Phew, what a whirlwind weekend we’ve just had! We were lucky enough to be invited for a weekend away by Mount Lofty House to indulge in their Arthur’s Golden Ticket Treasure Hunt and celebrate the one year anniversary of their Hardy’s Verandah Restaurant. Of course, we quickly accepted the invitation with no knowing of what to expect. Nevertheless, any dreams or expectations we had were blown away! Keep reading to find out all about our experience!
Coming up the freeway Sunday afternoon, with the sun out and the wind in our hair, we thought there would be nothing better. This was until we pulled into Mount Lofty House’s winding driveway and up to their hilltop reception. Looking out onto the picturesque setting from the top, blooming agapanthus filled our field of vision and Adelaide’s rolling hills sprawled as far as the eye could see. There’s no wonder so many couples choose to get married here!
Upon check-in, we received the key to Room 25 and the friendly receptionist even offered us a bottle of sparkling wine! To our surprise, an envelope attached to floating black and gold balloons awaited us on the (king-size!) bed in our room. Inside the personally addressed envelope, was a letter from the mysterious original owner of the residence – Arthur Hardy – warmly welcoming us to his summer residence.
“My local friends have put together a wonderful selection of VIP experiences to showcase what we are doing here in the Hills,” the letter went on to say, but more on these experiences later!
The Piccadilly Valley View room we were assigned certainly lived up to its name, offering a breathtaking view of the Piccadilly Valley and Mount Lofty Botanic Gardens from the balcony. The north-facing room also gave us the perfect positioning to enjoy both the sunset that evening and sunrise in the morning – who could ask for more?! Everything from the video detailing Mount Lofty House’s history playing on the flatscreen TV as we entered, to the matching wingback chairs and full-length mirror told us we were in for the weekend of a lifetime (and we hadn’t even had dinner yet!).
Speaking of dinner, ‘Arthur Hardy’ had kindly reserved a table for us at his award-winning Hardy’s Verandah Restaurant for 6:30pm. This gave us a few hours to kill before we had to start getting ready, which meant only one thing – time to explore! So, armed with nothing but our curiosity (and our keys, phones, DSLR camera, map of the venue we received upon check-in, and jackets in case we got cold), we set out to find out exactly what Mount Lofty House had to offer.
Our journey took us through the massive courtyards where the venue has hosted countless weddings, to the clear, blue pool overlooking the Mount Lofty Botanic Gardens, then to Stables Day Spa, and finally, to the library, where a few guests were enjoying a game of chess and a bookshelf of board games offered a fun way to wind down at the end of the night for families.
Now onto the most anticipated part of the experience – dinner at the 3 Chef Hat Hardy’s Verandah Restaurant! We’re not going to lie, prior to our arrival, we did our research on HVR, perused its menus, and read up on its impressive reputation. With appointed waiters, bartenders and sommeliers, a supposedly unrivalled location, and highly-acclaimed menus, we could only be disappointed, right? Wrong.
Naturally (being as excited as we were), we were at the grand doors of the restaurant at 6:30pm sharp. The waiters ushered us into the classy restaurant (at this point, we were glad we dressed up), and onto the namesake verandah where our diagonally placed table again offered optimum views of the Botanic Gardens and Piccadilly Valley. We felt like no less than royalty as the waiters pulled our chairs out for us, lapped our napkins and offered us a glass of their house sparkling Sequioa wine – made from grapes grown on the highest elevated vines in South Australia, no less!
Our waiters, Martina and Nathaniel, were accommodating, personable, and had great sense of humour, which made us feel all the more welcome. They knew all there was to know about the menus and offered us suggestions while answering our endless questions with a smile. Being vegetarian, I was worried my dietary requirements would restrict me from experiencing the full menu; however, Martina and Nathaniel were more than helpful and, to my surprise, when I sat down I was greeted with a customised vegetarian menu. Other dietary restrictions including vegan, dairy-free, and gluten-free people, don’t fret! HVR have more than enough options to accommodate you too (just make sure to tell them ahead of time)!
We ended up having their Short Story Menu with 3 courses comprising of entrée, main and dessert:
Fermented Milk Brioche with Jersey Butter
To start, we were given a bun of HVR’s fermented milk brioche (baked in-house) with their house-churned Jersey butter. The bun, sat on a bed of barley, came fresh-out-the-oven warm, releasing puffs of steam as we peeled apart the four pieces, and the soft butter melted as soon as it touched the bread. The bread itself, modelled after French pastry, was soft and pillowy, with just a hint of sweetness – like no other bread we’d ever tasted before! No doubt, this left us questioning just what was to follow.
Avocado served with Spinach and Asparagus Purée, and Carrot Purée
Our first entrée was certainly very well presented – a perfect slice of ripe avocado sat on a thin spread of contrasting carrot purée and spinach and asparagus purée, dressed with olive oil and lemon juice, and topped with flowers freshly picked from Mount Lofty House’s very own garden. The dish was fresh and light, with the sweetness of the carrot purée perfectly balancing with the saltiness of the spinach and asparagus purée.
Pork Cheek served with Miso Dressing and Cabbage
This dish came out looking very mysterious, but upon removing the blanket of cabbage on top, the hero pork cheek of this dish was unveiled. The pork itself was tender, fell apart when touched by the knife and, unsurprisingly, melted in the mouth like butter. The meat had a touch of sweetness so the saltiness of the miso dressing complemented it very nicely.
Cauliflower Steak served with Spinach, Fennel, and Pomegranate
For main, this dish invited us in with the myriad of colours and flavours it promised. The texture of the cauliflower steak, seasoned with spices, worked well together with that of the thinly sliced fennel and cooked spinach. Alongside, the contrasting flavours provided by the dollops of caramelised yoghurt and spiced date not only paired well with the other elements of the dish, but the taste lingered just long enough in the mouth to really be appreciated. Lastly, the refreshing sweetness of the pomegranate seeds, not to be outdone by the other flavours, equally left its own impression.
Duck served with Fennel Sauce, Cauliflower Purée and Black Olive Tapenade
When we were spoilt for choice for our next main, waiter Nathaniel recommended the duck with no hesitation so naturally, our expectations were high for this one. And boy were these expectations met! The thin slices of duck meat were perfectly cooked, with the skin on top crispy and salty, crackling with every crunch. The black olive tapenade added yet another depth of flavour and the cauliflower purée tied the dish together. The burnt orange was an interesting touch that complemented the other elements.
Crème Brûlée served with Strawberry Sorbet and Curd
If someone said, “put the word ‘pretty’ on a plate”, this dish would be the end result. Excluding the brûlée itself, all the elements featured a different shade of pink, as well as brought a different flavour profile to the dish as a whole. The brûlée was sweet but not too sweet, smooth and creamy, and dissolved in the mouth with no effort at all. The sorbet added a sourness to the dish, with the curd providing the acidity. The glazed strawberries were refreshing and sweet and the crushed meringue added a nice crunchy texture with every mouthful. As lovers of crème brûlée, we know the true test of a good brûlée is the sound of the crack as your spoon breaks the caramelised surface. Of course, we had to give the crack test a go and, sure enough, the ‘crack’ was resounding.
Buttermilk Sorbet served with Lemon Aspen Granita and Riberry
To finish off the evening, we had the buttermilk sorbet, which was simple, yet refreshing. The sorbet was creamy, with the perfect level of sweetness, and the lemon aspen granita and riberry added even more flavour and complexity with just a touch of bitterness. This dish as a whole was an ideal palate cleanser and a great way to conclude our dinner.
As the sun set over the horizon and we were finishing the last morsels of our food, we overheard one of the waiters telling another table that Head Cocktail Barman Simone Petronici was in, so this was the perfect night to grab a cocktail. Intrigued, we made our way next door to Arthur’s Waterhouse Lounge to see what this man and his cocktails were all about. As we perused the drinks menu, we realised what we were truly in for.
“Taking inspiration from the Four Elements, our Cocktail Barman, Simone Patronici, has crafted a fine selection of seasonal cocktails to surprise and delight,” the menu read.
Drinks available included the Summer Blossom, finished with a cloud of rosemary smoke, the Berry Tea, served with liquid nitrogen in a cast iron teapot, and the Smoke In A Mirror, a reimagined Margarita smoked under a cloche – which is what we ended up going for.
Simone certainly did not disappoint, putting on a show for us while stirring Herradura tequila, Grand Marnier and lime in with his very own pear reduction, shaking the concoction through, and, as the final step, smoked the drink under a cloche, cinematically revealing the final drink under a cloud of smoke. The end result was a drink that had the appearance of a cloudy juice but gave us a sharp, smoky taste that certainly lived up to its name.
As our first day drew to a close, we returned to our room on the third floor and turned in for the night, excited for what the next day’s treasure hunt would bring.
The next morning, we had a little sleep-in before heading downstairs to the Piccadilly Restaurant for breakfast. We went with the Full Breakfast option, offering both a hot cooked breakfast dish each, as well as full access to all the Country Continental Breakfast options.
This three egg omelette had button mushrooms and local Adelaide Hills Woodside brie cheese and a piece of toasted artisan bread. The omelette was well cooked, the creamy brie melded together with the button mushrooms on the inside, and the bread was warm and crunchy.
Mount Lofty House’s very own take on the classic big breakfast included Murphy’s Crossing free range fried eggs, chipolata sausage, smoked bacon, vine ripened tomatoes, button mushrooms, home style Swiss rosti, and a piece of toasted artisan bread. The serving was generous and certainly filled us up for the exciting day we had planned ahead.
What exciting day we had planned ahead, you ask? Remember the letter we found on our bed upon check-in from Arthur Hardy detailing the VIP experiences he had in store for us? Well, turns out the experiences he chose for us included The Block Series Wine Tasting at The Lane Vineyard followed by an exclusive Wine & Cheese Flight at Shaw + Smith.
Our first visit was to The Lane Vineyard just 15 minutes from Mount Lofty House. The Block Series tasting we were booked in for included eleven different wines, ranging from sparklings (NV Lois Blanc de Blancs and NV Lois Brut Rosé), to whites (Block 10 Sauvignon Blanc, Block 2 Pinot Gris, Block 1A Chardonnay, and Block 3 Chardonnay), to reds (Rosé, Block 8 Merlot, Block 5 Shiraz, Pinot Noir, and Block 14 Basket Press Shiraz).
After our tasting, we were taken on a tour of their onsite wine production facility – The Lane being one of the only wineries in South Australia to produce their wines right next to their Cellar Door. We were shown their basket press and airbag press machinery as well as their Barrel Hall – which was underground, providing a cool room in the summer and a warmer room in the winter. The Lane uses cooperages from the region that are traditional to the wine varieties. For example, their chardonnay uses cooperages from Burgundy in France. We were told The Lane aims to make smoother, more elegant styles of shiraz, after the classic French styles, using bigger barrels to ferment their shiraz. Afterwards, we were even introduced to their famous ‘proposal spot’, as The Lane staff call it – the porch area just outside their restaurant that provides a picturesque backdrop for proposals (or, in our case, photos of our wine glasses!).
Our next, and final, stop on Arthur’s Golden Ticket Treasure Hunt saw us pull up to the tasting room of Shaw + Smith, just a few minutes from The Lane Vineyard. Shaw + Smith’s stunning vineyards overlooked a glistening lake and, sitting from their tasting room atop a small hill, the scenery was so breathtaking that we struggled to remember what life was like in the urban streets of the CBD.
Our wine flights consisted of Shaw + Smith’s very own flagship Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Shiraz. We were also provided with a plate of locally sourced cheese and crackers each to pair with our wines. It was recommended that we pair the goat’s cheese, Woodside Cheese Wrights’ Ashed Chevre, with the Sauvignon Blanc and Riesling, the creamy Udder Delights’ Cremeux with the Chardonnay, and the semi-hard Section 28’s Monforte with the Pinot Noir and Shiraz.
Shaw + Smith’s bestseller, making up 70% of their production, is their Sauvignon Blanc and it is the variety that made them famous – being the first wine produced by cousins Martin Shaw and Michael Hill Smith. Their Sauvignon Blanc and Riesling are extremely pure and varietal, both made in stainless steel to bring out the fruity notes of the wine. Their Chardonnay is an oaked variety, and is actually quite restrained on the palate, making it crisp and drinkable. When it comes to their reds, we were told Shaw + Smith’s Pinot Noir and Shiraz are lighter than normal reds, making them less likely to stain clothing in case of any accidental spills. The Pinot Noir was very light in alcohol and, even though it was a 2016 variety, it was already starting to develop more complexity and spices. Their Shiraz, was also lower in alcohol concentration, being only 14.5%, compared to warmer climate varieties, with this one being firmer and more delicate in flavour.
And with that, our wine tasting at Shaw + Smith, as well as our time on Arthur’s Golden Ticket Treasure Hunt was over! We really can’t sum up our weekend adventure in words (although we have tried, in almost 3000!) but it was certainly an unforgettable one. Having never been to Mount Lofty House before, we had no idea such luxury boutique accommodation and five-star fine dining (we’re definitely going back for some more of that milk bread!) was right here on our doorstep, just 20 minutes from the CBD!
With all that said and done, you might be wondering how you can go on the same experience (and enter the draw to win a weeklong holiday)! Booking Arthur’s Golden Ticket Treasure Hunt will treat you to a night’s accommodation at Mount Lofty House, $100 credit to use at Hardy’s Verandah Restaurant, two $25 vouchers for Stables Day Spa, as well as some of the money-can’t-buy VIP experiences offered around the Adelaide Hills. During this stay, you’ll get the chance to go in the draw to win a coveted Golden Ticket, which will invite you back to Hardy’s Verandah Restaurant for a private dinner party, where one person will walk away with an all-expenses-paid weeklong holiday for two, to The Reef House in Palm Cove, Queensland.
Mount Lofty House will be running their Golden Ticket experience until the end of February so if you’re in need of a weekend getaway, grab your partner or friend and click the booking link here. You know you want to! Although, if you’ve gotten this far in our article, you probably won’t need any more convincing!
Words and Photos by Geena Ho