I love wine country. Not only is the scenery is absolutely stunning, but the produce is fantastic and there’s often a cluster of truly great restaurants. When we’d planned to be in Bunbury for a few days on my most recent trip to Perth, I persuaded the boy (who isn’t even a wine drinker) that we should drive an extra hour south and spend a night in Margaret River. We had been there before, on a camping trip back in the summer of 2008 and I thought the town was lovely.
This time we decided to book in lunch at Vasse Felix, a gorgeous winery not too far out of town which boasts the oldest vines in the region. The drizzle had stopped for just a few minutes as we arrived. After a quick wander around the gallery, we headed upstairs to the restaurant, which overlooked the beautiful estate. It was toasty warm inside thanks to the log fire blazing.
Even though I’d looked over the a la carte menu online and knew what was on it, it was still a very difficult decision over what to order, since every single main looked fantastic. There may have been a game of Rock, Paper, Scissors. In the end, I decided on the Crispy Duck Leg, pearl barley and herb risotto, roast fig, celeriac and apple remoulade. The risotto was especially interesting, with the different texture of the pearl barley providing an interesting contrast. It was perfect with the absolutely smashing glass of Cabernet Merlot I had with it. The only thing that seemed strange with the dish was that the duck and risotto were served hot, and the figs and remoulade were cold, which made it a little strange when tasting the different elements together.
Steve’s choice was much easier, deciding straight away on the Rabbit and Porcini Pappardelle with roast hazelnuts and gorgonzola mascarpone. The pasta was perfectly cooked, and the rabbit was delicious apart from a few slightly chewy pieces, and it was perhaps a tiny bit under-seasoned. I was surprised that he really enjoyed the gorgonzola! All in all, it was a great and unpretentious dish with some spot-on flavour combinations.
Dessert was absolutely necessary, and again a tough decision for me as all four choices looked fabulous. I ordered the Bittersweet Chocolate Tart with sour cherries and red wine jelly. It came out looking like an artwork on the plate! The chocolate tart was decadent, almost indecent, adorned with plump juicy cherries. The Cane Cut Semillon dessert wine cut through the sweetness and richness of the tart and was a perfect match.
When I saw the Warm Gingerbread with Caramelised Bananas, Caramel Sauce and Popcorn ice cream, I knew it would be Steve’s choice, as those are some of his favourite things all on the one plate. This was the standout dish of the day for both of us. That popcorn ice cream was absolutely sublime, and tasted exactly like buttery popcorn but smooth and creamy, and I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it since! All of the different elements worked perfectly together and it was really a smashing dish that I kind of wish I’d ordered for myself!
Chef Aaron Carr really knows his way around flavours and is blessed with some of Australia’s best produce in the Margaret River region. The food at Vasse Felix is special without being over the top or overdone in any way, and the atmosphere of both the restaurant and the cellar door is warm and inviting. It’s a long way to go for lunch, but it was definitely a meal (and a view!) that I’ll remember for a long time to come.
Vasse Felix – Cnr Caves Rd and Harmans Rd South, Cowaramup, WA