On the face of it, The Summertown Aristologist is a restaurant that acts as a showcase for the wines of Anton van Klopper (Lucy Margaux) and Jasper Button (Commune of Buttons). But it’s a lot more than that. A whole lot more. Van Klopper sat on the lease of an old shop on Greenhhill Road for four years, until his ideas cohered, and the right partners revealed themselves. Button and former Orana manager Aaron Fenwick eventually joined Van Klopper as owners.
What makes The Summertown Aristologist so unique is the depth of commitment to its core principles. Principles that appear uneconomic in the extreme. But making big dollars was never the aim here, far from it. Every single decision is based around balance, around harmony, around the handcrafted over the mass produced. One need only look at the fittings, fixtures and flatware to see the level of bespoke detail. This philosophy floods through every aspect of the business, with the restaurant only open three days a week, both to provide genuine work/life balance, as well as allowing time to carefully tend and rear produce on a micro-level to supply the restaurant, with the aim of one day being self-sufficient.
This balance is seen again in Tom Campbell and Ethan Eadie’s ever-evolving menu, with a strong focus on vegetables, supported by some sustainable seafood and ethically reared meat. “The menu is produce driven. We are solely dictated by what is in the garden,” says Eadie. “We look to the patch to write the menu. It’s challenging but extremely rewarding.”
All produce is organic, with local farmers supplementing what they don’t farm themselves. Everything else is made in-house, from salumi and charcuterie to butter, to bread from house-milled flour, to… well, plenty of wine. And while Van Klopper and Button wines are all on offer – as well as Fenwick’s somewhat newer Château Comme Ci, Comme Ça label – they occupy a fraction of the 250–300-strong list, which captures the best of like-minded producers of the Adelaide Hills, as well as those from around the world.
There’s no mistaking the wine philosophy here, with the selection following on from Van Klopper and Button’s own practices. But, just in case there’s any doubt: “Winemakers committed to 100% organic fruit, producing wine without filtering, fining or heat treatment and minimal sulphur additions (<20ppm) and preferably none – ‘vin nature’.”
While it’s not unusual to catch one or all of the owners at the restaurant, you can pin them down (well, at least one of them) between 3–7pm on any given Friday to taste through all their wines and shoot the breeze – it’d be somewhat “rare not to drift into a philosophical tangent.
Whether or not The Summertown Aristologist can shift the culture of how restaurants operate or not (a stated aim) is yet to be seen, but it shimmers as a very real platonic ideal of what a restaurant can be.
COVID-19 conditions: The Summertown Aristologist pivoted during the national lockdown to selling their own vegetables in produce boxes, as well as collection of rare wine, which were eagerly taken up by the thirsty local winemaking community. “We shifted gear pretty quickly. The day the shutdown was announced the team met up at the farm to make a plan. It was always a dream to be able to sell our vegetables to the community and now we had the opportunity to make it happen,” says restaurant manager Sarah Feehan. “While the vegetables boxes are on a winter pause (with a planned return), the restaurant is back and running with slightly trimmed hours, but Feehan says it’s been their busiest winter yet.