Buongiorno, bonjour and “g’day”! (don't you like how they're all the same thing? ~ who knew Australian vernacular was so cosmopolitan???).

Also, "a good day to you, sir/maam" for our American pals, "Ni Hao" to China, and "Здравствуй" to our Russian comrades, "etcetera etcetera and so forth"... (for Yul Brynner).

It’s your old pal Kit (Christof) Fennessy here. I've been writing this blog with your help for ten years, and there's over a hundred and fifty recipes, restaurant reviews of Australia and around the world, and general gourmet articles in these pages for you to fritter away your idle hours on.

Want to know more about me? Friend me on facebook, follow me on twitter, or even look up my New Yorker cartoons on instagram! NB; different platforms not all food related)

A big thank you, as always, to my sponsors at Blue Vapours (use them for all your design and advertising needs - we are waiting for your call!).

Now, what's on the bill of fare today?

Monday, November 26, 2012

WA Part 1 - Go West Young Man

Did you know I recently went "out West"?

Me neither… hang on a minute. It was me, of course I knew, I was there. But don’t tell anyone.

We were off on a pilgrimage to see Jane’s Uncle Pat, a New Norcia monk of the Benedictine order now known as Father Anscar and the erstwhile priest on the Kalumburu Mission in far north WA. He’s been over there something like fifty years, and people still ask him how he likes it “out West” (you can say that when you go there too - it's like New Zealanders calling NZ "Kiwi").

On picking our car up at the Perth airport (surrounded by reassuring messages from Chevron™ that everything was going to be alright and that they "agreed" with us), I asked our delightful car rental hostesses which was the gourmet trail to take on the drive up to New Norcia?

“Well, you’ll go through historic Guildford.”
“Yeah, they have to go through there. And then the Swan Valley.”
“Oh yeah, got to go there. Maybe a winery for lunch. Jean? Jean goes there. Jean, what’s the name of that winery you go to up there?"
“Oh you know the one with the duck in the name.”

So, taking their advice as local knowledge , and even ­– since I was on a pilgrimage – gospel truth, we shuffled down the gourmet trail on the way to the promised land.

Welcome to Kit’s Cucina “Out West” Part 1: Guilford and the Swan Valley. Now, read on! (and yes, Mum, I do go on a bit, but it's "the journey"...)


We found ourselves doing circuits of historic Guildford fifteen minutes from the airport.

Douglas Adams fans might remember (the man himself has forgotten) this is where Ford Prefect claimed to come from – rather than from a small planet somewhere in the vicinity of Betelgeuse (actually, that’s the English one, but never mind…).

It’s historically an inland port on the Swan River, and was mooted to be the site of the original settlement. These days it’s a couple of blocks, with historic antique shops, a couple of Italian restaurants and is the gateway to the Swan Valley. Most importantly it's home to the:

05 Swan Street, Guildford WA 6055

Why is this important? It’s the “second oldest pub in Australia”, though the original building has gone to God, much like the original inhabitants. But the hotel went up, and created the need for a court house and a lock up, so there you have a snap shot of Australian history and a kind of social Darwinian theory skipping along hand in hand. Thank you, Alcohol, for a whole town!

Such thoughts made me gasp for a beer. But it was around ten o’clock in the morning. Nothing was open and we were feeling like lunch.
NB: people from the East coast. Pack a ham roll and small hip flask to get you through the morning.

It may be worthwhile, at this point, noting the relative monopoly of CUB beers all over Australia in normal commercial bottle shops and pubs. Travelling around WA generally, you see the occasional sign for Emu Bitter and sWAn Draught (which is actually, I suspect, Carlton Draught), but in most pubs it was almost exclusively Vic Bitter, and Carlton, with Peroni, Guiness and other brewed-under-licence affairs sold everywhere you looked.

What happened to jingoistic patriotism? I never saw ONE bottle of Swan Lager, and there I was all ready to “come lift it up, it’s Australia’s Cup”.

Having sung that, there are a stack of boutique breweries around WA (one of which shortly), so you don’t have to drink commercial dross. I’m just saying CUB is everywhere, like Maccas.

So Guilford? Pop there if you’re living in Perth for a weekend lunch, while trawling the antique shops. Or perhaps enjoy a Devonshire tea under the anchor statue. I give it four tentacles out of eight, the pub seven tentacles out of eight.

The Swan Valley is a kind of twenty to thirty minute driving loop north of Guildford, which doesn’t look like much of a valley – I guess there are mountains over there in the distance. I suspect it’s because they just designated a winery region close to Perth, for the terroir, lower land prices and relative proximity (compared to Margaret River).

The tourist drive caters to all tastes; wine AND beer. There are a bunch of boutique breweries that have sprung up throughout the Valley, but due to travel time constraints, I only got to trial a couple (oh, BTW, EVERY winery is called the Duck-something-or-other... thanks Jean), but both were very good.

8731 West Swan Rd
Henley Brook WA 6055

The girls lolled beside the river and took photos, but by high noon, I was champing at the bit, and left them to it to go to a German brewhouse (Elmar’s).

Are you familiar with “taster” glasses of beer? Me neither, but you can buy six of their excellent beers, in little glasses, for about fifteen bucks. It’s about the equivalent of two standard beers; and the mini samplers included wheat, a dark, and then some really weird ones, rounded off with their limited edition Octoberfest brew.

The surrounds were brewhouse-ily Germanically cheap and cheerful, in a pine and Reich flag kind of way, but the food they were serving was schnitzels and home made small goods. Didn’t they know I’m on a diet and trying to leave my Germanic forebears figures behind me?

I suggested a winery for lunch.

Elmar's beers I give seven tentacles out of eight, the food I give a wide berth on my way to my new bikini size.

100 Barrett Street,
Herne Hill
WA 6056

Sittella actually grow their wines in Margaret River, but have a restaurant and cellar door in the Swan Valley.

The view from their restaurant balcony is stunning, with rows of grape vines with the traditional French rose bush at the end of each row. It looks an ideal place to have a wedding.

I had a glass of their bubbles (tick) with oysters (indifferent South Australian, one with icicles in it) for entrée (starters for my US readers), then a very good lamb with a glass of their “Silk” wine (a blend of merlot and cab sav, very good) for mains (entrée for my US readers). The presentation was a little let down by the veg on the side: one piece each of cauliflower, broccoli, that baby asian corn that tastes funny, and a snow pea… it was kind of like frozen veg done fresh (wow – bitchy, even for me!).

Sittella ranks an eight out of eight tentacles for view, a five and a half for food, and a six and a half for le boozeoire.

The Swan Valley seems a gourmet’s dream, and is a salve no doubt to Perth-ites (Perth-ians, Perth-nissians?). I give the entire region six and a half tentacles… if you can get someone else to drive.

Next episode: New Norcia (duh duh duh!!!)