The Best Places to Eat and Drink in Margaret River
Of course, the wine is great. But the restaurants in this pretty region of Western Australia are off the charts, too.
Best vineyard eatery
Superb at every level, Vasse Felix offers an intelligent à la carte menu. The tone is elegant yet relaxed, which is part location, part interior design and part personnel. Brendan Pratt is a chef’s chef; his food is creative, surprising and beautifully sourced. And the service staff excel, always. It’s probably one of the best restaurants in all of WA. And the wine’s pretty damned good, too.
Caves Road (corner Tom Cullity Drive), Cowaramup; (08) 9756 5050; vassefelix.com.au
Stylish, informed and majestically set on a lake with superb gardens, Frui is a sum-of-the-parts proposition. Seth James (ex-Wills Domain) is a clever chef; Larry Cherubino is a winemaker and entrepreneur with national gravitas. And turning this property over to a restaurant and terrace makes complete sense for the South West. James goes long on coastal produce and his steamed Patagionian toothfish dish along with Japan-inspired “koshihikari” rice have become signatures.
3478 Caves Road, Wilyabrup; (08) 9380 9278; fruimomento.com.au
Best paddock to plate
This is a city-slicker’s idyll at the Augusta end of the Capes region where the reality matches the rhetoric. Lunch is a hyper-local experience with lamb, vegetables, fruit and herbs – even wine – from the very property you’re enjoying. The cooking is informed but unfussy, the staff delightful and the setting, in a haute shed sort of arrangement, perfectly pitched.
70 Glenarty Road, Karridale; 0475 085 305; glenartyroad.com.au
What happens when the former head chef at Noma, Copenhagen, opens a café and kitchen in WA? Canadian Ben Ing and Perth-raised Kirsty Marchant (she was head gardener for the one-time “best restaurant in the world”) have created a simple, delightful Scandi-meets-beach house venue where meticulous attention to detail goes into everything, from a sublime onion and leek tart to the smoky black tea they source from a Perth-based tea fanatic.
3/55 Queen Street, Busselton
With panoramic views across the vineyards of Yallingup, Wills Domain is the kind of place that could tempt you to chuck it all in to grow grapes. Better just to visit this exciting dining room, have lunch and go home happy. Innovative Perth chef Jed Gerrard consults to Wills and his take on food designed around native WA ingredients remains as impressive as his stints at Wildflower and Hearth. Pretty, seasonal, mannered and always fascinating.
17 Brash Road, Yallingup; (08) 9755 2327; willsdomain.com.au
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Best surprise package
Who’d expect mod Cantonese/Malaysian in a vineyard? At this architecturally impressive space next to House of Cards winery, Mal Chow throws contemporary training into the pool with his culinary heritage to create lovely, light dishes that have made his place a favourite. For something uniquely WA, choose the akoya oysters in white miso: the balance of authenticity to innovation is spot-on.
5 Quininup Road, Yallingup; (08) 9755 2681; chowstable.com.au
Best off-grid experience
Arimia is a restaurant that celebrates the land, environmental priorities and the bush-like property that produces its own pork, trout, wine and olive oil. A piece of hot-smoked trout in a tangy tomato broth with avocado purée and fried onion is one of the standout dishes here. Chef and co-owner Evan Hayter serves modern food that showcases the produce, not his ego, in this five-course set-price affair.
242 Quininup Road, Wilyabrup; (08) 9755 2528; arimia.com.au
Probably the best-known of all the Margaret River wine labels, Leeuwin’s tranquil restaurant reflects the classic brand values of its famous drops. Chef Dan Gedge’s formative years with Rick Stein in Britain can be seen in his seafood dishes, sauces and approach to plating. The day’s line-caught fish with crab and fennel – in season – is a great barometer of this venue. And its balcony may just be the best place in the world to drink a glass of Art Series chardonnay.
Stevens Road, Margaret River; (08) 9759 0000; leeuwinestate.com.au
It’s like the Inner West of Sydney or Melbourne gone bush. A serious brewery and barn – literally – offers quality beers and surprisingly good tucker of the style we used to call “dude food”, including Mexican-inspired dishes, great burgers, lots of smoke and barbecue. An excellent place for families, it offers heaps for kids to do while their folks relax, as well as a smart “Little Farmers” menu.
177 Gale Road, Metricup; (08) 9755 7177; beerfarm.com.au
Best beach bum
Bunkers Beach House
Informal and sublimely located almost on the beach at Bunker Bay (a ridiculously lovely spot), BBH accesses the natural beauty of the region like few others. The menu has an unsurprising seafood bias – the execution is okay without being brilliant – and the house wine brands (it’s owned by a wine company) represent excellent value. The Nocturne chardonnay, made by Deep Woods Estate winemaker, Julian Langworthy, is a difficult to find gem. WA should have more such venues. Go early for a pre-prandial dip.
Farm Break Lane, Bunker Bay, Naturaliste; (08) 9756 8284; bunkersbeachhouse.com.au
At the heart of Margaret River’s main drag, Settlers is famous. Not necessarily for its American barbecue-style food (which is good). Not for its old-skool ’70s pub vibe either. No, Settlers deals with wine in a manner that can only be labelled “obsessive”, offering drops from the immediate region (no other venue would represent so many MR producers), including rarities, collectibles and newcomers. Settlers is an unlikely home to one of the nation’s best wine lists. Cheers.
114 Bussell Highway, Margaret River; (08) 9757 2398; settlerstavern.com
Best designer farm
A chic, sculptural structure surrounded by chickens, ducks, beehives and vines, Barnyard oozes contemporary style tempered with bucolic charm – and the food works the same territory. Clever but earthy and always presented with attention to detail. The housemade pasta dishes are always interesting, while the extensive decks are the place for warm weather and, usually, European service. A good place to get your kids’ faces out of their phones and engaging with nature.
12 Canal Rocks Road, Yallingup; (08) 9755 2548; barnyard1978.com.au
Best for fun
Bungalow Neighbourhood Social
Somewhere between pub and lo-fi wine haven, Bungalow taps into a young crowd with a taste for its wines au naturel. It is, true to title, a very social joint with excellent outdoors spaces and a rather sophisticated annexe – the Wine Room – where they spin vinyl and some special stuff is poured “under Coravin”, as they say in the trade. Boisterous and fun, the food’s getting there and as far as Dunsborough restaurants are concerned, it’s probably the most dependable.
226 Naturaliste Terrace, Dunsborough; (08) 9750 5103; bungalow.social
Best cellar door
Be in no doubt: there are myriad cellar doors worth visiting in the district, from the flash to the funky. We like plenty but winemaker Bruce Dukes’s Domaine is warm, informed, bucolic and charming. The cheese and charcuterie spread works well in situ and his wines? Well, they fly under the radar a bit but some of the nation’s best sommeliers are onto them for good reason.
160 Johnson Road, Wilyabrup; (08) 9755 6776; domainenaturaliste.com.au
Merchant & Maker
There are literally hundreds of places in the district that sell coffee; maybe thousands. This Dunsborough deli/café puts a lot of work into its food and just as much attention to detail to coffee with absolute state-of-the-art machines, grinders and water filtration systems. The staff are well trained, the coffee consistently excellent.
Shop 8, 35 Dunn Bay Road, Dunsborough; 0498 090 959; merchantandmaker.com.au
Best general store
This little place is worth a detour. Gracetown is a gorgeous small community overlooking the ocean and Gracie’s has a surfie/chilled vibe that’s special with surprisingly well-stocked shelves if you’re self-catering down south. Stop for a coffee, a croissant and stock up the hire car with tucker for dinner. Maybe get a tip on the best local breaks, too.
2 Bayview Drive, Gracetown; (08) 9755 5551
Margaret River Farmers’ Market
A quick way to get a handle on MR things that are not wine-related, the weekly farmers’ market next to the South Regional TAFE Margaret River Campus is the only way to access a lot of local producers, such as Rosa’s Ridge pastured meats and poultry. For anyone self-catering who wants to avoid the big retailers, this is a Saturday morning must.
Lot 272 Bussell Highway, Margaret River; 0438 905 985;
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Image credit: Tom Pearsall (banner image), Harriet Harcourt (bunker beach house), Frances Andrijich (leeuwin estate, vasse felix estate)