Way down south ...

AN extended weekend touring the South West is a fantastic way to relax and watch the world go by. I don’t think that I will ever get enough of that feeling that seems to engulf me as I finally pass though Mandurah, knowing I have got two or three days or pure relaxation and enjoyment ahead of me.

It has been a while since I have explored the region, other than to visit a winery or two for work purposes.

So, when two friends from the UK arrived last week, I thought it was a great opportunity to go exploring.

Food and wine are such integral parts of any trip to the South West, so I thought a snapshot of some of the places that helped fill my belly during the trek from Busselton to Denmark and back to Perth might help stimulate you into taking a trip down south.

Now you must remember I was with tourists, and British tourists at that, so our first gourmet delight had to be fish and chips on the Busselton Jetty.

I wish I could recall the name of the shop where we bought our fish and chips so as to make sure I didn’t go there again. It is hard to believe that fish can taste so much like dry biscuits. It was tasteless and battered around more than English batsman.

Not a good start for the travelling belly. I was thankful for the walk back along the jetty to cleanse myself for the next stop.

Our next stop was a quick detour into Dunsborough and an explanation to the tourists that no visit to the South West would be complete without popping into the Dunsborough Bakery.

After the fish and chips disaster, a little treat from the bakery would get us through till dinner. I explained to my friends that, on mornings following a couple of beers at the nearby Caves House, the pies at the bakery always seemed to taste perfect.

We didn’t have time to stop in at Wise Winery for a bite to eat, but if you are planning a trip and staying in Dunsborough, then Wise Winery and Restaurant is well worth a look. It is a stunning spot to sit and watch the world pass by. (Wise Winery and Restaurant Eagle Bay Road, Meelup, Follow the Naturaliste Road for about 5km until you see the Eagle Bay turn off, 9756 8098.)

Another of the places worth a visit is Clairault Wines. Extensive renovations already have been undertaken and more are planned. The restaurant has been fully renovated and is offering some of the best food in the region. I would recommend that, over the coming spring period, you will need to book well in advance to ensure a spot for lunch. (Clairault Wines Henry Road,Willyabrup, 9755 6655.)

We found ourselves meandering along Caves Road around afternoon tea time and so decided to pull into Vasse Felix and explore the menu there. Vasse Felix also has been renovated over the past 12 months and now offers casual gourmet cafe food downstairs with a full menu upstairs in the restaurant. I have eaten both upstairs and downstairs a number of times at Vasse Felix and have always enjoyed the experience.

In fact the quail I had a few months back was possibly the best I have eaten.

The team at Vasse Felix is all very professional and it shows in the end product. (Vasse Felix, corner Caves and Harmans Mill Road South, Cowaramup, 9756 5018.)

This trip we left the hub of downtown Margaret River alone, but if you are staying for a while then Vat 107, Wino’s Wine Bar and the Arc of Iris are all worth an evening’s visit.

Leaving Margaret River behind we drove into Augusta and headed straight for the bakery. Much as was the case in Dunsborough, Augusta has much to offer the hungry traveller, and this travelling belly marvelled at the beef and cheese pie with a side serve of macadamia slice … pure heaven.

The drive around from Augusta to Denmark led us past a number of temptations, such as Hidden River Cafe, Salitage and Gloucester Ridge restaurants, all which were very tempting and would have received our patronage but for time constraints.

You could spend four or five days just in and around Pemberton.

We arrived in Denmark at dinnertime on the Monday and went in search of a place to eat. We found a charming place called the Waterfront Restaurant.

For a Monday night it was very busy, with 30 or so punters enjoying the atmosphere.

In the summer you would be able sit outside and enjoy the surroundings, including a view overlooking the inlet.

But this is winter and, inside, the open fire was blazing away and there was a real buzz among the dinners.

The food was wholesome. I chose the venison ragout and found it warming and plentiful. It was rich, flavorsome and in need of a ripper regional red. (Waterfront Restaurant and Cottages, 63 Inlet Drive, Denmark, 9848 1147.)

Now for the long drive home ...

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