Transforming a Barossa Valley motel into a boutique hotel and restaurant was a dream job for director and regular renovator, Helen Carreker
“Jim [Carreker, her husband] ran a telecommunications company in Silicon Valley but he was ready for a new entrepreneurial challenge. We spent 18 months touring wine regions across the globe and fell in love with South Australia’s Barossa Valley. We decided this was the perfect place for a ‘treechange’ so we bought a country motel that included a small dining room.
“We took over in 2005 and we’ve converted it into an award-winning restaurant and 15-room luxury accommodation. Originally, the restaurant had floor-to-ceiling floral drapery, spindle timber furniture and a potbellied stove. They were the first things that had to go.
“We installed new carpeting, a gas fireplace, recessed mood and candle lighting, an audio system and bathroom fittings. The restaurant also needed a new paint job and the colour palette now has deep russet and green tones of the natural environment that surrounds us.
“We continued over the years by adding upholstered dining chairs, timber tabletops, sash windows with linen blinds, and custom porcelain candleholders. When we opened as Appellation, we seated 22 guests, and in 2009 it expanded to 48 seats.
“The 180-square-metre addition includes a wine bar with custom seating and access to our Sunset Terrace and kitchen garden.
“We also doubled the size of the wine cellar and glassed it in so the cellar can be viewed from the restaurant. After all, wine is a priority here.
“The restaurant just won the Best Contemporary Australian Regional Award [in South Australia’s Restaurant & Catering Awards for Excellence] and that really is what we are.
“In 2009, we doubled the size of the kitchen, and brought the outdoor cold storage inside. It was quite expansive but it’s very much state of the art.
“We work closely with our executive chef Ryan Edward who’s made the kitchen run efficiently. He took on this role two years ago after spending five years as head chef. He leads an innovative and committed brigade of nine in the kitchen and an equal number of professionals in the front-of-house.
“Lighting enhances the dining experience for our guests, and the unique and captivating ceiling installation, Illuminated Cloud, was designed by Kristel Britcher, a graduate of Adelaide’s JamFactory Glass Studio program.
“We’ve purchased the works of several South Australian artists working in the medium of glass, including Nick Mount, Brendan Scott French, Deb Jones, Mark Thiele, Catherine Aldrete-Morris, Amanda King, and Madeline Prowd.
Major artworks by Adelaide painter Catherine Fitz-Gerald include Quinces and Missed Merlot. Sydney-based Kate Briscoe’s Faultline Series and Erin Keys’s metal sculpture augment the dining experience.
“Appellation’s separate Six Seasons Dining Room for 14 guests is enhanced by the graphics of Aboriginal artist Shane Pickett which depict the six seasons of the Aboriginal—and culinary—calendar. Our chefs love that concept.
After spending more than a decade renovating the restaurant, I think it’s found the right mix. Apart from the beautiful backdrop of the Barossa Valley, the restaurant focuses on food and art. The two go together intrinsically.”