For the thousands who answered the call of the West this November, the Margaret River Gourmet Escape more than lived up to its promise. The food was good, the wine was flowing and the sense of having truly got away with it, having made good an escape from the workaday routine, was palpable. It's a feeling that was very much shared by the Australian and international chef talent that jetted in for the occasion. Heston Blumenthal rocked an intriguing chef's jacket/shorts combo for some of his appearances at the Gourmet Village at Leeuwin Estate, and it was the same at GT's Chef's Table (where the conversation ranged from Rick Stein's nightclub days to Joost Bakker's urine-harvesting habits) and the GT Wine Tasting Theatre, where glasses rang with the best of the region's vinous magic.
Team GT hosted chef Blumenthal at Vasse Felix, where resident chef Aaron Carr worked his magic alongside Dan Masters from Rockpool Bar & Grill Perth and Guillaume Brahimi, and then did it all again the Saturday night, with columnist and raconteur AA Gill knocking the crowd dead at Voyager Estate after a stunner of a meal from resident chef Nigel Harvey and guests Shane Osborn, of Hong Kong sensation St Betty, and the mighty Tetsuya Wakuda.
Between sessions and dinners we chowed down on fried chicken and bo ssäm with Sat Bains and Matt Wilkinson at Momofuku Seiobo's beach barbecue, haggled over excellent local avocados at the Margaret River Farmers' Market, and clinked pints with the cream of the local winemaking talent at the Settlers Tavern. After hours, meanwhile, it was all table tennis, as Heston, Guillaume, Sat Bains, George Calombaris and a surprisingly large number of their chef pals revealed themselves to be insanely competitive ping-pong enthusiasts. You heard it here first, folks. The West is wilder than ever.
We ate More or less non-stop. Highlights included Dan Masters' brilliantly spicy salad of marron, poached chicken and silken tofu and Shane Osborn's superb short ribs with smoked polenta and onion seed, but the one to beat might just have been Tetsuya's marinated WA scampi and sieved egg yolk topped with roughly a fistful of oscietra caviar. Nice one, Tets.
We drank Quite a lot, actually, but all in the name of research, whether it was Vasse Felix's Heytesbury Chardonnay (not to mention the odd drop of Leeuwin Estate Art Series), Si Vintners' Sémillon, Voyager Estate cab merlot, Cullen's Diana Madeline cab, and just a few jars of the Margaret River Ale Co's White Ale.
We loved being a part of it. We'll see you next November, Margaret River.