Ben Whitmarsh tells us about five of the best foodie experiences available in Western Australia. Warning: this post will induce both wanderlust and serious hunger!
Tell someone that you have been on holiday and the first thing they are likely to ask you is, ‘How was the weather?’ quickly followed by, ‘What was the food and drink like?’ Admittedly, these types of gentle questions are hardly likely to spring forth from the mouth of top politician-botherer Jeremy Paxman (unless he became a hairdresser) but they do indicate what people find most important about a vacation. Of course, what the inquisitor would really like for you to say is that the weather was awful and the food was worse, just so they can wallow in a warm bath of schadenfreude.
So what is the best way to avoid this? My advice would be to head to Western Australia where the weather is reliably stunning and the food and drink is the only thing that puts the climate in the shade. Yet this post isn’t necessarily about the quality of what’s on offer (although it is of the highest order) but the experience that comes with it.
Mud Crabbing in The Dampier Peninsula
The Dampier Peninsula is 100 miles north of Broome, or for those who like precise directions, the ‘top left’ of Australia. It’s pretty remote, with the only access to the area via the partially unsealed Cape Leveque Road. A Dampier Peninsula experience gives you the chance to stroll on secluded beaches and swim or snorkel in the sparkling waters. It also offers the opportunity to go mud crabbing with a local guide, a day that ends with you cooking your catch as the sun goes down.
Wine Touring on The Margaret River
Margaret River was originally a chilled out surfie town, but has now evolved into a hub of fine wine and good food. It’s only three and a half hours from Perth (which is pretty close by Australian standards) and as a consequence it’s a very popular stop on the WA touring circuit. Given the quality of the wine – the region produces less than one per cent of Australian wine, but over 15 per cent of the country’s premium wine – that should come as no surprise.
Australia produces 4,500 kilos of black truffles every year, with 3,500 of them coming from the Wine & Truffle Co in Manjimup, Western Australia. The area’s rich soils and cool climate are ideal for truffle production. To find the ‘black gold’ you need a good nose, so that’s why dogs are used, often accompanied by employees from the backpacker community – an interesting job to add to your CV when you have returned from your travels.
Cooking a Mullet
About half way up the WA coast, near the famously friendly dolphins at Monkey Mia, you will find Shark Bay. The local Aboriginal name for this place is Gutharraguda, meaning ‘Two Waters’. When I visited the area I was lucky enough to take a tour led by Darren “Capes” Capewell, a descendant of the Nhanda and Malgana people. His tours are designed to forge an understanding of the natural land, wildlife, stories and traditions of the region. If you are lucky he will show you how to cook a mullet in a traditional way.
Matso’s Brewery, Broome
Broome is in the Australian tropics, and so a decent drink takes on even greater importance. Thankfully, they have Matso’s, an award winning microbrewery. The building itself has been there since 1910, when it started life as the Union Bank of Australia. Given the worldwide popularity of bankers, it should come as no surprise that there has been zero call for the premises to return to its original status…