must – margaret river
Our day trip to Margaret River saw us having lunch at Must Wine Bar, right in the town center. Sure, we could’ve had an equally long and wonderful lunch overlooking the vines at a winery somewhere, but as Mt Lawley’s Must is one of my long standing favourite restaurants, it was a very obvious choice.
The food is the same strain as its sister restaurant – french bistro food with a focus on local south western produce. The restaurant is a bit more open and simplistic and this amounts to a laid back dining experience where the tables are far apart and the paper sheaths flap in the breeze.
Minds already made up, we quickly plan a lunch of freshly shucked oysters and a big juicy dry aged rib eye to share. I can feel my eyes roll back with pleasure at the mention of oysters and steak – it’s one of my ‘last meal’ contenders. (And it always brings a notion of carpet bag steak to mind – anybody remember that pub staple?) (Unrelated note – it can be flamed with cognac, so it becomes Carpetbag Maxine! Good god!)
There is one thing I always love Must for and I hope on this, they never ever change – the bread and butter. The baguette is great, but really, the butter is the star. It’s d’Isigny AOC butter all the way from France (I’m sure the karma from the local food cancels out on the butter’s food miles…).
The butter is a golden sunny colour, with the unmistakable flavour of culture. It’s gorgeous with the bubbly, crusty baguette. I can’t help but fill up on bread and butter before the starters even arrive.
Our oysters arrive and they are small local oysters, just delivered that very morning. Each oyster is freshly shucked, plump and bright with fresh brine. The natural oysters are creamy with a light flavour of the sea. Spiked with the shallot vinaigrette, they are wonderful. The crumbed oysters are like gilded lilies and it’s hard to stop at one. The richness of the thin, herbaceous tartare sauce cuts through the crumbed exterior of the oysters.
Between courses I have a spy of the dry aged meat cabinet. Various cuts hang rather morbidly in the display, dry aging their way to deliciousness.
After a reasonable wait, our rib eye arrives and it’s a steak Fred Flinstone would be proud of. I love the look of a good rib eye – a short handle of bone, a thick fillet ensconced by a doona of fat which folds into an outer, dryer layer of darker aged flesh. It’s perfectly charred on the crust and medium rare inside.
(Personally I like my steak almost mooing – deep red rare – but with sharing a steak and such a personal thing as steak doneness, there has to be a compromise somewhere.)
The steak was excellent – tender with the some resistance in the bite – a telltale sign of a beast that lived a good life. What was even better – and sent the steak into swoon territory was the bearnaise sauce.
Notorious for splitting, I think the bearnaise was made fresh to order and had a just-whipped frothy look to it. Slightly tangy and decadent – in this case, less is not more. The more bearnaise went on the steak, the more incredible everything tasted. The bearnaise out shone the three other sauces served – onion cabernet relish, salsa verde and dijon mustard.
At $48 the steak serves two, but in fact, it could serve one very greedy, steak-loving person.
We ordered a side of Torbay asparagus with extra virgin olive oil. These spears were the largest asparagus I have seen in my life – gigantic! Surprisingly, they weren’t tough. (I’ve always thought large asparagus were stringy and with these giants I expected to be woody.) The columns of asparagus were perfectly steamed to the point where they kept their fresh green flavour with some snap.
We left soon after main course was finished, as we had other things to do (you know, caves to explore, wines to drink – the usual, darlings.) But before we packed up to leave, K gave me an early Christmas present – Must’s chef Russell Blaikie’s Must Eat cookbook. Referencing produce from the south west region, it was love at first flick through. (Plus it contains the recipe of their to-die-for cheese souffle!)
Must is so aptly named. It’s a must stop and a must eat – not to mention an enviable wine list, with quite a few choices by the glass. I can’t imagine a better place to bring friends or visitors to Margaret River for a meal – the dedication to local food and producers could not culminate in a better venture in the heart of the south-west.
Up’s: Well executed french bistro food – the quality is helped by the close-at-hand supply. Food is very similar to the Beaufort St – points for consistency. Decent wine list. Not fine dining, but liked the linen napkins and attention to detail.
Down’s: The service – one of the two waitresses had some attitude, I think she was serving us under the assumption we were tourists never to return.
Must Margaret River
107 Bussell Highway, Margaret River WA 6285
T: (08) 9758 8877
Open 7 days, 12 noon till late
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