Foragers, Pemberton WA

Located 6km from Pemberton in Western Australia’s Southern Forest region, the entry into Foragers feels like you are entering somewhere special. Beautiful trees surround the restaurant and flanking the walkway are large raised timber garden beds growing fresh herbs: thyme, basil, parsley, mint, rosemary, and sage, just to name a few.Pemberton6.IMG_5682

Foragers’ Head Chef and owner Sophie Zalokar trained in the Barossa Valley under foodie icon Maggie Beer. She shares the same lovely food philosophy as Maggie, from paddock to plate.  Her food is fresh, wholesome and delicious. You can learn from Sophie during one of her cooking schools, or simply book in to dine at the restaurant that has regular seasonal dinners ($75pp) and wood-fired dinners ($55pp). Bring your own wine, sit at a long table, and enjoy a relaxing evening.

Pemberton12.IMG_9319

We booked into a Friday night wood fired dinner.  The lovely thing is that you can see the big Italian imported wood oven at work from the restaurant. You can also see the kitchen and the busy staff working hard.  The restaurant features long communal tables that feel inviting.

Our dinner started with freshly baked sour dough bread, still warm from the oven. A generous antipasto plate followed that had thin and crispy beetroot slices with feta, baked ricotta, roasted eggplant, marinated olives, roasted cauliflower and cacciatore salami. It was rustic, fresh, and excited our taste buds.

Main course was braised beef cheeks. The beef was amazingly tender – just touching it with a fork, it fell apart.  It was so succulent. Zorba absolutely loved it.

Sponge cake cooking in wood fired oven, Foragers

Sponge cake cooking in wood fired oven, Foragers

Dessert was a real treat, apple sponge cake cooked in the wood-fired oven. It was light and airy with small chunks of apple at the bottom. It was slightly sweet, yet beautifully balanced when eaten with the cream. I loved it. To follow, Zorba enjoyed a Fiori coffee (skipper), while I sat there wishing we hadn’t finished our bottle of Fraser Gallop Cab Merlot (Margaret River)…

The service was friendly and efficient and the general ambience was relaxed and it felt like you were part of something bigger – a community. A strange ambience for a restaurant I’ll agree, but the communal tables and people chatting to one another is what brought it about.

We sat next to a very friendly couple from Perth, Greg and Cheryl, whom we chatted with all night. It’s a small world – as we learned, there’s only one degree of separation between us. Greg is a motorsport organiser and we know quite a few people in common.

Sophie also heads up the Slow Food Movement in the region and once or twice per year travels to Italy or France for slow food conferences.

You can stay in a chalet at Foragers also. They look lovely. We stayed at the luxurious Silkwood Wines Chalets, about a ten minute drive from Foragers on Chanybearup Road.  You can read about it in my previous blog post here.

Foragers
Sophie & Chris Zalokar
1 Roberts Road
(cnr Roberts Rd & Pemberton Northcliffe Road)
Pemberton WA 6260

Tel: +61 (0)8 9776 1580
Email: discover@foragers.com.au

Foragers on Urbanspoon

Road trip! Destination Pemberton, WA

Australians love a good road trip. What’s not to love? You have freedom to go where you want, when you want. I love that freedom!

Our destination: Pemberton. If you believe google maps, it’s 3 hour 40 minute drive from Perth. My tip, don’t believe google. It took us four and a half hours, because we left Perth during rush hour traffic, and stopped once for a 10-minute break. Also, driving at night, we had to slow it down when visibility wasn’t so good.

Pemberton was an exciting destination for both Zorba and I, mainly because we have not really discovered all Pemberton has to offer. I was impressed with Pemberton when I hosted a short trip last year. Six months later, I’m back but this time it’s a holiday.

What lured us to Pemberton this time instead of the much loved Margaret River was a place to stay I’d been dying to go back to: Silkwood Chalets. I stayed there last year and they are divine. Think luxury spa, leather corner lounge, gas flame fire, a TV that slides up out of the marble topped cabinet, fully equipped kitchen, marri wood floor boards and a huge spa bath. The bed is made up of quality linen including a feather doona and there’s fluffy white robes in the cupboards with matching slippers.

Inside our chalet, Silkwood Wines

Inside our chalet, Silkwood Wines

There are only four chalets on the Silkwood Wines estate, each named after a wine varietal. We stayed in Chardonnay. The are nicely spread apart, and each chalet overlooks the dam with views of the bush beyond. So quiet and peaceful.

Silkwood Wines  Chalets

Silkwood Wines Chalets

Pemberton has earned itself a reputation as a foodie hot spot, however, it is still overshadowed by the well known Margaret River region. In and around Pemberton, you’ll find avocados farms, wineries, orchards, marron farms (now we’re talking), and celebrated truffles known as black gold. We bought some apples and avocados from the side of the road and left the money in the honour box.

Fruit shop with honour box

Fruit shop with honour box

A big bag of each for a total of $5. Zorba and I both commented how crispy, sweet, and juicy the apples were. I haven’t had apples that good in a long, long time. The avocados are a bit hard, so we hope they ripen up in a few days.

Did you know that more grapes are grown in the cool-climate of Pemberton than in Margaret River? That’s what the brochure said. Silkwood gave us a complementary bottle of pinot noir from their estate, and I have to say, the cool-climate obviously works wonders for this varietal. After it breathed, the pinot noir opened up to a smooth, rounded, light red wine.

The town of “Pemby” has a population of under 1000 and it is very cute. It’s an old wood-mill town and along the main road, you’ll see a handful single storey wooden houses. There’s a bakery, a couple of cafés, a lawn bowls club, gift shops, a pub, a butcher, IGA supermarket, a couple of clothes shops, newsagent, and not a whole lot more.Pemberton02.IMG_9138

Driving from place to place, we were awed by the beauty of the green rolling hills, some lined with vines, others used for cattle or sheep, and the majestic tall timber karri forests. Every road we turn down, Zorba and I looked at each other and said, “Wow, it’s so pretty!” It reminded Zorba of Sicily. The landscape reminds me more of Tuscany. It’s so nice to see hills – which might sound weird, but when you live in a city as flat as Perth, hills can be somewhat of a novelty.

You can always hire a car if you don’t have one, or get a car loan to buy your own. Once you have wheels, you can say hello to independence! I don’t know how anyone in WA copes without a car.

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There are plenty of places to eat. One of my favourites is Foragers, a cooking school, a place to stay, and a great restaurant. Chef Sophie Zalokar trained under Australian food icon Maggie Beer in her home town, the Barossa. She has a wonderful food philosophy – cooking and teaching how to serve good wholesome unprocessed dishes, in fact, Sophie heads up Southern Forests’ slow food branch.

Millhouse Cafe is another good choice for breakfast or lunch. The service is slow, but the coffee and the food are good. They even have fresh local marron on their menu. Our late breakfast was almost perfect. Had my poached eggs been soft, they would have oozed the perfect dressing for my charred bread, crispy proscuito, and the sharp-tasting parmesan flakes. Zorba’s poached eggs were soft and runny and he ate up every mouthful of his classic big breakfast. The tables outside under the veranda over looking a park with an old-fashioned shiny steam train parked under the trees sets the scene for the archetypal Australian country-town cafe.

The Pemberton Hotel (“The Pemby”) looks like a nice spot for a pub lunch, but it aint much chop. My smoked trout was ok, the salad nothing more than a garnish, and the chips tasted like they were fried in old grotty oil. Zorba’s home made chicken burger was huge and he hated it every mouthful. He said he felt like throwing up after it. We met another couple later that day who said they have been coming to Pemberton for years and years and have slowly watched the grand old pub’s food diminish. So much so that after their meal there the previous night, they vowed to never, ever eat there again. What a shame. One positive I can say about the pub, the James Squire Pale Ale was cold and slid down my throat beautifully, and the outdoor area in the sun was a lovely spot to sit and relax. Pity about the food.

FACT FILE

SLEEP
Silkwood Chalets
Debi Johnson
9649 Channybearup Road, Pemberton, WA
Tel: +61 (0)8 9776 1584
Mob: +61 (0)428 105 075
Email: silkwood@silkwoodwines.com.au
Cost $330 per night, but ask for specials (we received pay for three, forth night free)

EAT
Foragers

Sophie & Chris Zalokar
1 Roberts Road
(cnr Roberts Rd & Pemberton Northcliffe Road)
Pemberton WA 6260
Tel: +61 (0)8 9776 1580
Email: discover@foragers.com.au
Woodfired dinner $55pp; Seasonal dinner $75pp. BYO (unlicensed). Open for dinner Friday and Saturday – check website for details.
There are also chalets onsite at Foragers if you fancy staying there.

Millhouse Cafe
14 Brockman Street, Pemberton Wa 6260
Tel: 08 9776 1122
Pemberton Millhouse Cafe on Urbanspoon

Disclosure: This post was done in partnership with Westralian Auto Finance.

Rottnest Island

Perth’s very own island getaway is just a short 40minute ferry ride from Fremantle.  Welcome to the absolutely beautiful Rottnest Island holiday paradise. This little island has a circumference of 25km. There are no cars allowed and the preferred method of transport is by push bike. There is a bus that services the island’s bays, beaches and attractions for those that don’t want to ride.

Parakeet Bay Rottnest Island

Parakeet Bay Rottnest Island

The beaches at ‘Rotto’, as the locals call it, are stunning, some of the best in the world. Having visited the most beautiful beaches in other amazing places around the world including the Galapagos Islands, Sardinia in Italy, Brazil, Bali, Greece, and Queensland, I can say with authority that Rottnest’s beaches are up there with the best of them.  So beautiful you just never want to leave.

Geordie Bay

Geordie Bay

The lake - where our deluxe room at the Lodge looks out on

The lake – where our deluxe room at the Lodge looks out on

Our Deluxe room

Our Deluxe room

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Our original room at the Lodge – the Palm Court room

First bathroom in Palm Court room

First bathroom in Palm Court room

Quokka

Quokka

Quokka

Quokka

Quokkas trying to get in on the breakfast action

Quokkas trying to get in on the breakfast action

Hello Mr Peacock

Hello Mr Peacock

Rotto is a very family friendly holiday spot. Accommodation is fairly basic – camping, cabins, chalets and villas – all very basic and the word luxury does not describe any of them. Yet during peak season, it is expensive to stay.  There is also the Rottnest Island Hotel and the Rottnest Island Lodge. The Hotel has recently been refurbished and one can expect to pay upwards of $300 per night for a room without ocean views.

In the past we have stayed in the villas that line Geordie Bay – they are basic but have everything you need – a balcony to look out at the stunning bay, a kitchen equipped with the essentials, bathroom and a choice of two or three bedrooms that sleeps four to six people.   In peak season, a villa for six people will set you back about $2000+ for one week.

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This time however, we chose to stay at the Lodge.  Entertainment Book members, which I am, receive a discount.

The Deluxe room – which we upgraded to once we checked in and decided we didn’t like the Palm Court room – cost $290 per night with a discount. It has a lovely view over the lake, is spacious, has a king size bed, flat screen TV, bar fridge, a modern bathroom and a great shower. Yes, it’s expensive, but it is one hundred times better than the Palm Court room that was once a boys reformatory in 1890.  I did nick name it Cell Block B because it was so much like a prison room!

The discounted rate at the Lodge for a Palm Court room was $210 per night. As you can see from the photos, it is a bit grim. The rooms are dated, stuffy, small, and not that cheap really.  There is no view, no balcony or outside space, and neither of us wanted to spend more than 5 minutes in it. Our room also had a smell to it that was all but pleasant.

Zorba didn’t care how much extra we had to pay, he just wanted out of the Palm Court room.  I couldn’t blame him really.

Once we moved into the Deluxe lakeside room, he declared, “Now I feel like I’m on holidays and I’m excited to be here!”. As long as the Greek is happy!

Native to Rottnest are Quokkas, little marsupials that are part of the rodent family. They are super cute and they are everywhere. They are quite used to tourists and often join in for breakfast!

There are also beautiful birds of all descriptions and some fairly friendly peacocks.

Breakfast at the Lodge offered the standard hotel buffet fare – bacon, scrambled eggs, poached eggs, tomato, baked beans, toast, fruit, cereal, juice, and filter coffee and tea.

There is a pool at the Lodge too – which is little and during our two-night stay, it was always packed. With beaches as stunning as those on this little island, I couldn’t understand why you would want to sit almost on top of people around a little pool.

The beauty of Rotto is that there really isn’t that much to do except beach it, sleep, eat, and rest. There are tennis courts, a 9-hole golf course, an old war canon, a couple of lighthouses and some surf on the east side of the island. It’s just so relaxing and so so so picturesque.  The beauty for families is that kids can ride their bikes without traffic fears and because of days filled with swimming, riding and exploring, kids wear themselves out and fall into bed at the end of the day. Every parent’s dream!

Parakeet Bay at Rottnest Island

Parakeet Bay at Rottnest Island

Eating out options are fairly limited and none of the options are really worthy of much comment. The Hotel pub has great views and a cool vibe, but the food there is average. Aristos seafood is also ordinary. The bakery is a ok and there’s a wholefood cafe that is quite good. Simmos ice creamery has opened up and next door is Lane cafe that serves proper barista made coffee.  There is also a Dome. The general store is well stocked and prices are marginally more expensive that those in Perth. Self catering is the way to go.

Yes, Rotto is expensive in peak season, but it’s also an awesome holiday that is devoid of too many choices that makes a stay on Rotto simply relaxing.  I love it.

FACT FILE

Rottnest Island Information
The Lodge at Rottnest
Rottnest Hotel
Rottnest Fast Ferries
Rottnest Express

Cape Lodge, Margaret River, Western Australia

Conde Naste Traveller magazine voted Cape Lodge as one of the top ten boutique hotels in the world in 2011 and 2012 and it’s easy to see why.  It is fine dining done with understated elegance.  Tables are nicely spaced apart, the wait staff are well briefed and carry out their duties like European professionals, and the restaurant is beautifully appointed with views over a little lake (aka a dam).

Head Chef Tony Howell changes the menu daily to reflect the fresh produce he has been able to source that day.  It is magnificent for dinner and breakfast. This is a dining experience no foodie would want to miss.

This terrific clip, put together by Tourism Western Australia, showcases Cape Lodge’s restaurant and head chef Tony Howell.

I could eat here every day and never grow tired of it.  Never ever. Although I’m not sure I’d be a able to fund that – it is pricey, but for what you get, it is extremely good value. Especially breakfast.

It’s no surprise that world’s best chefs are all staying at Cape Lodge during the Margaret River Gourmet Escape that is coming up.

FACT FILE

Cape Lodge
3341 Caves Road, Yallingup Western Australia.
Tel: +61 8 9755 6311
Stay@CapeLodge.com.au

Restaurant is open every day for breakfast and dinner. Bookings essential.

 
Cape Lodge Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Yallingup, Margaret River Region, Western Australia

Beautiful scenic laid back Yallingup is a fantastic place to have a weekend break.  The name Yallingup is an Aboriginal word meaning “place of love” (the “up” part meaning “place of”).

Located about 3 hours drive south of Perth, 40-mintues north of Margaret River township, Yallingup is renowned for its great surf, award-winning wineries, spectacular coastline, ancient caves, and as an added bonus, the country side is dotted with unique art galleries.  Famous surfer Taj Burrow, current fifth in the men’s world ranking, lives in Yallingup.

The Margaret River Region is also a bio-diverse hot-spot, meaning that there are over 2500 species of flora in the area.   It’s stunning.

We stayed at the Seashells Yallingup Resort which is next to the iconic Caves House accommodation and pub.

The one bedroom apartment was beautifully refurbished, well appointed and spacious.  It exceeded my expectations. I was expecting much less for the special price of $110 per night.

It is easy walking distance to Yallingup Beach and surrounded by beautiful gardens and loads of trees.  Admittedly, I was apprehensive about staying so close to Caves House – a pub that has a reputation for big nights.  However, I was pleasantly surprised.  The room was quiet and comfortable.  In the apartment we a washing machine and dryer, foxtel, leather sofa, kitchen with a dishwasher and a lovely balcony complete with BBQ.

Whilst there are so many beaches in the area worth noting – Yallingup, Canal Rocks, Smith’s Beach, it was Gracetown that we loved. Check out my photos in the slideshow below.

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FACT FILE

Seashells Yallingup
Yallingup Beach Road, Yallingup WA  6282
Tel: +61 8 9750 1500
Email: yallingup@seashells.com.au

Here’s an extract from the tourism website:

Located at the northern end of the region, Yallingup has bred some of the world’s greatest surfers. Home to a relaxed local community, Yallingup is a small town nestled amongst the trees along the coast, just south of Cape Naturaliste.  After its caves were discovered by European settlers in 1899, Yallingup became popular with tourists – today, tourism and viticulture are Yallingup’s primary industries. The beaches of Yallingup are well known surfing locations, and are also suitable for fishing. The Leeuwin-Naturaliste National Park houses Canal Rocks, a coastal rock formation, and limestone caves.  The Cape to Cape Track runs across the beach to the west of the town and Yallingup is one of the few towns located along the track.