Mar­garet River, WA

Long a mag­net for hip­pies and surfers, this re­gion south of Perth is one of the coun­try’s gourmet hotspots, too. By Max Veenhuyzen.

Qantas - - Contents -

How a hip­pie hotspot be­came a fine-din­ing des­ti­na­tion

Post­card-Per­fect shore­lines. White-sand beaches. Tow­er­ing karri forests. As far as God-given beauty goes, Western Aus­tralia’s Mar­garet River re­gion hit the jack­pot. Those who live in Perth are just as for­tu­nate – the area is only three hours south of the cap­i­tal by car. While many hit the road in search of peace and quiet, more and more trav­ellers are mak­ing the jour­ney to sam­ple the re­gion’s bur­geon­ing food and drink scene. Ini­tially, it was world-class wine that put it on the map; now, the coun­try’s South West has equally for­mi­da­ble restau­rants to go with all that grape juice. Sweeten the spot with art gal­leries and lux­ury ac­com­mo­da­tion and you have the mak­ings of a very fine hol­i­day.

Ex­plore LO­CAL PRO­DUCE AND ART

Held ev­ery Satur­day morn­ing at Mar­garet River Ed­u­ca­tion Cam­pus, the Mar­garet River Farm­ers’ Mar­ket( mar­garet river farm­ers mar­ket.com.au) is as much about cel­e­brat­ing com­mu­nity as fill­ing your shop­ping bas­ket. Check out the lo­cally grown pro­duce and pick up some olive oil or nougat for gifts. At Jah Roc Gal­leries (jahroc.com.au), the sou­venirs are a lit­tle harder to trans­port your­self but in­clude fine fur­ni­ture as well as paint­ings by artist David Brom­ley. Need a caf­feine hit? Side­kick Cafe (set­tlers tav­ern.com), opened by the own­ers of the charm­ing Set­tlers Tav­ern, is your best choice in town for cof­fee.

WINE-TAST­ING

At Voy­ager Es­tate (voy­ager­estate.com.au) in Mar­garet River, wine­mak­ing and viti­cul­ture man­ager Steve James and the team pro­duce stand­out wines. The caber­net sauvi­gnons and chardon­nays are con­sis­tently rated among the re­gion’s best and the tast­ing ex­pe­ri­ence is sim­i­larly pol­ished. Book early to se­cure a pri­vate tast­ing in Michael’s Room, named af­ter Voy­ager Es­tate founder Michael Wright. Th­ese som­me­lier-led tast­ings fea­ture mu­seum and ex­clu­sive lim­ited-re­lease wines. Af­ter­wards, make your way to Surfers Point in Prev­elly (a 15-minute drive away) to ad­mire the deep-blue might and majesty of the In­dian Ocean.

VIEW FROM ABOVE

Ac­ti­vated in 1904, Cape Nat­u­ral­iste Light­house holds an im­por­tant place in the re­gion’s mar­itime his­tory. Climb the stair­case to its bal­cony and be re­warded with views of the In­dian Ocean and sur­round­ing Leeuwin-Nat­u­ral­iste Na­tional Park. A cot­tage sells sou­venirs, drinks and snacks – ideal if you plan to tackle the walk­ing trails that con­nect the light­house with Bunker Bay. From June to De­cem­ber, ob­serve the an­nual whale mi­gra­tion from the view­ing plat­form at Shel­ley Cove. Although the walks are easy, a guided bus tour with an op­er­a­tor such as Na­ture’s Cape Tours (na­turescape­tours.com.au) is an ex­cel­lent way to learn about lo­cal wildlife and flora while you spot kan­ga­roos.

BREW TIME

Although the re­gion is renowned for wine, it’s fast gain­ing a rep­u­ta­tion for its qual­ity beer of­fer­ings, too. A num­ber of craft brew­eries are spread through­out the area but Ea­gle Bay Brew­ing Co. (ea­gle bay brew­ing. com.au) gets our vote for its cosy hill­side home and widescreen out­look across the land. (John d’Espeis­sis, fa­ther of the brew­ery’s own­ers, has the neigh­bour­ing sheep and cat­tle farm.) While beer fans flock to the brew­ery to drink lim­it­ededi­tion and sea­sonal brews, it’s also the per­fect place to be in­tro­duced to sig­na­ture beers such as the bright, re­fresh­ing kolsch and the Vi­enna lager.

Eat & drink BREAK­FAST AT BUNKERS BEACH HOUSE

Named for the pretty bay it over­looks, Bunkers Beach House( bunkers beach house. com.au) com­bines com­mand­ing views of the beach with a menu of re­li­able break­fast favourites. Fill up with hearty shak­shuka (Mid­dle East­ern-style baked eggs), smoked­salmon bagels and chia pud­ding.

LUNCH AT ARIMIA

Arimia’s (arimia.com.au) seclu­sion is part of the ap­peal of this un­der­stated cel­lar-door res­tau­rant lo­cated on an unsealed road in Yallingup. It also chimes with the owner’s softly-softly ap­proach to­wards liv­ing on the land. Rain­wa­ter is gath­ered, waste­water is treated on site, the res­tau­rant gen­er­ates its own power and chef Evan Hayter drives Arimia’s grow-it-your­self ethos. Veg­eta­bles

from the or­ganic gar­den star in dishes such as tiny tem­pura baby fen­nel and Jerusalem ar­ti­choke chips, while es­tate-reared pigs are show­cased in daily porcine spe­cials such as udon noo­dles served with a hearty tonkotsu-style broth. To fin­ish, ex­pect the com­fort­ing likes of choco­late cake scat­tered with de­hy­drated cher­ries and pis­ta­chio. Works by South West artists Russell Sheri­dan and Linda Skrolys beau­tify the res­tau­rant, out­door spa­ces of­fer al­fresco din­ing and snappy wines round off this pleas­ing pack­age.

DIN­NER AT LEEUWIN ES­TATE

Leeuwin Es­tate (leeuwines­tate.com.au) in Mar­garet River feels like the de­fin­i­tive Aus­tralian win­ery, with gi­ant karri trees that shadow guests as they en­ter the prop­erty, kook­aburra calls that punc­tu­ate the air, and a stately vine-wrapped ve­ran­dah that over­looks the grounds and the nat­u­ral am­phithe­atre. Leeuwin pro­duces the revered Art Se­ries range of wines and many re­gard the es­tate as one of the names that put the re­gion on the world wine map. That spirit of en­deav­our is alive to­day in both the win­ery and the res­tau­rant. Asian el­e­ments fea­ture promi­nently in the re­fined cook­ing of chef Dany An­gove, so lo­cal abalone is served with Ja­panese kew­pie may­on­naise lifted with yuzu cit­rus, while makrut lime is used as an ac­cent for raw king­fish. Af­ter your meal, visit the on-site gallery, where the orig­i­nal works for the Art Se­ries wines are dis­played.

THE NEXT BIG THING

Vasse Felix, Cullen, Pierro, Moss Wood – all pi­o­neer­ing Mar­garet River winer­ies. And all names that call Wilyabrup home. While this part of the South West is awash with wine­mak­ing his­tory, it’s also fer­tile breed­ing ground for newer tal­ent. One of the re­gion’s bright­est stars is Knee Deep Wines (kneedeep­wines.com.au), thanks in no small part to the thor­oughly mod­ern cook­ing of re­cently ar­rived chef Bax­ter New­stead. A go-get­ter who counts Noma Aus­tralia and Mel­bourne’s Vue de Monde among his pre­vi­ous ports of call, New­stead has a fond­ness for seek­ing out lo­cal and na­tive in­gre­di­ents and turn­ing them into de­li­cious, al­most-too-pretty-to-eat dishes. Mar­ron and a brown-but­ter emul­sion find syn­ergy with puréed car­rots, while a daz­zling “rose” made of care­fully ar­ranged slices of white plum closes the meal on a high.

Stay

The ten­nis court and well-tended vines that greet guests on the drive into Cape Lodge (ho­tel.qantas.com.au/capelodge­mar­gare­triver) set the tone for its ele­gant brand of coun­try lux­ury. Sur­rounded by na­tive bush­land, the es­tate’s metic­u­lously man­i­cured grounds are per­fect for es­cap­ing city life – not least be­cause mo­bile phone cov­er­age is lim­ited in the area (how­ever, wi-fi is avail­able). The rooms are just as con­ducive to rest and re­lax­ation. Choose from 22 suites with gar­den or lake views or the hand­some Vine­yard Res­i­dence, a stand­alone house with space for eight peo­ple and its own put­ting green. The lake­side res­tau­rant and draw­ing room al­low guests to meet and min­gle. As well as pro­duc­ing its own wine, Cape Lodge has a thriv­ing kitchen gar­den. Which brings us to one of its big­gest draw­cards: the chic din­ing room. Though guests have a va­ri­ety of in-house din­ing op­tions, the best way to ex­pe­ri­ence the breadth of chef Michael Elfwing’s tal­ent is the six-course tast­ing menu. Elfwing draws in­spi­ra­tion from Asia and lo­cal pro­duce to cre­ate win­ning dishes such as Esper­ance green­lip abalone in a deep duck broth and Broome bug tails steamed with gin­ger and lemon ver­bena. He can play it straight, too, as demon­strated by his per­fectly juicy roast duck. The cel­lar, mean­while, is filled with lo­cal bench­marks (Cullen, Moss Wood, Vasse Felix, Leeuwin Es­tate) as well as clev­erly cho­sen im­ports from around the world, mak­ing it pos­si­ble to eat lo­cal but drink global.

At Voy­ager Es­tate’s res­tau­rant, wine-paired menus show­case the re­gion’s fine pro­duce

Ea­gle Bay Brew­ing Co. pro­duces small-batch beers (be­low); Cape Nat­u­ral­iste Light­house at Geographe Bay

Cape Lodge is a tran­quil coun­try re­treat

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