It seems like the majority of Perth foodies went to at least one event at the Gourmet Escape in Margaret River last weekend. Intended to become the leading food and wine event in the Asia Pacific Region, it attracted international chefs such as Rene Redzepi, David Chang, Alex Atala & Sat Bains and many local favourites including Neil Perry, Peter Gilmore, Tetsuya Wakuda, Kylie Kwong, Matt Moran & George Calombaris. Heston Blumenthal was scheduled to be the main star of the show, but tragically had to pull out at the last minute.
Side note: For those of you not familiar with Margaret River, it’s an area of Western Australia located some 270km (170 miles) south of Perth that is well known as a premium wine and food region, and has many award winning wineries, restaurants and accommodation. Find out more here and here.
As well as the main “Gourmet Village” event held at Leeuwin Estate, there were a selection of satellite events held throughout the region. We were lucky enough to attend two of the BBQ meals held at the amazing Smith’s Beach, Friday dinner with Matt Moran and Sunday lunch with George Calombaris.
The Friday night event ran from 5-9pm, and coaches were provided to move guests to and from the event from throughout the region. Upon arrival we made our way onto the beach (quite a challenge for those not-so-physically-fit, and a lot worse on the way back up) where we were given our table number and plied with drinks. Wines for the evening were supplied by Capel Vale, with plenty of local Cheeky Monkey beer and Rekorderlig cider also on offer.
Arrival at Smith’s Beach, and the unique “teepee” restaurant.
Although we were seated with strangers, everyone was friendly and there was a casual party atmosphere throughout the whole evening. Moving around on the sand was a challenge at times, and the chairs tended to sink until you felt like you were back at school.
Inside the teepee.
Matt Moran standing behind a $13,000 barbecue pretending to cook. In his defence, he did spend most of his time being photographed with drunk women and was all too happy to meet and greet.
Guests relaxing on Smith’s Beach.
Entree was king prawns with asparagus and gremolata.
The first main course was lamb cutlets with dukka and a yoghurt & tahini dressing. It was the best lamb I have ever tasted, without a doubt. I might have had more than my fair share of these, although there was plenty of everything to go around… During this course, chef Pete Evans and surfing champ Taj Burrow magically appeared from the surf to join in the festivities.
You don’t make friends with salad. The quinoa was popular, however.
Dessert was Lamont’s pavlova, which I’ve been lucky enough to have had on several occasions and it didn’t disappoint this time around. It’s something you should definitely try if you get the chance – the only pavlova I’ve had that comes close to it was at Rockpool Bar & Grill Melbourne.
The sun goes down at beautiful Smith’s Beach.
At the end of the day, this was a Lamont’s event with a high profile guest and it must be said that they did an outstanding job. The staff worked tirelessly – walking backwards and forwards in soft sand for hours – and even Kate Lamont was clearing tables and making sure that the drinks kept flowing. Given the challenges of the location, this was a brilliant event and a night that we will remember for a long time.
We also went to the Sunday lunch with George Calombaris, which unfortunately was not to the same standard. There was a distinct drop in service, although this seemed to be an issue of quantity rather than quality. You could tell that the staff were working hard, there just didn’t seem to be enough of them to go around. One waiter I spoke to said he had worked six of these meals and was completely exhausted. To make things worse, this was only a three hour event and the first of the two main courses didn’t arrive until two-and-a-half hours in. The bus pickup was extended by half an hour, however the wait for food was far too long and dessert was rushed. The menu wasn’t to everyone’s taste, with the entree being an octopus & oyster salad, and George’s main course being a veal sweetbread souvlaki (which I found okay, but many diners just couldn’t get past what they were served). In comparison to Matt’s constant presence throughout the evening, George seemed to disappear after the entree was served. At $150 a ticket, this was a memorable meal for all the wrong reasons.
The Gourmet Escape was a truly stunning group of events and I’m excited to see what they come up with next year. There was something for everyone, and you could take part in as many events (and spend as much) as you liked – of course being able to rub shoulders with celebrity chefs doesn’t hurt. The State Government has committed to hold the event for at least four years, and it’s already been confirmed for 22-24 November 2o13. I’ll be booking my accommodation shortly!