A grand avenue of cork-trees welcomes those seeking the casual yet refined dining experience that is St. Hugo. It is here where wine is the star and food is its stage in a tantalising show of harmony.
Elegant, marble top dining tables and classic Barossa vineyard views set the scene at the Rowland Flat restaurant which was officially opened in September, 2016.
Executive Chef, Mark McNamara moved to the Barossa 25 years ago, lured by its reputation as a fine food and wine destination.
Today he leads a team who work alongside wine makers to create menus that both surprise and delight.
“Collaboration is the cornerstone of the food experience at St Hugo,” Mark says.
“It’s always about the wine selection, we don’t set out to tell a particular food story, rather dishes evolve around individual wines, with seasonality and regionality always at the heart of every dish.”
After forty years honing his skills as a chef and gathering knowledge, Mark now finds himself as a mentor; not in a formal, structured way, but rather as someone who inspires the next generation.
“I love to share my learning with the people I interact with, customers and colleagues alike,” he says.
A chef’s table looking into the St. Hugo kitchen allows diners to witness that knowledge in action an opportunity to speak with the chefs to gain an insight into the personalities behind the plate.
Characters like Sunny Chawla, of Tanunda, who recently stepped into the role of sous chef.
A former civil engineer in his home country of India, the 32 year old father of two moved to the Barossa back in 2008 to study commercial cookery at Nuriootpa TAFE.
Sunny has fulfilled his childhood dream of becoming a chef and says he loves the way St Hugo challenges him to be creative with its focus on wine.
“It’s what makes us unique. The making of a dish for us is a totally different concept, we bring the wine out first.”
He describes the way chefs are given wines to taste alongside 70-80 ingredients to find the perfect flavour combination.
Sourcing local produce is always a priority and whilst the choice of protein is important, it is the final piece in creating a menu.
“They might give us a Shiraz and we have no idea what dish is going to go with that unless we try it with every ingredient to find what works best,” says Sunny.
“We always do what the wine tells us to do.”
Bringing his team together in a united force of creativity is what Sunny says is his strength in the kitchen.
On his days off, he enjoys a round of golf at Tanunda Golf Club and spends Wednesdays at Impact Church volunteering as a barista.
“I take my kids there, they have a play and I make maybe 50 to 60 coffees in a day!
“It just gives me some relaxation…I’m doing something for someone else rather than sitting around at home doing nothing.
“It’s fun and I am giving a little of myself to the community.”
And fun seems to be an integral part of the St. Hugo team.
Chef de partie, Giles Hussey, of Nuriootpa says keeping up morale in the kitchen is his specialty.
“I’m usually the Dad jokes guy, the one making puns,” he laughs.
Giles is behind their appropriately named “Guaca – bowly” night lawn bowls team who take to the green during Summer months. He’s also the one growing his moustache as an avid fundraiser for Mow-vember, a men’s health initiative.
This camaraderie is a powerful ingredient as chefs work to produce the ultimate wine and dining experience.
“We want to showcase what we are doing in Barossa’s backyard,” he says.
“We are only five minutes down the road from Tanunda. With most of us living in the Barossa, you probably even know us. Have a wander, have a peak!”
This same enthusiasm is in abundance in the team’s youngest chef, Hayley Kavanagh.
Fresh out of her apprenticeship, the 22 year old started out at Jacob’s Creek before being offered a position at St Hugo.
“At this point in your career, you do get comfortable but you have to think how you are going to grow as a person and how you are going to grow as a chef , so I took it!” she says.
“I’ve learnt so much. It is so good to work in a kitchen that is so diverse.”
“If you love wine and food and want to come and experience something different, take the leap and come see what we are doing. I think people will be very surprised.” – Hayley Kavanagh
Fresh new ideas and youthful exuberance is what Hayley brings to the kitchen and she thrives on the creativity.
“This whole process we work with, I have never seen before.
“It’s very different but it’s great because you come up with these dishes. They might have seen a version of it, but it’s not going to be like anyone else’s because of the way we structure our menu,” explains Hayley.
She encourages food and wine lovers to discover St. Hugo, which took out four prestigious awards in 2017 including the Gourmet Traveller Wine Australia’s Cellar Door with Best Food award; two South Australian Tourism awards and a silver award for best new regional restaurant in Australia.
“If you love wine and food and want to come and experience something different, take the leap and come see what we are doing. I think people will be very surprised.”
BOOK YOUR TABLE TODAY
Get in touch with the local team at St Hugo’s restaurant…
PHONE 08 8115 9200
VISIT 2141 Barossa Valley Way, Rowland Flat, SA 5352