A Food & Travel Blog

The Salopian Inn – Giving Gin Palaces a Good Name!

11/07/2014 | By

When once asked about her longevity, that splendid woman Julia Child attributed it to “red meat and gin”. When it came to gastronomy old Julia wasn’t wrong about much and I’m happy to take my guidance from her in these things, particularly in the case of a good drop of gin. Given there is a selection of 168 different gins at McLaren Vale’s Salopian Inn I find myself in an agony of indecision over my pre-lunch drink, faltering at the first hurdle – and this is before I’ve even glanced at the selection of hundreds of local, Australian and international wines on the most comprehensive wine list I’ve seen in some time.

But it is lunch time, after all, and I’ve got to keep myself tidy for the drive home so I turn my attention to finding out a little more about the latest hand at the tiller of a much loved piece of South Australian culinary history which is nestled amongst the vineyards of McLaren Vale. The Salopian Inn has had a place in the hearts of South Australian and Australian gastronomes since the 1980’s, when Zannie and Kerry Flanagan rescued the old 1851 inn, restoring it and installing Russell Jeavons behind the stoves. With Zannie guiding it, The Salopian was one of the very first South Australian restaurants to embrace the use of local and seasonal foods and new owner and chef, Karena Armstrong, continues on with that particular tradition – in spades.

A repatriated local South Australian, Karena’s culinary credentials are exceptional. She began her career at the Sheraton Melbourne,  completed her apprenticeship under Alla Wolfe Tasker at Daylesford’s legendary Lake House, worked alongside Karen Martini during the heyday of The Melbourne Wine Room and finessed her baking training in San Francisco.  Once she arrived home again she returned to Melbourne and worked with Greg Malouf at O’Connells, then rejoined Karen Martini as soux chef to open Icebergs and later went on to work alongside Kylie Kwong at Billy Kwong. Whew.

Karena and husband Michael eventually headed back to South Australia where she focused on her young family for a few years before taking on a new project and opening the Salopian in June 2013.  Karena has an uncompromising approach to her food and a deep commitment to the use of high quality, ethically sourced produce which she always tries to source locally.  Her commitment to this was clearly demonstrated when I enthused gushingly about her duck in masterstock which was, for me, one of the stand-out dishes of the meal. Sadly, this dish is now off the menu for the time being. It seems I had enjoyed one of the very last of the free-range, local ducks that she could get her hands on so, until she can source some more, everyone else misses out. Sorry, guys.

Karena enjoys playing with a diverse range of flavours and techniques, fusing star seasonal ingredients with various culinary traditions and her menu is supplemented with  an increasing range of her own home-grown produce. These include various greens, fresh herbs, heirloom radish and beetroots and she has just finished planting 15 different types of potatoes. Bless her – I’ve never met a spud I didn’t like.


As you all surely know, I don’t do food reviews on this blog, but I’m always happy to share a great local food story and this is definitely one that South Australia can be very proud of. It is no surprise that The Salopian Inn has been chosen as one of the featuring dining experiences for the Restaurant Australia initiative.

Karena has very generously offered to share one of her recipes with you, my lucky readers. These little dumplings will make everyone happy – vegetarians and vegans included – and Karena tells me the dressing goes brilliantly with simple steamed greens, too.

Chard Dumplings with Miso Dressing

If you don't have a mortar and pestle, a food processor will do just as nicely.
Servings: 24 pieces
Author: Karena Armstrong of The Salopian Inn


  • Miso Dressing
  • 50 g white miso paste
  • 50 g sesame seeds
  • 1 tbsp grated ginger
  • 80 ml lemon or lime juice
  • 50 ml apple cider vinegar
  • 200 ml extra virgin olive oil
  • 50 ml soy sauce

  • Dumpling Mix
  • 1 bunch rainbow chard/kale/cavlo nero
  • 1 tbsp ginger
  • pinch ground white pepper
  • 2 tbsp soy
  • ½ tsp sesame oil
  • ½ tsp sugar
  • 24 round dumpling wrappers


  • Miso Dressing
  • Place the miso in the mortar and pestle.
  • Toast the sesame seeds until golden and add whilst hot, to the miso with the ginger.
  • Pound the miso mix to a fine paste.
  • Add the lemon juice to loosen the paste and then transfer to a mixing bowl.
  • Add the vinegar, oil and soy and taste.
  • The dressing keeps for up to 7 days refrigerated.

  • Dumplings
  • Wash the greens and remove tough stems.
  • Steam the greens over boiling water for 1-2minutes. The greens should still be bright green and have texture.
  • Refresh in chilled water and then drain well.
  • Wrap the greens in a tea towel and squeeze out any extra water.
  • Finely slice the greens and then mix with the other ingredients.
  • To fold the dumplings spoon in some of the greens mixture, fold in half and seal with some water.
  • You can do some decorative pleats but just a simple half moon fold is still delicious.
  • Fill a tall sided pot with water and bring to the boil.
  • Drop the dumplings into the boiling water and cook for 2-3 minutes.
  • Remove and drain well.
  • Spoon over the miso dressing whilst the dumplings are hot and serve immediately.

The Salopian Inn

Cnr McMurtie & Main Rds., McLaren Vale Ph. (08) 8323 8769

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  1. Rachel (Rachel's Kitchen NZ)

    I love the McLaren Vale region and I am sure that we ate at The Salopian Inn once years ago – like 20 years, if not longer – and it was fabulous then so lovely to see being given a new lease of life and I will be making those dumplings – the chard here at the moment is so good, in fact I have a recipe on my blog for it today!

  2. InTolerant Chef

    This looks like my style of food indeed, and aren’t you a lucky-duck getting the last of that dish! It looks gorgeous! I really enjoy a nice gin too, my current favourite is Hendricks, it’s distilled with rose and cucumber for a subtle specialness- yummo 🙂

  3. Grant Nowell

    McLaren Vale is a brilliant area and the Salopian Inn is top shelf eating thanks to Karena.

  4. Maureen | Orgasmic Chef

    Going through the list of amazing places Karena has worked, it’s no wonder the meal was outstanding. Wow, lucky you.

  5. Linda Bibb

    Somewhere between reading that they have 168 gins and an incredible selection of wines, I decided that I must put the Salopian on our list of “must visit” places in SA. I am such a duck lover. Here’s hoping that it will be back on the menu before we arrive.

  6. Hotly Spiced

    I need to start drinking more gin! I want longevity and I think I’ve only tried about 3 of the 168. I do love the look of the duck dish and it’s a shame it’s no longer on the menu but it’s reassuring to know the reason behind it. Karena certainly does have a wealth of experience behind her xx

  7. Anna @ shenANNAgans

    I better start drinking gin, especially if Julia did. 🙂 Love the mandarin on the duck, big fan of fresh uncooked ingredients on meats etc. You seriously have some amazing food in your region, def need to plan me a little trip down your way stat. Happy weekend, and a great week ahead. Cheers, Anna

  8. Helen | Grab Your Fork

    I do like a good G&T 🙂 And wowsers, 15 types of potatoes in your garden is very impressive!

  9. Jennifer Russell

    Really looking forward to tasting the food at the Salopian Inn.