This year’s Gourmet Escape was the hottest on record with temperatures soaring to 35°C on the Sunday. Fortunately the heat had no effect on the crowd levels and by the late morning the Gourmet Village was teeming with life. I was lucky enough to score front row seats to the first show on the main stage; the WA Signature Dish Final 2015 Cook-off.
For those of you who haven’t been following my coverage of WA Signature Dish this year, it is an annual cooking competition for amateur chefs that promotes Western Australia’s beautiful and abundant local produce.
Entrants must create a recipe that best represents our “State on a plate” using one or more of the “hero ingredients” from either the Gascoyne, Kimberley, Swan Valley & Surrounds or Peel regions.
I returned in an official capacity for 2015 to support the Gascoyne region and was so happy to see Jerolina Rankin progress to become the regional finalist. I met the lovely Jerolina last year on our trip up to the Gascoyne for the semi-finals and her passion and love for the region is endless.
I was told by insider sources that the judge’s votes were a very close call with all dishes being of an excellent standard, successfully showcasing the wonderful produce of their respective regions.
Of course there can only ever be one winner and it was music to my ears to hear the announcement that the winner for the WA Signature Dish 2015 is Jerolina with her Gascoyne seafood broth with Shark Bay wild prawns. Woo hoo!! Congratulations Jerolina and the Gascoyne producers!
After the excitement of the cook off, we headed over to the Buy West Eat Best stall to try some of the dishes ourselves. Sadly Jerolina’s dish had already sold out so we didn’t get to try it. Instead we ordered the dishes from the Kimberley and blogger Matt Cook’s dish from Perth.
We enjoyed both of the dishes and appreciated how hard the judges must have found picking a winner.
Historically my approach to attending the Gourmet Village has been to methodically visit every stall holder due to my well-known affliction with FOMO. It would be torture to see someone’s photo later that night on Instagram of a dish I didn’t get to eat! 😮
But due to a recent heavy burden of work related stress I have been a bit off my game leaving me with minimal tolerance to stand in the direct sun. Consequently the Boy and I used a more targeted approach to a couple of gluten free friendly stalls individually taking turns to line up in the sun while the other reserved a patch of shade.
Both dishes at the Bib & Tucker stall were gluten free friendly and it was hard to pick a favourite as they were both prepared and presented well. The charcoal roasted Blackwood Valley lamb shoulder was melt-in-your-mouth tender and was served with a dollop of charred eggplant purée, a dukkah crisp and pomegranate seeds.
The other Bib & Tucker dish was a pair of raw tuna tostadas; diced tuna served on a crisp tortilla with fresh avocado, green apple, radish and lime.
At the Genuinely Southern Forest stall they were promoting all the wonderful produce of the region. I couldn’t help but feel a little disappointment that they didn’t participate in the WA Signature Dish competition this year as their region has so much to offer. The gluten free option on their menu was smooth avocado, lime and cream mousse topped with candied macadamia crumble and a coulis made from rustleberries, boysenberries and raspberries.
We made one more stop for a dish at Voyager Estate before heading upstairs to the air-conditioned Platinum Lounge. Their ocean trout tataki was heavenly, the fish was so silky and soft. It was served on a bed of Japanese mushrooms, pickled vegetables, edamame beans and miso soil.
I was close to overheating by this point, which is odd for me as I usually tolerate the heat well. I put it down to my recent feeling of burn out. I thanked our lucky stars I had purchased tickets to access the Audi Leeuwin Platinum Lounge. We both entered the air-conditioned bliss with a simultaneous sigh of bliss.
The Platinum Lounge costs $230 per person, and in addition to access into a cool sanctuary you have unlimited food provided in addition to two glasses of Leeuwin wine. The food was set out in various stations positioned around the upstairs venue, nearly all of which were totally gluten free. Of course the first place we hit up was the oyster bar. An endless serve of oysters, what more do I have to say? I think we nearly ate our tickets worth in oysters alone.
The paella was filled with seafood and had a pleasant hit of spice which of course the Boy wasn’t too pleased about. He has delicate taste buds. I had cooled down under the blasting air con and was more than happy to polish off his spicy serve for him.
The charcuterie was also entirely gluten free and the chef had gluten free crackers on offer however the crackers were placed on the bread platter and thus likely to be contaminated with bread crumbs.
The cheese platter station was much savvier and the waiter kept the normal crackers and gluten free ones separate from each other. Seeing as I had already blown my dairy allowance out for the weekend I decided to push the boat out and share a serve of each with the Boy. There were four cheeses offered; Tarago River Jensen’s Red, a washed rind cow’s milk cheese from Victoria; Cantal Entre-Deux, an aged French cheese made from raw cow’s milk; Queso de Murcia Al Vino, a semi-hard goat’s cheese from Spain and some Stilton, a classic blue cheese from Nottinghamshire, England.
By this point we were well and truly stuffed. We sat back contentedly and contemplated the long drive home as the chef lit up a BBQ and started cooked seafood. And yes, it was all gluten free. I pondered for a millisecond whether we fit any more food in before lining up for more food with my new found fellow Coeliac from Lunch with my bestie blog.
I am so pleased that the WA Signature Dish competition has progressed to making it to the main stage at such a key foodie event. We are blessed to live in a State with such varied climates across the regions giving us an abundance of fresh produce that must leave other States envious. Once again I wish a massive congratulations to Jerolina and Chef Pete Manifis for winning and look forward to covering the competition again next year.
Chompchomp was the official blogger for the Gascoyne region for WA Signature Dish. She paid for access into the Audi Platinum Lounge in full.
One thing I have learnt from the Boy is that I need to take more time out to relax. Relaxing does not come naturally to me and generally the only way I can do it is if I am forced. Last weekend we drove down to the South West to stay at Pullman Bunker Bay Resort, a five-star beach front resort only minutes’ drive from Dunsborough and Yallingup.
The reason for our single night stay at Bunker Bay was to sample the resorts’s launch of their new High Tea. High Tea is available at Pullman Bunker Bay resort every day of the week until the 20th of December, and Executive Chef Grant Murray is more than happy to accommodate for guests like myself with dietary requirements.
We sat out on the sunny deck overlooking the wonderful ocean view where we could see glimpses of majestic whales out in the bay. Regrettably I didn’t come prepared with a zoom lens to capture their beauty.
Being able to enjoy gluten, the Boy’s high tea was plated separately to mine to avoid cross contamination and as our waitress brought over our tiers of food we both let out a sigh of pleasure. Each plate was an array of vibrant spring colour and neither of us could wait to tuck in!
Chef Murray enthusiastically spoke to us about his focus on utilising fresh, seasonal produce and wherever possible he will obtain his ingredients locally. All the pastries and baked items are made in their own kitchen, with our muffins and scones coming just out of the oven that morning.
My gluten free savoury course included a cucumber, tarragon and chicken sandwich made with compressed cucumber to give more flavour. The tomato salad contained tomatoes that were grown especially for the restaurant on a property only a few kilometres away. Nothing beats the taste of home-grown tomatoes.
There was no sensation of feeling like I was missing out on a gluten free diet, with my second tier of baked goods tasting just as good the Boy’s looked. My scone didn’t crumble apart like many gluten free versions and my muffin was still warm.
My final top tier of high tea was the prettiest of all, decorated in fresh edible flowers and plump blueberries. My mini tartlets were filled with juicy fresh Western Australian mango. The little meringues had all the layers of textures that a quality meringue must have; a powder poof crunchy shell with a sumptuous gooey centre. Perfection.
The Boy’s standard high tea looked very similar to mine, except that of course it contained gluten. This is the second time he has joined me for high tea and whilst I doubt he will start swilling hot tea any time soon, I can be sure he will happily join me on my next one.
The Boy’s dessert course was just a pretty as my gluten free version, and included a selection of macarons, profiteroles and chocolate mousse cake.
For our accommodation we stayed in a garden view studio villa. Our room was elegantly appointed with a comfortable, king sized bed and a fully equipped kitchenette. Not that we ever needed it to cook for ourselves!
The bathroom was spacious and modern, complete with fluffy bathrobes and slippers along with luxury amenities for those who forgot their toiletries.
Being such a brief stay, we decided to dine at the resort’s fine dining restaurant Other Side of the Moon for our evening meal. Our bubbly natured waitress was very knowledgeable with respect to what was gluten free and what could be adapted on the menu.
We started off our evening with some natural oysters from Coffin Bay served with shallot vinegar.
For our entrée, we opted to share the local South West tasting plate for two. For those with less agreeable dining companions, this tasting plate was also available as a single serve for a lower cost. In the centre of the plate was a gluten free adapted serve of Geographe Bay squid fried with a spicy Asian herb salad and nahm jim dressing. We were advised to start in the middle of the plate and work our way out.
The second tasting was a Swiss brown mushroom filled with confit Baldivis rabbit on bacon and Jerusalem artichoke purée.
We ended the tasting experience with some thin slices of Margaret River venison carpaccio and local pickled onions. Of course I left the onions for the Boy to gobble as I’m not good with the added fructose. A gluten free crouton with olive tapenade accompanied the small serve of venison.
The Boy ordered the duo of beef for his main course. A lightly pan-seared Harvey beef tenderloin accompanied a pot of beef cheek daube. A scoop of truffle mash and cute little heirloom carrots added in some vegetable goodness and was drizzled in a Capel Vale Cabernet Sauvignon jus.
We also ordered a side of fries which our waitress told us would be cooked in clean oil to avoid any gluten contamination. The Boy suggested that perhaps an order of fries on top of all the rest of the food we had eaten so far may be considered somewhat excessive. I was pleased to see our waitress was on the same page as me as she agreed that not only is there a second stomach for desserts, that there is in fact a specific “potato stomach” to fit in potatoes in all forms: be that fries, chips, wedges, whatever, wherever 😉
For my main choice, I ordered the daily special of roasted duck breast. It was served on a bed of quinoa, parsnip purée, and locally grown golden beets. The duck was delicately tender and soft, literally melting in my mouth without a hint of dryness.
Whilst I had big ambitions of pushing the boat out for the evening and having both dessert and cheese, when it came to the crunch I sadly realised I only had room for one or the other. It was a hard choice as there were a decent selection of local and imported cheese on offer. I turned to the Boy for guidance. He had already spotted the Simmo’s ice cream menu with no less than ten flavours to choose from. It was decided. We would have dessert.
The daily dessert special was light, refreshing and perfect to satisfy my sweet tooth. A lemon-scented toasted marshmallow cloud with fresh mango and lychee gel on lime granita had an interesting tango of sweet and citrus flavours. I reluctantly let the Boy taste a mouthful as he even more reluctantly let me sample his ice creams. He is generally very easy going with letting me eat off his plate, except when it is ice cream. He becomes very territorial of every mouthful!
The following morning we opted for a light room service breakfast before taking a stroll around the beautiful resort. There is a 24 hour room service menu offering lots of gluten free options including pizzas and other main meals for late night snacking. The beach is only a short walk from the villas, and is such a beautiful spot with the characteristic stunning white sands and clear blue water that the region is well known for.
After a enjoyable walk along the beach, the Boy and I headed to the resort spa; Vie where we had booked a massage in the couples room along with a Pevonia signature facial. It has taken me some time to convert the Boy to enjoy spa treatments but each time he comes along he warms further to the concept.
Sadly, our whirlwind weekend was coming to an end and prior to departing we took some time to relax in the bistro area of the resort where they have a tapas menu serving small plates that highlight on the local produce that is seasonally available. Again there were both gluten free and vegetarian options available.
Our vegetarian dish of roasted cauliflower was exceedingly addictive with charred grilled piquillo peppers, toasted macadamia and pomegranate. It came with creamy tahini for a tangy hit of extra flavour. I loved the presentation with lots of splashes of colour and fun.
Our second dish of Fremantle octopus was adapted to be gluten free by the omission of chorizo. It was paired with smoked yoghurt, local olives, edamame and grilled tomato. I have a tendency to be quite fussy with my octopus having be very spoilt in my time in Spain. It is far too common that it is not prepared well and the meat ends up being as chewy as an old sock. This octopus did not disappoint my critical opinions, each piece was deliciously tender and did not give my jaw a work out to chew. It was a perfect way to end our very short stay.
For much of the drive home to Perth, the Boy and I talked about making plans for when we could next return to stay at Bunker Bay. It is rare that we simultaneously relax together and despite such a short stay, this trip was a success. The resort has enough options to be able to stay there and not leave, but is located so close to the wineries and tourist sights for the Margaret River region such that if you don’t want to stay put you don’t have to. Suffice to say we have already booked our next trip 😉
High Tea at Pullman Bunker Bay Resort is available at the resort’s bistro until 20 December 2015.
Cost is $37 per person with a Dilmah specialty tea, barista-made coffee or hot chocolate, or $45 per person to add a glass of sparkling wine. Kid’s Menu available for children up to 12 years. Bookings require 48 hours’ notice with pre-payment at the time of reservation. With advance notice, dietary requirement can be catered for.
Disclaimer: Chompchomp was a guest of Pullman Bunker Bay resort and received her night accommodation and high tea for two at no cost. She paid in full for her dinner at Other Side of the Moon, for the tapas at Tapestry and for her Spa treatments at Vie.
Pullman Bunker Bay Resort, 42 Bunker Bay Road, Naturaliste WA | (08) 9756 9100 | Website
The Boy is the youngest in a family of three boys. His oldest brother still lives in Perth, but his other brother is a nuclear physicist who lives in Boston. His brother has lived in the US for over ten years and sadly is unlikely to ever return to Australia permanently. Every couple of years, his brother tries to return back to Perth with his lovely American wife to spend time with the family. Because American employees don’t receive as much annual leave as we do in Australia, they both struggle to get time off work and will save up their leave for a few years before being able to visit us.
This year was their first family visit to see us in over three years which was made even more special as it was also the first trip since the birth of their adorable daughter Noelle. The Boy and I had been busting to meet our little niece ever since she was born, especially after having to cancel our planned 2014 USA trip where we were going to go and stay with them in Boston.
To maximise quality time with his brother’s family, the Boy and his brother organised a family mini-break in Margaret River staying at the secluded Merribrook Retreat. While I already knew my brother-in-law enjoyed fine wine, I had never spent enough time with him to know if he was a foodie like us. You can imagine my pure delight when I discovered that both him and his wife were super keen to join us on a degustation for lunch while down south. I booked us in at Studio Bistro in Yallingup.
I notified the chef in advance of my dietary requirements and they were more than happy to accommodate for me. Studio Bistro’s degustation offers six courses for $95 or $135 with matched wines. We had already been wine tasting at a number of vineyards earlier in the morning and were in the mood for a bit of fun so we all chose the matched wines.
We started off with an amuse bouche of exquisitely fresh steak tartare made with succulent, tender Cape Grim grass-fed beef. The steak tartare was served with an emulsion containing a subtle kick of tabasco.
Our first course was an asparagus gazpacho served with a thick blue cheese cream that was poured table side. I love interactive dishes, they always make for more interesting photography provided I’m quick enough!
The aromatic butteriness of the blue cheese cream made this one of those dishes that leaves you wanting to lick the bowl at the end. Crispy jamon iberico added wonderful textural contrasts to the dish.
Our next course sent me further spiraling into a state of heavenly bliss. Many of my regular readers will know how I am totally obsessed with slow cooked eggs. I would actually be happy to eat a degustation with them included in every course. My chunks of slow cooked silky salmon were arranged around a slow cooked free range hen’s egg and drizzled in syrupy teriyaki.
My hen’s egg was picture perfect with a nearly translucent egg white and ooey gooey yolk porn centre. The salmon was topped with rice crisps that were made from scratch in house. The chef explained to me that to make them he boils the rice until all starch come out and then rolls the rice out between sheets of baking paper. He then dehydrates these sheets of squished rice at 50 degrees for 17 hours before being fried to serve. The rice crisps were puffy and light, dissolving like prawn crackers on my tongue.
Our next dish was made using local, free range pork from Big Red Pork. Unlike many intensive pig farms, Big Red pigs are raised in family groups in a more natural environment of paddocks filled with woodlands, creek lines and pasture. This allows the pigs to forage for food like in the wild. Their natural diet gives the meat a darker colour when compared to intensive, less humanely farmed pork.
The pork was served in two ways; a cube of twice cooked pork belly paired with a soft mound of pork cheek and a generous amount of garlic confit and vanilla dressing.
I loved how not only does Studio Bistro focus strongly on using locally farmed and grown Western Australian produce, but that they also ensure to source their meat from organic free range farms where the animals live humanely and are ethically farmed.
Our final main course consisted of a delicately soft portion of slow cooked organic Blackwood Valley lamb rump served with a yellow curry whip and fried sweetbreads. Fresh cooked peas and shavings of coconut gave this dish an interesting fusion of flavours. The rump came accompanied by a lamb gyoza, which meant I couldn’t eat it due to the dumpling pastry. However the chef must have pre-empted my disappointment in advance and kindly plated some of the dumpling filling onto my dish so I didn’t feel like I missed out at all.
The degustation dessert wasn’t gluten free so I chose to have the cheese course instead. There were three cheeses on the platter; Manchego, Heysen Blue and Wensleydale which were served with gluten free crackers, quince paste, walnuts and some fruit. Manchego is a hard Spanish cheese that is made from sheep’s milk and is one of my most favourite cheeses of all time. Heysen Blue is a mild, fruity blue cheese that is made in the Adelaide Hills with cow’s milk. Wensleydale is a classic, crumbly cows from Yorkshire in the UK.
As our lunch drew to an end, we were joined by the Boy’s parents and of course our gorgeous little niece. Upon seeing my little niece, I was surprisingly satisfied that I had eaten enough for the day and left the rest of the adults sitting at the table to join my niece in the gardens. Fueled by a number of glasses of wine I proceeded to leap about and dance with her to music on my iPhone before eventually we both tumbled on the grass puffed out and giggling madly. Such fun times, it is hard when distance separates you from those you love but hopefully we can get over to visit them in Boston soon.
7 Marrinup Drive, Yallingup, WA | (08) 9756 6164 | www.thestudiobistro.com.au
Gourmet Escape is a three day food and wine festival held each year in the Margaret River wine region. It has become a yearly favourite for locals and a huge drawcard for people interstate and internationally. Last year the festival clashed with some dates we had booked for a close friend’s birthday celebration in Lombok, so I thought we were only going to be able to make it down for the Friday. My usual plan of attack when attending a food festival is a crazed I-must-eat-all-the-things caper. I hate the thought that I might miss out on something delicious and end up booking back to back events like a lunatic. This approach often comes at a significant cost and thus our budget for these weekends is usually quite substantial.
When it dawned upon me that I only had a single day for Gourmet Escape, I thought I would push the boat out and chose one of the most expensive events: The International Cabernet Tasting at Cape Mentelle with James Halliday as a guest speaker and matched food by highly acclaimed chefs Jacques Reymond and Hadleigh Troy.
I should have known that it is impossible to try and plan your social life six months in advance. As it drew closer to the month of Gourmet Escape our travel plans fell through and subsequently the whole weekend opened up for us. One door closed and another door opened. I preceded to book a flurry of events and are yet to look at the damage it made on my credit card. I even bought tickets to a Fervor degustation for the evening after the Cabernet Celebration! This proved to be a learning lesson that I can no longer do two big food events in one day.
I have never been to an official wine tasting event before and whilst I am very experienced at drinking wine, I am a total amateur when it comes to tasting and describing wines. Cape Mentelle’s International Cabernet tasting is an event that has been running for over thirty years and at each event they select international wines from vintages from a specific year.
There were twenty wines selected for blind tasting from the vintage 2011. Cameron Murphy, the Estate Director at Cape Mentelle advised us that 2011 was a challenging year for many wine growing regions around the world resulting in some top labels not releasing a Cabernet or requesting that their wines were not to be included in the line-up for this event.
The wines were divided into three “brackets” and after tasting each bracket, we would congregate outside under the vines and listen to some top wine critics from around the country analyse and give their opinions. It was a very serious affair and once the tasting got under way the only noise I could hear were clinks of glasses hitting together and the occasional slurp from professional tasters spotted around the room.
We were given note books and pencils to take our own notes and with the ban on talking this gave me an opportunity to actually think about what I was tasting from each glass.
It took a couple of hours to get through the three brackets of wine accompanied by the wine critic’s discussions by which point I was desperate for something to eat. There was some plain bread and pear slices available to cleanse the palate between each bracket which I obviously couldn’t eat. After the tasting were completed, the list of wines were revealed for us to see. It was a proud moment to see that most of the critic’s best wine choices were from local WA wineries. Where the world had a bad vintage, our state seemed to come out with flying colours. Go WA!
Wines in order of tasting:
- Ridge Montebello (Napa Valley, USA)
- Woodlands (Margaret River, Australia)
- Houghton ‘Jack Mann’ (Frankland River, Australia)
- Mount Mary (Yarra Valley, Australia)
- Château Pichon – Longueville Baron, (Paulliac, Bordeaux)
- Domaine A (Tasmania, Australia)
- Sassicaia (Bolgheri, Italy)
- Wendouree (Claire, Australia)
- Spottswoode (Napa Valley, USA)
- Cloudburst (Margaret River, Australia)
- Cape Mentelle (Margaret River, Australia)
- Hentley Farm von Kasper Cabernet (Barossa, Australia)
- Château Palmer (Margaux, Bordeaux)
- Moss Wood (Margaret River, Australia)
- Cullen ‘Diana Madeline’ (Margaret River, Australia)
- Château Haut Brion (Graves, Bordeaux)
- Xanadu ‘Stevens Road’ (Margaret River, Australia)
- Far Niente (Napa Valley, USA)
- Château Léoville-Las Cases (Saint-Julien, Bordeaux)
- Ornellaia (Bolgheri, Italy)
With the formalities of the event over, we relaxed outside under the trees. There was free flowing Verve on pour coupled with some canapés to get us into the mood before lunch. For those first few brief minutes there was no gluten free option on offer and I watched the Boy devour his obscenely amazing smelling marron roll to himself. I was so hungry I nearly had shoestrings of saliva dripping down my face. Working my way through twenty wines has a way of doing that to my appetite! Thankfully I wasn’t kept waiting long and my own gluten free adapted marron roll made its way out of the kitchen before the Boy even had a chance to finish his.
The most popular canapé served was by far the Arkady lamb breast. Hardly an elegant morsel to eat at the best of times, I was lucky not to be wearing most of what I ate. Or maybe that was just the drool. After skipping breakfast followed by downing all those wines, I am assuring you I ate quite a few of these babies! 😉
After multiple rounds of lamb and marron, we made our way down onto the lawn where a beautiful white marquee was erected for lunch. We had live entertainment and the atmosphere was relaxed and jovial compared to the intense concentration and silence during the tastings.
Our first course was a velvety textured, slow cooked ocean trout served with a tomato and basil dressing, lemon celeriac remoulade and spiced marinated cucumber. After a morning of heavy reds, it was a nice interlude to lighten up the palate. The trout was matched with Cape Mentelle Wallcliffe Sauvignon Blanc Semillon 2012.
For the main course we received a tender Butterfield beef short rib alongside some charred carrots and pine nut cream. To pair with this dish all twenty of the 2011 Cabernets that we tasted earlier were brought out and poured liberally until the late afternoon. I appreciated why this event cost so much as they were very generous with the serves.
We ended our incredible day with a cheese board containing some of my favourite French cheeses; Marcel Petite Gruyere de Comte, Fourme d’Ambert and Jouvence Brie Fermier. I was even given gluten free crackers on the side which was thoughtful of the chefs.
The Cape Mentelle International Cabernet Tasting was an incredibly unique experience and something quite unlike anything I have done before. It is a long day of drinking with the event starting at 10am and running into the late afternoon. It attracted both serious wine buffs and amateurs like me and had a non-pretentious and relaxed vibe…provided you do not talk during the tasting (note to self).
Disclaimer: Chompchomp paid in full for her ticket to the Gourmet Escape International Cabernet Celebration 2014. And, for those enquiring….no, she did not fall on her head at this event. She did however discover that Jacques Reymond is her father’s dopplerganger and consequently filled by Cabernet she MAY have waltzed over to the famous chef with the Boy armed with a photo of her father on her phone to enlighten Jacques of this fact. Suffice to say Jacques had swilled his own substantial quantity of Cabernet that afternoon and was left somewhat confused by our excitement. She will let you decided for yourselves.
Accommodating for people with coeliac disease must feel like a daunting task for many chefs. The need to be aware of every single ingredient in every single dish is simply just not enough. Chefs must also be mindful of other difficult aspects like cross contamination. All cutlery, chopping boards and other cooking utensils must be cleaned carefully before preparing a gluten free meal. For some sufferers it can take only one microscopic grain of gluten to send them to the bathroom for the evening.
That is why I am so appreciative when a chef takes this challenge on board as I realise how much effort it requires. On our recent trip to Margaret River, we found such a restaurant named Piari & Co. Situated in Dunsborough and run by a husband and wife team, these guys have a dedicated gluten free menu making selecting dishes as easy as it gets.
It was a stormy night in the South-west, sadly not the weather I would have liked for our whirlwind weekender with the Boy, Mum and her other half. We were staying in a chalet about twenty minutes south of Dunsborough so in order to make our driving through the rain easier, I punched our destination into my Tomtom and sat back to let it do the hard work for me. This turned out to be a tremendous mistake and over forty-five minutes later we arrived at Piari & Co with everyone tired and grumpy with me at my error.
Starting a meal in a bad mood is never a good idea and to further add to the situation the restaurant was completely packed and full of noisy, rather drunk customers. One customer in particular had a laugh that resembled the whoop of a baboon. The Boy detests noisy venues, I refer to this as one of his Grandpa habits. Additionally, my stepdad wears a hearing aid in one ear which in these sort of situations relays deafening feedback down into his ear making listening to conversation impossible. I took the liberty of ordering some starters while they sat in silence reading over the menus.
The lighting was romantically dim as is often the way which increased the pressure of the evening for me as photography is very challenging in such environments. I tried to get photos as quickly as possible so we could start to eat and lighten up. One of the specials of the day were freshly shucked oysters topped with blood orange granita. Slightly sweet and slightly tangy, we slurped these up quickly.
I also ordered the seared Esperance scallops. Just seeing the name Esperance on paper brings a warm glow to my heart as this is where my darling Bestie lives. (***I miss you!***) Whilst small in size, these little morsels were seared to golden brown and served with celeriac remoulade, compressed nashi and crispy shreds of duck meat. I haven’t tried duck with scallops before and found with the sweetness of the pear it balanced well.
Mum is a pork lover and despite her claims of not wanting to eat too much so early in our feasting weekend, she still was brave enough to take on the pork main course. The slow cooked slab of free range Big Red pork belly was slightly over cooked making it a little too dry for her liking. She much preferred the accompanying pulled pork shoulder salad and found the meat in this to be moist and succulent.
I wanted to pace myself for the weekend ahead of us too and ordered the fish of the day for a lighter, healthy meal. The fish was a thick fillet of Mulloway. This is in my humble opinion is one of the finest tasting fish in Australia. The fish was served on a bed of smooth Jerusalem artichoke purée and topped with garden fresh charred corn and peas.
The Boy was having one of his unpredictable meat eating moments and ordered the grass-fed beef cheek. Like most of the ingredients used at Piari & Co, his beef was locally sourced from the South West and slow cooked to the point of meltable soft tenderness.
I had seen pictures of Piari & Co desserts on Instagram and wanted to be able to partake but after having eaten all day there was not a lot of room left. I wasn’t alone in feeling this way so the four of us ordered a single serve of the Bombe Alaska to share, complete with four spoons.
Under the spikey gooey dome of meringue was a chewy, syrupy slice of gluten free pistachio cake. Drizzles of tangy passionfruit coulis lifted the near overpowering sweetness making this a delectable choice. With the crafty work of four eager spoons flashing about quickly, the Bombe Alaska disappeared in a blink of a second.
It seemed that I was the only one at the table not bothered by the noise and sadly the high pitched cackles and racket tainted the experience somewhat for my loved ones. I am a person who loves the hustle and bustle of activity and noise makes me feel alive. Take the drunken whoops of the women at the table next to us out of the equation and I’m certain that we all would have had a fabulous evening. I guess this is a good reason to return…..hopefully not again on the same day as those locals!Disclaimer: Chompchomp would like to disclose that on certain occasions when dining out she may in fact be just like one of those noisy customers as unfortunately she was born without any form of voice volume control. For neighbouring customers on these evenings she is honestly apologetic however cannot promise it won’t happen again. Piari & Co 5/54 Dunn Bay Road, Dunsborough WA 6281 | (08) 9756 7977 | www.piariandco.com.au
Since leaving the East coast as a fresh faced teenager to pursue a career in veterinary science, I quickly learnt to depend on only myself. While I already had an innate level of independence at that age, being separated from my parents by thousands of kilometres had a way of perfecting this skill. Nearly two decades have passed since then and I’m now at a point in my life now where I realise being fiercely self reliant isn’t always a good thing. Recognising that I need and am needed by my close family members seems much more relevant, especially given the distance that separates some of us. I haven’t lived in the same city as either of my parents since I departed long ago and can sometimes go for over twelve months before I cast eyes on their lovable faces. As we all get older, I am realising that I need to make more effort to spend quality time with each of them individually.
It has been years since Mum has come over to visit us in Perth and even longer since she came over with her other half, Jack. They both adore our South West region and requested that we take them down to “The Margaret’s River” as Mum loves to call it. No amount of convincing can get her to call it otherwise.
It is rare for us to be able to relax together so to celebrate this occasion I booked us in at Vasse Felix winery for a long lazy lunch. On our way to Vasse Felix we stopped off at Bettenay’s Margaret River Nougat Company.
Neither Mum nor Jack are big wine drinkers so the Boy and I tried to avoid boring them to pieces with winery after winery. Bettenay’s do have some wines on offer in addition to some luscious liqueurs and, of course, loads of nougat. Their nougat is all handcrafted with gorgeous flavours including cherry and coconut, and my favourite chocolate mint.
After each purchasing a bundle of nougat we headed off to one of Margaret River’s most popular caves; Lake Cave. It has been ages since the Boy and I have gone down into the caves yet every time we do we are reminded what a natural beauty it is.
Lake Cave has one of the only “suspended tables” in the world which weighs several tonnes and forms a breathtaking sight floating in the air casting its refection in the ripples of water below. This cave is one of the deepest in the region so be prepared to walk down and then back up a fair number of steep stairs. There are rest points along the way for those less fit and able.
There were enough stairs to work up anyone’s appetite and after the Caves we headed straight to Vasse Felix for lunch. It was a long weekend and I was grateful that I had pre-booked because every winery that we passed along the way looked packed with cars.
Vasse Felix have an à la carte menu or alternatively if you select dishes marked on the menu with a star you can enjoy three courses for a set price of $65.
There were a handful of gluten free options and one vegetarian dish for each course. Upon arrival our waitress brought out some fresh bread and cultured butter. There was no gluten free bread available so they kindly brought out some marinated olives for me to nibble on while my family hungrily feasted on the bread.
The marinated olives are sourced from a local olive farm called 34 Degrees South and were served warm. I loved how the olive flesh slithered off the pit easily and consequently I downed most of the bowl before I realised that I should probably share.
Mum and Jack both ordered the omelette for entrée. Cooked sous-vide with mirin, it was served with new season asparagus and locally foraged mushrooms. The egg was browned to a glowing caramel colour and garnished with chilli threads, tiny crumbles of popcorn and togarashi. Togarashi is a type of Japanese chilli pepper and thankfully it wasn’t too hot for my Mum’s palate. The omelette was a gluten free dish however to avoid all three of us having the same dish, I ordered the other gluten free option which was the quail.
I struggled somewhat get a good photo of my entrée due to the sun coming in at an angle on my deep bowled dish. Maybe I need to bring a reflector with me when I’m out dining? Is that too crazy? My quail breast was cooked sous-vide with a confit leg and served on a bed of quinoa, zucchini and olives. It was topped with what I first thought was shaved parmesan but soon found out was feta shaved in liquid nitrogen. It had an unexpected creaminess that dissolved on contact with my tongue. To enhance the delicateness of this light dish some caper puree added some punch into the flavours.
For his entrée, the Boy decided to pop his ramen cherry. Ramen hasn’t really taken off in Perth to the extent it has over in Sydney and therefore neither of us have tried it before. Using house made ramen noodles, this dish was given a South-west twist using Manjimup marron and local fresh water crustaceans. A soft gooey quail egg and some fried nori finished it off and as the aromas wafted to my side of the table I was so envious that I couldn’t even taste one mouthful. Damn you gluten!
For those of you who have yet to try Cone Bay barramundi, you really don’t know what you’re missing out on. These fish are farmed in unique environmental conditions in the north west of Australia that imparts a very clean, and sweet taste.
The fish came with a potato fondant and shards of translucent potato glass topped with luxurious drizzles of smoked oyster butter. It was nearly as good as truffle butter. Nearly I said! There was also a little bit of fructose naughtiness with locally foraged charred leeks and leek foam.
Mum and Jack both ordered the lamb shank for their main, such peas in a pod those two! The locally sourced lamb was cooked sous-vide over 48 hours making it uber-soft in texture however sadly it was served lukewarm. I offered to get the waitress to take it back to the kitchen but my Mum didn’t want to make a fuss. The lamb was accompanied with a black barley risotto and ratatouille made of smoked tomato petal, tomato fondue, picked red onion and eggplant purée.
Although the Boy predominantly will stick to his vegetarian diet at home, like me he can on occasions crave meat. Ordering himself the kangaroo loin today was one of these days.
The loin was served rare and was as lean can be without an ounce of detectable fat present. It was served with textures of beetroot, wattleseed crackers and oil made from dandelions foraged on the property.
Our mains were decent sized meals so after stuffing our faces with the addictive duck fat potatoes there was only a small amount of room left for dessert. We agreed to share a couple of petit fours plates between the four of us however the only gluten free element on the plate was the passionfruit macaron. There was only one macaron on each platter but the waitress was kind enough to put an extra one on there for me.
The Boy was absolutely smitten by the bite size ice cream sandwich made with cinnamon ice cream. Many of us food bloggers claim to have a second stomach for dessert and whilst I was reasonably full, one macaron was not going to cut it even if it was one of my favourite flavours.
Consequently I ordered the gluten free dessert option to share with the Boy. I love abstract desserts, plates of multiple elements that you can mix and match on your tastebuds at your leisure. Fluffy portions of cardamom chiffon cake and silky chocolate cremeaux were paired with Jerusalem artichoke ice cream. Passionfruit caramel and gel added a tart sweetness with chocolate soil and dehydrated mouse contrasting with velvety cocoa bitterness. Heavenly to say the least. My claims for being full surpassed me as I competed with the Boy for every spoonful.
The weekend went by all too quickly, time honestly does fly when you’re having fun. There is no one in the world that can make me laugh the way my Mum can and I realise that I need to stop running the rat race of life and take time out to giggle with her more often.Disclaimer: Despite Mum and Jack insisting on trying to pay for everything, the Boy and I managed to sneak in paying our own way for lunch. Blame it on that independent streak of mine. I want to thank Mum, Jack and my beloved for sharing such a wondrous weekend away. Our times together are always cherished xxxx Bettenay’s Margaret River Nougat Co Corner of Tom Cullity Drive & Miamup Road, Cowaramup, WA 6284 | (08) 9755 5539 | www.margaretrivernougat.com.au Lake Cave Caves Road, Forest Grove WA 6284 | (08) 9757 7411 | www.margaretriver.com/operators/7706 Vasse Felix Corner of Tom Cullity Drive & Caves Road, Margaret River WA 6284 | (08) 9756 5050 | www.vassefelix.com.au
We really have to consider ourselves lucky living here in Perth. Not only do we have the Swan Valley, a fabulous wine region only half an hour’s drive from the CBD, but for those willing to do a weekender trip we also have Margaret River. In November every year this relaxed little town becomes a buzz with life for the three day food festival; Gourmet Escape. Last year the Boy and I attended in full feasting force visiting the Gourmet Village on both days in addition to attending a few fabulous satellite events. We ate uncontrollably all weekend long and our repeated episodes of over-indulgence stretched our stomachs to near-bursting capacity. After just a few hours of not eating, our saggy baggy internal gizzards would start to gurgle and unbelievably we would get hungry again. On our last night before returning to Perth, we rolled our giant sized bodies down to the main strip to find ourselves more food. Our noses lead us to Morries Anytime.
I started off with looking at Morries Anytime’s cocktail menu. Their mixologist Billy Phillips was recently awarded “highly commended” for the Mixologist Award in the 2013 AHA Awards. Earlier that day at the Food for Thought sessions at Voyager Estate I had thoroughly enjoyed his Billy’s Punch and now I was keen to try more of his beverages. It had been quite a hot day and I needed something non-alcohol to start. This being quite a rarity for me I was thrilled to see a variety of interesting mocktails available. I chose the Green Guy; a jar of cold Green tea with added cucumber, rosemary and lime. I gulped it down eagerly and felt its icy freshness hit the back of my palate and slowly cool me down from the inside. My second drink was a Tart Gin Cooler. It contained a long pour of Tanqueray gin split with a freshly squeezed grapefruit and topped with a splash of Peychauds bitters tonic & fresh basil. It was as strong as rocket fuel and made up for my earlier sobriety.
Morrie’s menu facilitates shared style dining which suited us fine as we just wanted to pick and nibble the night away together. Our first choice was the treacle cured salmon. Melt-in-your-mouth thin slices of brightly coloured salmon had just a delicate hint of caramel sweetness. It was coupled alongside a grilled fennel and pear salad with orange vinaigrette.
For nearly a whole year previously the Boy refused to eat oysters after eating a bad one and I’m so relieved that he has finally put those memories behind him and got back in the oyster saddle. Morries oysters came with a perfect sized dollop of gin and cucumber sorbet. We necked back these fresh, slurpalicious beauties much quicker than we really should have. Gluttony dies hard.
Relishing in the freshness of the seafood we ordered the fresh prawn meat salad served with crispy baby cos lettuce, sweet corn, radish and a thick lemon dressing. After eating quite a lot of heavy food all day these dishes sat so light in our overextended stomachs. The only problem was we kept ordering more.
For the days preceding our trip I was convinced that my iron level were plummeting again as that familiar tiredness, cold chills and achiness had started to return. Whilst I don’t eat red meat often, when my body craves it I listen and consequently ordered myself the porterhouse steak.
The steak was served with a luscious scoop of horseradish crème fraiche on a creamy potato terrine with asparagus and vine ripened tomatoes. That’s my dose of iron for the day, check. As a backup, I wrote myself a reminder in my calendar to take more iron tablets in the following week.
The Boy has also recognised my need for iron as I’m normally a very energetic person and the iron deficiency version of me becomes very quiet and sleepy. Thankfully he kept his lectures on the need to eat a plant based diet to himself that evening and ordered himself the raw zucchini pasta and a rocket salad.
Each “pasta” ribbon was long and spaghetti-like just how we both like it and I quickly nabbed a big forkful before he could fight me off. The zucchini was coated liberally in a creamy nut truffle sauce and mixed in with fresh raw peas and herbs. My inner truffle addict relished in that wondrous unique flavour.
Morries Anytime is a must on your next visit to Margaret River. They have options to suit all dietary requirements including gluten free, vegetarian and vegan dishes. I was really keen to return to try their breakfast menu on the next day but we ran out of time and had to get back to Perth for work. Morries have placed as finalists in both the AHA Awards and the Gold Plate Awards in 2013 and scored an appearance in the latest West Australian Good Food Guide. And rightfully so, we will definitely make a repeat visit next time we are down south.Morries Anytime Shop 2, 149 Bussell Highway, Margaret River WA 6285 | (08) 9758 8280 | www.morries.com.au Price: $$$ (Tapas $7-15, Mains $32-38) Food: 3.8/5 (right on the money with share dishes, local ingredients) Service: 3.8/5 (relaxed and casual, no pretension) Ambience: 3.2/5 (dark and moody at night, hard for food photography!) Drinks: 4/5 (go for the rocket fuelled cocktails) Total: 15.2/20
Gourmet Escape is a three-day food and wine festival held in Margaret River in November each year. It attracts foodies from all around the country and the world in order to feast on the finest this region has to offer. The core part of the festival is centred on the Gourmet Village which is held on the spacious grounds at Leeuwin Estate. I have written a full account of our experience at the Gourmet Village here.
Throughout the indulgent weekend there are also a number of satellite events held featuring world-famous chefs and offering experiences such as long table lunches, luxurious dinners and even pop up beach barbecues. These events sell out in a flash and for those who are keen, be sure to get yourselves on the pre-sale lists to avoid missing out. The day that all the key tickets were released for sale I was working a full day with a busy schedule so I left all our purchasing up to the Boy. One of our many compatibilities is our love for food so I trusted he would make some good decisions. His choices included two of the Food For Thought Sessions held at the picturesque Voyager Estate grounds.
Our first session was with the amazing duo of Heston Blumenthal and Harold Mc Gee titled “The Science of Cooking”. It was a glorious day with clear blue skies and as we walked onto the brilliant green grounds the wafting aromas of freshly brewed coffee teased our senses. It wasn’t before long we both had one in hand; a short mac for me and a latte for the Boy.
But in all honesty coffee schmofy; who needs coffee when you can have a freshly shaken grape juice cocktail? I knocked back my macchiato in a flash so that I could graciously accept our next round of beverage! With glass in hand we entered into the elegant, chandelier decorated marquee and found our way to our table.
Our waitress made a careful effort to identify the people with pre-notified dietary requirements on our table including the Boy’s vegetarian request and my gluten free. My morning tea included three components. The first morsel was called Spring in a Jar and contained thick avocado cream cheese with miniature vegetables and olive powder.
The second portion on my plate was a slice of delicately tender Margaret River Wagyu sirloin with oyster mushrooms and a horseradish emulsion. The original version of this was served on a crostini which they replaced with a gluten free rice cracker for me. The final component was an egg omelette rolled up with wakame seaweed and sweet Shark Bay Blue Swimmer crab meat.
For the Boy’s vegetarian option the Wagyu was omitted and he was given a larger serve of oyster mushroom with the horse radish emulsion and his wakame egg roll omitted the crab meat.
It was entertaining listening to Heston and Harold talk, I believe they are close personal friends and have both in turn inspired each other’s careers. Whilst Heston was charming and humorous, I found Harold’s scientific approach to understanding the techniques used for cooking very interesting and he has motivated me to return to reading his enormously thick book “McGee on Food & Cooking” that I own at home on the shelf.
Desserts weren’t served until the talk had well and truly finished and by this point many attendees had to whisk away to attend their next foodie event. A perfect cube of Bahen & Co chocolate gateaux was just enough for about two mouthfuls and was adapted to be gluten free for me by omission of the ganache topping. I’m glad we had the time to stick around as this decadent treat literally melted in the mouth.
Our second Food for Thought session on the following day was with Miles Irving, Alex Atala and Matt Wilkinson and was titled “The Call of the Wild – Insects, weeds and the food of the future”. It was no surprise to me that the Boy chose us a session about eating bugs. Remember his insect devouring obsession in Thailand? He ate them at every opportunity that he could find.
This session was better organised than the previous day with both coffees and cocktails in abundance and the service even more polished and attentive. The food and drinks were created by the kitchen team from Morries Anytime. On arrival we were offered glasses of “Billy’s Punch” to accompany cubes of apple liquor soaked canapés. I had planned ahead for any inadvertent fructose exposure and brought some glucose tablets in my handbag. I downed a few before helping myself to some boozy apple delights. The punch was made with a generous amount of Aperol, some Voyager bubbles, sparkling grape juice, home-made rhubarb syrup and fresh orange and strawberry and was far too drinkable for the early morning. I was appreciative of the much larger serving compared to the day before and if it wasn’t before twelve I could have easier had another.
The wait staff team were much more on the ball and shortly after being seated platters of food were brought to the tables. I was informed that I was able to eat the pork and parsley terrine topped with spiced plum chutney as it was gluten free. The mini burgers containing Notting Hill marron and truffle were not suitable and we were told to hold out as our replacements were on their way.
For my replacement the bun was exchanged for toasted gluten free bread. My resulting sandwich was stuffed full of marron and truffle flavour. What a decadent way to start the day!
The Boy sunk his teeth into his vegetarian option before I even had a chance to photograph it and then tried to recreate it in its untouched state by swizzling it round on his plate so I couldn’t see the chomp marks. I never thought I’d hear the day that he would moan in pleasure over a vego burger but this haloumi slider did the trick.
The talk did somewhat digress away from discussing the potentially unpalatable sounding specifics of eating insects and weeds and onto its more worldly implications in providing more sustainable locally grown seasonal produce. We were made to think about not only what foods we choose to eat, but how that food is produced and what potential impact its production has had on the world around us.
Our desserts were discretely served in the latter half of the talk allowing all attendees to enjoy it for this session. The Boy received Bahen & Co chocolate fudge with salted caramel popcorn.
For my gluten free version the fudge was replaced with a scoop of caramel ice cream and topped with the salted caramel popcorn and fresh strawberries.
I found both sessions very informative and interesting and am keen to attend them again next year. The food served each day was very locally orientated, of high quality and was able to be adapted for food allergies provided notice was given in advance. The amount of food was enough for a light morning tea leaving enough room to attend another event in the afternoon or evening without feeling stuffed to the brim.
The 2013 Gourmet Escape Food for Thought sessions cost $100 per person including food and drinks.Voyager Estate 41 Stevens Road, Margaret River WA 6285 | (08) 9757 6354 | www.voyagerestate.com.au/the-estate/the-restaurant
It was only about six weeks ago that the Boy took me down to Margaret River on a prescribed weekend of rest. We wined, dined and came back as fresh as daisies albeit slightly rounder in shape. It was a comparatively unplanned and impromptu trip which is quite out of character for me and I love that the Boy can have this sort of influence on me. I had barely finished writing up all my blog posts from the trip when it was time to head back for Gourmet Escape.
For my non-Western Australians readers; Gourmet Escape is a three day food and wine festival held in Margaret River in November each year. Famous chefs from around the world join along including Heston Blumenthal, Harold McGee, Rick Stein, Adriano Zumbo, Hadleigh Troy, Guillaume Brahimi, Matt Stone, Tetsuya Wakuda and Neil Perry to name a just few!
We had a full weekend planned with different events to attend on each day in addition to a two-day pass to the Gourmet Village. The Gourmet Village is held on the spacious grounds at Leeuwin Estate and the whole day is filled with activities, classes, shows and stalls offering wine and food from all around Western Australia. It was a wonderful way to showcase what a richly diverse State we live in and how lucky we are to have such a strong focus on quality produce.
Basic general admission tickets to the Village cost $38 per adult. We opted for premium tickets for $64 which also included 4 “GEMs”. GEMs are your village currency each costing $7 and most items to eat or drink cost one GEM. Despite buying some extra GEMS in advance we managed to guzzle our way through nearly 20 GEMS on the first day and had to buy more from one of the GEMs sellers that can be found walking through the crowd. There were also outlets in the Village selling GEMS but the queues for these were reasonably long.
The Classroom bar in North Perth set up their own Classroom Cocktail Club were you could buy their famous N2 espresso martinis for one GEM. For my review on this signature drink read my review here. The Boy missed out coming along to my cocktail Master class because he isn’t a blogger so we made a bee line as soon as we arrived to get him one to try!
One of my favourite dishes for the day was The Studio Bistro’s Butterfield beef fillet, cooked rare with a sumptuous dark sear on the surface, served with a melting dollop of decadent Café de Paris and some hand cut Royal Blue chips. I actually went back for seconds on day two! It definitely has inspired me to pay them a visit next time I’m in Yallingup. My other most enjoyable dish was the freshly shucked Pacific oysters at 34 Degrees Blue’s stall. These guys got slurped up in a flash before I even thought of snapping a picture. Oysters are best shucked right before serving as they taste completely different when served freshly shucked. I am glad we have our own oyster shucker extraordinaire in our family; namely my Dad!
Some of the presentations were of particular interest, the Boy and I loved Matt Stone’s demonstration on cooking with insects. The Boy is a great lover of eating these crunchy critters and he reminded me of the damage to the environment that farming my luscious, just devoured beef would have caused. I guarantee he would have been happier if there was a stall that he could have bought me a bag of crickets from!
The Southern Forest region is one that is lesser known to interstate and overseas tourists however it is also an area rich in world class produce, luscious forests and fine wines. This is the region in Western Australia where black truffles are grown commercially. The Southern Forests Food Council are committed to spreading awareness of the value of this region as a foodie’s mecca and were selling a variety of fresh and prepared produce including free samples of trufflicious risotto.
There were a number of gluten free options spotted around the Village and every time I saw something that I could eat I felt compelled to buy some. A little hedonistic I know and suffice to say I suffered for my overindulgence for several days afterwards!
As our second day in the Village drew to a close we had to decide how to spend our last three GEMs. We agreed on a cup of Matso’s Mango beer for the Boy, a glass of Snake + Herring ‘Corduroy’ Single Vineyard Karridale Chardonnay for me and a bowl to share of kimchi and vermicelli noodle salad topped with a couple of grilled Augusta whiting fillets courtesy of Cullen Wines. Cullen Winery are very focussed on sustainability and their impact on the environment, operating a biodynamic winery that is carbon neutral. Their restaurant specialises in using organic and local produce and is a must to visit if you are in the region. They have loads of vego and gluten free options. See my review for Cullen Wines here.
Gourmet Escape was a fabulous foodie weekend away and we hope to be able to attend for many years to come. We enjoyed a wonderful mix of satellite events along with visiting the Village although next year I think one day at the Village will suffice. This will leave more room in my stomach for attending one of the beach BBQs which I believe were incredible.
The Studio Bistro, Yallingup WA
Prevali Wines, 99 Mitchell Drive, Prevelly, WA 6285
Leeuwin Estate, Stevens Road, Margaret River, WA 6285
The Apple Daily Bar & Eating House, 125 St Georges Terrace, Perth WA 6000
Ole Paella Catering
Cullen Wines, Lot 4323 Caves Road, Margaret River, WA 6284
After decades of suffering from the consequences of eating gluten, it has been incredible to discover what life is really about. No itching and scratching, no depression or wild mood swings, endless energy, the disappearance of embarrassing, unsightly eczema and best of all I feel on top of the world. Since learning more about my body and what it can and cannot digest, I have delved deeper and deeper into what IS ideal nutrition. Part of that journey has involved eating much more raw, unprocessed and plant based food. Whilst I’m not a strict vegetarian by any means, meat is only something I eat once or twice a week and the majority of that is seafood. Recently we took a weekend break down to Margaret River and fell off the wagon by eating and drinking ourselves into a blissful coma. After three days of pure gluttony it was time to head home by which point our bodies were crying out for something healthy. I had heard of a vegetarian café called Samudra located in the heart of Dunsborough and instructed the Boy to take us there urgently!
At home the Boy and I are very dependent on our Omniblend blender to allow us to drink freshly made smoothies regularly. I was suffering from smoothie withdrawal and needed one to hydrate and cleanse my poor overworked liver. Samudra have a number of freshly made juices and smoothies to choose from so I chose their “ABC” which contains apple, beetroot, carrot and ginger. I asked for them to not include the apple as I cannot eat them due to their high fructose content.
The waitress kindly replaced apple with celery and kale to give it an extra antioxidant boost. Sitting outside soaking up the sunshine, it was a wonderful feeling to treat my body with such fresh organic goodness and I vowed to have the next seven days off alcohol and all other decadent excesses.
Secretly I was craving eggs, so I chose the scrambled tofu which I figured would be pretty close in their texture at least. I was right. My “vegan eggs” were coloured bright yellow with added butternut pumpkin and resembled what I craved enough to leave me very satisfied. It was served on thick slices of grainy gluten free toast with tamari balsamic glazed Portobello mushrooms and zigzags of parsley pesto. Despite being a tower of food it didn’t leave me feeling overwhelmed or uncomfortably full.
The Boy ordered the breakfast burrito with smoky red kidney beans, smashed avocado, greens, tomato and coriander all wrapped in organic spelt mountain bread. It was wrapped tightly making it quite easy to eat and didn’t fall apart after one bite.
The sauce that accompanied it was very spicy and too hot for the Boy but it went very nicely with my tofu so I finished it off for him.
Earlier this year a few months before the Boy decided to be vegetarian, I suggested to him to try doing a six week “Meatless Monday Raw Food Challenge”. I planned out our recipes so we would only eat raw food on Meatless Monday, all of them adapted for my gluten free, fructose friendly diet. Prior to the challenge I never really realised how diverse a raw food diet could be. It was loads of fun and inspired me to eat more raw food in the future.
We probably didn’t really need sweets after a whole weekend of spoiling ourselves but it isn’t often you see raw, gluten free, dairy free carrot cake on the menu and after a little insistence the Boy agreed to share one with me. The only thing I have to be careful about with raw desserts is that they often contain a lot of dried fruit such as sultanas and dates which both hold a very high fructose content. I carefully negotiated parts of the cake that didn’t have dried fruit while the boy ate the remainder. It was moist, soft and had just a hint of sweetness.
As we were paying the bill, my emotions hit me; I was so sad that our short trip was all over. It had been a magical weekend away and was just what we both needed; for our inner selves and for each other as a couple. To end the wonderful experience with such a fresh, healthy breakfast left us smiling all the way back to Perth. I couldn’t help myself and bought us a bag of dried kale chips to snack on once we hit the half way mark and stretch out the holiday vibe as long as I could.Samudra 226 Naturaliste Terrace, Dunsborough WA 6281 | (08) 9779 9977 | www.samudra.com.au Price: $ (Breakfast $12-18) Food: 4/5 (lots of interesting choices, perfect for that healthy boost) Service: 3/5 (unobtrusive and meals came out fairly quickly) Ambience: 3.5/5 (Fremantle styled hippie chic) Drinks: 4/5 (this is the place to drink green!) Total: 14.5/20
I have to admit I am one of those people that tend to get a bit starry eyed with fancy restaurants that get into the big halls of fame. I am always hinting to the Boy that the holiday of my lifetime would be one where we travel around the world business class eating at the top ten restaurants in the San Pelligrino World’s Best. Focusing more locally than globally, the West Australian Good Food Guide is a highly esteemed annual publication where top restaurants around the state can be awarded one, two or three stars.
For the awards this year, there were five Perth venues and four regional venues that received a two star rating. This award is considered to identify “the best of the best: that small band of restaurateurs who are at the very apex of professional cooking and service”. As yet no Western Australian restaurant has ever achieved a three star rating.
In the weeks preceding our recent trip down to Margaret River I booked a table at Wills Domain, the winner of two stars in addition to the best WA regional restaurant of the year. I wanted fancy and was certain this would fit the bill perfectly.
The restaurant faces out onto the winery boasting 180 degree views of the sweeping vineyards. It had been a very wet weekend and we were blessed with some of the first rays of sunshine we had seen for days. A nippy breeze remained in the air to remind us that summer was still a few weeks away. We started off at Wills Domain’s cellar door to try a few of their wines and walked away appreciating why they hold a number of accolades for their collection. Suffice to say we didn’t walk away empty handed, in fact we had to pick up a full case on the way out!
Once seated at our table, we asked for some spice roasted almonds and marinated olives to be brought out while we perused the menu. I had forced the Boy to go on a short but rather hilly jog earlier in the morning and both our tummies were rumbling as loud as the thunderstorm the night before. The nuts were roasted with smoked paprika, cumin, coriander seeds and honey and packed a decent punch of flavour.
We both ordered the gin cured trout for entrée. Many of you may know about my gin obsession so for me this was a logical choice. Bright colours of locally grown heirloom beetroots, nasturtium flowers and pickles wound elegantly around the plate like a Spring garden bed. I found the “prawn crackers” quite curious. They were actually made from trout skins that are dried and puffed. You could even see the tiny little scales in them. They dissolved on the tongue satisfyingly.
After a considerable wait for our next dish whilst surrounded by very vocal young babies, our mains finally arrived. I was craving beef which is unusual for me so I ordered the Wagyu brisket despite getting a low brow from my dear husband.
I haven’t had red meat in some time, not necessarily because I don’t want it but more so because the Boy no longer eats it and we usually share our food! Three solid chunks of Ningaloo Wagyu brisket were served plank style with fresh kale, parsnip puree and fresh orange.
This was a very simple dish with each element done perfectly but I couldn’t help but feel that this was a very safe menu choice and lacked the creativity and imagination I would have expected for a two starred restaurant. The meat shredded with no effort under my fork and oozed that characteristic smooth, buttery flavour that one can only expect from Wagyu.
The Boy ordered the line caught snapper served with mussels, cuttlefish, fennel and nettles. His fish was also tenderlicious and flakable using only the freshest ingredients and served with a relaxed level of simplicity. We ordered a couple of sides to accompany our mains; roasted pumpkin with seeds and pomegranate and the radicchio and baby cos with buttermilk dressing.
Now as I have told you before, the bar has been set for the most amazing roast pumpkin in all the land by Rockpool. I have now eaten their version of this side dish at more than one Rockpool location, and, on half a dozen occasions. It never fails to woo me every time. If you are going to make a basic dish like this, then make sure you make it really really well! Wills Domain is first place I can confidently say serves roasted pumpkin that is AS GOOD AS ROCKPOOL’S!
Yes, I called it!
There was another fairly extended delay until our plates were cleared and another again before our smiley waitress finally brought the dessert menus out for us. Not quite the polished service I was expecting. As is often the case I couldn’t decide between cheese and sweets so the Boy and I agreed to share one of each. However, in a rare moment of contradiction, we found that we couldn’t agree on which cheese. Accustomed to usually ordering them all, it is a difficult task picking just one! We solved things the old fashioned way and flipped a coin. To my delight I won and selected the Vigneron cheese, or “winemaker’s cheese”.
This cheese is sourced from Woodside Cheese Wrights in South Australia and was created to “showcase the vine leaves and wines” from their vineyards in McLaren Vale. The young cheeses are wrapped in specially selected vine leaves and then washed in white wine. The end result is a fairly complex tasting cheese with a pleasant sweet, slightly earthy flavour ending with a nutty after-taste.
The Boy’s choice of dessert to share was the bitter sweet chocolate slab served with coconut ice cream, passionfruit gel and fresh fruit. The full gluteny version also has a macadamia crumb but the chef was happy to serve the crumb in a little bowl on the side so the Boy could enjoy this component without me.
Overall, our meal at Wills Domain was very enjoyable however I cannot deny I walked away a little disappointed. We have been fortunate enough to dine at a decent number of starred restaurants around Australia and I expected their service to be as polished as their food. Whilst our wait staff were dynamic and friendly, there was long waits between courses, empty plates remained on tables for prolonged times, and even though I made my booking a few weeks in advance, we were seated down the end of the balcony between two families with young children rather than in the body of the restaurant. If I hadn’t built up my expectations due to their rating, we would have actually had a fabulous day and will have to go back again to see if this was a once off.Wills Domain Lot 341 Brash Road (Corner of Abbey Farm Road & Brash Road), Yallingup WA | (08) 9755 2327 | www.willsdomain.com.au Price: $$$ (Entrees $19-21, Mains $29-39) Food: 4/5 (simple, executed precisely without fanfare or extravagance) Service: 3/5 (friendly but inattentive & slow) Ambience: 3.5/5 (placed between two noisy families it was hard to appreciate potential) Drinks: 4.5/5 (the wines are superb, our fav was the 2009 Reserve Bitza) Total: 15/20
With the disappointment resulting from our cancelled Adelaide trip still fresh in our minds, we both looked forward to our weekend break down in Margaret River with an exaggerated level of enthusiasm. Our darling fur-child Eddie had made a full recovery and we both coördinated getting out of work on time on the Friday making for a perfect start to the weekend. To facilitate this further, earlier on in the week I had purchased enough gourmet treats to feed an army and the Boy had stocked up on wine, champagne and plenty of beer. We drove down on the Friday night to our Chalet at Chandeliers on Abbey where we have stayed before some years back. The following morning we lazily lounged in bed and I flicked through my Twitter feed to see what was happening in the real world. I was awakened by a stunning photograph of flash cooked snapper for Knee Deep Wines.
I was actually so excited by its beauty that I woke the Boy up to show him. It was met with some grunts of approval before he drifted back off to sleep. Later that morning as I was cooking us breakfast, I mentioned the photo again and he suggested making a booking at Knee Deep for lunch. Expecting there to be no chance to score a table at such last minute I whooped with joy when I was told there was one table left!
Knee Deep Wines first started producing wines in 2004 and are rated 5-stars in the most recent James Halliday Australian Wine Companion. We arrived a little early and enjoyed working our way through their collection at the cellar door before we sat at our table. We particularly enjoyed the 2010 Limited Release Kim’s Chardonnay with its buttery creaminess and the medium bodied 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon. Knee Deep Restaurant’s chef Ben Day is a recent addition to the kitchen only starting in late February this year and since then has received a number of accolades including a Chef’s Hat in the 2013 West Australian Good Food Guide.
We chose the “Trust the Chef” five course menu where the chef chooses five courses for us matched with Knee Deep Wines for $115. To start with we were brought some freshly baked organic sourdough and cultured butter which are both made in house. The butter is made from local cream and infused with beautiful fresh nasturtium flowers and leaves. The aromas wafted across the table and made me so hungry I started to salivate.
Thankfully our waitress didn’t leave me hanging for too long and after apologising for not having any gluten free bread available, brought some flavoursome marinated olives for me to nibble on. She informed us that like most ingredients used in the kitchen all the olives are marinated in house with the chef using different marinades for each type of olive.
For our first entrée, it was like the long awaited joy of spring had been captured and masterfully spread across our plate. Fresh tangy milk curds made from un-homogenised milk obtained from Millers dairy in Cowaramup, vibrant seasonal flowers and wild fennel laced the plate with shavings of zucchini and zigzags of sweet jarrah honey. Scattered in amongst the colour were paper thin “milk crisps”. Our waitress described with great enthusiasm how the chef made these crisps from skim milk infused with all the parts from the wild fennel plant. Each crisp is flavoured with sprinklings of fennel pollen to add extra punch and brought a wonderful textual contrast to this unique and pretty dish.
Continuing with the same level of originality and intrigue our next dish consisted of a wedge of smoked eel, yabby tail and for the Boy a curly whirly prawn cracker. It was freezing cold and raining outside and the delicately flavoured, warming coconut broth hit the spot.
Each dish exuded Chef Day’s passion for local and seasonal produce and this dish was garnished with locally foraged “beach herbs”. He later informed me that these beach herbs can include on any day the familiar samphire along with dune spinach, salt bush, sea celery, pig face flowers and native spinach.
I am a sucker for meticulous presentation. In my own line of work as a vet, attention to detail is everything especially with my niche field of feline medicine. When this attitude is applied to fine dining, it is by far a step in the right direction in my humble opinion. Our main dish of barramundi and octopus was indeed a plate of perfection. Each component and flavour was carefully thought out and prepared yet still retained an air of simplicity with no pretention. The octopus passed my current “Barcelona test” and the mojo picon had just a teeny bit of kick to it.
I used to be a fan of having “all the cheese” when dining out and have been known to order up to five different cheeses for just the two of us because it’s too hard to choose. I figure it’s just another way I show my “all or nothing” side of myself. Since then I have come to realise that with the right chef it is possible to have just one cheese and turn it into a course of its own right by simply pairing it with the right accompaniments. Five is not necessarily better than one! A humble slice of Pont L’Evêque was served with organic Sundowner apples, pickled watermelon and shaved macadamia. Pont L’Evêque is a French cheese and is one of the oldest Norman cheeses still in production. It is an uncooked, un-pressed, washed rind cheese made with cow’s milk and is creamy pale with a smooth fine texture and pungent aroma.
A refreshing palate cleanser of quince & watermelon sorbet gave just the right element of turning our savoury to sweet notes on our palate and tuned us in perfectly for the final course; dessert.
After not a single dish faltering in its own wonder, we were wide-eyed with anticipation to see what was going to be next. We were not disappointed. Foamy light bitter chocolate espuma with blood orange sorbet and cubes of tart blood orange jelly lay hidden under fracturable shards of chocolate wafer. This whole dish of magnificence was dusted in freeze dried blood orange powder.
I was impressed. For a spur of the minute decision to make a reservation because of a photo I’d seen on Twitter for a restaurant that was never really on my radar; we had experienced a total wow factor from beginning to end. Quirky and knowledgeable service, elegant but simple presentation and a level of true passion and enthusiasm that filtered from the kitchen all the way through to the dining room. This was a late minute change of plans I will never regret.
Knee Deep Winery & Restaurant61 Johnson Road, Margaret River WA 6280 | (08) 9755 6776 | kneedeepwines.com.au Price: $$$ (Entrees $16-22, Mains $28-40, 5 course Trust the Chef $90 + $25 matched wines) Food: 4.5/5 (creative, intriguing and locally sourced) Service: 4.5/5 (quirky and passionate) Ambience: 4/5 (even in the pouring rain, the vines are pretty as a picture) Drinks: 4/5 (only Knee Deep Wines available, but they matched well with each course) Total: 17/20
With the current Australian dollar being high coupled with overinflated prices in Perth, we have noticed that it is actually quite a bit cheaper to go on overseas holiday to a nearby Asian country than it is to holiday in Western Australia. Consequently of late we have been neglecting our frequent visits “down south” and replacing them with visits to Bali and Thailand.
But despite this fact, nothing beats a quick local getaway for its ease and accessibility. It was our last day of our minibreak in Margaret River and reflecting back on our weekend we were both grateful for our location choice. We hadn’t spent an hour trying to cram everything into our two suitcases nor was our little holiday concluding in a mad dash to the airport to catch a plane. Yes, travelling locally still has its definite perks. The car was chinking loudly due to all my wine purchases and our car eskie was jammed full of gourmet goodies; I was trying my hardest to make the most of having no limit on my baggage allowance!
I had made a booking for us at Cullen Wines for one last final meal before we drove back to the city to return to work. Being Easter Sunday I was glad that I had planned ahead as the restaurant looked busy. Upon arrival there was a little mix up where I got a vague jist from the staff that maybe our booking wasn’t recorded in their book. After a brief hesitation we were shown to our seats which were indoors and away from the picturesque area on the deck overlooking the vineyards. It was a bit of a shame we weren’t out there in the glorious sunshine as I had made the booking weeks prior and would have loved to have had one of these prime positions. I guess it’s not like I requested to be seated outdoors so really who am I to complain?
The Cullen restaurant follows the same biodynamic philosophy of Cullens’ Winery using only fresh organic produce sourced from their own large kitchen garden and selected local producers. I knew this fact prior to our arrival and I wanted to see for myself if this reputation for amazingly fresh food was true. We grow a lot of our own vegetables at home and nothing beats them in flavour when compared to commercially grown produce. I wasn’t disappointed – my salad was literally beyond fresh and bursting with flavour. Brightly coloured beets, tomatoes and carrots joined with soft leaves from the garden topped with tangy dollops of goat’s cheese. Scattered throughout were tiny little buttons of chickpea cakes giving just enough substance to make this a meal. Such simple yet thoughtfully chosen ingredients made every mouth full a taste sensation.
The Boy ordered the crispy duck with mandarin pancakes. The duck was richly flavoured and the pancakes were soft and light. I couldn’t see any of the crispy part of the duck on his plate but he didn’t seem too bothered about this and enjoyed his meal.
My main dish was described on the menu as grilled salmon with braised octopus, quinoa, Swiss chard and verjuice beurre blanc. After my delightful introduction to quinoa at Xanadu the day before, I wanted to compare and contrast this new discovery with another chef’s interpretation. I was initially told on ordering that this dish would be suitable for me but unfortunately the waiter soon returned to let me know that much of this dishes accompaniment contained onions. This didn’t seem to worry the chef as he offered to make an alternate option especially for me. As a replacement I was served some creamy mash, steamed snow peas and my large serve of salmon was topped with some citrus dressing that looks a little like Pemberton finger lime.
To my complete surprise as I started tucking into my meal, our waiter also brought out a large bowl of salad filled with massive chunks of avocado and a variety of those wonderful gems from the kitchen garden as a complementary extra because my dish had to be altered so much. How thoughtful and kind of the chef – thank you!
The boy’s main was a hearty man’s dish with a juicy sirloin beef steak, crunchy blue cheese soufflé, cauliflower cream and a red wine jus. His steak was cooked rare to his liking and was a quality cut of meat.
This was my first day of really feeling like I had recovered from my stomach bug so I had happily chugged down a far bit of Cullen’s lovely peachy Mangan Vineyard Sauvignon blanc Semillon. This meant we both ordered dessert without me remembering to take a photo of the menu to remind me of the details! My gluten free dessert was described as a brownie of sort with berry ice-cream. But let me tell you, this was no mere brownie. The top layer consisted of a decadent mousse flavoured with a hint of hazelnut praline goodness. The bottom half had more of a cake like texture and stopped the whole thing from being too overwhelmingly rich.
The Boy’s choice was the pecan pie, an unusual selection for him probably facilitated by the fact it came with ice cream. Obviously I didn’t get to share any of his as it was in no way gluten free so I cannot give you much of a description other than it was good enough for him to finish in entirety.
We really had a fabulous time during our stay down in Margaret River this Easter. Both Xanadu and Cullen were stand outs to us with both their customer service and food quality. Cullen’s exceedingly fresh produce is something worth going back for again and again and I look forward to returning.
Like Me on Facebook!Cullen Wines Lot 4323 Caves Rd, Margaret River, 6284 | (08) 9755 5656 | http://www.cullenwines.com.au/our-restaurant Price: $$$$ (Entrée $19-21, Mains $33-39) Food: 4.7/5 (fresh, succulent – nothing beats garden fresh) Service: 4.7/5 (slight hiccup at the beginning but handled very discreetly) Ambience: 3.2/5 (would get a much higher score if we sat outside in the sunshine) Drinks: 4/5 (only serve Cullen wines – not that that’s a bad thing!) Total: 16.6/20
It was our first morning at Chandeliers on Abbey and we woke up to nothing but the soft twitter of birds. The peace and quiet of the country coupled with an amazingly comfortable bed had allowed both of us to get the first uninterrupted night’s sleep since my evil gastro hit nearly a week ago. Although I still wasn’t quite 100%, I definitely felt much more revived, refreshed and ready to eat again. What perfect timing.
Our chalet had a fridge stocked with some fresh orange juice, milk, eggs and butter and a pantry stocked with tea and coffee. I had presumed there would be nothing for us to eat in the chalet for breakfast, so I brought some gluten-free bread, avocado and tomatoes from our fridge at home. These fresh provisions were combined for a quick and satisfying cooked breakfast and feeling energised off we set on a self-guided tour. I planned to stop in at a few old favourites mixed in with a couple of places we hadn’t visited before.
Our favourites included the picturesque Clairault Wines where I was delighted to see they had a special on their cases of Chardonnay – obviously I had to take advantage of this offer! The Boy was so sweet and without complaint was my skipper for the day. He knew what a horrid week I had and wanted me to enjoy myself too. So that he didn’t bore too much from winery upon winery, we stopped in at the Bootleg Brewery where he grabbed a mixed six-pack and some Pilsner to enjoy back at the chalet later.
No visit to Margaret River is complete without a stop at the Margaret River Chocolate Company. I get so excited at their tubs of free choc buds – they contain white, dark and milk buds. Kids line up at the tubs scooping out handfuls at a time (thankfully using the spoon not their bare hands!)
We bought a sample of their truffles to enjoy for the drive down to Xanadu for lunch but as we journeyed further south we drove past another much newer chocolatey venue called Gabriel Chocolate. I recall reading a review of this place on Food Endeavours of the Blue Apocalypse and was intrigued to see how they compared to the mainstream MRCF.
Gabriel chocolate differs from many fine chocolatiers in that they import the actual cocoa beans (rather than chocolate) to make all their lovely treats. This basically means that they can make chocolate from beans that have been obtained from only one part of the world or even just one plantation. Just like wine made from the same grapes but grown in different regions, the flavour from cocoa beans can vary depending on the climate they are grown in and we both found it fascinating comparing different textures, aromas and taste that each region imparted to its beans.
Being the Easter weekend, Xanadu Wines was fully booked and as we arrived a number of less organised people were being turned away due to a lack of a reservation. All the staff were all so bubbly and welcoming, and within minutes of us being seated at our table the manager came over to acknowledge us and advised me he was fully aware of my allergy requirements. I was advised that most items off the menu could be easily adapted and we were introduced to our waiter for the afternoon.
Of course I ordered the mushroom entrée. My obsession with this vegetable continues. Served with soft butternut pumpkin and quinoa I felt like I was being so good to my body while still enjoying such wonderful flavours. This was my first time trying quinoa at a restaurant and I enjoyed the nutty texture. Prior to my gluten-free days I was a big fan of couscous and it is one of the things I miss (along with buttery croissants). I can see how this ancient grain could serve as a replacement to couscous in many of my old recipes!
The Boy ordered the Marsala prawns with curried lentils, carrot and yoghurt purée topped with a coconut dressing. A good indicator of the quality of his meal can always be measured by how quickly he devours it and trust me those prawns didn’t linger long on the plate!
As my stomach was still undersized from its usual capacity I stuck with ordering light meals and chose the fish of the day. It was a Gold band snapper fillet and the chef kindly adapted the sides to accommodate for my allergies. The fish flaked away gently under my fork and I was surprised at the size of the portion.
The Boy ordered the duck which came with zesty orange braised witlof and a fig salad. It was drizzled in sweet, sticky quince vinaigrette. The duck was tender and not overcooked or dry.
Despite feeling pretty full I was determined to have dessert. There were a number of gluten-free options available which was quite exciting. I chose the mandarin and almond cake with olive oil ice cream. It was so moist and was warmed slightly. As I scooped a mouthful of ice cream and cake simultaneously onto my spoon I delighted that the ice cream melted perfectly into my mouth and not on my plate.
The Boy wasn’t going to have any dessert as he was also feeling near capacity but I coaxed him into trying the poached pear on the fact that it came also with ice cream. His addiction to ice cream parallels mine for mushrooms. The caramel ice cream was nothing short of amazing and mixed in with the vanilla cream I had to stop myself from stealing all his dessert. I will definitely be back!
Like Me on Facebook!Xanadu Wines Boodjidup Road, Margaret River 6285 | (08) 9758 9500 | www.xanaduwines.com Price: $$$$ Accepts Entertainment Card (Entrees $18, Mains $36, 2 course special $49, 3 course special $65) Food: 4.8/5 (wonderful fresh, clean and locally sourced food)) Service: 5/5 (discreetly attentive, friendly, oozed great teamwork and positivity) Ambience: 3.5/5 (would have been better with a bit of a view) Drinks: 4/5 (we shared a bottle of the lively fruity Xanadu Sauvignon blanc Semillion 2011) Total: 17.3/20
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
Follow Me on Facebook!Gnarabar Bar and Bistro Margarets Beach Resort, 1 Resort Place, Gnarabup Beach, Margaret River, WA 6285 | (08) 9757 1583 | www.gnarabar.com.au 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