Still on a working holiday in the South West, David Pike spent his Easter break chowing down on the fare at Clairault Wines. And he and his companions were impressed with what they saw (and ate).

EASTER Saturday is one of the busiest days on the calendar of most restaurants in the South West, in particular for many of the wineries that have restaurants attached to their establishments. Having been given a day off from cleaning in the winery during that holiday period, I decided to seek out a place to relax over a long lunch with a bunch of friends down from the big smoke.

With bookings at a premium throughout Margaret River, we arrived at Clairault at around 2pm (after a few drinks at Wino’s the previous night celebrating their first birthday, I didn’t need to get their much earlier).

As I expected, the restaurant was really buzzing. Thankfully our table was inside as there was a bit of drizzle around, and we were seated immediately.

The menu at Clairault has plenty to explore and, having eaten out in this neck of the woods for the past month, I can attest that the choices and quality are as good as any you will find in the region. Chef Andrea Illot has without doubt enhanced the reputation that enabled her to be an integral member of the growing number of the South West’s gourmet band of respected chefs.

We explored much of the menu and started with a serving of the blue swimmer crab samosas, served with a tatsoi and bean shoot salad at $17.50. These had plenty of flavour with none of the ingredients overpowering the other – a good way to kick off the afternoon.

Without trying to overdo the impending Easter egg treasure chest the next day, the assembled diners decided on a couple of the Clairault Middle Eastern plates at $26.00, which included a fantastic white bean dip, chorizo sausage, chicken kebabas and more. With a serve of Clairault-baked bread at $6.00 (I still find it hard to pay for bread) our table was more than satisfied with the first stage of our afternoon.

Although we had earlier been warned about likely delays in the arrival of some meals due to the frenetic state of activity in the kitchen, those fears appeared ill founded, as our selections arrived without delay. Our table was invited to try as much of the menu as possible and in doing so was able to sample six of the seven main dishes on offer.

The barbeque garlic squid with Italian panzanella salad and fig vincotto at $26.50 was a dish suited to those who really love seafood. The dish was plentiful in size, freshly prepared and, with figs in season, was delightfully matched. Tom kha gai at $27.50 was a fragrant chicken dish with baby corn, coconut milk with steamed pandanus rice. It was a favourite with the table, blending wonderful flavours with very tender chicken.

The Indian-spiced Atlantic salmon with currants, lemon and parsley pilaf with yoghurt at $30.00 was a step aside from your normal seafood dish, and although hard to imagine the combination of the spices working with the salmon, this dish worked wonderfully well. Every menu needs to have a beef fillet dish, it is one of those safety zone meals for many. The beef at Clairault was served with pommes anan, roasted root vegetables and delightful pecorino butter for $32.00. The beef was hard to fault, a tender cut and fantastic presentation.

Crispy duck with pumpkin gnoochi gai larn and quince glaze at $31.00 was another treat, however the winning dish of the afternoon was the braised rabbit with baby onions, pancetta, prunes and sage rissoni for $28.50. This was real peasant food, oozing morrish rich flavours.

It was hard to find fault with our afternoon at Clairault. The service staff was very attentive and friendly, and with a small one in a highchair demanding a bit of attention, the staff also proved children friendly.

My only concern would be having the cellar door traffic connected to the restaurant’s traffic, which on busy weekends leads to a bit of confusion. Plans are afoot, I believe, to move the cellar door back to its original location, which would alleviate that problem.

Clairault is well worth putting on the map as a food destination, and certainly worth a visit if you haven’t already enjoyed its delights.

If you are heading down south over the winter months, be aware the restaurant will be closed during the month of June.

Business News pays for all meals reviewed.

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