It’s an incredibly hot and humid Sunday afternoon in summer when I weave my way through the Adelaide Hills. After visiting some winemakers, tasting some reds, and flailing in the heat, the last thing you’d think you’d want would be a wood-fired pizza outdoors. But add in a glass of chilled Chardonnay and a shady spot on the grass, and you’ve actually got a pretty great time sorted, all of which can be found at Lost in a Forest.
Opened in June 2016 in Uraidla, just a thirty-minute drive from Adelaide City and right next to Basket Range, Lost in a Forest is the brainchild of Taras Ochota and Charlie Lawrence. Housed in a beautiful old church, it’s home to delicious wood-fired pizza by chef Paul Nelson (formerly of Jamie’s Italian), a stellar selection of wine, canned beers (or ‘tinnies’ as they’re affectionately known in Australia), and some damn good times.
Lost in a Forest came about after two years of conversations between Lawrence and Ochota, with the noble goal that the business essentially be an extension of their living rooms—Lawrence, formerly a graphic designer and photographer with a keen interest in pizza after building his own wood-fired oven, and Ochota with years of wine-making at Ochota Barrels and a predilection for music and home-grown good times.
Understandably, the wine list has a substantial representation of Ochota’s own wines, but also has a selection of small, low-intervention producers from around the world, with a focus on Beaujolais, Chablis, fellow winemakers from the Adelaide Hills region, and even a heady orange wine by the glass from Tennessee.
Never one to mince words, Ochota outlines the rationale behind their wine list bluntly, “The wines are of purity and elegance so we avoid hardcore natural wines that resemble a hamster exploding in your mouth. We treat mousy wine the same as corked wine and send it back to the producer or importer to protect the unsuspecting customer. Life is too short to be told ‘I know it tastes like urined sauerkraut brine but…’”
Pizzas from their wood-fired oven range from the traditional Margherita (can’t go wrong with tomato, cheese, and basil!) to more experimental options like Beet Street (buttered beetroot, mozzarella, horseradish cream, rosemary) and Bánh Mi (pork, mozzarella, coriander, pork crackle, sriracha mayo). Whatever you go with, they are delicious dishes that stem from local, seasonal ingredients that come from Ochota’s own organically grown veggie patch and orchard, with much of the basil and other herbs coming from garden pots surrounding the church itself.
When it comes to the beer offering, it’s easier (and a lot more fun) just to defer to Ochota’s own words once again, as he puts it best: “Our beer list is just in cans and has been described as a collection of the world’s bogan beers. I like that. No crafty bong water beers here baby. If it wasn’t for Charlie I’d only have cans, stubbies, and longnecks of just Melbourne Bitter.”
While Uraidla is an otherwise unassuming location, Lost in a Forest’s reputation for delicious pizza and drinks has brought people into the area in droves, with its popularity getting to the point that they’ve created lo-fi Thursday nights to allow the locals a better chance of enjoying the goods (in comparison to the weekends when the venue is packed to the brim with out-of-towners). It’s a place that has an atmosphere that’s absolutely brimming with energy, and one whose momentum will surely carry on bringing good times to the people of Uraidla and the lucky visitors who make the journey to drink some wine, eat some pizza, and take it all in.
All photos by the author unless otherwise noted.
Eileen P. Kenny is a Sprudge Media Network contributor based in Melbourne.