Linger Longer Over Lunch

A long lunch with friends is one of the best ways to spend a winter's afternoon

A long lingering lunch accompanied by a bottle of superb Margaret River wine is the perfect way to spend an afternoon. Dianne Bortoletto made the sacrifice to find some of the region’s best for you.

Researching this story was a tough gig. Sitting in beautiful surrounds, at times in front of a roaring fire, sipping elegant world class wines whilst being served nourishing food that warms you up from the inside out were just some of the sacrifices I made. I know what you’re thinking: “what a champ, taking one for the team”. The good news for you is that there are many worthy places in the Margaret River region to linger over lunch, the bad news is that you’re spoilt for choice making it a tough decision.

Voyager Estate

Voyager is visually stunning. Outside, the white stucco Dutch inspired building stands proud on the beautifully manicured grounds with the prettiest rose garden in the region and the second-biggest Australian flag in the country (after the one at Parliament House in Canberra!). Voyager’s Spanish head chef Santiago (Santi) Fernandez delivers Voyager’s signature seven-course Discovery Menu, each course inspired by one of their wines. There’s also a four-course menu for those with less time. Their wines are sublime and the restaurant service absolutely first class. The restaurant setting is reminiscent of a French luxury Chateau with the rich drapes, chesterfield sofas, and ornate light fittings, you could almost forget you were at a winery. There’s also a high tea on weekends that starts at 10.30am. Voyager is a good choice for a long lingering fine dining experience or if you’re wanting to impress someone special.

Cullen Wines

Biodynamic and organic principals guide not only the wine making at Cullen but the kitchen too. The cellar door along one wall forms the entrance to the restaurant and it feels warm with exposed beams and a cosy fireplace. Out over the deck are vineyard views and if you’re there during the right time of year, you might spot broad beans growing between the rows. The food at the two-hatted restaurant is almost all organic and sourced from the kitchen garden onsite or locally. Cullen’s highly regarded prized wines are made with minimal intervention, which when coupled with good service and delicious food make it a fantastic lunch experience. Rug up and wander through the organic spiral garden after lunch, it’s wonderful. With winemaker Vanya Cullen recently named Winemaker of the Year in the 2020 James Halliday Wine Companion Awards – it seems the perfect place to pair wine and food over a long lunch.

Cape Lodge

Boutique country hotel and winery Cape Lodge has an elegant restaurant that under chef Tony Howell has won multiple esteemed awards that put the spotlight on Margaret River as a culinary destination. Not usually open for lunch, Cape Lodge tends to hold special seasonal events – so be sure to check out their website and social accounts. If you miss Truffle Kerfuffle, head to Cape Lodge on 24 August for a truffle dog hunt followed by an indulgent long lunch matched with local Marchand & Burch wines, Howard Park’s celebrated Australian/French wine project along with wines from Burgundy.

Wills Domain

Now get ready to have your foodie socks blown off. But first, you’d be forgiven for daydreaming while taking in the stunning scenery – views of rolling greenery and straight vines to the Manor House perched atop of a distant hill. But as soon as the food hits the table, daydreams stop and delicious reality starts. The dishes are sophisticated, beautifully presented and perfectly executed. Chef Seth James uses native ingredients in his dishes that surprise and delight the taste buds. There’s a ‘Tasting Menu’, and for groups of ten or more there’s a ‘Feast Menu’. Don’t miss an experience dining at Wills Domain – there’s good reason why it was awarded two chefs hats and West Australian Restaurant of the Year in the 2018 Australian Good Food Guide. Despite the awards, it’s far from a stuffy formal winery restaurant. Wills Domain is approachable and absolutely first class.

Arimia Estate

Tucked away down a dirt road, just getting to Arimia Estate’s cellar door feels like an adventure in itself. Inside, it’s beautifully homey, styled with a touch of chic and outside there’s views of natives trees and bush. The wines are stunning and the food is great and made with produce that comes from their own garden or reared themselves. The Estate produces its own pork, eggs, olives, olive oil, trout, grapes, honey, marron and organic vegetables and the rest of the ingredients are sourced locally. Chef Evan Hayter designs the menu to match wines. What isn’t so easily apparent is that Arimia is totally off the grid. That’s right, it’s solar powered and has a zero-waste policy. Arimia Estate is unpretentious and a quiet achiever, definitely worth checking out.

Blue Manna

Blue Manna Bistro in Dunsborough is booked out more often than not and has a stellar reputation around town. As the name suggests, Blue Manna Bistro specialises in Blue Manna crab and seafood, cooked with an Asian influence. The Asian influence comes from chef and owner Coby Cockburn who trained in Far North Queensland under an English chef who had a passion for Asian cuisine. His own travels through Thailand and Indonesia have also influenced his cooking. The offering tends to change with season, but you’ll want to devour the whole menu so be sure to bring a group and settle in for a long lunch.

Rustico at Hayshed Hill

If you’re looking for a relaxed vibe with banging food, then Rustico at Hay Shed Hill is a great choice. The tapas menu is as mouth-watering as the dishes themselves. One of the reasons most people love Rustico is the popular six course tapas degustation matched with premium Hay Shed Hill wines. There’s also pizza and a massive selection of European cheeses if you prefer to graze. Leave time to do a wine tasting at the cellar door that has 25 wines on offer. The food, the service, the menu choice and the wine are all on point. It’s a pretty setting too. Be sure to book, it’s a popular place and for good reason.

Xanadu Estate

Situated amongst vines and gardens deep within the Xanadu Estate is a restaurant that screams long lunch. It’s a stunning setting. The menu is Modern Australian with Mediterranean slants, a tribute to head chef Melissa Kokoti’s Cypriot heritage and her travels through Europe. Dishes are inspired by the ingredients available from local producers, neighbouring farms, the sea as well as what is seasonally grown in their vegetable garden. Awarded one chefs hat in the 2018 Australian Good Food Guide, the restaurant was also listed in WA’s Top 50 Best Restaurants by the West Australian Good Food Guide in 2017 and 2018. The wines are award-winning and the restaurant wine list features current and museum vintages, as well as special release wines that cannot be found anywhere else.

Vasse Felix

Vasse Felix’s restaurant is gorgeous with its suspended fireplace, natural stone walls and wooden beams. The restaurant places great importance on sourcing the best local produce and the food is sensational. The menu changes daily and there’s the option of a five-course tasting menu that can be matched with Icon, Premier or Filius wines. Head chef Brendan Pratt makes everything is made from scratch and you’ll also spot the odd native Australian ingredient such as muntries and salt bush. The restaurant was awarded two chefs hats in the 2018 Australian Good Food Guide. It’s not just the restaurant winning awards, the wines are beautiful too so don’t skip a tasting at the cellar door. The elevated view from the upstairs restaurant over the vineyard will make it an unforgettable lunch. Downstairs you’ll find lounge area with a fireplace, an art gallery, cellar room and there’s tours available for exclusive access to the wine vault.

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Dianne Bortoletto

Author Dianne Bortoletto

Dianne Bortoletto is a food and travel writer, a regular contributor to Your Margaret River Region magazine and published in Italianicious, Luxury Travel, OUTthere, IN (LAN inflight), RedBull.com, Lightfoot Travel and Broadsheet. She’s been commissioned to write for Tourism Australia, Tourism WA, Perth Convention Bureau and Rottnest Island Authority. Dianne knows her way around the kitchen, wishes she could surf, pretends to keep fit and loves the sound of fast cars. Her other loves include a Greek named Zorba, a Westie named Bella, the Margaret River region and all things Italian. She's an ex-chocoholic and is shamelessly addicted to travel and proper coffee. Having travelled the world, Dianne knows how good we have in the Margaret River region. You can follow her adventures on her blog Travelletto.com / Instagram: @travelletto / Twitter: @travelletto

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