One in, all in – at least, that appears to be the current Margaret River Region restaurant motto, with a healthy stable of winery and stand-alone restaurants pushing to reinforce the region’s winning foodie status. While Cullen Wines (#25) may not be a newcomer, the commitment of chef Iain Robertson to producing a menu equal to head winemaker Vanya Cullen’s meticulously curated biodynamic wines is reaping rewards for lucky lunchers. Robertson’s menu blends stunning local produce with Japanese influence and faultless French technique; Wagin duck done two ways – tender, compressed breast and a confit Maryland – is strongly met by sweetened calamondin, pickled mustard seeds and a subtle almond cream.
At Yarri (#31), a little ways up Caves Road in Dunsborough, chef and owner Aaron Carr is a devotee of the six Noongar seasons. Needless to say, native ingredients are a highlight, be it wood-grilled marron with XO and saltbush or mushrooms with quandong. Highlight of the schmick new natural timber and glass build is a wine garden beneath the ‘peppi’ trees.
Out at Eagle Bay, Wise Wine (#43) is another down south restaurant that has taken on both a new chef and a new attitude, this year, with stellar results. Ben Jacob is the chef to takeover the reigns at this impressively positioned winery, with its views of stunning Eagle Bay. Local suppliers and fresh produce are, again, important calling cards for a chef whose food sits on the refined side of rustic. Think beautifully cooked local venison with carrot and mandarin – well-matched flavours that are clean and concise. Breakfast is on seven days for those who prefer their morning brew with a view.
Back in Margaret River and just a stone’s throw from Voyager and Leeuwin Estate sits Xanadu (#45), a winery restaurant not keen to rest on its wine winning laurels (the winery won the Jimmy Watson Memorial Trophy for the best young red for its 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon in October 2018). Head chef Melissa Kokoti plays with subtle Indian flavour in a dish of achar-spiced spitchcock, while kataifi-wrapped prawns top an almond, quinoa, pomegranate and honey crumb. The restaurant itself is a tranquil space wrapped around a wind-sheltered and grassed courtyard – the perfect spot to bask with a lauded Xanadu chardy come summer.