Mount Lofty House is an edifice of 1850s sandstone atop the Piccadilly Valley. Rather like the Adelaide Hills region, the 31-room hotel has been around a long time and undergone several reinventions. The latest occurred earlier this year when Hardy's Verandah Restaurant opened on the old mansion's second floor, with valley views and a proper fusion of produce and place.
Chef Wayne Brown (late of Quay and Tetsuya Wakuda's Waku Ghin in Singapore) serves a dégustation based on food he grows and forages. "I'll take a basket and walk with my team into the valley each day," says Brown. "We've just come out of autumn, so we've seen a lot of chestnuts, quince, pine mushrooms and porcinis. We'll also pick local fruit, which we like to pickle and ferment."
Japanese influence and French technique are applied to dishes such as dry-aged duck with quince paste, ox tongue cooked over binchotan, and soured-plum sorbet.
Arthur Waterhouse Bar within Hardys.
Renewal is in the air elsewhere, too. Local couple Ed and Julie Peter are backed by prodigious investment-banking wealth and happen to love reviving old pubs. Close to Mount Lofty House is the hitherto unremarkable Crafers Hotel, now owned by the Peters and housing a huge cellar of some 2,000 labels. Last August they helped put the village of Uraidla on the map, transforming the local watering hole into an eclectic bar complete with Chesterfields, roaring hearths and a restaurant serving heart-warmers like rabbit and pancetta ale pie.
Their timing is perfect, for Uraidla is a gateway to Basket Range, latterly one of Australia's most exciting wine regions. Much of the frisson comes from a tribe of iconoclast winemakers who feel wine comes from the same places that inspire great art and music.
Across from the Uraidla Hotel is Lost in a Forest, a 19th-century stone church converted to a "wood oven wine lounge" by winemaker Taras Ochota of Ochota Barrels. In Summertown, meanwhile, winemakers Anton van Klopper (of Lucy Margaux), Jasper Button (Commune of Buttons) and floor manager Aaron Fenwick (formerly of Orana) have opened a convivial community eatery called The Summertown Aristologist, that serves local and international labels alongside the likes of poached chicken, silverbeet and sorrel.
There's change in the Hills, though don't expect a complete makeover. The elevated region never gets above itself.