• Willunga General Store (Ainsley's Market Menu)Source: Ainsley's Market Menu
Willunga is a sleepy South Australian town, 40 minutes from Adelaide on the Fleurieu Peninsula, slowly emerging as a go-to for gourmands.
By
Johnny von Einem

8 Oct 2019 - 3:45 PM  UPDATED 14 Oct 2019 - 1:17 PM

Willunga doesn’t actually grow much produce, chair of the Willunga Farmers Market, Pip Forrester, tells SBS Food, but it is building a reputation for itself as a food, wine and fresh produce destination.

As the weekly Market’s bell is rung, right on 8am every Saturday morning, the sleepy South Australian township bursts to life with foragers from near and far, and there are an increasing number of reasons to stay beyond market hours, for breakfast, coffee, lunch, dinner, drinks, and a cheeky pastry in between.

“A market can change food culture. It makes people much more aware of what’s in season, what’s around, and they can learn as they go about how to cook it, and how to grow it even.”

Forrester arrived in the Fleurieu Peninsula from Sydney in the mid-‘70s, and in 1988 she bought McLaren Vale restaurant the Salopian Inn. At that time, she recalls, Willunga had a pub, a restaurant and little else. But since the Farmers Market was established in 2002, Willunga’s culinary identity has slowly emerged.

“I see every year there’s another little business opened up,” she says.

“A few little new shops have opened up recently or are about to open up, so I’d love to see Willunga continue to grow in an organic, sustainable way.

“A market can change food culture. It makes people much more aware of what’s in season, what’s around, and they can learn as they go about how to cook it, and how to grow it even.”

There are a tonne of great reasons to eat your way around the township, but to get you started we’ve collected just eight.

Local produce, music, coffee and hot meals are all waiting.

1. Willunga Farmers Market

There’s no better place to start your Saturday. As the market bell rings, right on 8am, Willunga becomes the gravitational centre of the Fleurieu’s food and produce universe, with around 40 stallholders selling bread, fruits, vegetables, cheese (both dairy and plant-based), pastries, coffee, kombucha, and just about anything else your locavore heart could desire. Chat to the growers and makers, take stock of the season’s offerings, grab a coffee and a crêpe and be sure to leave with a tote full of fresh produce. 

2. Sip vino by the beach

Being in the heart of McLaren Vale, it’s no surprise to find local wine label Hither & Yon set up with a cellar door on High Street. Buy a bottle, purchase some cheese from 3 Monkeys Fine Foods next door, stop by the Willunga General Store for a loaf of pane casalinga (Italian-style white bread made by local restaurateur Andy Clappis of Our Place in reason number 5) and head down to Silver Sands for a wine and cheese sunset on the beach.

Make a weekend of it with this winery accommodation.

3. Sleep soundly by the vines at Inkwell Winery

If you’re looking for a place to crash for the night (and want to continue the cellar door vibes), Inkwell Wines has a Lego-inspired, off-grid cellar door (made of 20 shipping containers) with on-site accommodation. Gazing out over the vines under the silver moonlight from a bathtub with a view, sipping from a can of their sparkling wine is a very good way to end the day.

4. Russell’s Pizza

Every regional Australian town, great and small, has its best-loved institutional eatery and in Willunga, this is Russell’s Pizza. Russell’s has been doing wood-oven pizza Napoletana since 1993, and alongside classic Italian offerings there are wood-fired Turkish pide’s and fist-sized feta-stuffed meatballs. The pizzeria is set apart from your typical wood-fired restaurant with its Fleurieu-centric ethos and home-style service. Order a la carte if you must, but if you opt for the two- or three-course dinner option (corkage inclusive), you can eat ‘til you’re stuffed.

5. Our Place

This is the Italian Sunday family lunch you always hoped you’d be invited to. At Our Place (which is a restaurant and also owner Andy Clappis’ house), there is just one service per week, there is no menu (vegetarians and vegans are catered for), and there are 140 usually fully booked seats. Most of the produce is grown on the Clappis farm – beef, lamb, goat, eggs, chillies and herbs – all of which is only accentuated by the home restaurant’s rolling hillside views. It’s all topped off with house-made cannoli Siciliana. Perfetto.

6. The Little Rickshaw

The Little Rickshaw started as a Vietnamese pop-up restaurant selling quick-eat style meals and open only on Sundays, but now trade Friday nights through to Sunday evenings with a much broader menu. They also serve coffee and tea grown on owner Trinh Richards’ family farm back in Vietnam, and seats are very limited with just 35 in total.

7. Lot 8

Approaching Lot 8, at the fringe of the Aldinga Arts EcoVillage, there is nothing that will suggest to you that you’ve stumbled upon a restaurant. Look out for the stained glass numerical ‘8’ and you’ve found the Fleurieu’s finest Singaporean plates. Owners Francis and Eileen Tan cater to a maximum of 20 people and all the meals they prepare are based on the homesick longing they feel for the Singaporean hawker food culture. The restaurant only opens Wednesday through Friday and each week’s menu is announced via a Facebook post.

8. Four Winds

Behind Willunga’s cutest shopfront – a pale blue frontage with red and white striped awnings – sits the town’s most loved petit ganache, croissant and pain aux raisins, created by local pâtissier Wendy Ashwin. The shop only opens on Saturday mornings and sells out fast, so get in before the mass of market-goers make their way up High Street.

 

Ainsley Harriott traverses Willunga Farmers Market in episode 1 of the brand-new season of Ainsley's Australian Market Menu. Catch it at 7:30pm Thursday 10 October on SBS, catch up on SBS Food at 7:30pm Sundays, or stream on SBS On Demand. Visit the Market Menu website for recipes, the episode guide and more.

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