Paddock To Plate Dining Trail
- Meet the chefs and producers behind some of the Margaret River region’s champions of paddock to plate dining.
- Get behind the scenes at working farms, explore seasonal gardens and learn about local produce.
- Dine at some of the region’s favoured winery restaurants and purchase hand-crafted goods to take home.
- Taste the very best of the Margaret River region.
The global drive for food sustainability has shone a big, fat spotlight on the importance of not just eating local, but ensuring what is harvested from or upon the earth is completely consumed. Paddock to plate. Nose to tail. Two philosophies that go hand-in-hand with minimising our impact and preserving the environments in which we live.
In the Margaret River region, such an approach is increasingly the mainstay. Take a tour of these farms, wineries and restaurants to discover what paddock to plate means across the pristine South West.
There is nothing at all figurative about Arimia’s paddock to plate ethos: in a restaurant directed by Chef Evan Hayter and set completely off the grid, if they haven’t grown it, then you won’t eat it. “I asked Evan recently what his local ‘hero’ ingredient was,” re-tells Ann Spencer, owner of the Wilyabrup estate. “He went away and thought about it and came back with a beautiful spiel on rain water.” Such thoughtful, unique perspective is representative of Arimia’s approach across the board. Energy is solar. Pigs are used as weed control, allowing natives to regrow before being slaughtered for food. Trout and marron fill Arimia’s waterways and are harvested for the restaurant table. Viticulturist Dan Stocker takes the little that isn’t used of the animals killed on site to turn back into soil fertilisers used to feed the gardens and vines. The circle of life is in full evidence. For chef Evan, working with what he has feeds the creative fire. Take a braised pork leg ragout. Made from estate raised pigs braised in stock created from the pigs bones, its paired with cured pork belly and cheek hung for six weeks in-house before being rendered and combined through the braised pork. Handmade tagliatelle accompanies the pig, made from organic stone milled flour and eggs from the property. One dish. Multiple components. Sourced on site and transformed through time and commitment and artisan skill. This is dedication to the sustainable food cause at an acutely sensitive level.
The biodynamic blackboard attracts a lot of attention at Cullen Wines. It sits above the coffee machine, its content changing from season to season as the garden moves from autumn to winter, through spring and summer and back again. Changing with season too is the winery’s biodynamic garden, supplier of much of head chef Iain Robertson’s plates where European technique meets an elegant understanding of classic and Japanese flavours. What’s so great about the Cullen wines paddock to plate approach is how visual of an experience it is – the biodynamic spiral garden between the chardonnay vines and the fruit-tree lined driveway is both a tranquil respite and an education, sign-posted as it is with a brief telling of winemaker Vanya Cullen’s biodynamic principals. Of course the full market garden is not open for inspection – this is a working restaurant and winery – but seeing more is as simple as investigating the components of your lunch plate. In early winter, expect beetroot, radish, kale and nettle. If you catch Jaimie out in the garden, stop him for more information: as the garden caretaker he knows the comings and goings. Proteins, though not sourced on site, are sustainable. Think line-caught fish, bi-catch, or local venison or Margaret River wagyu.
To describe Olio Bello as an olive farm would be to understate the scope of the Cowaramup property. Three hundred and twenty acres. Ten thousand olive trees. Fourteen different varietals. And in the two decades since the first olives were harvested, more awards than you can count – the farm that was begun by American couple, Jack and Sue Witkin, and has since become West Australian owned is one of the most awarded producers of organic extra virgin olive oil in Australia. Because oils ain’t just oils. Climate plays a huge role, and the purity of the Margaret River region is the recurring theme through all small farms and producers in the south west region. Clean ocean. Sea air. Good soil treated, as is the case for Olio Bello, organically in order to ensure the groves are cared for to best advantage. The immediate cold press of picked olives ensures the ultimate expression of fruits that originate from all corners of the Mediterranean – varietals have been sourced from Greece, Spain, France and Italy, which means blending time offers limitless choice in creation of oil character. The farm cafe offers a paddock to plate experience, while on-farm bungalow accommodation takes the idea of glamping to another level.
Margaret River Venison Farm
The site of deer on the run up Caves Road between Margaret River and Yallingup is almost as iconic as the roos that you’ll be dodging as the sun sets and dusk casts its shadow on the winding bends. Margaret River Venison Farm has an iconic status, there’s no doubt, and the quality and deliciousness of the deer-centric food it produces goes a long way to explaining why. Farmed venison is low in fat and energy, and high in protein. It’s also super tasty; the Margaret River venison chorizo is rich and dense with just the right amount of spice. Venison sausages (flavoured with mango, maybe, or apple and sage) are a great mix to add to the weekend barbecue, while the emu and kangaroo chorizo gives new meaning to the idea of the Australian coat of arms. In Margaret River since 1990, the family-run business has grown to cover national and international markets. But the paddock to plate ethos remains: every animal processed during the week is sold the following week, and nothing of the beast goes to waste. There is no respect without an understanding of the value of an animal and its place in the environment: an understanding this local farm has in spades.
The Farm House Margaret River
Everyone in Margaret River knows what it means when you say ‘Arkady lamb’. David Hohnen, regional wine industry pioneer. Pristine landscape at the head of the Blackwood River. Single flock, single farm lamb raised on grassy creek lines and legume pastures. A joint venture of original Cape Mentelle founder, David, and third generation farmer, Colin Houghton, the Farm House is an artisan butchery and smokehouse producing some of the region’s finest meats and smallgoods. Natural foraging is a philosophy, as is the nose-to-tail use of animals that means – not just beautiful lamb shanks and crackling-perfect pork shoulders – but charcuterie and smoked meat goods that are a by-word for quality and flavour. There is no direct access to the Farm House pastures, though the McHenry Hohnen cellar door on Caves Road offers insight into the unique Farm House story and purchase of meats, alongside tastings and bottles of David’s one-time wine label in partnership, McHenry Hohnen. This is primary produce that offers just another way to eat into more of the Margaret River story.
Organics are important to Voyager Estate head chef, Santiago Fernandez. With the winery in the complex process of becoming certified organic, the need to reflect this commitment is present in operation of the winery restaurant’s kitchen. “Organically growing but not organically certified”, is how Voyager phrases their culinary approach, standing by a paddock to plate philosophy that has them pulling as much as they can from their own soil before slowly radiating their produce purchase outwards: Margaret River first, then the South West, and finally Western Australia as a whole. Self-sufficiency changes with the seasons. The “snack” preceding each lunch is always garden grown – the fact it changes daily allows Santiago to reliably source this aspect from the estate’s own property. Across the seasonal annual cycle, Voyager supplies anywhere from 30 per cent to 80 per cent of its own produce.
Polish and support of local producers come together in a paddock to plate experience that sits well within Leeuwin Estate’s artful ethos. Seated in the cradle of the Margaret River region, that long tree-lined drive in sets the scene for an experience of everything that makes Margaret River special. That being, relationships between people, food and wine in an environment that’s at least as inspiring as what you’ll find poured into the balloon of your chardonnay glass. Breakfast begins on site with Brut and a taste of the gourmet produce whose makers you’ll get to know better in a journey through the local area; producers of meats, fish and sustainably grown vegetables that will give you their stories alongside the produce forming the basis of your lunch. While the chefs get to work prepping your catch, you’ll get to work in a hands-on red wine blending session. It’s a nice take home. But trust the Art Series matching to your four-course lunch as the better option. Keep your wine handiwork for a glass of memory when you get home.
There are plans afoot at Glenarty Road – a November degustation built on the back of a single Chianina cow. Sasha and Ben Foley bought it when it was three-years-old; an Italian species known for its ghostly white coat and towering form (by the time its put to pasture, aged four, the beast will stand at almost three metres tall), it is the beef made famous by Tuscany’s bisteca alla Fiorentina. “It has to be quite an event to justify killing them,” explains Sasha over a glass of Kerfuffle Shiraz at her Karridale restaurant and winery. “They’re beautiful creatures.” Such long-term planning is the norm at Glenarty Road, where food is given its time to grow and treated with reverence. Lamb is big, here; the couple run around 2000 of the animal and yet very little makes it to menu between April and July – lambing ‘off-season’. The pigs used to clean up noxious weeds on the 200-acre property might form a delicious replacement made, as they are, into small goods. Nothing goes to waste. Vegetables grown on the plot are transformed into seasonal centrepieces – eggplant cooked over open flame might be paired with sheep curd and mint za’atar, while cauliflower will join spinach in a south west-style Waldorf. Chef Ricky Mandozzi works magic with the charcoal woodfire grills, while the very, very seasonal menu changes from day to day. A visit is always a surprise. And always a fresh taste of the best this region has to offer.