South Australia diary, day 7

Wednesday, 13 May, 2015. 09:33

We have woken up to a fine and sunny morning in Hahndorf, but very cold. We walked out to Cafe Assiette for breakfast. They had muesli on the menu, served with fresh banana, yogurt, and local honey. M. asked if she could have something substituted for her banana, and they said would strawberries be okay. M. said yes, and the other serving (mine) would be fine with banana. Then the lady said they didn’t have banana this morning! The fruit choices were strawberry or fig. M. asked for strawberry on both, but when they came they both had both strawberries and figs. Which was good, because I preferred the figs, and we did a swap. The muesli was really good, and the honey was a bit spicy which went well with it when mixed in with the yoghurt.

Muesli at Cafe Assiette
Muesli at Cafe Assiette.

On the way back we popped into a chemist to buy some sunglasses for me, after I lost my pair somewhere yesterday. I got a cheap pair, which M. says looks almost the same as my other pair.


We are sitting in front of a fireplace in The Barn at McLaren Vale, a wine bar and restaurant which does tapas dishes for dinner.

After returning from breakfast and checking out of our motel this morning, we walked out through the eastern end of Hahndorf’s main street to the Beerenberg Strawberry Farm, which was just a few hundred metres past the last house. It was good to walk a bit, as we haven’t been doing much walking on this trip so far. The weather was very cold, and once again intermittently sunny and rainy as a brisk wind blew patchy cloud cover across the sky. We were mostly fortunate though, as our walks corresponded mostly to clear breaks.

Beerenberg jams
Jams at Beerenberg Strawberry Farm.

As we approached the strawberry farm shop, M. suddenly said she smelt meat pies. I sniffed the air and there was the unmistakeable smell of tomato sauce, which I stated. We laughed over how to M. that smell is associated with meat pies. Either way, it was very strange, and we wondered where it was coming from.

We walked into the strawberry farm shop, which was a middling sized room full of a huge range of jams, marmalades, mustards, chilli sauces, chocolate sauces, marinades, and so on. At the far end of the room was a large window with a view into a manufacturing and bottling area, where three or four men we busy at work in clean suits and hairnets, doing things with huge stainless steel vats and machines. A sign on the window said, “Today we are making: tomato sauce”. Aha! That’s why the air outside smelt like tomato sauce from a hundred metres or more away.

Beerenberg factory
Making tomato sauce!

We browsed the goods and a friendly lady helped us by giving us tasting samples of several jams: caramelised fig, fig and cinnamon, fig and almond, pear and vanilla. I also tasted a couple of mustards: an American hot dog mustard, which was really sweet and tomatoey, and a chilli mustard which was incredibly hot. We didn’t buy anything, but I asked if we could order their stuff online, and the the lady gave us a business card with the web address and said we could order anything shipped. I will probably do so next time we run out of jams at home, and get a job lot of jams and sauces all at once.

We walked back into Hahndorf and all the way through to the far end where we checked out the Udder Delights cheese outlet. A guy there gave us tastes of three cheeses: a goat’s cheese with the rind soaked in red wine, a triple cream Brie, and a mild blue cheese, which was really good. Again, being cheeses, we didn’t buy any but I got a card for their website to look up stockists in Sydney.

Heysen path
Path to The Cedars.

From there we walked back to our car and drove out of Hahndorf a bit to The Cedars, which is the old home of Hans Heysen, one of Australia’s best known and most renowned landscape artists. The house is still in his family, and they run it as an attraction with guided tours of the house interior, and self-guided tours of his studio and gardens. The next guided tour was at 13:00, about an hour and a half away, so we settled for the studio and gardens ticket, which was $5 each.

The first stop was Heysen’s studio, a single room building a short walk from the house, situated midway up a hill slope and surrounded by pine trees. Inside were several original works of Heysen’s, mostly charcoal studies and ink drawings, but a couple of paintings as well. There was also a lot of old equipment: paints, brushes, pastels, charcoal, easels, paper, bottles of turpentine and linseed oil, and so on. The sketches were amazing, very detailed and lifelike, primarily of countryside scenes and farming life around Hahndorf in the early 20th century. There was the original charcoal sketch he made for his most famous painting, Droving Into the Light, next to a print of the oil painting. The sketch was as detailed as the painting, and very close in form to the oil, but differed in some tiny details, such as the angle of a sheep’s head here or there.

The Cedars
The Cedars.

Outside the studio and house were the gardens, which formed part of a property of 150 acres. Most of that was unlandscaped, though, and a relatively modest section was landscaped and planted with flowers and European trees. These were turning all sorts of colours in the late autumn and the garden was incredibly beautiful. We peeked inside a few of the windows of the house as well, but didn’t see much in there. The garage on the other side of the house from studio housed a vintage Model A Ford car which must have dated from the early 1900s and was presumably owned by Heysen himself. It was in good condition and had a current registration.

The gift shop had plenty of prints and posters and cards of Heysen’s work, as well as a room full of stuff by his daughter Nora Heysen, who was an accomplished artist herself. One corner of the gift shop building contained an antique sewing machine placed at a window, and near it was a card showing a painting by Hans of his wife, sitting at that every window, sewing with the exact same machine, sitting in the exact chair that was still sitting there now, and also with the same curtains on the window. It was almost uncanny, seeing that painting, painted in 1913, and the scene was really there in front of our eyes, only missing Heysen’s wife.

Old Ford
Model A Ford, owned by Hans Heysen.

Leaving The Cedars, we returned to Hahndorf for lunch at Otto’s Bakery. This had looked good when we walked past yesterday. I had a sausage roll and vanilla slice, while M. chose the spinach roll. The spinach roll was huge, twice the width such rolls normally are. The sausage roll was disappointing, but the vanilla slice was good. We both decided to have something else, and I chose a beef and mushroom pie, which was much better than the sausage roll, and M. got a nut slice, which had whole nuts held together by a thin layer of chocolate/caramel sticky stuff.

After eating ourselves full, we returned to the car to drive to McLaren Vale. This was a fairly short drive, as we drove through Echunga, Meadows, and Willunga. We stopped in Willunga to walk up and down the short main street. We popped into a jewellery/artist co-op shop, where a lady was working on some silver behind the counter as we browsed. I bought M. a pair of silver butterfly earrings which the lady had made. Further up we checked out a glassworks, where the artist was busy in his workshop area behind the display room. He had some good stuff, but we resisted the urge to spend more.

Leconfield cellar door
Leconfield winery cellar door.

We continued towards McLaren Vale, stopping at the Leconfield winery because we recognised the name as we drove past. We tasted some wines and had a chat with the friendly staff there. They had a nice lightly oaked Chardonnay, and of course the Merlot was good. They also had a tawny port which was very light, with honey and spice flavours almost like a Tokay, rather than raisiny like most ports. We didn’t buy anything though, as the things being delivered to us are mounting up! The lady recommended some places for dinners and lunches, suggesting The Barn, right across from our motel, for a relatively light tapas dinner.

We drove into McLaren Vale and found a room at the motel. The guy quoted us a rate and we said two nights, then he realised he didn’t have a standard room for two nights and upgraded us to a deluxe spa room for two nights at the quoted rate! So we have a very nice room indeed.

Before checking out The Barn, we walked up and down the length of the main road to see all of the shops and potential breakfast venues. It’s a long street and the businesses are very spread out, often with residential houses in between small clumps of shops. So it took a while to walk up and back.

Wine cellar, The Barn
Wine cellar at The Barn.

We returned to The Barn, where the menu looks good, so we are now sitting here enjoying a glass of wine by the fireplace before ordering some food. The plan is for a relaxing evening spending a few hours here before heading back to the motel.


I had a local Sauvignon Blanc, which is much more fruity and less herbaceous than typical varieties from New Zealand for example. M. tried a Shiraz and said it was good, spicy without being too tannic. After these wines we ordered dinner. I chose the special of the day, which was a confit duck with mandarin sauce, kipfler potatoes, and enoki mushrooms, while M. assembled a vege dinner out of two side dishes: baked cauliflower with cheddar cheese, and heirloom carrots, asparagus, and broccolini. I had a Pinot Noir with the duck, and it was a bit strange, with a herby character and dark cherry and even tomato flavours, rather than the light raspberry or strawberry I would expect. It went okay with the duck, which was acceptable, without being brilliant. M. enjoyed her vegetables. I declined to even look at a dessert menu after all the rich food we’ve been having, contenting myself with a chocolate frog back in our motel room.

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