Join world-class chefs for a feast in the olive trees

Even during the Murray River flood recovery, the incredible tastes available from our local producers, artisans and boutique dining outlets are still being dished up on a visit to the Murray River, Lakes and Coorong.

And it seems that some of Australia’s best chefs agree, as they look to come together at Mypolonga again this month, following a phenomenal feast amongst the grove at multi-award-winning Rio Vista Olives. The chefs will visit as one of two huge events this year (March and May) which puts our local produce on centre stage to the rest of the world!

So if you love food, and you’re thinking of planning a trip to support Murray River operators  – then take the recommendation from chefs like Mark Best and Joel Bickford – and make it this autumn to coincide with one of the most prestigious events on the globally-acclaimed Tasting Australia program.

So while the chefs will get their own private event on site, even better in 2023 is the chance for the rest of us to share the same iconic experience, with a publicly ticketed Tasting Australia event at Rio Vista Olives coming this May (grab your tickets here).

Food magic among the groves

Off the back of a hugely successful, 7-course long lunch in 2022, Rio Vista Olives is bringing back a contingent of world-leading chefs to their grove this month.

Hosted again at Rio Vista Olives grove at Mypolonga, the event is the brainchild of the brilliant brother and sister duo Jared Bettio and Sarah Asciutto, who dreamed of bringing the world into their farm for a ‘soil to oil’ experience, where people could see the harvest and learn about the extraction of the oil. This dream turned into something bigger than just the oil, incorporating other emerging produce from the region – including buffalo meat and cheese, locally-caught carp, Coorong mullet and other exceptional South Australian produce.

So if you love food, and you’re thinking of planning a trip to support Murray River operators  – then take the recommendation from chefs like Mark Best and Joel Bickford – and make it this autumn to coincide with one of the most prestigious events on the globally-acclaimed Tasting Australia program.

In 2022, food was cooked up by internationally acclaimed chef and TV personality Jason Roberts, alongside his expert friends Elisa Pietrantonio and Nick Bergin (Mercato). Now for the 2023 event (to be held on Saturday, 6 May), the chef line-up in charge, includes some of the world’s best, with names such as Mark Best, Paul Farag and a returning Jason Roberts.

What we especially love about the Rio Vista event at Mypolonga (about a 70-minute drive from Adelaide), is it’s not just about eating the food, but learning about it too. Guests will have the opportunity to interact with the chefs, while enjoying the journey of cooking food prepared out in the open, over the fire. A sommelier-led tasting and grove tour will take you behind the scenes to see how extra virgin olive oil is created. Here, you’ll learn about different flavour profiles, how to pair it with food, and what to look out for when buying oil. After this, you’ll sit down to enjoy tastes of the region – prepared like never before – and with South Australian wine pairings and a sample bottle of Rio Vista Olive Oil that you can take home.

On the menu you’ll find handmade buffalo mozzarella – using local buffalo milk, pickled yellow eyed Mullet – local again, with carp larb, yes you guessed it, local carp. Local apricots will feature in the braised goat dish, with a kataifi dessert boasting local pomegranate, figs and honey.

If you’re keen to enjoy a day amongst the groves, then grab your tickets here (and you can even add on a bus transfer from the Adelaide Convention Centre too!).

Make a weekend of it

While the Rio Vista event will take up most of your Saturday, why not stay the entire weekend, or even make it a long weekend for you and your favourite foodie friends?

There are plenty of options when it comes to accommodation along the Murray River, from budget-conscious beds, to the more lavish and luxurious.

While you also might be wondering where to stay: the good news is that there are still plenty of options (even though others are still in flood recovery).

River Shack Rentals still has a large selection of river-side properties to choose from, from a 12-person executive stay at Sunnyside to a Marina Way shack at Mannum Waters. Some of these overnighters have the best views of this natural flooding event, that you’ll see in your lifetime.

Just north of Mypolonga, there’s also the gorgeous new glamping tents from Reedy Creek Retreat that overlook the river and its backwaters, and offer luxury with a touch of nature for those keen to relax in style.

To get even closer to the river, you could stay ON the river, with some houseboats set to be up and running again during the event.

The Houseboat Hirers Association (HHA) has a large number of houseboats on their books, while Mannum’s Unforgettable fleet has plenty of options, Wow Houseboats is ready to take cruisers again and the smaller River Wrens are a cute way to stay too. Your best bet is to check with these operators as to the availability of houseboats (as things change regularly at the moment as water recedes), with local departure points at Mannum and Murray Bridge.

Of course, if you’re looking for something on solid ground, we’ve got the award-winning Bridgeport Hotel, which overlooks the river and twin bridges in Murray Bridge, new cabins at the Murray Bridge Motor Inn, the Oval Motel or the Murray Bridge Marina cabins … to name a few.

Eat local, eat well

Because we’re all partial to great tastes, you can’t leave the region without trying some of the best foods on offer.

If you’re already familiar with Mypolonga (our own local food bowl), make sure you pick up a selection of local fruits and produce from the open-air grocer at Farm Fresh Markets in Murray Bridge. Priding itself on local produce and service, Farm Fresh stocks fresh fruit, vegetables, bread, oils, sweets, baked goods, smallgoods, meals, flowers and more, with goodies from some of our favourites – Woodlane Orchards, Aussie Apricots and Paradise Hill Honey to name a few.

You can also get some of your favourite local products from the gift shop at the redeveloped Monarto Safari Park – an easy detour on your return trip to Adelaide from the region and providing award-winning wild experiences.

For a menu that boasts local produce, enjoy a meal at the Bridgeport Hotel. The Coorong mullet is a favourite on the classics menu, with food and wine sourced from locals such as Thomas Foods Incorporated, Bremerton Wines and Rio Vista Olives – yes Rio Vista again! Find a seat on the terrace and let their friendly staff handle the rest.

The 1924 River Tavern is exactly as its name suggests, a fabulous tavern on the river. The Coorong mullet features several times on the menu, as does Murray Valley pork, with a cute kids’ menu featuring meals called I Don’t Know, Leave Me Alone, and I’m Not Hungry!

Tailem Bend’s most famous coffee shop Little Local Co has opened in Murray Bridge, with not only the best coffee, but the yummiest of pastries – so make sure you pop a visit into your itinerary for some of the best coffee and sweet treats in SA.

Mannum’s Looove Cheese is also a must, not only does the boutique cheese shop stock an extraordinarily large selection of cheeses – including LaVera and Woodside Cheese Wright’s which uses local buffalo milk – but it offers gourmet cheese platters, perfect for a river cruise or picnic.

While you’re in Mannum, just down the road is the new Roylancer Distillery Co. Drop-in to sample brothers Robert and Benjamin Roylancer’s fine work, producing unique riverside craft spirits vodka and whiskey.

If you’re up for some extra travel, then you can also pencil in a trip to the Swan Reach Hotel for some of the most iconic river dining views you’ll ever see!

The wines and good times continue on down in Langhorne Creek. Well known for its varietal hero the Cabernet Sauvignon, the region has also become an incubator for varietals new to SA. Kimbolton Wines is attracting great numbers with both its wine, events and rooftop bar. While Bremerton Wines’s recent expansion, gins and delicious lunch menu is perfect for all ages. Our other picks are Lake Breeze (great for events), Angas Plains Wines, Rusticana, WindSong Wines, Vineyard Road and the historic Bleasdale Wines.

For those with the time and budget, some other local food and nature-based experiences we’d recommend also include a specialised tour with Juggle House Experiences or a fishing adventure in the Coorong with Coorong Wildside Tours.

So, when booking your Tasting Australia ticket, don’t forget to extend your visit to include more local produce for a weekend of gastronomic delights!

For more things to do, see and eat, visit the Murray River, Lakes & Coorong’s website.