In the heart of Australia's Barossa Valley, Hentley Farm is Chief Lachlan Colwill's favourite place for reflection and experimentation. In the morning, as a true partner of nature, he selects, picks and fishes what you will taste in the evening.
We arrived at Hentley Farm on a sunny Barossa afternoon, having driven down a dusty road lined with towering gums and vines: a real-deal Australian bush entrance. Kim, the Front of House Manager, greeted us with a natural warmth and big smile, and showed us to our table.
The meticulously restored and impressive glass dining room alongside the Greenock Creek was the perfect setting for our 7-course (although we actually counted 17) ‘Discovery Menu’, thoughtfully pieced together by Executive Chef Lachlan Colwill. Lachlan, with his sparkling eyes and an infectious passion for the region and its produce, creates this masterpiece of a menu using whatever he can find that is the most seasonally abundant, freshest, and of the highest quality at the time. Most ingredients are either harvested directly from the farm’s 150-acre land, from their own herb and veggie gardens, orchard, or foraged for in the wild. Wines are paired accordingly, and all come from Hentley Farm.
The dining experience at Hentley Farm is one that is filled with passion and enthusiasm for life’s simple and seasonal pleasures. The service here is exceptional. Theatrical, almost. Each chef, not just Lachlan, comes out to the table at some stage to present a dish, explaining what it is and where the ingredients came from. This is something Lachlan always wanted, for his staff to feel just as comfortable back of house as they did at the front (oftentimes very uncommon for chefs). The idea was born in the early days of Hentley Farm when, back in 2011, Lachlan started working on the restaurant concept, and in 2012 the restaurant opened. Back then, it was just himself and two other chefs. They did everything from kitchen to front of house and everything in between. As a result, Lachlan decided that that was the way he would like for things to continue.
More often than not, the ingredients mentioned by the chefs have been foraged for by that very chef themselves. Lettuces are picked from the garden each morning. Even the pretty native flowers on the table had been foraged for by Kim that very day. Lachlan shared how he and some of the kitchen team go and catch their own fish, driving about two hours from Hentley Farm to where the Murray River meets the Coorong, they then take their 4WDs along the beach, and then jump into kayaks and fish from there into the river mouth. On the day we visited, Murray Cod featured on the menu. This was extra special given there is a fishing ban on Murray Cod (for the months of January and February, as stocks have been so low), so the boys were excited to get in early before the ban and fish for cod the day before we arrived! We got lucky.
A stand-out moment of the dining experience was our introduction to Jersey Cream! It really did steal the show. This cream, sourced from a Jersey Cow farm just 5 minutes down the road (where they get their milk from every other day), was the creamiest most flavorsome cream we have ever tried and literally made us weak at the knees! It appeared in many of the dishes on the day, including a freshly made ricotta in one of the starter dishes of tomato/rye/ricotta/thyme. It was incredible.
Other stand-outs were the Kinkawooka mussels from Port Lincoln with fermented greens, and even just the simple snack of almonds (how could almonds be so, so good?!!) which were marinated in soy with honey, cream and chives. So simple, but so delicious. A common theme for the day.
Desserts were presented by pastry chef Sophie, who had hand-picked fresh jasmine from an abandoned old house earlier that day on her morning run the jasmine was running wild, she said and so she used it to adorn the side of the plates of one of the desserts. It was stunning (and smelled so good). We also loved her sweet corn sorbet, where we were invited to add sea salt on top to make it more of a popcorn flavor, or chili instead, to make it more Mexican. It was unbelievably good. Sophie’s petit fours (still-warm donuts served with jam, and chocolate popsicles) were delicious as well.
Chef Lachlan Colwill’s delicious journey