Wine leads the dance at the new St Hugo restaurant and tasting room in the Barossa. It's a grand positioning statement by Pernod Ricard, St Hugo's multinational parent company, the intimate 44-seat restaurant mixing rugged tradition and modernity in a restored 1854 ironstone cottage on the Jacobs Creek property.
Executive chef Mark McNamara, best known for having established Barossa fine diner Appellation, cooks smart French-accented dishes across two tasting menus that take their cues from the St Hugo wines presented with each course. He doesn't revert to obvious or conservative pairings, either - mulloway fillet with red wine, shallots, peas, wakame and thyme is boldly teamed with the showpiece 2010 St Hugo Vetus Purum Cabernet Sauvignon.
Twice-cooked duck with black sesame and molasses finds an easy harmony in French and Asian flavours, while a croquette of pork, hazelnut and tofu with black pudding and celeriac is paired very effectively with the 2012 St Hugo Private Collection Seppeltsfield Region Shiraz. The meal closes with a light citrus, avocado, macadamia and burnt-butter tart, matched to 1970 Tawny Port.
St Hugo restaurant and tasting room.
It marks an impressive return for McNamara. He had vowed to quit restaurants when he left Appellation four years ago, but the opportunity to build this new venture from scratch proved too tempting. The resulting dining experience, with crisp service and smart attention to wine presentation, provides another alluring point of different in a region with a league of outstanding winery restaurants, including Hentley Farm and Fino at Seppeltsfield.
Six high stools around the chef's table facing into the kitchen offer devotees the chance to witness his work at close range.
Wines are included in four- or eight-course tasting menus ($120 and $220 per person, respectively).
St Hugo, 2141 Barossa Valley Way, Rowland Flat, SA, (08) 8115 9200; lunch Thu-Mon from noon, dinner Fri-Sat from 6pm, sthugo.com/restaurant