The 4 best restaurants in the
Margaret River region
Published Wednesday, October 24, 2018 in Talking Local
Every year the Good Food Guide Australia reviews the nation’s restaurants, awarding the very best among them one, two or three hats.
It is among the most prestigious honours possible for an Australian restaurant, so it is a testament to the quality of the talent in the South-West that four Margaret River region restaurants were awarded two hats in the 2019 guide.
Vasse Felix, Cullen Wines, Wills Domain and Yarri Restaurant + Bar were the only WA venues to receive two hats. Let’s take a closer look at just why these restaurants were honoured – and why anyone heading to the region should add dining at one of these iconic venues to their itinerary.
The original Margaret River winery, Vasse Felix boasts a contemporary restaurant and downstairs wine lounge – both overlook the first estate vines planted in 1967.
The menu is created from local, seasonal produce by head chef Brendan Pratt.
“It’s a great achievement and nice recognition for all our team’s hard work,” Brendan said of the two hats award. “It’s a testament to the region’s restaurants and produce to see so many of us being recognised at a national level.”
This is the second year in a row Vasse Felix has received two hats – a huge achievement given the rating system was only extended to WA two years ago.
Perched beside Margaret River’s oldest vineyard, the Vasse Felix Estate offers wine tastings, an award-winning restaurant, art gallery, a vault housing the region’s largest collection of museum wines, tours and more. The architecture and interior design fuse rustic charm with a modern, minimalist edge. The building is constructed from local materials — granite, jarrah, marri and steel.
The Modern Australian menu is created from local, seasonal produce and changes daily as new ingredients become available, and is designed to complement the wine collection.
The restaurant also offers a four-course set menu, created to complement and highlight Margaret River’s key varieties — Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay.
Lunch service is from 12 p.m. to 3 p.m. daily, with bookings highly recommended. Everyone is welcome to visit the Vasse Felix Estate, which is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
If you’re in the region for Gourmet Escape, be sure to swing by Bar Felix at the Gourmet Village — a sophisticated refuge by Vasse Felix, fusing food and wine innovation with stylish design.
Another of the region’s founding estates, Cullen Wines, has also made it two hats two years in a row for this third-generation family business in 2019.
Cullen managing director Vanya Cullen said it was awesome to be recognised for their long-term commitment to quality and sustainability.
“Iain Robertson as executive chef, Miriam Crawford as restaurant manager and Nicolas Cleradin as cellar door manager have taken this to another level,” she said. “It’s rewarding to be acknowledged in this way and we feel grateful.”
Cullen Dining and Cellar Door are a unique experience. It’s not just the excellence in wine, food and service; Cullen is also the only certified biodynamic, carbon-neutral, naturally powered estate in the region. The biodynamic gardens have been praised for being among the most beautiful biodynamic winery gardens in the world. They are the perfect place to relax and enjoy great wine and food in a world-class setting.
If you’re in the region, ask about Cullen’s seated tastings and wine and food experience. In late November 2018, Cullen is releasing the Kevin John Legacy Series 2017 Chardonnay.
Cullen cellar door is open from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., seven days a week. The restaurant is open from 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., Friday to Tuesday. Cullen is hosting the International Chardonnay Tasting with Tetsuya Wakuda during Gourmet Escape 2018.
A very attractive restaurant and cellar door, with fabulous views down the Gunyalgup Valley, Wills Domain made a huge splash when it opened about five years ago.
According to managing director Darren Haunold, Wills Domain is a place where “the wines are great, the food is amazing, and the view is equally good.”
“We’re very excited to be recognised in such a prestigious group of restaurants in WA that all offer amazing dining experiences,” he said.
“We believe Australia’s South-West has a great depth of high-quality restaurant offerings, and winning two hats and receiving the highest WA score is a credit to (head chef) Seth James, his kitchen and front-of-house staff.”
If you’re adding Wills Domain to your must-visit list while you’re in Margaret River, Darren recommended trying the tasting menu.
“Made and served by our chefs to your table, the tasting menu is matched with the estate’s best wines,” he said. “You can enjoy this at the tasting bar, for added interaction with the chef!”
Just remember to book in advance for the tasting menu. Otherwise, popular dishes include the Spencer Gulf king fish, crabs, Blue Ridge marron and Arkady lamb shoulder.
Wills Domain is open from 10 .a.m. until 5 .p.m. daily. The estate and Seth James are hosting two Gourmet Escape events, including Fish Tales with Rick, and his son Jack, Stein.
Yarri Restaurant + Bar
Long-time Vasse Felix head chef Aaron Carr teamed up with Snake and Herring Wines to create this stylish, modern Dunsborough restaurant and bar. It has been open for less than a year, so receiving two hats in the Good Food Guide is an incredible achievement.
Yarri is owned and operated by three local couples: Sal and Tony Davis, Redmond and Rachel Sweeny, and Aaron and Kym Carr. Sal said receiving any “glowing review” was a reminder that “the public like what you’re doing as much as you do.”
“Making sure people have a great experience is at the heart of hospitality – we’re here to be hospitable!” she said.
“We set out to open a restaurant where three boxes were ticked: great food, great service and great value in a beautiful environment that is relaxed and welcoming.
“We only opened in February, so it’s satisfying to have nailed what we’re doing so early in the piece and to be ready for a busy summer ahead.”
Yarri’s menu honours nature, seasonality and the region. The restaurant serves Snake and Herring wines and, because it holds a small bar licence, you can call in and try one at any time of the day (or enjoy a cocktail or a snack, if you choose).
“We are spoilt for lunch options in the region, but we also saw the need for a lunch and dinner venue within town itself, enabling people to walk or ride their bikes and maybe have that one glass extra knowing they’re not driving,” Sal said.
The restaurant is open Monday to Saturday for lunch and dinner. If you’re in town on a Sunday, try Yarri’s Slow Lunch, OR during Gourmet Escape, when Carr and renowned former Attica chef Peter Gunn collaborate on a special six-course ‘envelope-pushing’ menu.
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