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.
Since Alissa and I are both involved in the Perth Music Scene, we were already familiar with Settlers Tavern's strong support of live Australian music since they're one of the regular venues Perth bands book when doing a tour of the South West. The food had never been on our radar however, but when we heard that they'd recently invested in a competition grade Yoder Frontiersman offset smoker we decided it would make the perfect lunch for the first day of our extended stay.
For lunch, Settlers offer two different sandwich options - Pulled Pork or Beef Brisket, both served with a barbecue sauce and slaw in a brioche bun. Being a bit averse to eating beef, I went with the Pulled Pork Sandwich. Served in a delectably soft and fluffy bun, the Pulled Pork within was sweet, savoury and incredibly succulent - a classic example of the benefits of cooking low and slow. The barbecue sauce was really nice, tangy and umami, although Alissa and I agreed that the quantity poured in was perhaps a little heavy-handed. The long, hot dog-style bun used was excellent for the fall apart and sloppy nature of the filling, and was the better of the two eating experiences because of it. Overall, I felt this was pretty good barbecue that got the texture of the meat pretty much right, however I thought they could have gone a bit heavier on the smoke - perhaps the wood used was not as strong and/or as flavoursome as what I've had elsewhere.
The Beef Brisket Sandwich was also very good, though we agreed it was the lesser of the two options. The bun was just as soft and fluffy as the hot dog bun, however the taller burger bun format made it more unwieldy to eat, with bits falling out everywhere. The brisket itself was again nice and tender and quite flavoursome, however we agreed that we had had better. Our friend Mark Turner - an American Barbecue obsessive whose adventure in the US last year is documented here - had barbecued some Brisket for us just a few weeks earlier, and the tenderness and smokiness of his Brisket was superior to Settlers' offering. Which is not to say Settlers version was bad, mind you - this was a very satisfying lunch - it just fell a few notches below.
The Verdict: Very Good
Settlers Tavern was definitely much more than the average country tavern, and we really enjoyed our lunch of American Barbecue delights. At around $15 each, the price was very reasonable considering the quality and quantity on offer, with delicious soft and fluffy brioche buns and juicy meat cooked low and slow. For both our tastes, the Pulled Pork was the winner, although we thought both options could have had even more of a smoky flavour. Still, to be able to find pretty decent American Barbecue in the middle of Regional Australia being made with legit gear is extremely impressive. If you're looking for a cheap eat break away from some of the more pricey restaurants in the Margaret Rive Region, Settlers Tavern's barbecue lunch definitely delivers.