Step aside humble meat pie because Australia's South West is all about the gourmet goodies. While you can still find all your comfort food favourites in any given town within the region, it’s the higher-end product - think truffles and handmade chocolate - that have really put the South West on the map. Whether it’s been grown in the region or lovingly crafted from a South West base, these are some of the finest treats to get around.
Priced anywhere between $1300 and $2800 per kilo, black truffles (AKA tuber melanosporum) take the cake as one of the most expensive fungis in the world. Also known as ‘black gold’ or the ‘Périgord truffle’, these funky-smelling nuggets are particularly prolific in the fertile soils of the south west town of Manjimup. So much so, the town even has an annual star-studded festival – Truffle Kerfuffle – dedicated to all things truffle covered, smothered, and infused.
The best time to visit for optimum truffle tastings is between June and September when you can find it on just about any menu in the region. Call into Tall Timbers for a glass of local wine and a shared wheel of Cambray triple cream brie with a truffled honey glaze, or go for the pimped-up burger with lashings of shaved truffle on top. To try your hand at cooking with the fungi yourself, buy fresh from a reputable truffi’re like Australian Truffle Traders or Truffle Hill; we’d recommend starting with something simple like mushroom risotto, truffle and parmesan pasta, or truffled eggs. You can make your meal the ultimate ‘farm to table’ experience by booking in for a truffle hunt, led by the enthusiastic (and mighty cute) truffling dogs.
Though the South West doesn’t quite have the right conditions for flourishing cacao tree plantations, there’s no shortage in chocolate production in the region. In fact, there are umpteen clever chocolate makers that call the south west home. The Margaret River Chocolate Company is just one of them. Their sprawling Metricup-based factory promises more than just a stellar range of chocolate; they serve breakfast, lunch, cakes, fondues, and ‘the best hot chocolate in WA’ too.
If you prefer your chocolate treat to be a little less ‘solid chocolate bar’ and more ‘with a hint of chocolate’, make a pitstop at Bettaneys Margaret River. Their specialty isn’t chocolate, but sweet, chewy, and gooey nougat. Of course, there are the more traditional almond and fruit flavoured nougats to sample at the lakefront cellar door, and they’ve also got fun chocolatey flavours like double choc mint, chocolate chilli, and choc-cherry swirl. Sample the range for free, pay for a spot on a paired nougat and wine tasting, or book in for a fun fireside ‘nougat toasting’ session.
Good news: you can feast on seafood year-round in the South West. Hit up the region in summer, and you’ll find an abundance of blue swimmer crab, rock lobster, snapper, abalone, and fresh-water marron. Visit when the countryside is green, and the temperature prompts the stoking of a cosy wood fire, and dhufish, snapper, blue swimmer crab, and trout are more likely to be on the menu. If it’s those famous Albany rock oysters or Australian salmon that you’re chasing, save your visit for autumn.
Recreational fishing is encouraged in the South West, but only when all licensing requirements are fulfilled, and quotas are adhered to. If you’re not into fishing and would prefer to skip straight to the dining part, there are plenty of local eateries to get your seafood fix. Try booking dinner at Cape Lodge, Howard Park, or Blue Manna for an exquisite evening dining on high-end dishes like butter-poached Pemberton marron or steamed Augusta dhufish dumplings. Call into Peaceful Bay Fish and Chips for something more casual and feast on beer-battered whiting and $10.00 worth of chips.
Name a more iconic duo than wine and cheese. Thankfully, you don’t have to go far to find the perfect dairy accompaniment for your newly acquired bottle of South West wine. Soft, hard, mild, stinky, or blue; whichever way you prefer your cheese, the South West has an option for you.
Northeast of Bunbury, you’ll find Ha-Ve Cheese. This family-owned and operated business prides itself on its soft and creamy cheeses low in salt content. How do they do it? They use only the freshest of fresh cow’s milk, sourced from the farmers in their local area. Pop into their showroom to grab a bagful of handcrafted cheese, or try your hand at making some yourself in one of their cheesemaking classes.