This place is so amazing I’m not dedicating an ‘Ear Bud Q Tip’ to it, I’m dedicating a whole blog to it! I recently had the pleasure of dining at the Watervale Hotel during a weekend getaway, and let me tell you, it was far more than just your average “pub.” From the outside it looks like your local drinking hole, little did we know we were in for a memorable experience. 


Mr Teen, is not usually that impressed, but after we left he said ‘it’s as if God created this place himself’. This was a gastronomical delight, a foodie’s paradise, but more importantly an ambient foodies’ paradise. There are small dishes and large, meat, fish, vegetarian options, as well as a good range of options for vegan and coeliac patrons. 

It’s no surprise that the Watervale Hotel has received numerous awards for its culinary excellence;

  • Best Culinary Experience in a Hotel IN THE WORLD by LUXLifes Magazine’s 2023 Travel and Tourism award.
  • Best Restaurant in a pub or club in AUSTRALIA in 2022 by the Restaurant and Caterers Association.
  • Excellence in Food Tourism Award, 2022, by the Tourism Industry Council of South Australia.
  • Chef of the Year, Nicola Palmer, 2022, Restaurant and Caterers Association.

Even the wine list at the Watervale Hotel has been nominated for awards. With a staggering 25 pages of carefully curated selections by the owner / sommelier, it’s a testament to their commitment to providing an exceptional dining experience. They have gone all out with an extensive range of local wines including some unusual and intriguing blends.

🍽 We ate:

  • Kingfish Ceviche, Chilli, Coriander, Spring Onion, Mint Sorbet, $24
  • Duck Sliders (3), Chilli Mayonnaise, Salad, $23
  • Roast Cocktail Potatoes, Cooked in Lamb Fat, Rosemary Aioli, $16
  • Risotto with Smoked Chicken
  • Honey and Vanilla Panna Cotta; peach puree, oat and walnut crumble $17
  • Apple tart; lemon verbena sorbet, crème anglaise



Please note: as they only source the freshest ingredients, they often change their menus several times a week. So, what we tried may not be available when you visit.

The food was incredible, high quality fine dining at its best. If you are after a pub schnitzel or salt & pepper squid then this is not the venue for you. This is fine dining, at pub prices, with a family owned small business atmosphere.   We had the pleasure of spending time with Frankie, the maître d is a maitre dog. It was a delightful addition to the already charming atmosphere. And as you know, our family loves dogs!!!!!! So he spent a fair bit of time at our table getting lots of attention. 

Accessibility is a priority at the Watervale Hotel, with access-friendly entry, car parking, and toilets, catering to all guests’ needs.

As any local pub you have your front bar, but you can also choose from the cocktail lounge or the beer garden.  


For dining you can choose between the dining room, the beer garden, OR my favourite option. The Watervale Hotel also boasts three private dining rooms, making it perfect for group gatherings where everyone can engage in the conversation. Sonos speakers play gentle music throughout the Watervale, but in the three private rooms, they often turn off the music upon request for older or hearing impaired guests or simply those wanting quiet. 


Behind this exceptional establishment are two remarkable individuals who lead the way in food, wine, and ambiance. Chef Nicola Palmer, the award-winning culinary mastermind, previously helmed the kitchen at nearby Skillogalee Winery Restaurant, is still the manager of Penobscot Farm while being the mastermind behind the food at the Watervale Hotel. Warrick, her hubby, is the genius behind the extensive wine list as he brings his expertise as a sommelier to the table. He is also involved in Clare Valley tourism as the Chair of the Clare Valley Alliance, and also advises other culinary gems such as the Lane Hahndorf. Having a quick chat with Warrick during our dining experience was an absolute pleasure.

🍽 The service: outstanding! We were enjoying the gourmet festival so we knew us adults wouldn’t be too hungry, but we had teenage boys with us, they would be. When we booked there were tables available in the dining room, but being the gourmet weekend we knew we wouldn’t eat too much, so we booked outside in the beer garden so the more hungry patrons could eat indoors. We knew there were heaters outside, we’d done our homework by then. But, hows this? When we initially booked an outdoor table, the staff saw this and took the initiative to call us and offer an indoor table instead, ensuring our comfort and enjoyment. It’s this level of thoughtful planning and consideration that truly sets the Watervale Hotel apart. I was most impressed! It’s clear that everyone cares about the guest experience.

But wait, there’s more! Look at the décor in the ‘pub’. There are no pokies, no sports on the TV, just a place you can enjoy the local brews and good company in an ambient, and comfortable setting. It’s like a millionaires smoking room with its chaise lounge and leather chesterfield chairs.

In conclusion, the Watervale Hotel is a haven for food enthusiasts, a place where foodie and ambience hunters dreams come true. With its award winning cuisine, extensive wine list, inviting ambiance, and impeccable service, it’s no wonder this establishment has garnered global recognition. Whether you’re a local or a traveler passing through, a visit to the Watervale Hotel is an absolute must for an unforgettable dining experience.


👂 EAR BUD Q TIP Ambience hunters, this place ticks all your boxes The busiest times are the obvious ones:

  • All day Friday, Sat and Sun can get lively if you are in the main dining room.

Most Ambient times:

  • Dinner – Mon – Weds
  • Lunch – Tues & Thurs

But here is the best bit. If you have a large group call ahead and they will set aside a dining room for you! You don’t need to pay extra, just book ahead! Each room has its own speaker system, you control the volume. No interruptions from other rowdy diners

  • The green room seats 6 people
  • The purple room seats 8-10 people


The mission of the Ambient Menu is to take the ‘din’ out of dinner. This place takes the ‘din’ out of the front bar, and the dining room, and the beer garden also.


Please note: most of the images of the dining room are from their website. 

Most awarded restaurant in Clare Valley. Farm fresh to Plate. (

Bon Appetit! 


Author: Laura Drexler

Creator of Ambient Menu

Masters of Audiology, Bachelor of Health Science

Presenter: Audiology Australia SA Chapter Conference 2023, Flinders University 2023, SA Gerontology Conference SA 2022, Audiology Unchained (Independent Audiology Australia) 2023

Awards: Audiology Australia Internship Award, Flinders University Early Career Alumni Award, Help Awards AMP Healthcare Hero.

Written for: SA Life, 50 So What, Grandparents Magazine



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