Margaret River and me
Pia from Western Australia experiences Margaret River in style at the five-star Cape Lodge resort.
As we make our way up through the olive tree-lined driveway, past rows of grape vines and a couple playing croquet on manicured lawns, I instantly feel at ease.If it weren’t for the Australian gums, peppermint trees, and the feint chuckle of kookaburras, we could be pulling up at a chateau in the South of France. But actually, it’s much more convenient than France. We’re only three hours from home in the heart of the famous Margaret River region and we’ve just arrived at the luxurious Cape Lodge resort.
Our grand first impressions of the five-star retreat are continuously matched throughout our stay. The staff are helpful and accommodating, and the stunning rooms certainly don’t disappoint. As I step out of the gloomy autumn weather and into the beautiful Forest Spa Suite, I feel an instant lift. The rooms are spacious, with lots of natural light and warm furnishings and, of course, all the amenities you’d expect from a boutique resort of its calibre.
With beautiful views of the private lake and forest – to be enjoyed from our balcony or luxurious spa – Cape Lodge gives you with no reason to want to leave the intimate confines of your room. Except, of course, for its world-class restaurant.
The Cape Lodge Restaurant is the jewel in its crown, with an impressive stash of coveted awards including being voted in the top ten in the world for food in the Conde Naste Traveller’s Gold List. A conversation with executive chef Tony Howell reveals his clear passion for fresh produce and the close relationship he’s forged with local suppliers.
Our eight-course degustation meal provided a gastronomical journey through the region, showcasing everything from Margaret River cheeses to Harvey Beef fillet. The marron tortellini with sage burnt butter on a bed of creamed corn was the superstar of an all-star line up. Tony also runs a gourmet cooking school at the lodge, in which he takes a relaxed, light-hearted approach to cooking good food.
Although Margaret River is known for its beaches and is a hotspot for summer holidaymakers, there couldn’t be a better time to visit then right now. It’s when the days become shorter and the nights, cooler, that my favourite stars of the region step into the spotlight – velvety reds, creamy cheeses and chocolate to satisfy even the sweetest tooth.
Thankfully though, Cape Lodge has made it easy to enjoy the fruits of the region without needing to stray, with everything from body care products by The Natural Olive Oil Soap Factory, made especially for its guests, to the complimentary bottle of Cape Lodge Shiraz that greets you on entry. Cape Lodge provides the perfect place for an intimate getaway, with beautiful surroundings to soothe the senses and rejuvenate the soul.
Pia’s tips for visiting the Margaret River Region
1. Olio Bello
36 Armstrong Road Cowaramup Phone: 1800 982 170
Olio Bello is a cellar door with a difference. Offering more than 14 olive oil varieties, the multi-award winning producer will open up a whole new world of opportunities for cooks of all calibres. If you’re short of inspiration, sit down for lunch and let your imagination (and taste buds) run wild. From tasty dips with freshly made olive bread, to organic, homemade pasta, all their menu options are specially designed for, and made with their premium olive products. Buy a bottle of their parmesan, chilli and garlic, or lime infused olive oil and you’ll be using them on everything from salsas and salads to steaks and stir fries. The best bit? You don’t need to be in the region to enjoy its products. Olio Bello ships world-wide through its website oliobello.com
2. Cowaramup Meat Specialists
Bussell Highway, Cowaramup. Phone: (08) 97555 898
The first time I heard about The Cowaramup Meat Specialists, I was told its owner, Shane, was a man that could get any meat your heart desired. A quick trip to this butchery doesn’t disappoint, with a showcase of everything from croc tails to witjuti grubs. For those who prefer their meat on the tamer side, there’s an extensive range of premium local products including a delicious selection of sausages and small goods, made on the premises. Serious meat-lovers can’t take a trip to the Margaret River region without heading in to see Shane and his knowledgeable team. I recommend picking up some of their maple-cured bacon. It will leave you wondering how you ever got through a Sunday morning breakfast without it.
Cnr Harman’s Mill Rd & Harman’s South Rd, Metricup Phone: (08) 9755 6355
Providore is the kind of place that leaves a food-lover weak at the knees. From the moment you pull up, park and cast your eyes on their luscious veggie patch, to the minute you’re getting ready to leave, only to find your partner is doing a second round of the tasting samples. Providore has thought of everything, from spice rubs and curry bases, to jams and chutneys to make your grandma turn green with envy. Order a pot of their apricot and almond jam online at providore.com.au
4. The Margaret River Chocolate Factory
Cnr Harman’s Mill Rd & Harman’s South Rd, Metricup Phone: (08) 9755 6555
Stepping into the Margaret River Chocolate Factory could prove dangerous for even the most controlled chocolate-lover. People change once they enter those doors and feast their eyes on tables upon tables of sweet, chocolately goodness — and once they spot the massive bowls of free chocolate, it’s every sweet-tooth for itself. It’s with good reason that the chocolate factory is so popular, too. While I was there, I counted 76 awards displayed on their walls. I’m a devoted fan of the plain milk chocolate the choc coated honey-comb and rocky road is always a popular choice.
5. Margaret River Farmers’ Markets
Tunbridge Street Margaret River – website
The Margaret River Farmers’ Markets is the perfect way to sample the region’s best without having to spend the whole day in the car. Stroll around at your own pace, browse the fresh seasonal produce, and get handy tips about new purchase directly from the producer. Sustain your energy with a breakfast burger and a coffee. A food-lover’s dream!