Gnarabar Bar and Bistro, Margaret River

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What a horrific week it’s been for me! This persistent stomach bug has put me out of action for the whole week!.  It started brewing on my wedding dress shopping day with my bestie and then developed more dramatically into a further two days at home in bed. I always get racked with guilt whenever I take a sick day as everyone else’s work load increases to compensate for my absence.  So when I woke up on the fourth day and managed to hold a piece of toast down I figured surely I must be good to go.  I was wrong and a few hours later my manager sent me home ashen-faced and dizzy.

Being our first Easter off together in several years, I had booked a weekend getaway with the Boy down in Margaret River which also happened to coincide with our 14th anniversary celebration.   Prior to falling sick I was so excited about this little minibreak and was looking forward to a few days of eating, drinking and romantic fun.  As I sat unusually quietly in the car on the drive down, I accepted that although I am not feeling at my best I was not going to let it ruin our holiday.

We didn’t arrive until the late afternoon on Good Friday by which I was too tired to consider the notion that I may want to blog about our accommodation so dear readers please forgive me for the lack of any photos. We stayed at Chandeliers on Abbey in Yallingup and were quite impressed with the quality of the chalet – it had a fabulous sound system with speakers throughout the chalet, warmed bathroom tiles, and a fridge stocked with fresh milk, OJ, eggs and butter.  The kitchen was well equipped and there were candles all about the chalet to help give more atmosphere.

After relaxing on the deck for some time, we headed out to Gnarabar Bar and Bistro which was seemingly one of the only places I could find open on a Good Friday.  Situated just out of Margaret River Township near the Gnarabup beach, the bar was humming with life and nearly full capacity.  The staff seemed a little run off their feet and perhaps also a tad disorganised.

Chilli salted calamari, lime

Seeing a menu clearly marked with gluten-free options always instills hope for an easy ordering experience. If gluten-free dishes are regular menu items then this indicates to me that the kitchen must be familiar with correct food preparation for us more challenging customers. I ordered the gluten-free option of chilli salted calamari with Thai chilli jam and lime.  I just wanted a light snack for entrée as my stomach had shrunk from my lack of food intake during the week as a result of being so unwell.

When my dish arrived, it was coated in batter and for some reason I thought there was a chance it wasn’t actually gluten-free.  I asked the waiter who assured me this was gluten-free batter and I was totally fine to eat it.  Fortunately my usual ritual of photo taking delayed me starting to eat this dish as a few minutes later the same waiter came out of the kitchen looking a little flustered exclaiming I can’t eat it and that it WASN’T gluten free.  I couldn’t believe my ears! If I hadn’t double checked with the waiter, and then paused to take photos, I would be back to square one with my stomach ills and our romantic weekend would have been ruined.  It astounded me that the kitchen allowed this error to occur!

Pan fried gnocchi, confit rabbit, shitake mushrooms, fondant leeks, parmesan and porcini butter, fresh herbs

The Boy order the pan-fried gnocchi with rabbit and shiitake mushrooms.  I told him not to wait for my replacement meal to arrive before commencing so he could enjoy his while it was still hot.  The gnocchi was soft and not too doughy and he said the rabbit was tender and sweet.  My dish didn’t end up being brought out to the table until well after he had polished off his gnocchi.

It didn’t actually look a grand deal different from the previous dish but the Boy had snuck a taste of the one with gluten and said it tasted different. Seeing as my appetite wasn’t the best I was happy to share some of my calamari with him rather than have him stare hungrily at me while I ate. I’m not sure what happened to my “chilli jam” as my calamari was served with some aioli…maybe I read the menu wrong.  The calamari was fairly bland and not seasoned very well, and although most pieces were tender there were a few chewy ones in there.

Moroccan quail, spiced pumpkin puree, olive, feta & parsley salad

There was only one main dish on the menu that was able to be prepared both gluten and onion free and unfortunately it was a fairly unexciting looking chicken breast dish.  Thankfully I was informed by our waitress that it wasn’t a problem for the chef to make any of the entrée dishes into a full main meal size for an extra ten bucks.  I was impressed with the size of the meal that was to follow.  Juicy meaty Moroccan spiced quail served on a creamy pumpkin purée with an olive, feta and parsley salad.  The spices were not too overpowering for my delicate gut and the quail were super-sized and succulent.

10 hour braised beef cheek, parmesan polenta, tomato, beans, green olive & parsley sauce, gremolata

The boy ordered the 10 hour braised beef cheek with parmesan polenta for his main meal.  He was quite disappointed in his choice as the meat was unexpectedly dry and chewy; not tender or flavoursome as he imagined.

There was no way I was going to fit in a third course until I had given myself another day or two for my stomach size to re-expand to its previous size so we skipped dessert – an unusual occurrence for me indeed! We returned to our cosy chalet and flaked out for what was to be one of the best night’s sleep either one of us has had in over a week.  Bliss.

For what it is, a casual beach pub, the Gnarabar fits the bill.  However despite us using our Entertainment Book discount, we both felt we could get better quality food at better value at many of the beautiful wineries we visited over the following few days.  Additionally the oversight of serving me gluten accidentally is of considerable concern not just for me but for other gluten intolerants out there.  If I hadn’t asked, I would have found out the hard way a few hours later.

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Gnarabar Bar and Bistro
Margarets Beach Resort, 1 Resort Place, Gnarabup Beach, Margaret River, WA 6285 | (08) 9757 1583 |
Price:                     $$$ (Entrees $14-17, Mains $28-35, accepts Entertainment Card)
Food:                    2/5 (dodged a gluten bullet!)
Service:                2.5/5 (friendly but haphazard and disorganized)
Ambience:          2.5/5 (bubbling pub vibe, needs more dim lighting too bright in restaurant area)
Drinks:                  3/5 (some great MR choices, need more by the glass options)
Total:                     10/20

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3 Thoughts on “Gnarabar Bar and Bistro, Margaret River

  1. Now this surprises me. I am Gluten free and the Gnarabar is usually very good. I have been there a few times and always impressed. Did you manage to go the the White Elephant on the beach at Gnarabup as this is a great place to kick back too?

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