Adelaide Day 2- McLaren Vale & Tapas

Nice Legs Tapas @ Mesa Lunga

In what may prove to be the most drawn out explanation of a week long holiday ever… I present day two of our trip to Adelaide. Cleverly titled to reflect the main events of said day.

The beauty of Adelaide (or one of them anyway), is that it’s a stones throw away from a handful of Australia, and indeed the worlds, best wine making regions. Just how close I had no idea until we got into the car to go to McLaren Vale, and a mere 20 minutes later were standing in a tasting room swirling Reidel glasses daubed with inky red stuff like nobody’s business.

McLaren Vale is unique in that it is actively promoting itself as a region that produces excellent Grenache. With a special regional label of sorts called Cadenzia being created especially for McLaren Vale winemakers wanting to display the best that their grenache has to offer. It’s an interesting initiative, and one that I think is a great idea. It gave us a real focus for what the region did well, and also made it possible to compare and contrast styles of wine that were different and special in their own ways.

So we had the best intentions of going everywhere, but I think time slows down when you’re in wine country, or should that be speeds up. It felt like we’d been to a lot of different places, and perhaps if the tourist map we were following had of been accurate we would have (nb: never trust tourist maps ! The giant grapes next to the giant knife and fork is not to scale !!), but by the end of the day we found that we’d only made it to 4 places !

Still, quality not quantity as I always (read: sometimes) say. We started off at Coriole, one of my favourite wineries, and making of some fantastic Italian varietals. The Sangiovese is an old favourite however we really loved the Fiano, which is a rather rare (for “new world” plantings) Italian white wine from the Campania region.

Next it was on to Chapel Hill, another great winery and recent recipient of some big awards. Of course, not knowing any of this, I didn’t fully appreciate a lot of their wines, although a trend that emerges over the day was that Tempranillo is becoming one of my favourite wines. We took a bottle of the Il Vescovo Tempranillo and sauntered onwards.


After that it was on to d’Arenburg, another of my favourite spots, and maker of some stunning Shiraz blends. Their “Laughing Magpie” Shiraz Viognier is one of the nicer styles of that wine I’ve tried recently, and the Stump Jump GSM is nearly an institution in cheap but tasty drinking. We splashed out a little and got a bottle of the Dead Arm Shiraz, the Cadenzia GSM, and the Laughing Magpie.

On to the final spot of the day, Mr Riggs and Pennys Hill. Pennys Hill is the vineyard and Mr Riggs (aka Ben Riggs) is the winemaker, who also runs his own label from the same location. Plenty more great Shiraz and Grenache blends as well as a little Clare Valley Reisling sneaking it’s way in, but what we came away with was a chocolaty and smooth bottle of fortified Shiraz.

Escaping McLaren Vale with a small cache of wine, a light wallet, and almost a wine dog (a super friendly jack russell terrior from Paxton), it was back to the big smoke for the evenings entertainment.

Now there are times when running a food blog really pays off. These are such times. Coming back from a long days wine tasting with little idea of where to go for more great eating that night, I paid a brief visit back to the comments section of my “I’m going to Adelaide, nah nah nah” post, to find an excellent, detailed, and ultimately very helpful comment from Zams who as well as confirming some of my other ideas, put forward Mesa Lunga as a restaurant well worth checking out. It took two seconds for me to see funky and tapas, and know it was up my alley.

Mesa Lunga is situated on the corner of morphett and gouger (now officially pronounced Goo-gah) streets in the centre of Adelaide, and looks and feels every bit the part that Zams described. Chilled out, refined, with a sexy edge to it, perhaps exacerbated by the door chick calling me babe… “Yeh sorry babe, all we’ve got is tables in the tapas section tonight”.

That’s cool, tapas is why we’re here babe… (I wish I was that clever).

So we grabbed some menus, opened a fine bottle of wine supplied by Kara (at a measely $15 / bottle corkage !), and went down the list ordering anything and everything that looked tasty.

A short run through included the tortilla, the patatas bravas, the whitebait, the baked mussels, the turkey meatballs, a goat meatballs pizza, crab croquettes, and some truly great salt cod balls.

Desserts were a chocolate tart with pashmak (that’s Persian fairy floss to the uninitiated), a creme caramel kind of thing, some stewed figs, and that bastion of Spanish desserts, churros, lovingly dunked in molten chocolate.

All up, the place was great. The food was good value, came quickly, and tasted great. I love it when tapas is done well, and this hit the spot for me. Nothing too fancy, nothing too expensive, but a focus on quality ingredients and a funky atmosphere. The manager Teale even managed to make me a passable espresso at the end of the night, which was from Rio coffee, seemingly the Adelaide roaster of choice for fresh beans.

Stuffed full, and ‘babed’ out, it was then off for a trip around the city, a few more photos of churches that will never see the light of day, and home to bed, ready for the next big adventure.

*stay tuned for more*

9 thoughts on “Adelaide Day 2- McLaren Vale & Tapas”

  1. Matt, wow, $15 for corkage is rather extreme. I had the same dilemma at a restaurant recently. It was also $15 for corkage. Seeing as the bottles we were going to bring weren’t that great, we just ordered the restaurant wines and let them rip us off there instead.

    The food looks great. I love tapas too, but like you said, they need to be done well.

    Love all your photos too by the way. I think your photos, Chez Pim, I-Ling from Feed Me!I’m Hungry! and Robyn from EatingAsia all have their own unique style and are equally good. What camera do you use? Do you Photoshop them?

  2. Hey Matt

    Whitebait!!!… Yum! Brings back fond Kiwi memories of standing waist high in cold water while my Dad and I (the only whitebait enthusiasts in our family)trawled the local river mouth for that seasonal delicacy!

    And Churros as well (another personal favourite)… lucky devils!

    Day off today and I am off to make batch number 2 of Strawberry jam. I am in the habit of giving it away to justifiably needy souls so it’s time to whip some more (just in case you’re running out).
    A seasonal strawberry frenzy has overcome me this week and I have already made strawberry and vanilla friands for the guys at Fiori and strawberry ice cream for the kids!


  3. Matt,

    I love the second photo – the wine glass and the hands in the background.
    It actually looks like an operating table – with the colour of the napkins like hospital greens and the lighting and hands like a surgeons, hard at work. . .

  4. Hey Thanh, yeh it was a bit steep, but then at the same time, I wasn’t surprised. The place has a big selection of wine, and run a bar in their own right, so I guess that’s their way of discouraging byo. Why they let you bring it in at all was perhaps the question to ask.

    As for the camera, I shoot with a Canon dSLR, at most night shots are using my 50mm lens. I break all the rules about lighting and the graininess of most of the shots probably reflects that :) I don’t use photoshop, but generally try and correct colour balance and exposure in Lightroom before they hit the web.

    Lorraine: Valkyrie of the Hills, Maker of outstanding lemon curd and strawberry jam ! Anytime you want to bestow your bounty on us, we will more than happily accept. I can just see you now as a whitebait fisher… We only progressed as far as eeling, but that was scary enough.

    Edward: Thanks so much, it was a favourite of mine too. The deft but concerted efforts of a group of food lovers trying to sample everything at once, and make room for ever more dishes on a precariously small table. Though I hope the surgery references aren’t giving you unpleasant flashbacks :)

  5. Hey Lorraine

    I’ve eaten many friands over the years. They invaded the Sydney cafe counters like a pest. Everywhere you went, …friands. Big ones, small ones, real ones, with icing sugar and without.

    Some people say that the friand killed the muffin… in Sydney.

    Anyway, those were the best friands I’ve ever had, by a country mile, no doubt in my mind. Even after 3 days. I think you should go into full scale production and turn it into a business. Oh, the jam was fantastic.


  6. Too kind Kam… Too kind!
    I am humbled and speechless after such superlative compliments!

    Sorry, you missed out on those Matt ;o)


  7. What an ultimate day! Two of my favourite things ‘babe’! :).

    McLaren Vale is beautiful and the wine makers of the region have been working exceptionally hard at defining its appellation.

    Glad you had a great time tripping around Adelaide so far (thank you for the mention with Mesa Lunga). And I sure will keep popping in for catching up on my Radelaide fix from here.

  8. Thanks Kam and Lorraine for your public expression of friand love… though you’ll need to battle my mum for top honours there :)

    Nugget, if only I’d had your nose for good food when in the vale… Next time indeed.

    Zamina: Don’t you start with the babes ! Unless of course you’re a door chick and can get me into somewhere cool… in which case it’s totally acceptable… and possibly a requirement. Thanks again for the tips and I’m glad you’re enjoying a trip down my memory lane :)

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