It would have been hard for me not to enjoy Skillogalee Restaurant. My visit capped off six days in Pt Augusta that despite working, felt more like a week-long fishing trip. We'd spent the day driving home through the beautiful Flinders Ranges and past brilliant green fields of young wheat, with the occasional stop alongside pine forests to search for mushrooms (no dice). Our only care in the world was the worry that we might not get to Sevenhill before Skillogalee stopped serving lunch.
Skillogalee is a small winery in South Australia's Clare Valley. Their wine is well regarded, but for a wine ignoramus like me the restaurant is the big draw. What began as a way to offer tasters something to nibble on while they drank has become one of the area's best restaurants. It's also one of the Valley's best locations, though competition is fierce. Skillogalee nails it in the atmosphere department — hidden away at the cottage's verandah tables you can see vineyards, nature, and nothing else.
The style of cooking is "modern Australian", but given the elusive definition of Australian food I prefer to think of it as "the food served by nice places in winemaking regions all over Australia". That is: European influences, local produce, charcuterie and preserves, and the very liberal use of wine. We started by sharing a serving of country terrine with pickled plums, and cabernet-soaked bread with anchovy spread. The terrine worked nicely with the plums — I only wished that the individual components would have been more identifiable in taste and presentation. For me, the anchovy spread was a standout. Out waiter told us it was made in house from anchovies, ricotta, olive oil, and seasoning, and I plan to try to recreate it at home.
For main course I had a beef and mushroom pie, with the puffiest pastry crust I've ever encountered. Inside the filling was a rich, delicious stew that was a perfect remedy to a rainy day. Shane ordered fillet steak with potatoes, beans and a mushroom cream sauce. My small taste of it was delicious. Lucy ordered a well-presented confit duck leg with Puy lentils, snow peas, and an orange glaze. I didn't taste this one, so take my assessment with a grain of salt when I say that the lentils looked overcooked.
I would be remiss not to talk about the wine we drank, which was a 2004 Skillogalee Shiraz. One of the great things about eating at a winery is that while you wait for your food to come you can duck into the cellar door to taste the various wines on the list before choosing one bottle to bring back to the table. In a restaurant I never know how to pair a wine I've never tasted with a meal I've never tasted, so this was a big step forward.
Skillogalee is a renowned restaurant in a great winery on a hillside in the Clare Valley. You can't get much better than that.
Skillogalee Restaurant (website)
Sevenhill, South Australia