What used to be the Margaret River Gourmet Escape is now Western Australia Gourmet Escape; this year the festival will take place from 8 November to 17 November 2019. If you’re still considering whether to head Down Under for this festival, it’s still not too late to book your trip.
We give you eight great reasons why you should make it down.
1. Western Australia Gourmet Escape is bigger and better.
This premier gourmet and wine festival – which used to be four days last year and three days before that – was primarily focused on the Margaret River region. But it has since grown so massive that this year it’s ballooned to 10 days, and encompasses wine and quality produce from much of the rest of Western Australia.
Western Australia Gourmet Escape this year includes events in Perth and Swan Valley too, making it easier for both domestic and international visitors to the festival to pick and choose even more activities at their convenience.
2. Take the opportunity to visit the Swan Valley.
Perth’s Swan Valley – barely a half hour’s drive from its Central Business District – is Western Australia’s oldest winemaking region, and Australia’s second-oldest. It is also the closest winemaking region to Singapore. For a wine lover, a trip to Western Australia via Perth would not be complete if you didn’t swing by.
Swan Valley is home to a number of beautiful wineries – we count Mandoon Estate, Sitella, and Sandalford among those totally worth visiting, and not just for their wines; the views are amazing, and their restaurants are top notch too.
Not sure how to plan an itinerary in the Swan? The City of Swan recently unveiled a number of food and wine experience trails that guide you through the region based on your preferences. Those who love their beers, for example, could follow the Swan Valley ‘cider and ale’ trail, which takes you to visit the likes of award-winning breweries Feral Brewing and Mash Brewing.
2. Gourmet Feast in the Valley.
And if you can’t make it down to Margaret River but so happen to be in the Swan Valley on 9-10 November, one of the best ways of experiencing Gourmet Escape or Swan Valley is to go to the first-ever Gourmet Feast in the Valley, which is an event of Western Australia Gourmet Escape.
Held at the beautiful sprawling grounds of Mandoon Estate, this open-air festival essentially a smaller version of Gourmet Escape’s Gourmet Village. Expect to see a goodly number of wineries and artisan producers from around Swan Valley showcasing their wares there.
3. Amazing sights and eats on the way to Margaret River.
Make sure you plan a leisurely drive from Perth down to Margaret River, with plenty of time for rest stops in between.
A good initial stop will be at Mandurah, where you can stretch your legs strolling down its beautiful marina and take in the sight of the yachts anchored in the bay. Otherwise wander through the Mandurah’s inner city to learn of its heritage and the history of its plucky pioneers.
We’d also highly recommend dropping into Bunbury, mostly because of Bunbury Farmers Market. The amazing produce here gives you a glimpse of how much of a breadbasket this part of Western Australia is, and how proud local farmers are of their wares.
But our favourite stop of all time when driving down to Margaret River from Perth is Busselton. The Busselton jetty is an amazing structure that stretches almost 2km into the ocean; we love to stretch our cramped legs walking down the jetty, and then looking back to shore for the most amazing view of the Western Australian coastline.
Busselton also boasts a lovely F&B scene; we highly recommend the lovely grub at The Goose Beach Bar & Kitchen, and if you love your beer Darleen’s by the Rocky Ridge Brewing crew offers some of the most edgy craft beers you’ll find that’s made in Western Australia.
4. Western Australia Gourmet Escape Gourmet Village.
Gourmet Village is Western Australia Gourmet Escape’s signature flagship event. Held at Leeuwin Estate, this is a food and wine extravaganza that promises to blow your minds and overwhelm your palates with more than 150 local producers and wineries packed into one spot.
Indeed the festival is so massive it’s best to go in prepared and knowing what you want to taste; make sure you check out the full program so you can narrow down your choices, because it’s not quite possible to taste everything within a single day.
Be sure to check out the ancillary events happening within Gourmet Village too. Wine connoisseurs should sign themselves up for ‘Grand Marquee Wine Tastings‘, where for a fee you can taste some of the most prestigious wines Western Australia has to offer. We enjoyed ‘Battle of the Breweries‘ too, where the best local breweries go head to head in public blind tasting sessions to see who’s the crowd favourite; but if you’re looking for a bit of fun while drinking beer check out ‘Namastout Beer Yoga‘. Because you gotta work out some of those calories and bad thoughts too, right?
5. Eclectic satellite gourmet events.
One of the most fun parts of Gourmet Escape is the many different activities that happen outside of the Gourmet Village proper. Among the more popular events since the festival’s inception is the signature ‘Gourmet Beach BBQ‘ where you dine on Castle Bay Beach in Dunsborough. You can’t argue with sun, sand, sea while you wine and dine, can you?
But if sand between your toes is not your idea of fun, there are many other dining experiences taking place all across Margaret River. We’re particular excited about “Estate-to-Plate: A Locavore Experience at Voyager Estate“, a four-hands collaboration dinner between Voyager Estate’s head chef Santiago Fernandez and Ray Adriansyah of Bali’s Locavore (which was listed at No.42 in Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants this year).
Another exciting dining event is ‘Ristorante Cracco at Cape Lodge Presented by Singapore Airlines‘; after all we’ve all heard good things about the food at Cape Lodge, and we’re familiar with Chef Carlo Cracco of the Michelin-starred Milan restaurant Ristorante Cracco, who appeared as a judge on Netflix’s culinary competition The Final Table.
6. Singapore headliners.
We’re immensely proud that for years, Gourmet Escape has invited talents from Singapore’s F&B industry to participate in the festival. Last year Julien Royer of Odette and Jake Kellie of Burnt Ends represented Singapore, while owner-head bartender Vijay Mudaliar of award-winning bar NATIVE and André Chiang, chef-owner of the now-defunct Restaurant André did so in 2017.
This year it will be a pair of Michelin-starred culinary talents from the Unlisted Collection stable. Colombo-born, Australian-trained Rishi Naleendra of Singapore’s Cheek Bistro and Cloudstreet will be partnering Gareth Burnett of Wildflower in Perth for “Redefining Modern Australian: Cloudstreet x Wildflower presented by Singapore Airlines“, while Nouri’s Ivan Brehm will showcase his crossroads cooking philosophy at Vasse Felix with ‘Eating at the Crossroads: Nouri comes to Vasse Felix“.
7. Meet celebrity chefs.
Go for the culinary stargazing – every year Gourmet Escape attracts some of the most popular Australian celebrity chefs, as well as those from around the world. Back in 2016 we managed to catch kitchen goddess Nigella Lawson enthrall the crowd with her wit and candor, while homegrown culinary royalty and TV celebrity Curtis Stone – who viewers may be familiar with in “Surfing The Menu” on ABC, “My Restaurant Rules” on Seven Network, and TLC’s “Take Home Chef” – headlined the event in 2017.
The upcoming edition will see American celebrity chef David Chang of Momofuku take the stage; he will be prepping food for ‘Gourmet Beach BBQ’. This year will also see the return of mercurial Marco Pierre White – he was there back in 2015 – where he will meet fans in a number of wine and sign sessions.
8. Amazing cellar doors and brewery taprooms.
And if you by chance cannot land tickets for some of the events you’re hankering for, no worries – go on your own Margaret River beer and wine trail. Cellar doors are always wide open this season, and you totally should take the opportunity to visit some wineries in Margaret River, which celebrated its golden jubilee as a winemaking region not too long ago.
While you can certainly sign up for a winery tour at the likes of Vasse Felix, Voyager Estate and Leeuwin Estate, be sure to check out the smaller winemaking outfits as well; we enjoyed our visits to Cape Grace Wines and Fermoy Estate too. Be sure to book ahead though – tastings are available all the time but winery tours only take place at specific hours throughout the day.
Then there’s beer. Margaret River – and the rest of Western Australia too, really – is home to an exploding craft beer scene, and breweries in this region are churning out brews that are making beer lovers around the world sit up and take notice. We mentioned Rocky Ridge Brewing from earlier, but there are also the likes of Colonial Brewery, Beer Farm, and Eagle Bay Brewing as well.
If these reasons can’t make you get off your rear and book your flight for Western Australia Gourmet Escape, nothing will.