In a wine region often referred to as Australia’s ‘other red centre’, country South Australia collides with Europe in a classic dining experience.

Story By Gretel Sneath

Pipers of Penola is tucked away at the end of a long road bustling with gourmet travellers but, for chef Simon Bowen, it’s more like the road less travelled. After several years working in the US followed by a rewarding stint at Alla Wolf-Tasker’s celebrated Lake House in Daylesford, Vic, this son of a winemaker headed home to the Limestone Coast six years ago to start his own food venture. He made an offer on a business that wasn’t even on the market and, when the owner agreed to sell, it was clearly meant to be.
The restaurant Simon now operates with his Californian wife Erika is just minutes from the Coonawarra winery where he was raised, and he relishes that sense of familiarity. “While I was away I really missed it here and, for us as first-time business operators, it was a wise decision to come home and work and have that family support – especially with a young family of our own,” he says. “And how can you go wrong with Coonawarra?”
Pipers has become the perfect platform to showcase the Bowens’ talents in the kitchen and the vineyard, but Simon and Erika have taken it several steps further, offering a full European-style dining experience with white linen, fine china and attentive table service. “We offer it because it’s a really nice way to eat food and enjoy it,” Erika says. “It creates an atmosphere that provides the best food and wine experience you can have.”
The menu’s strong European influence, however, has been married with a decidedly regional flavour. “We work with our environment and what we can get down here – what’s local, what’s in season, what’s good,” Simon says. “At the moment I’m loving yabbies from the freshwater springs just outside Penola. We steam them and serve them in their own bisque with a Parisian-style gnocchi, horseradish peas and basil foam. We also go through heaps of wagyu from Mayura Station in Millicent – people can’t get enough of it and I’m not surprised because it’s the best wagyu beef I’ve tasted.”

This story excerpt is from Issue #89

Outback Magazine: June/July 2013