In the heart of the Barossa and in an outback Queensland oasis are two exceptional restaurants where the chefs create distinctive dishes inspired by hyper-local ingredients.




“Would you like to see a menu?” It’s a rhetorical question in most establishments, but not at Appellation. Here, the majority of diners go off-piste – opting to let the dishes unfold before them, without ever seeing a menu.

“When guests are seated, they’re given the option of enjoying the whole experience without knowing what’s coming,” says Executive Chef Kyle Johns. “They come with an open mind and trust us.”

Here, the majority of diners go off-piste – opting to let the dishes unfold before them, without ever seeing a menu.

Over 80 per cent of produce at Appellation is locally sourced.

Trust is the invisible thread that Johns uses to weave his magic, not just in the kitchen but in the local community. Over 80 per cent of the produce used in the dishes at Appellation comes from within the Barossa Valley and South Australia. Each ingredient has a story and Johns can tell it. Asked to nominate his favourite, he doesn’t hesitate.

“Nuriootpa High School has an agricultural program that hand-raises goats,” he says. “I get two goats each year. Some parts I use immediately and the rest I make into smallgoods, stocks and sauces.” Depending on the season, guests may be served goat backstrap, fermented using shio koji (an ancient mould) cooked over charcoal with young cherry tomatoes sauteed in red wine, served with a paprika salsa and pickled kohlrabi. “That, to me, celebrates the taste of spring,” he says.

Luxury vineyard retreat, The Louise, home to Appellation.

As the seasons shift, so too do the dishes. Winter often brings a glut of Jerusalem artichokes from a staff member’s garden, where the roasted flesh is turned into an ice cream, the juice into a caramel and the skins into a richly flavoured crumble. Local jujubes (also known as Chinese or red dates) are fermented, kimchi-style. “I’m a strong believer in doing the little things well and taking it back to basics. I love preserving ingredients at their peak,” Johns says. “We have a ‘fermentation station’ where I’m making garum (fish sauce) and miso. I love creating dishes using ferments I made over a year ago. It gives such a depth of flavour.”

Always seasonal, always innovative.

Appellation kitchen garden.

Blue swimmer crab, miso, citrus, sea grapes.

Executive Chef, Kyle Johns.

It’s this patience and attention to detail that sets Appellation apart. Harking back to Johns’ own South African roots, Appellation’s fire bread is based on Roosterkoek, a traditional South African bread slow cooked over coals. Served with a peri-peri parfait, Johns says it turns disbelievers into believers. “People may say they don’t want to eat offal or livers but nearly everyone says how much they love it. Especially if they haven’t seen the menu first.”

Fire bread, slow cooked over coals.

Local connections.

The Louise.

Day's end with a view.



While the focus on local ingredients is the same at Mt Mulligan Lodge, where Jeremy Fenech is Head Chef, local means crayfish rather than goat.

After ten years of working in Michelin-starred restaurants in Europe, Fenech was hungry for a taste of home. “I grew up in North Queensland and we have some of the best seafood and ingredients in the world,” Fenech says. “I didn’t eat a mango the whole time I was away because nothing compares to Australian produce.”

I didn’t eat a mango the whole time I was away because nothing compares to Australian produce.

Fenech ensures all the dishes are approachable by taking familiar ingredients but then adds a uniquely Australian twist. “At the moment for lunch, there’s a rabbit pie with lemon myrtle and we also serve a red claw crayfish chowder with smoked butter, potatoes and gruyere croutons,” he says. “The red claw come from the Atherton Tablelands and their flesh is so sweet.”

There are plans to introduce red claw into the sparkling weir that stretches along the base of Mount Mulligan. The crayfish will join 500 barramundi that were recently introduced. “Guests can catch and bring them into the kitchen and we’ll cook them,” Fenech says. “It’s hard to beat a barra baked on the fire.”

Catching your own dinner brings a whole new meaning to 'local produce.'

Mount Mulligan.

Highlighting local Australian flavours is second nature at Mt Mulligan. “Our guides are always exploring and bringing us back bush tucker to taste and experiment with,” Fenech says. “We’ve been out picking burdekin plums (also called tulip plums) recently. They grow wild on the property. We either lacto-ferment them and turn them into butter to put on damper as part of our degustation menu, or we steep them in vodka and serve with lime and sage. They’re quite sour but when you preserve them their flavour is reminiscent of a cherry.”

Outside, a burgeoning orchard is anticipated to provide even more bush tucker in the coming years. “We want the kitchen garden brimming with native produce like strawberry gum and wild passionfruit,” Fenech says. “Incorporating native ingredients gives the dishes such a special sense of place.”

Executive Chef, Jeremy Fenech.

ATV adventures in the outback.

Familiar ingredients with an Australian twist

Mt Mulligan Lodge.


Beyond excellent wine and dining, the Barossa has a surprising variety of things to do… For foodies, try a pasta masterclass at Casa Carboni, or a range of classes with Tim Bourke at The Eatery, themed on Maggie’s Pheasant Farm Classics, Gluten Free and Vegan Cooking, Fermentation and more. For walkers, explore the natural beauty of Kaiserstuhl Conservation Park, surrounded by granite outcrops, stringybark, blue gums, yuccas and families of wild western grey kangaroos grazing (or lazing) about.

From these earthy bush scents, find a sweeter one at the natural perfume making masterclass at Vasse Virgin, producers of skin care based on olive oil. On Saturday mornings the Barossa Farmers Market is the place to be. It is the foodie heartbeat of the Barossa. Meet the producers behind the local produce lining the stalls.

If you are there early enough, you’ll likely spot several chefs gathering their produce for the week ahead. The art of distilling quality gin is on hand at Seppeltsfield Road Distillers, while art of a different kind is most definitely worth a look at the The Jam Factory Gallery at Seppeltsfield, a celebration of glass and other art forms, not least knife-making, jewellery and millinery.

The wonders of olive oil, Vasse Virgin at Seppeltsfield.

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