Archive for the Margaret River Category

Margaret River – winery restaurants in Wilyabrup

Posted in Australia, Margaret River, Western Australia, Wilyabrup with tags , , on January 26, 2020 by gannet39

I think I managed to go to just about all of the best restaurants in the Margaret River region during my one week stay in the area.

Will’s Domain near Yallingup was my favourite (review here).

My third favourite was Palmer’s in Dunsborough (review here).

As luck would have it my second favourite, Vasse Felix, and my fourth, Cullen’s, are both right next door to each other in Wilyabrup. And there’s also a good deli, Margaret River Providore, just down the road.

Map here.

Vasse Felix (Advanced A), Caves Rd & Tom Cullity Drive,

Vasse Felix is the oldest (founded in 1967) and most highly regarded vineyard in the Margaret River wine region.

Happily it also has one of the best restaurants…

… which is located in a beautiful wood-timbered building…

… overlooking the vines.

It’s also one of Karen’s favourites so I had a very willing partner in crime to eat with.

We began by tasting a few of their wines for free. However, you had to pay a A$5 tasting charge to try the premier 2016 Heytesbury Chardonnay (A$89 per bottle to buy), but it was really good.

For our food we opted for the more affordable but still very good 2017 Filius Chardonnay for A$28.

Karen began with the Stracciatella (a kind of mozzarella) which was beautifully presented.

I’m always looking for new experiences so I had the Emu Tartar. I could now claim to have eaten both of Australia’s national symbols!

For the main Karen went with the pork…

…while I had the local Dhufish…

…and we shared a Carrot Salad.

We also divided a Caramel Pudding.

I had a glass of 16 Cane Cut Semillon to go with it (Karen was driving unfortunately).

With two Flat Whites the bill came to A$204 between us which wasn’t too bad at all for what we had.

As we were too busy enjoying ourselves I didn’t score anything but suffice to say it was a superb meal!

On the way out we picked up a couple of bottles of their 2016 Chardonnay which had been too pricey to have with the meal but only cost A$39 each from the cellar door.

We also had a look at their art collection.

This was my first face-to-face experience of Aboriginal art.

And right next door to Vasse Felix is another Margaret River veteran…

Cullen Wines (Advanced A), 4323 Caves Rd,

We had yet another fantastic meal at Cullen on our last day in Margs. This venerable institution isn’t as visually stunning as Will’s Domain or Vasse Felix but it’s still a nice spot.

We sat on the outdoor terrace facing the vines.

After a tasting of a few whites in their range, including the excellent ‘Kevin John’ Chardonnay (A$5 surcharge) we selected their 2015 Chardonnay Sauvignon Semillion Blend (A$36.50 per bottle) to have with our food which was great. In fact we liked it so much we got another one to take home from the cellar for the lower price of A$31.50.

We had the Charcoal-grilled Prawns with Kimchi, Egg Yolk and ‘Coastal Green’…

… Line-caught Red Emperor, Cucumber, Fermented Apple, Dashi, Squid Ink Cracker…

…and Arkady Lamb. Bagna Cauda, Garden Leek and Almond Crunch.

And the Cullen Honey Mousse, Comb and Ice Cream to finish, to which I added a glass of 2017 LH Chenin Blanc.

Again, I was too busy enjoying to score but everything was wonderful, including the great service from our waiter Paolo who was a native of Messina. He enjoyed the fact that I had been to Al Padrino, a great restaurant in his hometown (see my Messina post).

It came to A$220 between us, which was great given we had a bottle to take home as well, and we left buzzing.

A short drive away is this posh shop…

Margaret River Providore (Intermediate B+), 448 Tom Cullity Dr,

An upmarket deli selling award winning wines, liqueurs, oils and jams etc under their own label.

They have an interesting organic kitchen garden you can wander around. I learned that in 1637 rhubarb was so highly prized that by weight it cost three times more than opium!

And that sadly is the last of my posts on this wonderful part of the world.

I had a great experience in Perth and Margaret River, thanks in a large part to my dear old friend Karen.

Thank you so much for a wonderful time mate. Can’t wait to come back! 🙂 x


Margaret River – food and drink in and around town

Posted in Australia, Gnarabup, Margaret River, Margaret River, Western Australia with tags , , , on January 25, 2020 by gannet39

As I mentioned before, Margaret River is the name of a famous wine region about three hours’ drive south from Perth but the area takes its name from the river and associated town of the same name.

You’ll find all the places below on my Google map.

After I checked out of my Dunsborough AirBnB, my friend Karen and I rented a nice place for the weekend, just outside the town of Margaret River which is in the southern part of the wine region.

From the veranda we had a view of the sea in the distance while the Margaret River itself flowed past us down in the valley below. Video here.

It’s a magical spot, especially at night when all the stars are out.

In the mornings we drove the short distance to the sea…

…and ate breakfast here.

White Elephant Cafe (High Elementary B+), Gnarabup Rd,

This café is in prime position overlooking Gnarabup Beach. It’s very popular so you may have to queue for a short while. The food is worth the wait though.

Surfer’s Point at the end of Gnarabup Beach is a famous surf spot.

However on the day we went there was a swimming competition going on in the sea. Videos here and here. It made me feel healthier just watching them!

I’m told the hat made me look very ‘ocker‘!

In the evening we went into town…

Morries Anytime (Intermediate A-), 2/149 Bussell Hwy,

This is a great little spot in Margaret River itself. I was too busy chatting with Karen to grade anything but we both agreed that the food, the wine and the service were all really good.

We had the Pork Belly and the Grilled Haloumi to start…

…followed by the Chorizo and the Burger Board (in order of preference; beef, prawn and chicken).

With two glasses of SBS and an extra Rosily Grenache Shiraz and a Negroni for me, the bill came to a paltry (by our standards) A$112.

The minus grade was due to the live jazz combo who made it a bit difficult to have a conversation, but otherwise this is a great spot.

From here we drove south to take in the Boranup Forest, videos here and here, and Hamelin Bay here, which is famous as a breeding ground for stingrays, although not on the day we went.

Even more good food next…

Margaret River – in and around Yallingup

Posted in Australia, Margaret River, Western Australia, Yallingup with tags , , on January 24, 2020 by gannet39

On another morning, I cycled to Yallingup, a small town on the western side of the Margaret River peninsula that’s famous for surfing.

Map here.

I stopped for a second breakfast when I got there…

Caves House Hotel (Intermediate B), 18 Yallingup Beach Rd,

This is a historic pub with beautiful gardens.

It’s also a hotel and members of the public can pay to have the buffet breakfast.

To be honest the food is pretty average but you can sit out on the terrace and share it with the some new friends.

The main lounge has some nice Art Deco fittings.

And there’s some nice artwork on the walls.

This is called ‘Contemplation’ by Mark Norval.

From here it’s a short ride to the beach. The coastline here is rugged but beautiful.

You can just make out the heads of the surfers braving the huge breakers towards the end of this video. Here’s another video from a different angle.

From here I cycled 7km to my lunch destination although I stopped halfway to cool down…

Cape Lavender (Intermediate B), 2 Canal Rocks Rd,

I’m still not sold on lavender ice cream (C) but this tea room focussing on all things lavender was a nice spot to cool down for a while.

And then onwards to…

Wills Domain (Advanced A), 57 Brash Rd,

This was perhaps my favourite amongst many wonderful eating and drinking experiences in Margs.

Everything was perfect; the wines, the cuisine, the service and the view. A great experience all round.

Which explains why they have won the Good Food Guide ‘regional restaurant of the year’ award on several occasions.

I arrived late as the cycle ride from Yallingup took a little longer than I expected, so I forewent a tasting at the cellar door and went straight to my reserved table outside.

It gave me a great view of the vines.

I opted for the seven course tasting menu which was a snip at A$110.

The first things to arrive were a medley of amuse bouches that didn’t feature on the main menu.

The heirloom tomatoes and pickled baby cucumber from the kitchen garden were fab (A).

The best though was the cod roe with curd and local olive oil. Simply beautiful, both in terms of flavour and appearance (A+).

The bread and the accompanying truffle honey, the latter a new concept for me, were also wonderful (A).

After this came the ‘snacks’ which all scored A/B.

I was quite impressed to receive some Beluga caviar, even when the German chef who served it confessed he wasn’t keen.

I was served wine by Guillermo, an affable sommelier from Veneto with whom I got on very well, so the grading of the food seems to have gone out of the window at this point. Rest assured it was great, that’s all anyone needs to know.

I loved the Blanc de Blanc he matched with the earlier eats (A).

This was unique; Swordfish Toro, Mullumbimby Plum, Pepperberry.

Matched with NV Sparkling (B).

Here we have Grilled Asparagus, Shitake, Kai Lan.

Matched with a 2015 Single Vineyard Semillon (B+).

I opted for the ‘Broth Supplement’ and was very glad I did. The jamon broth, with the additions of grilled marron, mushroom and cos, was fantastic (A).

The Single Vineyard Chardonnay (A) was matured in young oak.

Then King salmon, Salted Kohlrabi and Cuttlefish…

…and a 2007 Semillon (B+).

Rangers Valley Beef Rump with Prawn, Celeriac and Miso.

The 2013 Cuvee D’Elevage Cabernet Sauvignon had a fantastic nose (A) but for me lacked in flavour (B).

Being the glutton that I am, I also added an extra cheese course to the tasting menu and insisted on having Australian cheeses only.

After this a palate cleanser of some kind.

Then a couple of desserts. First came Passionfruit, Hot Chocolate and Miso Ice Cream.

Which was matched with a 2016 Frogmore Creek Iced Riesling (A). For dessert Guillermo gave me the only wines that didn’t come from their vineyard.

Then Milk, Honey, Camomile.

Alongside a 2017 Harewood Estate Riesling.

A final chocolate cornetto sealed the deal.

With a macchiato, the bill came to a rather stunning A$316 but it did include a $90 bottle of the 2012 Chardonnay, the last one in stock, which Guillermo favoured over the 2014 I’d had earlier.

It was a pricey experience but I’d come to enjoy myself and I certainly achieved that. I cycled back to Dunsborough a very happy man.

Stats for the day:

43 km cycled.
2 parrots befriended.
20 kangaroos seen.
11 courses eaten.
9 wines drunk.
1 bed collapsed in.

So a good day then!

Heading further south down the coast next…

Margaret River – day trips to Eagle Bay and Bunkers Bay

Posted in Australia, Bunkers Bay, Eagle Bay, Margaret River, Western Australia with tags , on January 17, 2020 by gannet39

From Dunsborough I cycled to a couple of stunning beaches in the north east of the peninsula. The furthest and most isolated was beautiful Bunkers Bay.

Video here.

From here I cycled to Cape Naturaliste Lighthouse at the very northern tip of the peninsula but I lost my photos from that, sorry.

My map here.

I can also recommend the long beach at Eagle Bay. It’s busier as it’s easier to get too but still really lovely. Both these beaches have a lot of shallows so there’s no need to worry about sharks!

They could also be hiked as part of the Cape to Cape track.

Inland from Eagle Bay are two well known places to eat and drink…

Wise Wine (High Intermediate B+), 237 Eagle Bay Rd,

The entrance to the Wise Wine vineyard is immmediately over the road from the Eagle Bay Brewery below, so you get to choose between beer and wine. The food is much better at Wise though, although not as good as other wineries I visited.

Their boast is that they are the only vineyard whose vines reach as far as the sea. Although I couldn’t quite see that this was actually true with my own eyes, the view from their terrace was still pretty good.

I started off with a round of white wine tastings at the cellar door and concluded that their Pino Grigio was the one for me (B+) despite the A$48 asking price in the restaurant (a separate business apparently).

The Swordfish began things well (B+) but was also a bit pricey at A$44.

I wasn’t that hungry so I went straight to the Australian cheeses which were the best I had on the trip. The Chevre and the Brie both scored A. The service was average but everything else was good so I left happy.

Eagle Bay Brewing Co (Intermediate C), 236 Eagle Bay Rd,

This is the place to come on a hot day when you really need to slake a thirst. It was in the low 30s when I cycled up the hill from Dunsborough. The greeter was pretty gobsmacked to see me as it seems nobody in their right minds would normally cycle up here in the heat!

I was spitting nails so I downed a pint of their excellent Pale Ale (A) in a matter of minutes. I followed up with a tasting paddle of all their beers (Kolsch, Lager, Amber Ale, Hoppy Blonde, Pale Ale, Black IPA). The 5.1% PA is the best as far as I’m concerned.

A friend tells me that beer was exactly what my body needed after all that exertion, in order to balance my electrolytes.

The dining room is very big, they must be able to cater for a couple of hundred customers at once. The view is okay but not all that imho. Video here.

Despite positive reviews from various sources, I didn’t rate the food here at all. The grilled Barrimundi dumped on my table was passable in flavour (B) but the oily salad it came with wasn’t great (C).

I had to send the following Korean Chicken Wings back they were so bad (D).

And the Marinaded Octopus wasn’t much better (C-). The Iced Chocolate for dessert saved things a bit (B+).

Service was variable but generally okay. A good place to drink Pale Ale but I wouldn’t go back for the food.

So stick to the wineries! Heading west next…

Margaret River – holing up in Dunsborough

Posted in Australia, Dunsborough, Margaret River, Western Australia with tags , , , , on January 15, 2020 by gannet39

When I first came on this trip to Western Australia, I had plans to head up north to Shark Bay to see the dugongs and stromatolites, but I was told it was the wrong time of year (January) as the heat would be unbearable. It’s also a trip that would require several days and a lot of driving, so I decided to leave it for another time and head south to Margaret River instead.

The river has given its name to a town and surrounding tourism region that’s three hours’ drive from Perth. The area is famous for being one of Australia’s best wine regions. I spent a night in an AirBnb just outside the town of Margaret River (see later post) but first I spent seven nights in Dunsborough, a coastal town in the north east of the region. My map of the Margaret River region is here.

Dunsborough is nice enough but not particularly exciting, however it’s an excellent jump off point for visiting the peninsula that constitutes the northern part of the Margaret River region.

It does have its own beach which is nice enough…

…but not as nice as Meelup Beach on the edge of town. Video here.

The Meelup to Castle Rock walk starts near the beach.

It takes you through a pristine nature reserve with some scenic coastal views along the way. Video here.

My planned daily routine was to get up early and cycle to a new beach, and then visit a winery for a long lunch and a gentle cycle home later when it wasn’t so hot (see coming posts).

So my first stop was usually for an early breakfast here…

The Cure (Elementary B), 1/20 Faure Ln, Dunsborough WA 6281

This drive through café in a quirky building was a couple of streets away from my AirBnB. They have a small terrace outside so it’s a nice place to start the day.

They do good coffee and a great smoked salmon bagel (B+).

For a luxurious lunch the best place in town is…

Palmer’s Winery (Advanced A), 1271 Caves Rd,

I came here on a very hot day as it was close to Dunsborough beach. It was recommended by my AirBnB hosts but I wasn’t expecting it to be as good as it was.

The Albany Rock Oysters were the best ones I had on the whole trip (A+), and I’d had oysters at least ten times in the five weeks I was in Oz.

Always up for the local specialities, I tried the Manjiup Marron (local freshwater crayfish) with Seared Asparagus, Potato & Green Onion Salad, Garlic Butter & Fried Capers. Butterflied for easy eating, it had plenty of meat to it but was slightly disappointing in terms of flavour (B).

However their in-house Semillon was the perfect match for the seafood (B+).

The service from my adorable waitress Julie was also the best I had during the whole trip, which is saying something given the high standards I generally encountered in and around Perth.

The Coconut Pannacotta with Mango, Strawberry & ‘Honeycomb’ was fantastic too (A). I want to have a go at making this.

I followed up with an Affogato. I was unsure what sweet wine to have with this so Julie gave me a taster of their Pedro Ximenez (B), an Andalucian favourite of mine, and a port-like wine also of their own making (B+). I went with the latter (B+).

After paying the bill and leaving a handsome tip for Julie (tipping is not required in Oz, unless they really deserve it, which is maybe why the service is generally so good), I followed her directions and stumbled through the rows of display vines to their cellar door…

…to try a few of their range of reds, courtesy (?) of the taciturn cellar guardian.

They also process the grapes of a nearby vineyard under the name of Purebred which impressed me too. I left with a bottle of 2014 Purebred Malbec (€39) and one of the Port from Palmer’s private collection (€25) that I’d had with the Affogato. Fortunately home was only a short cycle ride after this!

I liked Palmers wines so much that I came back a second time with Karen and went through the whites, finally purchasing a mixed box of six which sustained us for the following week. They were the 2016 Palmer SB, the 2014 Palmer Semillon, the 2015 Purebred Chardonnay MW, the 2015 Purebred Chardonnay B.D. and the only red; the 2014 Purebred Malbec MW again. Total cost A$157.

The old boy was a bit more friendly this time as I was a returnee. I learned from him that Palmers wines are not easily purchasable as there’s not much money in involving middle men, so you have to visit to get their good stuff. It’s a must in my book, do go. You can recognise the turn off for the cellar door by this old sports car parked on the grass verge by the main road.

There are a few other places in the centre of town that are okay for everyday eating and drinking.

The Dunsborough (Intermediate B), 536 Naturaliste Terrace, Dunsborough WA 6281

The big local pub, popular with families. Big terrace outside.

Occy’s (Low Intermediate B), 12/34 Dunn Bay Road,

A very popular wine bar that sells food. I can recommend the fried squid (B+).

Oh Delhi (Low Intermediate B+), 9/34 Dunn Bay Road,

Good Indian food. I enjoyed the Lamb Chops, Tawa Veg Curry, Raita and Butter Naan (all B+).

Little Saigon (Low Intermediate C+), Shop Seven/34 Dunn Bay Road,

I had a great Beef Pho for lunch but I wasn’t impressed by the Fresh Rolls, Chicken Skewers and Barrimundi Fillet I had in the evening (all C).

So now I had a base camp, I could do a few day trips…

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