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Behind the Menu: Mt Lofty Ranges Vineyard

Eat | Drink | Explore

Chef Matt Fitton gives us a taste of what’s happening in the kitchen at Adelaide Hills winery-restaurant Mt Lofty Ranges Vineyard.

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As well as producing cool-climate wines, Mt Lofty Ranges Vineyard at Lenswood is home to a cellar door with stunning views and a produce-driven lunch menu.

Former Playford chef Matt Fitton took over the kitchen last year, working with owners Sharon Pearson and Garry Sweeney to create a menu to showcase their wines and the locally grown fruit and vegetables.

Fitton’s new autumn menu features dishes such as beetroot, whipped curd, plum, shaved macadamia and edible flowers from the kitchen garden ($19); butter-poached leek, mushrooms, smoked hollandaise and shaved goat cheese ($32), and local figs, mascarpone, pinot and blackberry sorbet and meringue ($17).

This weekend (Saturday, May 7 and Sunday, May 8), as part of Tasting Australia, he has designed a five-course degustation menu called “She’ll be Apples” with the new Lenswood-grown miniature RockIt apple as its hero ingredient.

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Chef Matt Fitton in the dining room at Mt Lofty Ranges Vineyard. Photo: Claudio Raschella

Fitton says each course promises to be a culinary journey, and also features other fresh and foraged produce from the Adelaide Hills and the waters off our coast.

“There’s nothing better than cooking with the freshest produce available and we’re surrounded by it here in the Adelaide Hills,” he says.

“But more than being a unique gastronomic adventure, I will be on hand to chat with diners and share the stories behind all the various ingredients on the plate, while Sharon and Garry will discuss the matching of our award-winning wines with the dishes.”

The She’ll be Apples degustation costs $135 including wines. It features dishes such as cured kingfish with an apple and lime broth and coriander oil; poached marron with dry pork, tarragon, compressed apple and crustacean sauce; wood-smoked duck yolk with potato, truffle and roasted chicken juice; a venison loin with macadamia, apple, beetroot and venison reduction; and Pedro Ximenez ice cream with spiced apple, brown butter and hazelnut (pictured top).

Here, Fitton shares some insight into what drives him in the kitchen and the experience he presents to diners at Mt Lofty Ranges Vineyard.

The kitchen culture at Mt Lofty Ranges Vineyard is …
With only two of us in the kitchen, it’s imperative that we are both as passionate, hardworking and dedicated as each other while maintaining an upbeat and relaxed vibe.

Who are you cooking for?
We cook for diners who expect fresh local ingredients treated in such a way as to be transformed into creative dishes that taste magnificent.

Describe the current menu?
It’s small, it’s elegant, it’s flavoursome and it’s local – to the point where we can tell you exactly where each ingredient came from.

What does it seek to achieve?
We always set out to achieve dishes that showcase our local produce, look beautiful on the plate but, most important of all, taste sensational.

Who or what has had the greatest influence on your cooking?
There’s no one person but rather a collective of avant-garde chefs filled with new and experimental ideals and willing to ask the questions, find the answers and create delicious food in the process.

What are the hero ingredients?
No one ingredient stands out. Rather, it’s the little things people don’t see in a dish that makes our food taste delicious. I’m thinking here of elements such as smoking chicken fat for our octopus dish, or marinating, frying and blitzing chicken to season a dish. Those techniques are the real heroes of our dishes.

What is your favourite dish?
That would have to be our raw kingfish dish. It is sourced from the waters of Arno Bay near Port Lincoln, and we serve it with a dressing of lime juice, chilli, coriander, apple and onion before finishing it with a slither of cured kingfish belly and dried and salted scallop. It’s amazing.

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Cured Port Lincoln kingfish with apple and lime broth and coriander oil. Photo: Claudio Raschella

What is your favourite food and wine match?
You can’t go past our kingfish dish washed down with a chilled glass of Mt Lofty Ranges Vineyard Riesling. The balance between the subtly sweet fish and the acidity and minerality of the wine is just perfect.

What are you cooking at home?
We have just had our first child so the focus is very much on anything that is quick and simple … but yummy at the same time. There is always a wicked bolognese sauce in the freezer ready to go.

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