The bounty of the Margaret River region of south-west Western Australia is renowned for its quality, freshness and lack of food miles. There are more than 120 wineries, eight breweries and a multitude of food producers to visit. Several companies offer culinary and winery tours of the region but if you’re an independent traveller it’s easy to plan your own itinerary. We spent a day driving through fertile farmland and small country towns sampling gourmet delights and enjoying a range of fresh produce; here’s our list of ten great places to eat and drink in Margaret River.
10 – Margaret River Chocolate Company
The viewing windows at this chocolate factory allow you to see chocolate bars and truffles being made by hand while friendly staff members wander round bearing trays piled high with samples for tasting. With 200 different chocolate creations to choose from, taste testing is essential in order to help with the decision making process. That’s our excuse anyway! We chose chocolate with Jamaican coconut…and chocolate with sea salt caramel…and chocolate with cashews…and Rocky Road.
9 – Providore Margaret River
Enter gourmet food heaven when you walk through the doors of Providore. Jams, chutneys, sauces, salad dressings and olive oils are amongst the more than 40 home made products available here. Each day different foods, all produced on site from ingredients grown on the farm, are available to taste. Outside, wander through the extensive orchard, olive grove and vegetable garden with the free range chickens for company. Our recommendation – Sambarino After Dinner Mint Chocolate Liqueur. Divine!
8 – Bootleg Brewery
There’s more to this brewery than the five beers and one cider produced here. The café serves delicious food, there are regular live music gigs and visitors can learn about the history of the brewery in the small upstairs museum. We enjoyed a generous serve of beer battered chips and a luscious slice of hazelnut and sticky date cake by a warm potbelly stove.
7 – Cowaramup Brewing Company
Seven beers are produced at this family-owned brewery and keen beer drinkers can take part in a tour to see how they are made. Dishes on the menu in the restaurant are made from local produce and the view over the valley is beautiful – take advantage of both on the outdoor timbered deck. A glass of special pale ale was savoured here.
6 – Margaret River Cheese Company
The dairy cows grazing contentedly on lush green pasture are the best evidence that there are luscious cheeses on sale at the shop here. There’s a range of camembert, brie, cheddar and feta cheeses. Tastings are welcomed and it’s difficult to stop at one, and even more difficult to decide which cheeses to buy. Our favourites were double cream camembert and smoked club cheddar.
5 – Gabriel Chocolate
Decadent chocolates are made from scratch at the Gabriel Chocolate factory, from cacao beans imported from all the growing regions of the world. Tastings are available at the Chocolate Gallery and include milk and dark chocolates, sauces and drinks. The ginger chocolate was sweet and spicy.
4 – House of Cards Winery
Handcrafted wines are the speciality of the House Of Cards. The wine is made only from grapes grown in their own vineyard and the labels on the bottles reflect the inspiration of the winemakers – “you have to play the hand that you are dealt.” I can highly recommend “The Joker” Sweet Rosé.
3 – Swooping Magpie Winery
This boutique winery at Yallingup is named for a resident magpie who used to live in the trees on the property and he is featured in the winery’s logo. As well as wine tasting there’s a café with coffee, scones with cream and jam and light lunches. Gourmet platters designed to complement the wines are also available. We bought a bottle each of the 2009 Cabernet Franc and the 2012 Chenin Blanc – delicious!
2 – Simmo’s Ice Creamery
With more than 60 flavours of ice cream to choose from, your dessert desires will be taken care of at Simmo’s Ice Creamery at Dunsborough. The regular flavours like vanilla and chocolate are always available while the more adventurous can try something a little different, like Whiskey Prune or Apple Pie. We had Cinnamon Ginger and Coconut Chocolate. There’s a shady park, an adventure playground and even a mini-golf course so you can stay a while, relax and try more than one delicious ice cream.
1 – Yallingup Woodfired Bread
This small family business is a well-kept secret known only to locals. We heard about it at the Swooping Magpie and even though we followed the directions the bakery wasn’t easy to find; the woodfire symbol is discreet and easy to miss. It’s worth the effort to ask for directions though because of the bread, made from locally grown stone ground grain, is tastiest straight out of the wood-fired ovens and goes on sale every day at about 3 pm. We bought a still-warm loaf of wheat sourdough “with some rye and a touch of spice.”