cabernet Franc is often found in blends (with Cab Sav and Merlot – it is one of the six grape varieties allowed in Bordeaux) but shines on its own in a couple of regions in France’s Loire Valley. It has a stalkiness to it which I find very attractive and I wish there was more straight CF to be had.

So at Howard Vineyard you get to try some lovely wine (my two picks being the Blanc de Noir and the Clover Cabernet Franc) and you get to eat some tasty food which sings with freshness, texture and layers of flavour.

The only down side? At present, Clover is only open on a Sunday, between 12 and 3 and bookings are recommended. Even with a huge party in on Sunday, both the kitchen and the front of house staff handled the load with (apparent!) ease. And that speaks volumes for both how well organised things are and the calibre of the staff themselves.

Howard Vineyard Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Clover at Howard Vineyard
Lot 1, 53 Bald Hills Road, Nairne
South Australia 5252
cellar door: (08) 8188 0203

Longview Vineyard: Piece Project

20160124_151355Disclaimer: I was a guest of Longview at Crush

Every January the Adelaide Hills hosts the Crush festival. It’s held across a weekend and there are a variety of ticketed and non ticketed events.

The Adelaide Hills is, geographically, a pretty big region and it’s best to get a handle on that and the distances involved before committing yourself to a manic schedule.

Now we have Master 5 in tow we’ve found that finding ONE family friendly venue and making that our only stop is definitely the way to go. Last year we really enjoyed Pony in the Vines at Tomich and we would have done that again had I note received an invitation to Longview.

Longview is at Macclesfield – closer to home for us but well out of the way of the area with the densest concentration of wineries.

Longview’s Crush USP is that it hosts the Piece Project. The Piece is Longview’s flagship Shiraz and the Piece Project pits four street artists against one another in a competition to create the wine’s label. Punters get to watch the artists in action and there was also a display of winning art works from previous years.

It was a perfect day for it – clear blue skies but not too hot. When we arrived (about an hour into things) the car park area was busy but not out of control. 

One thing that was a bit disappointing was that, as we wandered up to the main area, we were stopped and asked if we had any drinks with us. With small child in tow OF COURSE we had his drink bottle with us and we were told to take that back to the car. While I absolutely appreciate that they don’t want people bringing their own wine, beer or even soft drinks (all of which were available to purchase), the water thing might have been a touch heavy handed!

There was plenty of shade to be had – a huge marquee was set with casual tables but it was pretty noisy with the DJ so we found ourselves a quieter spot under a big gum tree. The cellar door was operating, along with some outside bars, and there was no wait for drinks. We started with glasses of the Wagtail Brut before deciding it was time to check out the food.

pulled pork burger
pulled pork burger

The food was ‘low and slow’ BBQ style but what really impressed me was that the kitchen area was set up to deal with large numbers of people quickly. Even though there was a reasonable queue, I was in the line for a very short amount of time. I thought that the approach of offering smaller portions of food (for less money) was excellent.

At too many festivals, you find yourself parting with in excess of $10 for a not overly generous plate of food, only to find yourself a bit peckish at the next venue and going through the whole rigmarole again. At Longview, most of the dishes were around $4-5. We tried a hot dog and a pulled pork burger. There was also macaroni cheese and a larger (and more expensive) brisket option. The hot dog was just a hot dog but the pulled pork got the thumbs up.

Longview’s one of a handful of Adelaide Hills wineries making Grüner Veltliner so I tried that while Andy tried the Shiraz Cabernet. Of course, a day out a festival is not a time for serious wine tasting but these things always make me realise how I should try just a bit harder to become super familiar with the wines on my doorstep*.

After a couple of hours, and a boysenberry ice cream for Master 5, it was time for us to head home. We appear to have perfected our approach to Crush and we had another enjoyable day out. Children will love watching the street artists work and there is plenty of space to spread out and enjoy your food and wine.

You don’t have to wait til next January to enjoy a day out at Longview. The cellar door is open 11-5 daily and if you plan and book in advance, you can head down for Sunday tapas year round.

Longview Vineyard
Pound Road
Macclesfield SA 5153

Nepenthe Twilight Tasting


disclaimer: I was Nepenthe’s guest at the tasting

date: Friday 5 April 2013

I think we all know I am something of a wine geek (or bore, depending on your point of view, I guess). So when an email arrived inviting me to a special twilight tasting at Nepenthe Wines, in the beautiful Adelaide Hills I was always going to make the effort to attend.

Most wineries can lay claim to some pretty stunning scenery but Nepenthe is especially pretty, with the cellar door sitting on top of a hill overlooking vineyards, the view punctuated by a massive gum tree. But don’t believe me: my guest, who had not been to Nepenthe before, admitted the location had her second guessing her own wedding venue!

This tasting was a one off event by Nepenthe to launch the Autumn “club pack”. Six wines were paired with six different canapés which sounds quite formal. But that wasn’t really the case at all. As guests arrived they were greeted with the Altitude Sauvignon Blanc and, as it was such a beautiful evening, people soon spread themselves out across the cellar door’s verandah and onto the lawn. This meant that I, at least, ended up tasting everything in what was probably the wrong order. The staff ended up pouring quite a few different wines that weren’t on the main list, so it ended up being a great opportunity to try a range of the Nepenthe wines.

The absolute stand out wine of the evening for me was the Altitude Pinot Gris. I do not say this lightly. If you know me, you know that I will avoid Pinot Grigio at pretty much all costs. Pinot Gris and Pinot Grigio are the same grape: one is the French name and one the Italian. However, using the different names on labels is not mere pretension on the part of the winemaker or the marketer. The Italians and the French make the grape into wines of very different styles and here in Australia, the use of the Italian or French name is trying to communicate something of the style to the consumer.

The Italian Pinot Grigio tends to be a light bodied, easy drinking quaffer of a wine. It’s inoffensive, light and refreshing. Understandably, it has many fans and it’s increasingly popular as a by the glass option in pubs and restaurants here in Australia. The French Pinot Gris (most commonly from the Alsace region in eastern France) is a little different: it has a bit of weight, oomph and spice.

The Nepenthe Altitude Pinot Gris delivers on that promise. It has that bit of weight, it certainly has spice, but it retains the acidity that makes it refreshing to drink. It’s interesting and, because we always need a bit of wine jargon – it’s textural. I actually went to a bottle shop the next day and bought a bottle (I was going to buy one on the night but by the I made that decision so had everyone else and there was a queue!).

The warm evening meant that I wasn’t really in a red wine mood, but I didn’t pass up the opportunity to try the 2009 Good Doctor Pinot Noir, and my red wine drinking friend gave a thumbs up to the two Shirazes (Altitude and Gate Block).

I have to mention the food. The catering was by Two Brothers and while I won’t pretend that absolutely every canapé was on song there were a few dishes that were amazing.


The sweet potato and avocado salsa on rye was amazing. I don’t like sweet potato particularly but this was so creamy and zingy: the balance between sweet potato, avocado and lime was absolutely spot on. They looked perfect and tasted even better. Absolutely the highlight of the canapés for me – testified by the fact that there is no photo because I was too busy eating it!


The Kerala prawn fritters, served on what looked to be some kind of prawn cracker, were lovely too and the pastry on the kingfish and beetroot tarts was beautifully short and thin (though I did think the quark needed a bit more oomph to it to stand up to, and cut through, the beetroot).

Overall, I thought this was a really lovely event. It was free for Nepenthe’s VIP club members and a really great way of making people feel a bit special and showcasing both the winery and the wines. The numbers were kept low so everything felt very intimate and there was always an opportunity to chat to staff.