A couple imported from the Hunter Valley has rejuvenated Clare’s dining scene with a restaurant and wine bar that showcases the best of regional dining and good ol’ country hospitality.
There was a time your Clare adventure would end in the late afternoon when the last of the regional wineries closed their cellar doors and your evening dining options were limited. That time was before Seed opened its doors in 2015.
Part restaurant, part gin-lounge and wine bar, Seed has put this sleepy wine
town on the gastronomic map. Located in what was a historic chaff mill, Seed’s interior is a rustic-yet-contemporary mix of stone, timber and steel. Owner-operators Candice Leighton (front of house) and Guy Parkinson (chef), visited Clare on a holiday and later returned to set up their restaurant and wine bar. And it’s proven to be a hit with locals and visitors alike, as Clare residents line the bar and crowd around the corner fire while the restaurant is filled with visitors dining on regional fare.
Seed takes the local and seasonal movements seriously, with familiar brands like Pangkarra Foods, Nelshaby Capers and produce from Eagle Spirit farm featuring on the menu. The wine list has a much broader geographical focus than the food with little-known internationals on the list as well as drinks from around the country. This is a daring, yet welcome move after a day of sampling Clare Valley wines.
On the gin list are South Australian favourites such as Applewood Distillery and Adelaide Hills Distillery. We skip the local gin for something from Sydney. Poured from the prettiest of gin vessels, Distillery Botanica is made with ingredients sourced from the Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney and is expertly matched with sprigs of fresh thyme and a generous splash of Fever-Tree Indian tonic in a drink that sets the flavour-fuelled tone for the night.
Whisked from a conversation with locals at the bar to our table, we opt to let the Seed team order for us with the four-course $59 shared Seed Table menu. House-made ciabatta with cultured jersey cream butter, is quickly followed by an opening dish of jersey ricotta gnocchi. Each cloud-like pillow of gnocchi is topped with a sliver of oyster mushroom that adds earthiness to this dreamy, creamy dish with thanks to a delightful parmesan and ‘pine nettle’ custard.
Wood-grilled octopus displays a charred exterior and a juicy, tender interior with tentacles arranged between a series of blackened accompaniments of corn, garlic and black pudding. The highlight dish of the night. Another high point is the service. The casual-yet-refined approach demonstrates what Seed offers in this typical country setting, Leighton and Parkinson haven’t arrived to change things, only to improve the local experience.
The next dish is a lightly-roasted cauliflower that retains some crunch among a warm winter salad of sorts, featuring a healthy and rustic combination of grains, seeds and nuts. This is a delicate and nicely-balanced dish despite its heartiness, and is the perfect opening act to the main course.
Half-a-coal roasted duck showcases the best of a seasonal winter feast, with confit beets and fennel, chard and balsamic. This is a generous challenge of a dish to get through, especially with a side of roasted Brussels sprouts combined with almonds, honey and mint, topped with a giant dollop of house-made crème fraiche that melts into the dish.
Winter well and truly sets in with dessert: an icy bruleed lemon chiboust topped with lemon thyme mascarpone and slivers of candied lemon that offer mouth-puckering tartness. A dark chocolate fondant warms us back up, with caramelised white chocolate and macadamia mousse. Dessert is a song of ice and fire, if you will.
Honest, hearty and pleasant. Seed epitomises the charms of country dining.
Seed Winehouse + Kitchen
308 Main North Road, Clare
Tuesday to Saturday, 5pm to late
Photography: Sia Duff