State of deliciousness

South Australia is a dream destination for wine and food lovers. Travel editor Winsor Dobbin visits two vastly different hotels with gourmet appeal.

Garçon Bleu, Sofitel Adelaide

There is something about a beautifully cooked French meal that instantly nourishes the soul.

The recent arrival in Adelaide of Garcon Bleu means the City of Churches now has its own little gourmet slice of France.

Garçon Bleu, on level nine of the Sofitel Adelaide in Currie Street, is a restaurant that happens to be in a hotel, rather than a hotel restaurant – and it was buzzing when I visited midweek.

The $150 million new-build hotel offers guests a selection of 251 rooms and suites with a choice of city and Adelaide Hills views, along with seriously good service – but the quality of the restaurant makes it a stand-alone destination. 

Think a casual ambience but a serious approach to classic French dishes using local produce. 

Garçon Bleu has a 90-seat dining room with an open kitchen, wine wall, and an oyster and raw seafood bar.

The wine list offers an excellent selection of French (lots of serious Burgundy temptations) and Australian labels, from favourites like Cullen and Henschke to micro producers like Ministry of Clouds and Stargazer.

Wines by the glass include labels like Shaw+Smith, Yangarra and John Duval.

It is the menu, however, that captivates.

Who could resist a light-as-air cheese souffle with bechamel sauce, mushroom velouté and pickled shimeji – an instant trip back to one the bouchons in Lyon. Tempting scallops and the terrine will have to wait until next time.

For main course, what else but classic steak frites? 

A 250-gram grass-fed Scotch fillet came with a spot-on béarnaise sauce and deliciously crunchy pommes frites. As well as sparky little vine tomatoes bursting with flavour.

Dessert choices include a tarte tatin with crème fraîche ice cream and caramel sauce, or a creme brulee, but I opted for chocolat fondant with orange segments, cocoa nibs, and chocolate mousse. The right choice, I think.

The service here is spot on and you can enjoy a three-course dinner for around $100 per head, which is great value these days given the quality of food and service.

Garcon Bleu is open Wednesday to Friday for lunch from noon and Wednesday to Sunday for dinner from 6pm. Reservations are recommended on (08) 8432 1999. See

The Watervale Hotel

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, 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 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, 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 recently 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. It is open seven days a week with all day dining 11am-9pm.

# The Watervale Hotel was last month named best restaurant in a pub or club in South Australia at the Restaurant and Catering awards, and Nicola Palmer was named Chef of the Year.


Words: Winsor Dobbin

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