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Lobethal Road Winery levels up with veteran chef Frank McWilliams

The Forager

Lobethal Road Winery’s off-grid cellar door now offers a hearty weekend lunch menu, created by newly appointed chef Frank McWilliams, formerly of Magill Estate.

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The arrival of spring has seen Lobethal burst into a bustling weekend destination, as cellar doors, breweries and wineries enjoy good patronage after a difficult year marred by last summer’s bushfires followed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a quieter corner of the region, Lobethal Road Winery is popular with those seeking an intimate wine tasting or grazing platter away from the crowds of Lobethal’s big-name destinations.

Established in 1998 by Dave Neyle and Inga Lidums, Lobethal Road Winery was previously only run as a cellar door. But now, the couple has appointed former Magill Estate chef Frank McWilliams to create a hearty and rustic weekend lunch menu, to be enjoyed within the intimate cellar door or in the leafy outdoor courtyard surrounded by gum trees and lush vines.

McWilliams most recently worked as a chef in the Adelaide Entertainment Centre’s giant catering team, but, like many of his colleagues, he lost his job when the coronavirus brought the hospitality and events industries to a halt.

Being ineligible for JobKeeper, McWilliams was approached by Neyle and Lidums to help bring food to their mud-brick cellar door, which runs entirely off-grid — a world away from the high-tech and well-equipped kitchens of the Adelaide Entertainment Centre.

“But first, I actually painted the cellar door,” said McWilliams.

“That helped me out financially and gave Inga and Dave a chance to chat with me about their ideas towards what they wanted to do food-wise.”

With previous experience at Magill Estate, the Art Gallery Restaurant and Jacob’s Creek, the chef has drawn on many different influences to create a spring menu, with choices of two entrees, mains and desserts.

For entree, there is a choice of a “low and slow” smokey beef brisket served with apple and cabbage slaw, or a marinated goat feta tart with braised beetroot and candied walnuts.

Mains feature Atlantic salmon on potato and leek gratin or five-spice roasted duck leg with crispy radish cake and wok-tossed bok choy.

Lobethal Road Winery. Photograph: Macmahon Images

Dessert is a simple yet pleasing offering of lemon and vanilla baked cheesecake with strawberry salad or chocolate panna cotta with pears poached in Lobethal Road Winery’s Double Barrel Single Malt Shiraz.

Lunches are available by booking on Saturday and Sunday, while the cellar door has extended its hours and is now open from Thursday to Monday.

Pastry and baking are McWilliams’ specialty, having left school at 15 to take up an apprenticeship as a pastry chef.

“I worked for Red Door Bakery and did the whole night shift thing and learnt it all. I did a lot of work in that area, and now I make the sourdough bread at my place in a wood oven; I really enjoy that part of it” he said.

“The recipe is always the same, there are only four ingredients, but it’s all about how you treat it.”

In getting the kitchen up and running, McWilliams has demonstrated great flexibility – from swapping his kitchen tools for a paintbrush, to running a weekend restaurant entirely on his own.

Lobethal Road Winery chef Frank McWilliams. Photograph: Macmahon Images

“I’ve always tried to be adaptable. I think that’s the key. If you’re not adaptable in any kitchen, you’re going to struggle because it’s a trend-oriented profession. You have to keep trying to grow and find out what works, and what doesn’t.”

The venue’s owners are hoping to tap into what’s expected to be a busy summer with South Australians exploring the Adelaide Hills wine region.

“You can see the (fire) damage still, but as far as the region’s going economically, it seems to be doing quite well,” McWilliams said.

“Younger people are still heading up to go to the wineries and to go out for lunch.”

Lobethal Road’s new food offering adds yet Adelaide Hills experience to mix.

“Inside, the tables are intimate, but outside is fairly spaced out and it’s just a really beautiful courtyard garden. Dave’s a viticulturist and he’s done a really nice job with the garden. You’re surrounded by stone walls and right next to the vineyard,” McWilliams said.

“It’s got a really good paint job as well.”

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