For many of you lucky people out there (in Australia right now) the holiday road is still stretching out far ahead of you but for me and few other friends, our working year rudely started on Monday (sigh). No matter, Ive just had a fabulous week back home in New South Wales visiting the family. I also finished up my holiday back in Melbourne with good friends, food and a glass of sparkling to ring in the new year with fireworks exploding in brilliant cascading colours over the city I love so I really cant complain. Happy New Year to you all!
For those of you still on holiday or heading on one shortly, nothing says summer holiday like a road trip along the coast. I was most lucky to have a pre-Christmas break back in November when I headed to Perth for the wonderful Eat Drink Blog Conference. After a fantastic few days in Perth of eating, drinking and catching up with friends, new and old we headed to Margaret River – fulfilling a tick on my very long list of foodie to do’s. We gave ourselves 4 days to drive down and to do the loop back to Perth. The drive is approximately 4 hours and that’s if you head directly there along the Bussell Highway. If you’re like me and like to get off the main roads quite often to explore, then I’d allow 5-6 hours to take your time.
And so…a great road trip must always begin with a tasty breakfast and armed with some local insider tips, we headed for the Moore and Moore Cafe in Fremantle. The cafe is housed in a 150 year old merchants warehouse which has now been converted to a contemporary art gallery for emerging artists. A grand archway leads you down a quaint cobbled cart way towards the cafe. Hanging from the wall are vintage knick knacks, an old bookcase full of well worn reads, and a exhibition to the right, a ring of old grand piano’s in various states of decay. Exposed and uneven beams stretch out above you. Head a little further past the cafe and you come to large open but shaded courtyard .
I had a fantastic breakfast ordering the ‘smashed new potato rosti ‘- mustard seed, spinach, romano cheese rosti – topped with poached egg, avocado, green olive and caper salsa, rocket and tomato relish.Accompanied by two very good soy flat whites.
Rolling on from breakfast we headed to Busselt and walked along the Busselton Jetty. The view was stunning as we ventured around 1km along the jetty in the morning sun and then turned back but if you go a bit further, the underwater observatory is there to explore too.
The following morning we drove into town and stopped off at the Margaret River Visitors Centre and plan the next fews of exploring. I highly recommend you do this as the lovely staff are most knowledgeable and really helpful in making the most of your precious time while in the region. We wanted a bit of everything – good food, wine and long scenic drives and that is exactly what we got…
When the day starts off with chocolate, you just know you’re in for a good day ahead. Gabriel Chocolate is a small family run business north of Margaret River in Yallingup which produces single origin chocolate with beans sourced from South America, Asia & Africa.
The chocolate is made from scratch daily beginning with hand sorting and roasting the cocoa beans. Visitors can taste test until their hearts content or go behind the scenes to see how the chocolate is made and then if you’ve still got room, Gabriel also produces their own rich creamy ice cream and ice cream pops which come in a great variety of flavours as well chocolate desserts like brownies, tarts and mousse cake which you can all enjoy with 5 senses coffee. Yes please!
Its surprising I still had room for lunch following Gabriels Chocolate stop but somehow we food bloggers always seem to find that extra 2nd stomach when it comes to eating….and so we found ourselves at the Cullen Estate.
Seated at our table by the window on a quiet mid week afternoon, we gazed over the leafy surrounding vineyards which rolled up the hill and over the horizon. The Cullen restaurant kitchen garden is certified biodynamic and all the ingredients are either organically grown on the estate or sourced from local producers.
On our visit we ate organic beef sirloin with roast potatos, bearnaise sauce and red wine jus
Beetroot salad with asparagus and broad beans from the Cullen garden
Seared Shark Bay Scallops with raw vegetable salad and soy dressing
After a most enjoyable long lunch and wine tasting along the way, we decided to get a little exercise in for the afternoon and drove on to the Lake Cave. Heading through the interpretive centre we took the long staircase walk down into the valley where the entrance to the cave was located. Noticeably cooler (and quieter) as we got lower down, our guide relayed the story of how the cave was found by accident one day by a young girl at the turn of the last century but remained hidden for at least the next twenty years given she couldn’t find her way back again. Once found again it attracted more and more visitors over time.
The Lake Cave is one of the region’s most spectacular caves owing to a 300 metre permanent lake which mirrors a cathedral of stalactites which reach down over head. The cave even has its own ‘dragon’.
Our last stop for the day was the Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse. Unfortunately we got there too late to go inside but never the less, the wind swept coastline was still beautifully dramatic as the sun set in between moody dark clouds on the horizon.
We began our third day with another fantastic breakfast the Ocean Cafe, just a short drive from the Margaret River Beach Resort where we were staying. I highly recommend you stop here when in the region – the service is friendly and attentive, the coffee is great and the food is made with care and a little love. I especially recommend trying the hash browns.
On this day, we decided to let someone else do the driving so we could enjoy the best of the Margaret River wineries without having to worry about the volume of wine consumed (read A LOT) . My good friend Di of Travelletto suggested Top Drop Tours and I can’t recommend them enough. Top Drop caters simply for those wine lovers who know what they like from the complete novice to the cellar door veteran. We took the afternoon winery tour but they also offer a number of other tours including private and full days tours.
Admittedly not knowing a lot about wine, our tour guide took the time to find out exactly what our tastes were (most definitely red) and took us to 6 wineries over the course of the afternoon, from small family run cellar doors, to the better known Howards Park . My partner and I were the only ones on tour that day so the experience was really intimate and tailored to our tastes as the day went on. Top Drop even went above and beyond on our return to Margaret River, generously waiting while we stopped off at the local providore “The Lader” to pick up dinner as we were unable to drive by that stage and staying a little ways out of town – now that is service!
One of the last stops of the day, Credaro Wines – stop here for fantastic sparkling.
Alas, it was unfortunately time to start turning back to Perth, but there were still a few important stops on the way before we left Margaret River. As with chocolate, the day also bodes well when started with ice cream – a whole tasting paddle of 8 flavours to be exact! Millers Ice cream is velvety smooth and creamy and we got stuck into chocolate hazelnut, banana & caramel, and traditional strawberry just to name a few. If you want to revisit your childhood, a glass of whole milk straight from the cow is also available for purchase.
Rolling on from Millers Ice cream we ventured on to the Margaret Providore.
As I walked through the door, I actually had butterflies from the excitement of feasting my eyes on wall to wall rows of beautiful olive oil, sauces, jams, pickles, mixed spice & curries as well as desserts like chocolate mousse and blood orange and olive oil cakes to make at home. I immediately accepted that my credit card was going to a take a beating and wondered how I was going to fit my purchases in my already bursting luggage alongside 16 bottles of wine.
The providore grows all of its fresh produce in its own garden and farm, they also have an olive grove , a small orchard where limes, lemons, quince, figs and oranges are grown and make their own verjuice and wine. Free range chickens supply organic eggs for their lemon butter and passionfruit curd.
Putting together a number of complimentary items is easy especially as recipes are included with curry and dessert mixes. My bag was heaving under the weight of passionfruit curd, chocolate mousse, curry mixes and pickles and raspberry jam. If you cant make it to Margaret River, they also have an online shop which ships across Australia.
Heading back to Perth, we stopped off at the Cape Naturaliste lighthouse which was closed again! this time for maintenance
Our final stop was Dunsborough – the view of turquoise waves and white sandy beach was stunning and as it was mid week, we mostly had the beach to ourselves. Bliss 🙂
Bye for now Margaret but we’ll be back most definitely….