Celebrity TV chef, Nigella Lawson only made one request when she was headlining the 2017 Margaret River Gourmet Escape food festival: to eat at Cullen. The rustic, family owned winery has been serving guests since 1976, although the food has since elevated into sophisticated culinary wonders that include potted rabbit served warm with egg gribiche and grilled witlof, as well as crisp-lid pork belly with cauliflower, and blushing duck breast with burnt walnut. The chef constantly plucks biodynamic goodies from the organic herb and vegetable garden, as well as nurtured patches between the vines. Nearby, a spiral-form garden is signposted with explanations of the biodynamic process Cullen uses to deliver the clarity and minerality its wines are renowned for. The Kevin John chardonnay and the Diana Madeline cabernet are regarded as icons of the wine region.
4323 Caves Rd, Wilyabrup; + 61 8 9755 5656; www.cullenwines.com.au
2. RUSTICO AT HAY SHED HILL
Margaret River tends to sit at the high end of the budgetary range, so when a brilliant six-course degustation came along for AUD$59 (US$42), with wine pairing additional, people were justifiably excited. Rustico’s all-day share plate exploration combines multi-dimensional dishes such as pert Southern Ocean scallops stacked on chewy chorizo and tangy pear purée and crowned with candied jamon, with simple pleasures like the deep fried goats-cheese nuggets sitting in liquified orange-blossom honey, and the sublime, sherry-spiked creamy mushroom medley. The beef used in the tasty carpaccio is sourced from nearby Dardanup, while the beef cheek braised in red wine jus come from local property, Amelia Park. Bucolic grapevine views, a grassy foreground, a pretty white weatherboard wine tasting room and friendly, knowledgeable wait staff seal the deal – make sure you book because although walk-ins are welcomed, you’ll be lucky to score an available table.
Harmans Mill Road, Wilyabrup; +61 8 9755 6046; www.hayshedhill.com.au
3. ARAVINA ESTATE
Once best known for its room of flashy sports cars and gardens cascading with hydrangeas, chef Ben Day is now ensuring the restaurant is front of mind at Aravina Estate. A keen forager, he decorates salt-baked white beetroot with crisp saltbush and edible flowers, the green-and-white colour theme continuing with a bed of goats cheese mousse. He also worships home grown produce, leveraging local lamb and pairing it with smoked capsicum and layered potato that looks like a French palmier biscuit. His signature, a glazed chocolate dome hiding sneaky daubes of salted-caramel mascarpone and showered in berries, is a must. Drink in vineyard views while sipping the richly awarded chardonnay, before exploring the estate’s pop up store. There, Day’s many take-home creations can be snapped up, such as textural dukkah and and tomato and chilli jam ideal for generously spreading on barbecued prawns.
61 Thornton Road, Yallingup; +61 8 9750 1111; aravinaestate.com
4. THE WHITE ELEPHANT
Sometimes, magical views can rob cafes of the drive to produce on-par dishes. Not at The White Elephant, where the outlook over sandy Gnarabup beach and across to the epic breaks at Surf Point is matched by breakfast dishes such as free-range eggs on smashed pumpkin, avocado, and creamy feta, and toasted granola with poached pear and raspberries drizzled with locally harvested honey. The peak period hits early, but with lunch consisting of beetroot cured salmon and snow pea sprout salad, and local whiting with asparagus, potato crush and gremolata, lunchtime is no slouch. Surprisingly, this café is one of only few on Margaret River’s stunning coastline. Arriving there on foot after following the ocean-tracing limestone path from nearby Prevelly (it’s only about one kilometre away). On wintry days, floor-to-ceiling windows protect patrons from blustery winds, but when the sun is out, the al fresco tables and chairs are hot property.
Gnarabup Rd, Gnarabup; +61 8 9757 1990; www.whiteelephantcafe.com.au
With the region’s wineries largely sticking to lunch service only, Morries, a snappy bar-bistro in Margaret River township, is the perfect dinner solution. Flavour-packed tapas and share plates are the kitchen’s strong suits. Tender curls of lightly fried fish balanced atop a pine nut and julienned apple remoulade delight diners, who might also share a plate of paper-thin venison carpaccio with seared scallops and fried capers, or pork belly glazed in Thai caramel sauce. The 72-hour slow-cooked beef rib, served with truffle butter you’ll want to lick from the plate, is another sure thing. Morries sits at the top of the town’s main street and buzzes from open til close. Its executive chef Tony Howell (one of those surfers we were telling you about) brings more than a decade’s expertise garnered at the luxury retreat Cape Lodge. Howell’s passion for supporting local farmers is strong; his ingredients change as the seasons turn and regional produce is always front and centre.
149 Bussell Hwy, Margaret River; +61 8 9758 8280; www.morries.com.au
Click here for our gourmet guide to Australia's ultra-delicious Margaret River region.