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