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My Favourite Places: Western Australia

Oh my, how I love the Margaret River region. We (being my husband and I) dabbled in a wee journey across the Tasman to experience the Margaret River Gourmet Escape. A good friend of ours who lives in Dunsborough with his gorgeous family, who is also one half of the chef team behind Goanna Café & Gallery insisted that we come over for a holiday. To both his surprise and ours, we actually did! So often you can say too much and do too little but not this time. We had such a delicious time - we literally ate, sipped and walked our way around the region. There were so many amazing eateries and gourmet delights inspired by truly passionate producers. The landscape was a medley of miles of barren land that stretched on forever, crazy wind swept tress that bent over backwards and a rugged, raw coastline shaped only by the mood of mother nature. Below are just a few of my favourite places and memories of our trip…

This rustic café hidden in the bush is a wee gem. I’m not kidding; it is literally in the bush. And it’s perfect. One half of the establishment is a gorgeous gallery that stocks delightful pottery, prints, jewellery, throws and homemade preserved lemons , jams and sauces. While the other half is a bustling café that serves humble and wholesome food. Who doesn’t love shopping and eating at the same time? Duncan and Tim in the kitchen make the creamiest most flavourful eggs on the planet while their Indo-spiced rice is one of the most popular dishes on their menu. I ordered the free-range scrambled eggs on their homemade gluten-free toast with salmon and the most perfectly sliced avocado and I left a very happy lady. Everyone needs a local café like Goanna that serves eggs this good. It is the perfect spot for coffee, brunch and a leisurely shop in the gallery to build up your appetite for the mighty breakfast that is to come!

Yallingup Coffee Roasting Co

Here the line for a Sunday coffee was well and truly out the door. We wondered what we had stumbled across as we meandered through Dunsborough on a lazy Sunday morning but we figured that a line this big must mean the coffee is worth the wait. We certainly weren’t disappointed. The coffee was full of flavour and made with beautifully prepared milk. One of the best coffees of our trip and a dreamboat cup almost as good as New Zealand coffee. Almost.

Four words – I love this place. It was such a treat to find an unpretentious eating establishment that offered delectable dishes that catered for both a hungry kiwi builder and a travelling nutritionist that was looking for a delicious and nutritious lunch. Oh and a glass of really great wine to celebrate being in Margaret River! Here we found all three. I ordered the raw Mac n Cheese which was a plate of fresh zucchini noodles topped with a cashew cream cheese, followed by the famous veggie burger recommended by our stellar waiter. The falafel burger was light, crunchy and packed full of fresh herbs and flavour. Served with a green salad and the most delicious grainy gluten-free bread you will ever lay your chops on, it was an absolute winner. My glass of the 2012 Redgate Cabernet Sauvignon was just as delicious. I was literally in food heaven after the first two courses so I just had to have a wee sneak peak at the dessert menu. I tossed up between the raw chocolate brownie and the raw carrot and coconut cream tart for what seemed like an age – I should have just gone with both and a doggy bag! However, I did choose the tart and it was delicious – creamy and decadent yet you could taste the goodness from the carrot in every bite. Just a small sprinkling of something crunchy on top like a few toasted nuts and it would have been perfect. I wish I could eat here every day!

I could not get enough of their Acai Superfood Bowl, their chocolate macaroons or their green smoothie. Absolute yumness! A hub of yoga, nutritious food and delicius gluten-free and refined-sugar-free treats in Dunsborough. I even managed to squeeze in a yoga class while I was there but boy do I need to attend more of those!

Castle Rock Beach

Coming from wine country at the top of New Zealand’s South Island which is also home to 20% of our nation’s coastline and the Marlborough Sounds, one of the most striking things about WA is the golden beaches and its perfectly clear water. The beaches are truly stunning. One of my favourite beaches was Castle Rock Beach. Its beauty was enhanced by the most amazing gourmet beach barbeque, which we attended as part of the Margaret River Gourmet Escape. The barbeque was in collaboration with Chef Ollie Gould of the Stokehouse in Melbourne. We feasted on entrées of fresh scallops topped with parsley, lemon and nori butter, lamb koftas with smoked paprika yoghurt, chorizo wrapped chicken, creamed chickpea and smooth tapenade. This was followed by a main course of lamb shoulder, grilled asparagus, and greens and finished sweetly with individual pottles of local Margaret River vanilla ice cream. All of this feasting at the edge of the Indian Ocean with the waves lapping at our feet. Ah-mazing!

Friends were made and cheek ache was well and truly out in force. This was one of the highlights of our trip and one culinary experience we will remember for a very long time to come.

Meelup Beach

What can I say…sun, sand and the Indian Ocean. Peachy golden sand, hot sun with just a hint of breeze and perfectly clear water. This was heaven for a kiwi babe and her beau hailing from wine country.

Chef Tim’s Risotto

During our stay at chez Tim, we were lucky enough to enjoy a few dinners cooked by the chef himself. While he was beavering away in the kitchen, Jonny and I watched his every move over a glass of Margaret River wine from what should have been the kids’ seats so that we could pick up on important chef tips along the way. Like cutting up a whole raw chicken, which we are terrible at.

It turns out our studious behaviour was well worth it as the first dish he cooked was so darn delicious we are determined to re-create it at home. The dish was a creamy pumpkin risotto topped with moist baked chicken, shavings of Spanish ham, perfectly cooked asparagus and fresh rocket leaves. How he got that much flavour into the rice is mind-blowing but the dish was so good we must have picked up the spoon to add extra wee dollops to our plates about a dozen times. Sorry guys if you wanted to save leftovers for lunch as we ate it all! We’ll repay the favour when you’re in New Zealand but unfortunately we can’t guarantee that the risotto will be as good! Unless Tim cooks it of course.

Combi Coffee at the Margaret River Farmers Market

Beaut coffee served from a combi van…brilliant! The best thing was that the long haired gentleman who was making my dreamy cup had a New Zealand magnet stuck to his coffee machine and it turns out he is a kiwi who even went to primary school in Marlborough and we even know the same people. Double brilliant.

If you love chocolate, this place is for you. Take my word for it, the chocolate is so loyal to its single bean origin you could eat it for breakfast. I love their philosophy of single origin bean to bar chocolate. You can wholeheartedly taste the flavour differences between beans sourced from Papa New Guinea, Venezuela and Madagascar just to name a few. One of my absolute favourites was a 99% dark chocolate made from Venezuelan beans. The best way to savour the flavour is to let a small piece melt gently away on your tongue. Another stand out was the dark chocolate made from Papa New Guinea beans. The flavour took me straight back to my childhood when dad would order a rum & raisin ice cream. This was a flavour which I never cared much for when I was little but one which I’d adore now if this chocolate is anything to go by. Decadent rum & raisin flavours through and through.

This place offers modern Mexican and I’m in love with it. Especially the $45 #feedme menu - forever flowing Mexican fare that is fresh, vibrant and packed full of flavour. Wait for it – here’s a taste of what we ate…

  • Proper corn tortillas and guacamole (you can’t not can you?)

  • Street corn

  • Fried chickpeas

  • Quesadillas

  • Beef Taco Pickled Cucumber

  • Beef Tamales

  • Carbon de Mercado San Juan (a delicious medley of meats, grilled vegetables, sauces and tortillas)

  • Cauliflower salad

  • Dessert board consisting of coconut cake with chocolate mousse, peanut butter parfait and a delicious fudge concoction

This was also gluten-free heaven for me. I enjoyed the entire menu, yes every single course without an iota of worry. I also washed each course down with the most delicious gluten-free beer I have ever tasted. My husband was so impressed that he’s thinking of getting some sent to New Zealand because I enjoyed it so much! I cannot tell you how fun it was to sit around a table with a few blokes (kiwi friends from home), enjoying Mexican fare and a cold bottle of beer on a very warm Perth night. It was the bees’ knees. I would encourage every single human in Perth to eat here at least once. If I had to choose a favourite course or courses, it would have to be the street-style corn, the beef tacos and then it would be a toss-up between the parfait or the chocolate mousse. That mousse was dreamy!

Despite getting caught out cycling through a lightning storm in jandals and being attacked by flies at the same time, we loved our day on Rottnest. What an amazingly special place. It’s so close to Perth yet so far removed from city life. I absolutely love that you can only walk or cycle around the island and that it allows for small cute creatures to wander in and out of cafés, pubs and any other kind of island establishment. One of my favourite parts of the day was enjoying a cold drink at the local hotel with the company of a peacock. All cycling adventures should end in this way.

I was lucky enough to meet well-known kiwi food blogger Emma Galloway (who is now living in Perth) at this very hip eating joint the day we flew back to New Zealand. You can read all about what makes Emma tick here. It was such a wonderful choice as I was able to enjoy plenty of nourishing vegetables and juice to help avoid any plane lurgies that may have been floating around.

I’m so glad Emma recommended this place as it was such a treat to want to eat every single thing on the menu and know that they would all be equally delicious. I went for a cold pressed vegetable juice, the raw pesto pasta made with zucchini noodles, radish, avocado, and capers along with a side of the homemade gluten-free multigrain bread. One word – WOWSERS! Delicious. That’s two but boy it was good. That bread tasted just how I remember ‘normal’ bread to taste but perhaps better with no horrendous consequences.

The funniest thing was when I was trying to discreetly stare at my stranger neighbours’ plate to figure out what he had ordered so that I could potentially order the same thing. I compensated with the old “I’m not staring at your food, I just wondered what you had ordered” line. Classic. Thankfully he was lovely and was happy to share that his dish was the raw pesto pasta. After all of my enquiries, I just couldn’t go past it – it looked so gloriously green!

I only wish I had taken Emma’s advice and picked up a decadent and nutritious sweet treat for later. I was totally regretting this mid-flight when a scrumptious slice of raw cheesecake would have hit the spot perfectly. At least it gives me a reason to return – and I won’t be leaving empty handed without the goods next time!

We had the most heavenly gourmet holiday and I absolutely loved WA and especially the Margaret River region. But, I was so pleased to return to our wee slice of heaven at the top of the South Island of New Zealand. I truly think Marlborough is super special. And I still can’t believe I spent the first 17 years of my life living here but in complete denial of its beauty and what surrounded me each and every day. As a teenager growing up in a small town all I wanted to do was leave. If only I could have listened to my much more mature 30-year old self! In saying that, I'll be travelling until I can't travel no more! There's nothing quite like a trip to another place to leave you both inspired and grateful....

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