Swings Taphouse & Kitchen

Duck liver parfait

Duck liver parfait

Swings Taphouse & Kitchen, Margaret River’s newest bar and restaurant, is serving up good honest food made with fresh local produce. Dishes are designed to be shared and the menu is categorised into light, plates, pizzas, sides, sweets and cheese. There’s a good choice of dishes and the prices are very reasonable.

The corner location on the main road in Margaret River town is about three hours drive south of Perth, and worth the drive – for those familiar with Margs it’s where Winos used to be. It’s casual but not slack. The service is fantastic and the food and wine gets the thumbs up.

The fit out is original with tables in the back area set under old-school Hills Hoists clotheslines suspended from the ceiling to double as light fittings.  The front bar is a great place to sit and chat, and the veranda that overlooks the street is a very pleasant place to sit under its covering of vines.

Cool interior fit out complete with good ol'Aussie Hills Hoist clothes line light fitting

Cool interior fit out complete with good ol’Aussie Hills Hoist clothes line light fitting

The duck liver parfait ($13) was silky smooth, rich and creamy and came with delicious wood-fired bread and some pickled veg called picadilli. It was hard not to wolf it all down at once.

Owned by Swings & Roundabouts winery that’s nearby on Caves Road, Swings Taphouse & Kitchen offers the same legendary wood-fired pizzas that the winery has become famous for.

I had to try the pizza and opted for the traditional margarita ($20) – my favourite. If the kitchen can get that right, then it’s always a winner. Swings’ version is good, but if I’m being picky (and nearly always am) for my palate it needed a bit of salt and probably could’ve done with another half-minute in the oven to really crisp up the base. That’s my only criticism of the food served at Swings. Everything else was bang on.

Wood-fired margarita pizza

Wood-fired margarita pizza

The King Fish ceviche with chilli, lime, avocado and coconut ($16) was fresh, colourful, light, beautifully seasoned and delicious to eat. Like a mouthful of summertime, if you could eat summer. The Swings Chardonnay ($7 glass) went down a treat with the ceviche.

King fish ceviche

King fish ceviche

The bright and bubbly pint-sized manager Annie really made my visit to Swings memorable. She answered all my questions, suggested dishes to try, and explained their tap wine. Yes, wine on tap. Read about their wine on tap delivered through ‘sight glass fonts’ – a world first in my previous post. If you’re not hungry, just go and try their wines – they are worthy.

There’s also a selection of ‘guest backyards’ wines, cocktails and beers, and the menu is simple and rustic, designed for sharing, and with an emphasis on fresh, local and sustainable produce.


Swings Taphouse & Kitchen
85 Bussell Highway, Margaret River, WA
Tel: 08 9758 7155

Open from 10am daily, Swings Taphouse & Kitchen serves brunch, ‘brinks’, lunch and dinner
Swings Taphouse on Urbanspoon

Disclosure: Dianne Bortoletto was a guest of Augusta Margaret River Tourism Association and Swings Taphouse & Kitchen

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.


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.


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)


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.

Lunch at Cullen Winery, Margaret River, Western Australia

Cullen Winery has a reputation as producing some of Margaret River’s best wines. It claims to be the first winery in the region in 1971.  However, if you speak to their neighbours Vasse Felix Winery, they might tell you a similar story.

What I love about Cullen, besides the award winning wines, gorgeous setting with a cellar door made of stone and the adjoining restaurant that over looks the vines, is Vanya Cullen’s philosophy of biodynamics and the use of organic produce.

Cullen Winery has the kind of vegetable garden that my Italian grandparents would have approved of.  Crops are planted in rotation, some are left to go to seed so there are crops for next season, and it fertilised with nurtured with natural compost.  Head Chef Matt Egan can venture out to the garden and pick what will be featured on the menu that day. Edible flowers from chives that are going to seed, or the flowers from sugar snap peas and other such pretty edible flowers are often used to decorate dishes.

Sustainable seafood tasting plate

Sustainable seafood tasting plate

Zorba and I shared the sustainable seafood tasting plate for entree ($23); seared whiting with raw vegetable salad, smoked barramundi with apple, saffron and celery remoulade, and seared scallop with pickled ginger and wakami salad. Every element was divine. The scallop was my favourite, caramelised on the outside and perfectly cooked. The wakami salad has a delicious asian seaweed flavour and added a wonderful texture to the soft scallop.

For main, it was hard to look past the seared Cone Bay barramundi with herbed macadamia crust, potato puree and fennel cream ($39).  Crunchy nuts crusted skin on the fish, perfectly smooth potato paste, crunchy fennel shavings and the delicate fennel flavour.  I could have that dish once per week and not ever get sick of it. Really beautiful. And healthy.

Cone Bay Barramundi

Cone Bay Barramundi

Zorba had organic beef sirlion, rosemary potato gratin, vine roasted tomatoes and baked mushrooms with balsamic glaze ($38).  He finished every last mouthful in almost record time. He was absolutely satisfied with his lunch.

Organic sirloin

Organic sirloin

We washed our lunch down with a glass each of Cullen Chardonnay ($13.50)

I’ve had the pleasure of eating at Cullen several times and every mouthful is not only delicious, it actually feels like I’m eating nutritious food that is energising my body.  It feels good.

After lunch, we drove a short distance to Gabriel Chocolate for coffee – delicious mocha.

Cullen is a fantastic place to go for lunch. It is not cheap, but it is good and there’s the added bonus of knowing that you are going to have a lovely drop to go with your lunch – their wines are renowned around the world for good reason.


Cullen Winery
4323 Caves Road, Wilyabrup (Margaret River Region) Western Australia 6280
(08) 9755 5277

Cullen Winery Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Please can I have some Moore?


Moore & Moore Café is situated in the heritage listed Moores Building in Fremantle, Western Australia. It’s decorated with odd yet funky kitsch furniture and bizarre light fittings. The Café is also a gallery.

The breakfast menu is great and had interesting choices like 7-grain toast with avocado or home made baked beans with rocket and cherry tomatoes which is what I had. It was delicious!

Best of all, their coffee is gooood.

It’s a real “Freo” experience.


Moore & Moore Café
46 Henry St, Fremantle WA 6160
T: 08 9335 8825

Moore & Moore on Urbanspoon