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.

FACT FILE

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

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.

Pemberton12.IMG_9319

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.

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.

FACT FILE

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?

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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.

FACT FILE

Moore & Moore Café
46 Henry St, Fremantle WA 6160
T: 08 9335 8825
http://www.mooreandmoorecafe.com

Moore & Moore on Urbanspoon

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

InContro, South Perth – review

Could InContro be a candidate for my new favourite restaurant in Perth?

This beautiful South Perth restaurant offers not only superb food, but uninterrupted sublime  city views across the Swan River.  The views are hard to beat.

Inside the restaurant at the view of the city beyond

The setting has an air of sophistication, the waiters are well versed, some donning French accents, and the napery, glassware and cutlery are what one would expect in a fine dining restaurants.  It’s all lovely.

It not just about the views though is it? It’s about the food.  InContro, which means “meeting” in Italian, offers first class Mediterranean style cuisine.  You can dine on the ‘piccolo’ menu – much like tasting plates or Italian tapas, the regular menu, or mix it up like we did and choose from both.

As one comes to expect when dining at a fantastic restaurant in Perth, it ain’t cheap.  No sir.  But for a special occasion, it is seriously worth splashing out for a food experience at InContro.

Leo, Katie, Matthew and John

Our family was celebrating a special occasion, Zorba‘s mother’s 70th birthday.  She is as fit as a fiddle and enjoys nothing more than sharing a meal with her family. Dining with us was Zorba’s sister Marnie and her triplet boys, Leo, John and Matthew, who are seven years old.  There is never any hesitation taking the boys out for dinner with us because they are nearly always well behaved in restaurants and thanks to their Greek and Italian heritage, they love food and eat everything!

Pizza Margherita

As most seven year olds are starving by 5pm, you can imagine how famished the boys were at 6.30pm. We ordered a couple of fresh pizzas for them straight away.  It was enjoyed by Masters Seven with gusto!

Entree was a selection from the piccolo menu; zucchini flowers stuffed with salmon mousse, Rottnest scallops and king fish carpaccio.  It was presented beautifully on a tiered  tray. I could not fault anything, simply beautifully cooked, delicious flavours, and the perfect way to start dinner. The zucchini flowers were my favourite – crispy on the outside, smooth mousse on the inside. YUM! I could have eaten a whole plate of those!

Zucchini flowers

How good do these dishes look?!  Are you hungry yet?

Rottnest Scallops

For main course, we decided to choose our own.  I couldn’t go past the Turkish Sticky Black Angus Short Rib ($45).  Marnie had Linley Valley Pork Belly Vanilla Pear Pomegranate ($36), Zorba and Katie both had Duck Confit Cauliflower Puree Quince Salad ($38).

Turkish Sticky Black Angus Short Rib

My beef rib was nothing short of sensational. Slightly sweet, oh-so sticky, rich with smoky undertones, and the meat was so tender, sliding away from the bone with just the gentlest nudge from my fork.  I have never had a beef rib as good as this one – and that’s a big call.   Whilst expensive, it was a decent sized serve which is just as well or I would not have shared any of it!  The boys all agreed that it was the dish of the night.

Marnie loved her pork and really enjoyed the pomegranate salad.  Katie and Zorba seemed to thoroughly enjoy their mains as well.  To accompanying mains, we had Albany asparagus and shaved fennel pear with candied walnut salad.

Finalmente!  Dessert time.  The seven year old nephews were chomping at the bit waiting for dessert, especially once they heard that fairy floss was a feature.

We all had the Eaton Mess with Fairy Floss and ordered some desserts from the piccolo menu to share. A two-course dessert – now that’s my style of eating!

Eaton mess with floss

The wine list was fairly extensive, but on the high end of pricey.  We shared a bottle of bubbles, a prosecco, to start ($70) and then went for one of the cheapest shiraz blends on the menu on advice from the waitress. I love my red wine but didn’t want to spend upwards of $90 for a decent drop. The waitress’ recommendation was perfect.  The 2010 Sons of Eden shiraz blend ($65) was a beautiful smooth easy drinking red.

The only other time I have been to InContro was for a friend’s wedding late last year.  For a function, it was the best food I’ve ever had. I was excited to finally be going back there again.  And it didn’t disappoint.

It would be hard to imagine anyone being disappointed dining at InContro. It is first class in every sense and really worth splashing out for for a special occasion.  Impressive and highly recommended.

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FACT FILE

InContro
79 South Perth Esplanade, South Perth WA 6151
Tel. 08 9474 5566

Open Lunch and Dinner, Tuesday to Saturday

InContro on Urbanspoon

Food Wine Sleep

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.

Liberté, Albany’s coolest bar

This old pub building has been totally transformed into a French style art-deco-ish cafe, cocktail bar, wine bar and tea room. Libertè at The London Hotel in Albany, 450km south of Perth, Western Australia, is the seaside town’s coolest bar.

Owner Kester Solomon, a former Vegas professional poker player (true!), said that he wanted to create a place that was special, where women would feel welcome and want to dress up for a night out, as well as a place that offers locals different wines from the region and from around the world.

The cocktail bar hits you the face when you enter from Stirling Terrace with large murals of fashionista types proving the backdrop to a dark and seductive bar. It is very cool.

Cool cocktail bar

The corner bar is filled with light during the day and it is where you will find great coffee and a cute casual french bar / cafe atmosphere.  The wine list features some locals wineries as well as wines from further afield such as France, Spain and Italy. There is an extensive cocktail list also.

The tea rooms are ornately decorated in a French provincial style and I  can imagine that room would be filled with ladies chatting over high tea during one of the special high tea events held there.

Libertè is a sophisticated breath of fresh air into a town that used to once have a reputation for rough pubs filled with burly fisherman.  No longer.  Well done Kester. You’ve certainly wowed us.

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Liberte at the London Hotel on Urbanspoon

FACT FILE

Libertè at The London Hotel
162 Stirling Terrace
Albany  Wa  6330
Tel: +61 (0)8 9847 4797

Open Mon – Sat early til evening and late night Wed – Sat.

From cow to cone – Millers Margaret River

About 20 months ago, Millers Margaret River ice cream opened it’s doors.  It is owned by the Millers, funnily enough, who also own a 1000 acre dairy farm.  It’s claim to fame is that within three hours of the cows being milked, the cream from the milk is made into ice cream.

There are 16 flavours to choose from, including two dairy-free options.

Two scoops cost $6. I chose cone with Yahava coffee and mascarpone and wild fig.  The ice cream was lovely, really creamy. The Yahava coffee was my favourite – not overly sweet, a lovely smooth coffee flavour, and creamy.  The mascarpone and wild fig was also nice, but for my taste buds, quite rich.

Zorba had chocolate and rum and raisin. He didn’t complain but to him, nothing will beat the gelato he had in Rome at Grom.

The serving was also massive – even Zorba whose stomach is often a bottomless pit commented that it was as bit too much.  I gave this feedback to the lovely lady behind the counter.  When we compared it to the serving size in Italy, it would be almost double the size.  Being generous is a lovely trait, but it might be better to give customers a little less and have them leaving with a wonderful food experience rather than have them leaving feeling slightly sick.

The grounds are nice with grassy areas, trees, outdoor picnic tables, and a great looking kids play area with a cow sculpture that kids can actually milk.

Millers ice cream is a worthy place to stop when enjoying a visit to the Margaret River region.

 

FACT FILE

Millers Margaret River
314 Wirring Road, Cowaramup, Western Australia, 6284
Tel: 08 97559 850
info@millersmargaretriver.com.au