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Two Wise men...and counting

OtherWise Restaurant at Yallingup has proved a boon, not just for the dining public but for its young owner, Heath Townsend. He bought the troubled Gunyulgup Restaurant for a song earlier this year and immediately set about putting his stamp on it.

Where the previous owners had struggled to find a formula that worked, Townsend has wrought several simple changes to the menu and the room, transforming the stylish but

austere setting into a welcoming, accessible restaurant serving simple, stylish food.

Its fair to say that Gunyulgup was years ahead of its time. Built five years ago over a man-made lake in the Yallingup hinterland, the architecture was bold (still is) and the clinical, almost minimalist approach to the interior scheme, while all very well in Subiaco or Double Bay, was too chi chi for its setting.

This is not to say that all country restaurants should pay twee, over-stuffed homage to the kinds of interiors one finds in rosy-cheeked magazines of the Country Looks ilk but restaurants in a rural setting demand an architectural language that talks a little slower, is friendlier and demands a little less of the customer.

OtherWise is now warm and colourful with bold, earthy colours on its soaring walls. The ochres and rich greens have created a much-needed intimacy in the large, lofty main dining room. The menu, too, while not noticeably regional, has a strong rural, no-nonsense modernity about it.

It’s a big restaurant with nearly a hundred seats inside and out. Expansive windows take in the lake and surrounding bushland.

While chefs of old lived in culinary purdah, the open kitchen phenomenon has brought modern brigades into the dining room. So it is at OtherWise. Thankfully the elongated window on the kitchen does not overpower the room. The kitchen is on show, but the effect isn’t showy.

The menu, although short, is long on choice. The six starters and five mains are a roll call of modern Australian techniques and food styles. It makes good reading and passes the ‘what to choose’ test.

We began with a small pot of warm onion jam with good wheaty bread ($2.50). The jam had been cooked too rapidly to display the deep, caramalised and oily richness that long slow cooking brings out but as a pre-lunch appetiser, its lightness was just right.

There were several specials on a portable black board, from which one of our party chose the wood-fired white rocks veal pizza. He proclaimed it to be a great success.

Saeng Choi Bow is the Chinese equivalent of the taco in so far as it’s impossible to eat without bits falling out and rivulets of juice dripping off the diner’s elbows. It’s food one has to wrestle with rather than eat and, as one of our guests suggested, food that one can gets one’s hands into.

The traditional version is made on a fine mince of pork, prawn meat and sometimes chicken, quickly wok fried (so as not to stew it) then wrapped in iceberg lettuce leaves and eaten with the hands.

OtherWise’s was a venison version but with the unmistakable saltiness and sweetness of the traditional style and with the crunchiness of finely diced bamboo shoot and fresh ginger. Messy, mucky and marvellous.

The clear winner on the day was the pork cutlet, apple tarte tatin, buttered spinach & crackle ($21.50). Redolent of Sunday lunch at mum’s, it was nonetheless contemporary, elegant and well cooked.

Pork flesh is scandalously free of fat – the cutlets notoriously difficult to cook without drying out. It was with some delight then that the large grilled chop was cooked tender and as moist as a monsoonal rain forest. The slab of crackling was crunchy and dry with just the right amount of subcutaneous stickiness underneath. The wilted spinach was plain cooked and fresher than a drunken real estate agent.

A small warm tart of sliced apple rested at the bottom of the plate, lending a fruity sweetness to the dish. It was highly satisfying, uncomplicated and well executed.

The swordfish, salted chats potatoes, preserved lemon salad ($22.00) was straightforward, well cooked – although a little overdone – and tangy with the North African tang of preserved lemon adding an unusual dimension to the dish.

The desserts were deliciously ‘high church’ considering the rural setting, and would have been at home in one of Perth’s more modish cafés. A miniature chocolate self-saucing pudding was rich and dark and classically good. I wish I could remember the desserts in more detail, but it was a long weekend away after all and by the time pud arrived the wine had me in its thrall (the very reason food writers take notes as they eat).

The wine list is simple. There’s not a lot of choice, which is something of a lost opportunity considering most restaurants in the Margaret River region are aligned to vineyards and only offer that made on the property.

OtherWise has a huge gap in the market to exploit should it choose to design a comprehensive list around the region’s wines. To do so would give diners a level of choice not

easily found at the region’s predominantly winery-based restaurants. It’s a choice one

suspects the dining public would gratefully appreciate.

Heath Townsend has breathed life into the former Gunyulgup restaurant in much the same way he transformed his other restaurant at Wise Winery at Eagle Bay.

He does nothing more than deliver uncomplicated modern country food with warmth and not a little style.



OTHERWISE

Gunyulgup Valley Drive, Yallingup

Phone (08) 9755 2434

OPEN:

Lunch – seven days

Dinner – Saturday and Sunday

Breakfast – Saturday and Sunday

All major cards and eftpos

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