Friday, 30 January 2015

Truffle Hill Gourmet Cafe (Truffle & Wine Co), Manjimup, Western Australia (Alissa and Don Eat Australia)

One of the great pleasures of wintertime in Western Australia is Truffle Season. Home to the largest producer of Black Truffles in the world, restaurants throughout Perth get in on the gift of the season with truffle-oriented dishes and even entire menus devoted to the Black Truffle - everyone ranging from fine dining stalwarts like 1907 right down to more casual eateries like Old Faithful. Such is the quality of Manjimup Truffles that they've been spruiked by chefs as influential as Heston Blumenthal and David Chang, and even the French are actually importing our Truffles for their off-season.

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Lakeside Restaurant (Karri Valley Resort), Pemberton, Western Australia (Alissa and Don Eat Australia)

Holidays Down South are some of the most cherished memories of my childhood, and few places are imbued with more nostalgia than Karri Valley. Along with Albany, Karri Valley Resort was our favourite destination for family holidays Down South, and I vividly remember canoeing on the lake with my Dad while wearing my favourite stripy t-shirt, walking a section of the Bibbulman for the first time on the opposite side of the lake, and games nights of Celebrity Heads, Monopoly and Scrabble with family and friends whenever we stayed in one of the larger chalets. It was where I celebrated my 13th birthday, and there are albums we listened to while driving through the karri forests that to this day bring back fond memories of a happy childhood.

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Lavender and Berry Farm, Pemberton, Western Australia (Alissa and Don Eat Australia)

One of the interesting things about having visited the South West repeatedly over the last 20+ years is seeing how many things have changed, while others stay the same. I walked Busselton Jetty before the fire of 1999 when it was a bit more obviously wooden, and I visited Ngilgi Cave when it was still called Yallingup Cave. I remember when Karri Valley Resort had aqua bikes and paddle boats, and when the on site trout farm was busy with keen fishing enthusiasts. And I remember the '90s iteration of Middleton Beach's Esplanade Hotel before it became the sad, empty lot it is today. Some of these changes have been for the better while others have not, but its remarkable that some things in the South West have remained the same to this day.

Sunday, 25 January 2015

Swings Taphouse & Kitchen, Margaret River, Western Australia (Alissa and Don Eat Australia)

I've said it before and I'll say it again - pizza is an easy dish to make at a mediocre level (hence its ubiquity), but one that is very difficult to truly master. The dough, the thickness of the base, the type of oven, the temperature, the amount of toppings on top - all these variables greatly influence the final result, and while exotic and clever pizza topping combinations are obvious ways to make a pizza appear better, if the fundamentals of a great base are not achieved first then half the battle is already lost. Its for this reason I seldom seek out pizza, but when our friends Cam and Nadia said the Swings Taphouse & Kitchen made the best pizza they'd eaten since they lived in Italy, I knew it was something worth trying. We initially thought of saving it for future Down South holiday, however after a car breakdown meant another three nights in Margaret River, Alissa and I decided to pop into Swings for a late lunch.

Thursday, 22 January 2015

Settlers Tavern (American BBQ Lunch), Margaret River, Western Australia (Alissa and Don Eat Australia)

Our last meal in Margaret River was meant to be our breakfast at Morries; we had our car packed and ready to go, and after stopping in for a wine tasting at Stella Bella and a coffee at Yahava, we were on the road for two nights in Karri Valley. As we were driving down Brockman Hwy, our car suddenly stopped and would not start up again. After a few hours standing around in the searing sun, an RAC mechanic trying his best to figure out what was wrong with the car, a rope tow to Augusta, a $400 order for a faulty Airflow Sensor and being advised of a 2-3 day wait for the part to come from Sydney, Alissa and I were rescued by our friends Cam and Nadia and taken back to Margaret River. With Karri Valley Resort kindly changing the date of our booking and Cam and Nadia telling us to stay as long as we needed, Alissa and I decided to make the most of this less than ideal situation by sampling a few more restaurants on the Margaret River main strip, with Settlers Tavern's American Barbecue menu high on our list after Cam's strong recommendation.

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Morries Anytime (Lunch and Breakfast), Margaret River, Western Australia (Alissa and Don Eat Australia)

In spite of only having been established less than 3 years ago, Morries Anytime has become something of a Margaret River institution. It so well known and popular - the most blogged about restaurant in the region - that it feels like its always been there, and yet for all the regular visits Alissa and I have made over those same 3 years, we've never tried the food at Morries. With two nights set aside staying with our friends Cam and Nadia in Margaret River, Alissa and I were keen to rectify this oversight by trying the lunch and breakfast menus of 'Margaret Rivers first all day, anytime hospitality venue'.

Sunday, 18 January 2015

Cape Lodge, Yallingup, Western Australia (Alissa and Don Eat Australia)

Outside of the towns and regional centres, dining out in the South West is a largely daytime affair. It makes sense - driving around the Australian bush at night with little to no phone coverage over great distances can be a bit unnerving if you aren't used to it, especially with the risk of kangaroo collisions increasing at sundown and sunset. It was surprising then to discover Cape Lodge - one of the top rated restaurants in the Margaret River Region - did not open for lunch, and that it was their fine dining dinner service that was most celebrated. With the recent arrival of a new head chef in Michael Elfwing and a recently updated dining room that has been described as the region's most fancy, Alissa and I decided to make dinner at Cape Lodge one of our two fine dining destinations during our 2015 Down South trip.

Thursday, 15 January 2015

La Scarpetta, Margaret River, Western Australia (Alissa and Don Eat Australia)

Local knowledge can make all the difference. Talk to most Perth residents about places to dine on the Margaret River main strip, and you'll get the same standard answers - Morries, Muster Bar and Grill and Settlers Tavern will be the mainstay answers, while those keeping up with more recent openings will probably recommend Swings Taphouse (which replaced the much loved Wino's) and Miki's Open Kitchen in Margaret River. When planning our 2015 trip through the South West, I wanted to try out places that are perhaps a little less well known, and our friends in Margaret River thoroughly recommended a place they frequent called La Scarpetta, an Italian Trattoria located on the north end of the main strip run by Italian trained Italian chefs, with a strong focus on the food of Sardinia.

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Laundry 43, Busselton, Western Australia (Alissa and Don Eat Australia)

My Father's previous job had him travelling to Bunbury and Busselton fairly regularly. My Mother would tag along and spend the day exploring the many shops and cafes before meeting up with my Father after work for dinner. One of their favourite places to eat was Laundry 43, a restaurant they would often rave about long before we picked up a copy of the Good Food Guide and discovered it to be the best rated restaurant in Busselton. While Alissa and I travel down south at least twice a year we are never in Busselton for dinner, so when planning our January 2015 trip we decided to stay the night in Busselton partly (but let's be honest, largely) for a chance to finally try this much celebrated local favourite. 

Monday, 12 January 2015

St Aidan Winery, Ferguson, Western Australia (Alissa and Don Eat Australia)

Before heading off for our Melbourne trip last year, I picked up a copy of the then-current issue of Gourmet Traveller Wine as reading material for the flight since it contained an article on their recent Cellar Door Awards. It was nice to see some of our favourite winery cellar doors represented - Vasse Felix won Best Cellar Door with Food in Margaret River - however what I was most interested in was discovering new places to try in the Best Cellar Door with Food category. Last year we tried Estate 807 which won the award for the Great Southern region (curiously over the better Pepper & Salt at Forest Hill), and with the Geographe region's Willow Bridge on our wine tasting itinerary, we decided to check out the region's winning restaurant - St Aidan.

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

Wills Domain, Yallingup, Western Australia (Alissa and Don Eat Australia)

When it comes to restaurant reservations, I like to make them as far ahead of time as possible. In planning our January 2015 road trip through the South West, reservations at Laundry 43, Wills Domain and Cape Lodge were booked by August to avoid the mad scramble for a table over the high demand first weekend of the New Year. When double checking our bookings and collating our confirmation emails for our files, I discovered that I'd made a serious error - I'd booked Wills Domain for our first day instead of our second, meaning we'd have to drive past Busselton to Yallingup, double back to Busselton for our dinner at Laundry 43 and then double back even further the next day to cover the things we'd planned for Day 1 in Geographe. With Wills Domain once again announced as the West Australian Good Food Guide's Regional Restaurant of the Year in the interim, changing our booking was not going to be possible  - especially since we booked an extended sitting for the degustation - so we decided to drive the extra distance and enjoy our meal and the winery's stunning views a day ahead of schedule.