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Monday 22 August 2022

A seriously fun Clare gourmet experience

Just about every town in regional Australia would like to have a “local” like the Watervale Hotel.

The up-market pub in a Clare Valley hamlet offers a wide range of drinks, several special spaces, gourmet food offerings and a lovely beer garden.

The hotel is part of a culinary project for Nicola Palmer (below), whose family used to own Skillogalee Wines, and former wine industry entrepreneur Warrick Duthy.

The couple purchased the local pub in 2017 and have subsequently renovated and extended it into a regional showcase.

The hotel’s premium experience is the Six Senses Penobscot Farm Tour followed by a six-course degustation dinner. Each course can be matched to Clare Valley wines or farm produce mocktails.

The couple recommends shared-plate feasts for group bookings.

The Farm Feast highlights organic vegetables from Penobscot Farm - owned by Palmer and Duthy - lamb from Martindale Farm and Greenslade’s free-range chicken, while the Gourmet Feast is a step up to dishes such as ceviche, carpaccio, and tomahawk steak.

Alternatively, there is an a la carte menu, along with a beverage list that promotes Clare Valley products with pub grub like meatballs and empanadas.

The menu is a constantly changing feast, but perhaps think dishes along the lines of wood-fired Spencer Gulf sardines and fresh baby fennel with blood orange, or perhaps seared duck breast with red and golden beetroot (below) paired with roast purple congo potatoes.   

A wine flight experience can be booked between 5-7pm for $40 that includes stuffed olives. This features four wines selected to celebrate the diversity of Clare Valley terroir.

The wine list showcases a range of Watervale rieslings and no fewer than 25 different grape varieties grown in the region.

The Watervale Hotel also has its own six-bedroom guesthouse next door that can sleep up to six couples. Farm tours, in-house chefs or dining packages can be added.

I revisited last week for a dinner hosted by Grosset Wines and Mount Horrocks and was again blown away by the professionalism of the team - and the sheer range of gourmet activities offered by these "ethical epicureans".

This is a local drinking haunt, restaurant and functions space in one. Well worth a trip.    


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