Good Gilbert is the kind of local we all wish we had, with an exciting and well-priced wine list, en pointe simple food and uber-friendly but deeply knowledgeable crew. It’s the platonic ideal of a local wine bar.
Only open three days a week, TSA is devoted to things done slowly and well, from growing their own produce, making everything in-house and matching the owners lo-fi wines with the best from near and far.
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 seasonal vegetables, supported by some sustainable seafood and ethically reared meat. “Our veggie garden is quite abundant in the warmer months and the menu lightens up as we start harvesting courgette, tomatoes, corn and beans,” says Campbell. “We grow a few types of berries in the patch and the Adelaide Hills is full of wild fruit trees waiting to be pillaged.”
All produce is organic, with local farms 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 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, Button and Fenwick’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’.”
And the owners aren’t the only grape squashers in the house, with wine buyer and restaurant manager Sarah Feehan and cellar door operator Jocelyn Mihalynu making lo-fi wine under the Parley label, while the chefs even get in on the act, making a little wine for fun at Lucy Margaux. “This innate understanding of natural wine ensures an elevated and personalised experience for guests to our restaurant and cellar door,” says Feehan.
That cellar door also allows much more scope for the casual visitor. “It gave us the ability to expand our space and offer a casual and relaxed settings for guests to pop by for a glass and a snack,” says Feehan, “think housemate sourdough with kefir cultured butter, pickles and fresh cheese. “Spring and summer is when this place really sings. Long, lazy afternoons on the terrace, under the dappled light of the birch trees, with a glass of something exquisitely refreshing.”