Before they even pick up a menu, diners at Mount Lofty Estate have a number of choices to make. There’s the three-hatted Hardy’s Verandah Restaurant and the more casual Arthur Waterhouse Lounge, plus a guest-only restaurant at the ultra-high-end Sequoia Lodge.
But when owner David Horbelt noticed guests’ stays increasing in length over the pandemic, he decided it wasn’t enough. The estate’s newest venue is situated on the bottom floor of Mount Lofty House, and is named after one half of the couple that originally owned the estate. Open to both guests and the public, Martha Hardy’s Kitchen is a high-end bistro with a menu that provides “a more homely dining experience than the other offerings,” says Horbelt. “It’s fine dining in an informal setting.”
In the 1850s, Arthur and Martha Hardy were famous for throwing lavish, Gatsby-esque parties at their estate, with Martha often roasting whole sides of lamb for guests, says executive chef Kaushik Aiyer. So it’s fitting that the signature dish is a hearty lamb shoulder to share between two. It’s braised for 17 hours in a fennel and red wine stock, then pressed and roasted off in the oven, and served with caramelised pumpkin puree folded with honey, confit turnips, roasted heirloom carrots and broccolini.
Broadsheet Access members get special tables at busy restaurants, tickets to exclusive events and discounts on food, coffee, brand offers and more.
Elsewhere on the menu diners will find equally filling fare, including a lamb neck roulade with crumbed sweetbread, pickled kohlrabi and sheep’s milk yoghurt; eye fillet with parsnip puree, speck and brussels sprouts; and crispy skin barramundi with prawns and a caper and potato galette.
Aiyer has previously worked at Penfold’s Magill Estate and Melbourne’s Windsor Hotel, and his affinity for French techniques shines through in many of the dishes. But, he says, “We have translated them into a more modern style of food where possible.” There are a few unexpected twists, including a nod to the signature dish at Horbelt’s other property.
At The Reef House in Port Douglas, Horbelt asked Aiyer to include a pork and scallop combo on the menu. The resulting dish features pork belly braised in master stock for 18 hours, served with seared scallops, pineapple sambal, and shallot and ginger jam. “The dish includes a lot of diverse flavours,” says the chef, “but when you try them together it’s almost like an explosion in the mouth.”
Sommelier Abhas Saxena has matched wines to each dish. The 16 by-the-glass offerings are heavy on Adelaide Hills producers, including Casa Freschi, Vinteloper and Murdoch Hill, but diners will have access to the full HVR cellar should they choose.
Situated in the former breakfast room (previously called Piccadilly Panorama), the light-filled venue has glass frontage framing uninterrupted views over the Piccadilly Valley. “When you look out the window, you can see lush green hills and green fields – it’s just beautiful,” says Aiyer. The natural landscape is echoed in golden brown furnishings and centrepieces featuring freshly picked greenery from the estate gardens.
An ambient open fireplace and al fresco dining space cater to warm and cold weather, and like the menu, the view will change with the seasons. But while it is currently the newest addition to the estate, Martha Hardy’s Kitchen might not hold that title long – there are hints of other offerings, including high tea and an outdoor oyster and champagne bar, that will be introduced over the coming summer months.
Martha Hardy’s Kitchen
Mount Lofty House, 1 Mawson Drive, Crafers
(08) 8339 6777
Daily 12pm–late (it’s also open for breakfast for in-house guests)