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Goosed in Busselton

The road to Margaret River is paved with gold for those in the wine, hospitality and tourism industries. Alas, for those seeking sustenance along the way the outlook isn’t so rosy.

The small population centres on the road to the Capes have largely failed to incubate a meaningful restaurant culture, although fast food is in abundant supply. For those of us who find soggy quiche and undressed salad perhaps a little uneventful, the choices are limited.

The Goose Restaurant in Busselton is something of a find, then.

Tucked away in a side street off the main drag, The Goose is something we South West pilgrims would not ordinarily notice. The Goose’s young owner, Rhys Passmore – scion of an established Busselton family – set out to “bring a little bit of Perth to Busselton” and he has largely succeeded.

The locals think so too. The big dining room is booked out on Fridays and Saturdays and word is spreading of the goose that laid the golden egg (sorry) in a town whose only previous claim to fame was a rotting, burned out jetty almost long enough to land a 737 on.

Rhys and his family have gutted a 1950s Californian bungalow and delivered a light, airy and glossy space complete with polished wood floors, Country Road colour scheme and good chairs (Chairs, by the way, are one of the five tick-the-box items when assessing a restaurant: restaurateurs who skimp on chairs usually aren’t serious about their vocation).

It’s the small things you notice. The pressed herb bread with spicy dahl, harissa and baba ghanoush dips ($6.50) was made on excellent, lightly toasted flat bread, sprinkled with proper sea salt and fresh herbs. While the baba ghanoush had none of the smoky eggplant or tahini flavours one expects from this mid-east paste and the harissa was a creamy, ambiguous concoction rather than the searing mash of chilli it should have been, the result was not displeasing.

The chicken polpotini in fresh tomato, basil sauce with penne and shaved parmesan ($15.50) was about as simple as it comes. The penne was cooked just right to the bite, the shaved parmesan was good (although not granna pandando) and the polpitini, or chicken meatballs, were excellent, although there were only two of the walnut-sized balls.

My duck liver and pink peppercorn paté with soft brie, pear chutney and fogas bread ($11.00) was a hit. The paté was

magnificent; lightly ground, the liver had a grainy, sandy mouth feel (too fine a grind can often result in a slimy product). It was buttery and elevated with a slight undercurrent of soft, pink peppercorns. The best bit? It was served at room temperature, allowing the flavours to flaunt themselves brazenly and ensuring the paté was soft and buttery to the knife. The fogas bread was simply grilled on the stove top, giving it a little colour and some crunch as well. The wedge of brie was old and tired – the paste was quite chalky. The chutney was light and fruity and a well-pitched accompaniment.

The king prawn sandwich with thousand island dressing, salad greens and brie ($9.50) was a straightforward dish plated up with elegance. The bread was good and the combination of flavours was well executed. The prawns were a little watery, but OK.

The Goose has separate lunch and dinner menus with a welcome emphasis on local produce including Margaret River venison, Boyup Brook pork and a range of locally grown vegetables.

The wine list is simple and to the point with a selection to suit the gregarious flavours created by the Passmore brigade.

The service is confident, mature and know-ledgeable; often a big ask in regional areas where good waiters are hard to come by.

The Goose’s success is deserved. Many country restaurants which attempt to ape an urban style fail because of their distance from good produce suppliers and a lack of talent in the kitchen and on the floor.

Not so The Goose which obviously has a clear direction and which manages to achieve a generally high standard. Feels nice too.

Next time you’re passing through, take a gander at The Goose.

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