Somewhere near Prevelly Park.
Poached salmon with peas and horseradish cream at Aravina Estate.
Excellent starter of Thai prawns and coconut rice.
Ocean trout with yuzu dressing at Miki’s Open Kitchen. The beginning of a fabulous meal.
Tempura course at Miki’s – zucchini, scallop and out of focus, nori wrapped Fremantle sardines.
Margaret River mouth.
Worth the drive and then some, 34 Degrees South olive oil.
Left: Inside the 34 Degrees tent. Right: Millers ice cream at the farmstead.
Golden hour approaching.
Heading down on a Saturday morning and coming back up on Sunday arvo, it was a whirlwind trip to Margaret River. It’s not quite enough time to do this diverse region justice, but for a weekend of fun, sun, wining and dining it’s unbeatable. Our base, Prevelly Park, is small but adorable. With endless beaches of fine, white sand (that gets into everything and everywhere) it still has that old school surfie town vibe. Early mornings see a kombi van putt its way down to the river mouth to caffeinate those dreadlocked, middle aged and/or brave searching for the perfect wave. From our studio we went for long walks by the beach, watched the sun rise over lush dunes and explored the spookily quiet, closed mouth of the Margaret River.
A few minutes drive away is Miki’s Open Kitchen, offering food of utterly unexpected calibre for a country town (and state for that matter). A U shaped dining room surrounding an open kitchen, Miki’s is a drama of hot oil, clockwork cooking and food envy. We went for the ‘trust’ menu (basically an omakase – chef’s choice) which started with tempura duck liver pate encased in gritty black sesame seeds. Served seconds after being pulled out from the oil, the pate was melt in the mouth. Watching the chef produce multiple tempura main courses between two copper vats of oil was both nerve wracking and intriguing, with each piece of zucchini, panko’d scallop and Freo sardine not a second over cooked. Local seafood is the star here, with the menu frequently changing mid service depending on supply. Be sure to book a table.
Perched above undulating vineyards and reaching down to a rippling lake is Aravina Estate. This estate does it all – a shop, cellar door, weddings, even a sports car gallery (!) and of course, a restaurant. At first reading, the menu does seem a bit pedestrian but the food that comes out is nothing short of excellent. The slow cooked ocean trout surrounded by thirst quenching radish, squeaky peas and sharp horseradish foam was gorgeous on the plate and to eat. But what surprised were the Thai dishes…Prawns with peppy sprigs of coriander on top of creamy, coconut rice was sharp, sweet, pungent and salty. Even better was the pork belly with yellow noodles. Bathed in an intense oxtail soup it was silky, balanced and meaty. It’s an odd juxtaposition to be raving about Thai food in the middle of a vineyard, but it’s so good it works.
Apart from eating and drinking, food shopping was on the agenda. Vasse Virgin is a heaven for samples and anything olive related (they make excellent pesto and marinated olives). At Gabriel Chocolate, vats warming single origin drinking chocolates were irresistible. Ice cream at the Millers’ original family farmhouse (as opposed to the kiosk in the township), was worth the short drive away from civilization. Beneath swaying gum trees, just metres from the Millers’ cows, we enjoyed scoops of freshly churned ice cream. So good.
Talking about civilization, just outside Rosa Brook (a town that looks so lonely, the movie Hills Have Eyes came to mind – but its actually a very lovely area) is 34 Degrees South, an olive oil producer that’s not to be missed, if only for the safari tent that looks oddly elegant. Inside, we taste extra virgin oils and olives produced from the 7000 strong orchard just metres away. The organic olive oils which range from distinctly buttery and bright to robust and fruity, are a testament to the onsite crushing and production. At the farm gate, each bottle of freshly poured oil is $10 (plus $1 for a recycled wine bottle) which is crazy good value.
We say good bye to the resident alpaca and pull out onto one of the most idyllic routes of the road trip. As we speed back to the city, the vista changes from cow studded paddocks protected by gnarly windbreaks to more olive groves, then forests, then finally, hills flecked with rolling vineyards.
Margaret River Beach Studios | 17 Wooredah Crescent, Prevelly Park
Close to the beach, private and affordable with a little kitchenette and barbeque to boot! Highly recommended.
Gabriel Chocolate | 3220 Caves Rd, Yallingup
Stop by for mugs of single origin chocolat chaud. A must do for the chocolate purist, or gifts for the chocolate lover.
Aravina Estate | 61 Thornton Road Yallingup
Nice for lunch and having a sneak peek at a big estate. Be sure to call ahead for a table.
Morries Anytime | 2/149 Bussell Highway, Margaret River
Brekkie (did someone say avocado on toast?), good coffee, lunch and dinner, this place does it all.
Woodlands Winery | 3948 Caves Rd, Wilyabrup
Secluded, very local organic winery. Lovely reds.
Miki’s Open Kitchen | 131 Bussell Highway, Margaret River
As close to an authentic tempura restaurant as you can get (even in Perth), minus the airfare to Tokyo. Run, don’t walk.
Wulura Farm | 1071 Wildwood Road, Yallingup
Locally produced olive oils and wine tastings over looking a forest lined lake.
Vasse Virgin | 2 Rosa Brook Road, Margaret River
Sample mustards, marinated olives, oils and pesto! Plus olive oil based soaps and skincare.
Millers Ice Cream | 314 Wirring Road, Cowaramup
With a multitude of flavours, a playground and cows mooing in the distance, having a scoop in the original farmhouse is not be missed. Whole milk (with that delectable layer of cream) is also available here.
34 Degrees South | Crozier Road, Rosa Brook
Gorgeous organic olive oils at unbelievably good farm gate prices.
Vasse Felix | Cnr Tom Cullity Drive & Caves Road, Margaret River
Make time for this juggernaut estate. The gallery is a must-see, the wines are must-drinks (there’s a pun in there somewhere) and the inventive food is a must-eat. Book, book, book! And ask for a table overlooking the vineyard.