Kangaroo Island’s new experiential dining experience is a sensory journey through 40,000 years with food as the guide. Tuck in you will love it.
2021: a year when most of us wish we could travel back in time to a world where the C-word meant something else entirely. Perhaps you yearn for the naive innocence of the 50s, the Flock-of-Seagulls-heavy frolics of the 80s, or you’d just like to experience the simplicity of the 1800s?
If you’re Nick Hannaford, the South Australian hospitality industry identity behind Lifetime Private Retreats, Kangaroo Island’s luxury accommodation, you don’t bother zeroing in on any particular decade.
Instead you simply say, “Book a trip to Kangaroo Island and let me take you on a journey through time, a gastronomic adventure that will dip you in and out of key points between the present day (okay, 2019, if you will) all the way back to when our First Nations peoples arrived on the island more than 16,000 years ago.”
The journey back-in-time event, The Feast, is best described as a ‘progressive dining adventure inspired by the stars, ancient cooking techniques, and a few stories to be told.’
Keen to connect diners with Kangaroo Island’s spectacular landscape as well as our country’s gastronomic history, Hannaford is as committed to delivering lashings of theatre and suspense as he is to showcasing the island’s produce.
“The first course– provided it’s not too cold and the stars are out – might be nibbles around the fire, each taste referencing First Nations foods, and this would be followed by a short walk to a secret venue built by the early settlers.
We would enjoy the next course that would be a nod to the ‘damper and cast iron pot’ style of cooking of that era,” Hannaford explains. Moving into post-war ‘steak and three veg’, creative interpretations are required and happily utilised, adds Hannaford.
“We’ll be doing a fun, whimsical take on what was overcooked broccoli and cooked-until-grey steak, but it’s when multiculturalism boomed that we can really go to town, with the next course highlighting the works of Margaret Fulton and how she changed the way we ate.” Add to that the final course – a fire pit feast cooked over coals – and you’ve got approximately four magical hours of time travelling fun.
It goes without saying that there’s no better (metaphorical) DeLorean for your journey; Hannaford not only grew up on Kangaroo Island, but has a wealth of experience in designing and staging events, catering for everyone from princes and heads of state to celebrity royalty.
His business Gastronomo scouts incredible dining sites and venues around the South Australian wilderness to treat guests to a gourmet adventure that marries local culture and landscape with spectacular produce and theatre.
After first kicking off in December 2020 with the popular The Enchanted Fig Tree (more on that later), this is a way of dining Hannaford says will endure.
“Now, more than ever, people want opportunities to connect with the land, with locals and with their dining companions,” he explains. “We’re not creating a restaurant but delivering an experience that pushes boundaries and takes people out of their comfort zones, just for a few hours.”
So where exactly will the dinner be held, and who will be the chef for the occasion?
Certainly, Hannaford’s property on Snellings Beach– as well as various elements notable to the property – will play an important role. The always-changing menu leans on local produce as much as possible, and The Feast will feature the best Kangaroo Island and South Australian wines, which guests can purchase on top of the food experience package ($145). Happily, Kangaroo Island Spirits is a partner, offering a creatively crafted welcome cocktail (included) to serve as the starter gun for the evening’s entertainment.
Transport is also taken care of, thanks to SeaLink, who is on board as a travel partner, offering two-day/one night Kangaroo Island & The Feast Weekend Escape Self Drive Packages, as well as SeaLink Return Shared Coach Transfers from Penneshaw or Kingscote to The Feast.
Outside of these key facts, Hannaford remains coy about what guests should expect. “When we have preconceived notions of what we’re about to experience, that affects how we perceive things, and we’d love for our guests to come into this with nothing but healthy lashings of curiosity… and an appetite.”
Not sure if time travel is for you? You’ll be pleased to know The Enchanted Fig Tree is back for another season from 16 December 2021, inviting guests to dine within the colossal gnarled limbs and shimmering leaves of a 120-year-old fig tree. While the experiential, multi-course concept is the same, offering what could be dishes – or a drink – at the property’s mulberry tree and another bite elsewhere, such as the rustic shearing shed, before moving on to dine in the sun-dappled “rooms” of The Enchanted Fig Tree, guests can look forward to a refreshed (and secret) new menu.
Previously Hannaford has explained it as “best described as a fantastical feast encompassing sea, land and earth, and whether you’ll be enjoying the courses seated, standing or upside down is anyone’s guess”.
So go ahead and let 2021 play out on the mainland. You can exist in an alternate (and ultimately far superior) reality just off the coast of South Australia. What are you waiting for?
The Feast is open for two weeks each month from Thursday to Monday, from 14 October 2021 until 29 November 2021.The Enchanted Fig Tree ($155) is open Thursdays to Mondays from 16 December 2021 until 4 April 2022.
For more information, head here.