What to do on a very cold, very wet, winters evening in Coonawarra? A fireplace roaring with warm toasty embers and a glass of Cabernet? Maybe get rugged up on the couch and watch a movie?
Sue Bell and Steve Brown renowned throughout the district for being the architect of some pretty incredible events at the Glenroy property. This past May saw the one and only Tex Perkins grace the stage and only last month five (yes five) artists put on a highly entertaining Urban Country concert that had toes tapping and voices crooning in time with some excellent talent.
But this time around it was a chance for Tom Tilbury of Gather Food & Wine to show off his amazing talents at Bellwether. Tom and Sarah’s restaurant in the main street of Robe has been gathering (pun intended) rave reviews for quite a while now and we here at Coonawarra Experiences can certainly see why. From Gather’s website, we can see that Tom has a passion for "gathering" wild and local ingredients coupled with his love of providing a unique food experience.
This was to be a six-course degustation with matching Bellwether wines. Sounds simple enough doesn’t it? Well….on entering the 1860’s refurbished shearing shed, the warmth of the log fire gave off an instant welcoming feeling and we were greeted with as much as well. We were shown where our table was and given a rundown of how the evening would progress.
Tom addressed the assembled hungry group and outlined how he had built his menu and what his philosophy was as a chef and how he tries to promote and encourage the local produce in the region. It was going to be a fun evening with some really interesting styling of the produce being served.
First course was served as an appetiser around that very warm fire. Oysters on the rocks – a really unique way to display an oyster course that I hadn’t seen previously. This was paired with the Ant Series Heathcote Vermentino and they meshed together really well.
We took our seats by the warming heaters and were presented with the next dish of smoked fish with potato, fennel and beetroot. The beetroot encased the fish and potato and as you broke through the beetroot blanket you could smell the smoke from the fish. It was delicious! This dish was paired with the beautifully balanced 2012 Tamar Chardonnay, an absolute favourite of ours.
Course three was Veal tartare with spring garlic, crisp bread, beach mustard. I was expecting the veal to be a little more gamey than it was and was pleasantly surprised by its subtlety and the crunch of the crisp bread added great texture. You know when you have been given a superb tartare and this was one of those occasions. This course was paired with the new release of the 2014 Wrattonbully Shiraz/Malbec and the big flavours worked very well in unison.
You could smell the smoke from dish four coming through… Venison over the fire with a potato cigar, onions, venison jus. The plating alone made the dish one that impressed our table. The meat was cooked just perfectly allowing the venison flavours to shine through and the accompanying 2010 Coonawarra Cabernet sung in the glass.
The evening was really rolling now and the happy assembled crowd were raising the decibel levels as they enjoyed each course and the accompanying wines. And with the next course being Beef with turnips, plants, Jerusalem artichoke purée and dried flowers we didn’t think the dinner could be taken up any more notches. The rare beef was divine especially with the 2009 Coonawarra Cabernet swirling in the glass. We cracked open the croquette and the slow cooked beef just melted within it. Not surprisingly neither my wife or our other dining guest would share theirs…..it was worth a shot and asking.
The first dessert offering was not only a lovely palate cleanser but quite clever in that you paired your dish with the wine in it! Lilly pilly and gorse flower sorbet served in an old-style Marie Antoinette Champagne glass. Over that was poured the Nero D’Avola which created a fantastic flavour combination in the mouth.
By the time the last course came along we were all quite satisfied but wanted to see what would be paired with the Wrattonbully Tempranillo. Enter the Bitter Chocolate and Orange with Orange Elements….this was decadence in a bowl for certain. Rich chocolate and the sharpness of the orange elements finished off this wonderful meal in spectacular manner. If we weren’t already filled to the top with flavours beforehand we were now, a stunning dessert.
Tom’s work with the menu at Bellwether gave us a great insight into what he would offer at his Gather establishment. We will certainly be heading to Robe soon to enjoy more of this magnificent food done with extreme care and passion. We’re incredibly lucky to have Tom and his team in this region and we urge anyone that hasn’t been to Gather to book in before it gets to the point it’s tough to get a table.
As for Sue, her generous welcoming nature is just typical of why we decided to move to the Coonawarra region. Nothing is too much trouble and the skill she has as a winemaker is world class – if you haven’t tried the range you must do so. There’s a reason Bellwether wines sell out each vintage and Sue and Steve are at the top of their game.
14183 Riddoch Hwy, Coonawarra SA 5263