We finished horse riding around the area and had to come in early since nothing much is available after 5pm in Margaret River. We took in the beauty of the place….right from the entry:
As I have told you, we arrived really early at 6pm. Our dinner was at 7.30pm and Leeuwin’s restaurant hadn’t opened. The staff were very apologetic about having to turn us away when the restaurant manager arrived and told us she can seat us at 6.30pm and if we would like to view the art gallery downstairs. The art you see printed on the art series wine bottles are owned by them and is available for your viewing in the art gallery!
On the way down we learn that Leeuwin is no stranger to awards for the past few years. The entrance of the restaurant is inviting with a charming fire place. It is our dream to one day build our own house with a wood fireplace. The area is artistically yet practically designed with long jarrah tables. We had a lovely cosy area hidden by orchids that separated a long table for 4.
The restaurant manager’s (Chantelle) had a very professional demeanour – she is the most helpful and accommodating restaurant manager I have ever met. She would always try and accommodate our request where possible. Unless, you were being ridiculous like we were – we were basically going to reconstruct their degustation list.
In the end, we decided to build our own meal. Jay and I enjoy fine food but not when we overeat. Eating whatever you want while remaining slim is a form of success for me! Staying married is also a form of success so we toasted our mini success with a glass of Leeuwin’s 2008 Brut. The bubbles tickle my tongue slightly in a happy way. Lovely!
We started out with half a dozen of Tempura Oysters, Black Vinegar $23. When Jay ordered them, I thought ‘ Oh no… is this going to be like a kilpatrick? I hate it when oysters are overcooked and dry! ‘
Instead, these oysters were lightly fried in a crispy airy tempura batter that would put most Japanese restaurants to shame. The oysters were so lightly fried that they were slightly raw to showcase the freshness and juicy meatiness of the oyster. Jay went mad about the black vinegar which gave an Asian tang to the oyster. Being a food blogger can be unglamorous business as I proceed to ‘spoon’ the sauce into my mouth with the oyster fork – to get a taste of what it might be. I spot some flavours. It is Asian black vinegar with shallots, ginger, diluted with stock and maybe some Shao Hsing wine. This chef really knew his asian stuff! I was more surprised – LATER.
Seared Scallops, Kassler, Apple, Herbs $21
Jay’s scallops arrived looking like a piece of art. The scallops were absolutely creamy; pairing it with the creamy apple sauce was perfect. Yet there was a certain meatier flavour about it which I suspect came from the bits of yummy fried kasher. I loved their use of flowers which, in this case, was the purple pansy. A very delicate dish – perfect for a woman to order on her first date. I looked around – there weren’t many first time daters there.
Grilled half shell Yabbies, horseradish, szechuan salt $24
Since it wasn’t my first date and I could afford to be really messy, I ordered the Yabbies. Really, it was hard choice between the Yabbies and the cured salmon. I doubt you can make a bunch of yabbies look elegant but they did a fine job making it look like one of their art pieces downstairs! As expected, the Yabbies were very fresh, small and hence have a sweetness about their meat. I find there is an inverse relationship between the size of shell fish and the sweetness of its meat. The szechuan flavours were barely there – perhaps catered for the largely Caucasian diners. Pardon the generalisation but cliches come from reality. The horseradish mayonnaise that doused the Yabbies were beautifully light and balanced the dish out with some sharpness. This dish might have made the Asian Zen of cooking – it was sweet, salty, spicy and sour with a bit of creaminess.
Line caught fish, mussels, surf clams, tomato concasse $44
Wine: 2010 Prelude Vineyard Chardonnay - Robust and full bodied: surprising for a Chardonnay. It is a white wine for a red wine drinker.
The line caught fish du jour was the snapper. It really was for a moment because I overheard the wait staff telling other diners ‘cod’ and then followed by ‘Dhu fish’. I would have liked the cod but I had already ordered and I was okay with snapper. The meaty, soft and crispy skinned snapper came hidden underneath a lovely bunch of fresh dill (which I love and can eat on its own!), spring onions and parsley. The seafood broth it sat in was so beautifully rich in flavour but you would not expect it just by looking at it. It reminds me of a Cantonese restaurant I had been to in Singapore – and the owners told me the broth was made by boiling shark cartilage until the broth became that lovely opaque colour. The flavour is mind blowingly simple and good yet I would wreck my head thinking about how to recreate this dish! The surf clams and mussels around the snapper were juicy and fat! The tomato concasse added a lovely tang to the dish.
‘Big Red’ pork belly, steamed bun, hoisin $33
Wine: 2009 Art Series Shiraz
I was fooled. I thought this dish was going to be the Chinese ‘Kong Bak’ dish (not unlike the momofuku pork buns) which is basically a steamed bun that you would fill with braised pork belly. The pork belly here is also melt in your mouth but it had a crispier skin. I believe the meat was braised in the same sweet sauce they served on the side (other than the hoi sin – which is an Asian barbecue sauce.) which looked like it had sesame seeds and soy sauce in it. Now this chef is really amazing because I did not recognise an ingredient in here. The pork belly was topped with a mixture of leaves dressed in the braising sauce which was amazing. I noticed coriander but what is that long leaf that looked like a cross between basil and the kaffir lime leaf? When you eat it, it is first fragrant and ends with a lovely nutty flavour that I have never encountered before. I had to ask and Chantelle what it was and she told us it was mint! ‘What??‘ She explained it was Vietnamese Mint. ahhh……
The bun that came with was a little more yellow and flatter than your usual Chinese buns. However, they were really soft and just as yummy. It was filled with tender, meaty pork. We could have ordered a few more of those buns, no problems – if they served it on its own.
French Fries, rosemary salt, garlic aioli $8
Jay watched a couple order fries and could not resist so we had a serving of French Fries. I go nuts over fries with skin on and these smell like they were doused in a good olive oil. Beautiful fries! We tried not to finish the fries but they were sooo good.
Praline and Valhrona parfait, poky sticks $14.50
I grew up eating poky and so I was very excited seeing it on the menu. The poky stick was coated in white sesame seeds! The valhrona chocolate flavours hit my chocolate craving spot and the Praline was rich and creamy. It tastes like frozen chocolate and hazelnut mousse. Halfway through eating, I found a surprise inside! It tasted like macadamia brittle – crunch, yum, crunch, yum! Absolutely delightful.
Flourless orange and almond cake, almond and praline ice cream, orange gel $12
According to Chantelle, this has been kept on the menu for 4 years due to its overwhelming popularity. This seemingly boring choice turned out to be pretty good. The almond and praline ice cream lent a beautiful rich creaminess with bits of crunchy sugary almond bits to the rough almond meal cake – which ends off with a lovely orange aroma and flavour. Beautiful cake. Quite possibly the best orange flavoured cake I have ever had.
The meal was spectacular. Combined with the tasteful setting, knowledgeable staff and beautiful wine, our anniversary celebration was nothing short of delightful.