Before the days of DMs or online reservations, the most efficient way to book a restaurant or event was by phone. One day in 2015 I called Fino in Seppeltsfield in the Barossa and asked to speak directly with Sharon Romeo as I had a unique event to plan and needed it to be good enough.
“I would like to make a reservation, for around 200 people. We’ll need roaming drinks and canapes and a grazing table of epic proportions. And one more thing: their Royal Highnesses the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge will be coming as well. “
When asked to throw a party that showcases the best of SA’s regional produce to members of the Royal Family, you have to get it right.
And that day, Fino really set up a gap that was fit for a (future) king.
It was right after half of Fino’s story. Their adventure began in a converted cottage in Willunga in 2006, then moved to the storefront cellars of Seppeltsfield. The next step for Romeo, along with his business partner and chef David Swain, was a spot in Adelaide’s CBD in addition to Operation Barossa. It opened just before the pandemic upset hospitality.
Today, Fino Vino feels like the jewel in the crown for the duo, where everything from the layout to the food is carefully thought out. There is nothing stuffy or majestic about this place, however. He has heat. And that’s not just the case when you’re sitting on the open kitchen bench a few feet from the glowing embers of the Konro grill. They found materials and furnishings that reflect the different landscapes of the state. Ocher leather slingback chairs compete for attention against exposed brick walls; there are stone counters from Flinders Ranges and wooden table tops carefully hewn from SA lumber.
And, of course, the food is just as carefully designed. With a philosophy that sits squarely between sustainability and flavor, Swain is known for its ability to turn the leanest of fresh ingredients into a dish.
The first is far from lean: the red tuna, presented in the form of silky pieces associated with splinters of fennel and radish coated in a fermented pepper glaze that brings just a little balanced heat to this otherwise delicately dish. fragrant. The fresh sprouted lentils offer a woody flavor and a slight crunch, and a light hand has been used to season the combination of ingredients that really speak for themselves.
We quickly move on to a sizzling bowl of school shrimp swimming in another chili infused sauce. This time the garlic acts as the main source of flavor, soaking up the shellfish with their heads and tails. Homemade focaccia has charred edges and a chewy center that works like a sponge to absorb the liquid that has developed into flavor when the remaining shrimp reach room temperature.
A cutaway smoked quail featured on a grated, lightly marinated kohlrabi is next and, with such small appendages, we use our fingers to remove the juicy flesh from each small portion. With crispy skin and a succulent center, this has the satisfaction of a much more meaty dish. Next, two whiting fillets rest on a bed of lightly caramelized leek and cook until translucent. The barely blanched peas add sweetness and a bit of spice is brought in thanks to the closely spaced dill sprouts.
Then we are surprised by the kofta – a lamb dish recommended by the staff. Many versions of this lamb meatball rolled on a stick that I have tried have been disappointing or dry, but not at Fino. Their recipe has obviously been well tried and tested to present the perfect version of this Middle Eastern classic. A mixture of coarsely chopped almonds and freekeh and pomegranate is topped with yogurt and a generous drizzle of olive oil; the fresh herbs combine to easily make the best dish of the day, even in the face of previous tough competition.
Last but not least, Catalan cream. It has been featured on every Fino menu since its inception. I can’t count the number of times I’ve devoured this dessert, but it’s a lot. It’s creamy and dreamy, and simply prepared. And still offers that characteristic crack as you make your way to its center.
And just like that, today’s lunchtime adventure ends – with a quick martini, then a loving farewell from the staff.
But Fino’s journey is far from over. Now it’s very clear that they’ve taken everything they’ve learned over the years and brought it together in this neat and intimate space. They might not expect royal visits to this place, but they will certainly welcome you. I know I’m looking forward to the next time I get the chance to slip into their DMs.
82 Flinders Street, Adelaide
(08) 8232 7919
Tuesday – 6 p.m. to 10 p.m.
Wednesday – 12 p.m. to 10 p.m.
Thursday – 12 p.m. to 10 p.m.
Friday – 12 p.m. – 10 p.m.
Saturday 6 p.m. – 10 p.m.
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This article is supported by the Judith Neilson Institute for Journalism and Ideas.