What inspired you to open Amelia Park Restaurant in 2017?
Renee and I were approached by our now landlord Peter Walsh to help design a restaurant at the Amelia Park Winery site and to lease it once it was built. Our previous restaurant, Piari and Co., was a great introduction to owning our own business but in order to expand, we needed a larger venue and Peter had made us an offer we would be silly to refuse.
The restaurant overlooks your own vineyard. Is there a close relationship and matching between the menu and wine list?
We always consider the wines when writing our menu but we also have the flexibility of a fully licensed bar with the options of cocktails, draught beer, spirits and aperitifs. Ultimately, we write our menu based on what we think our clientele are looking for when they come to Amelia Park.
What local produce is your favourite to cook with?
I don’t really have a favourite, all the local produce we get is top shelf which makes my job a lot easier.
Tell us about the food you source from the Margaret River region and surrounds?
Our lamb is all grown in the south west, Great Southern and Wheatbelt to a specific profile and we are supplied direct from V&V Walsh, so we know it will always be great quality lamb with a nice proportion of fat to tender meat. Our beef comes from the Great Southern and we dry age it in a special fridge, visible from the restaurant. Wagin Duck and Game supply us with lovely duck and amazing quail direct from the farm.
34 Degrees Blue supply our fish. Being based in Margaret River, they have access to local fisherman catching beautiful fish like Nannygai, Hapuka, Pink Snapper and of course, Dhufish. Blue Ridge Marron supply us live marron and fresh rainbow trout and we also use companies like Endeavour Foods for things like Rottnest scallops and Fremantle octopus.
Our vegetables and fruit come through The Garden Basket who source as much local product as possible direct from the producers. We only use local cheeses and our favourite is Cambray Cheese in Nannup.
What are the other exciting regions around WA that feature on your menu?
Sometimes during less favourable boating conditions our fish come from further north in places like Geraldton, Carnarvon, Exmouth or further south like Albany and Esperance. I’m always excited when I can source product from the Wheatbelt as I grew up there and it seems any fruit and vegetables coming out of the Southern Forests region is the best.
Your jarrah-fed woodfired oven and grill is used extensively to prepare signature dishes. Which meats really benefit from cooking over a flame?
Meat cuts with a bone attached and a good amount of fat really cook well over the wood grill and the flavour achieved can't be replicated cooking over gas burners or in a sous vide bath. The burnt or charred bits are often the best and the fat renders down beautifully. Often I get asked how I like my meat cooked, and I always say I’m not fussy as long as it has a beautiful char on the outside and is at least a little bit pink in the middle. We leave the bones on our lamb racks and rib eyes untrimmed and love it when we see customers picking up the bones and picking them clean. This is often the best bit and also prevents the bones from burning and giving off an acrid odour. Our slow roast lamb shoulder is finished in the wood oven too and we achieve a beautiful deep coloured glaze on top, the darker the better.
I think almost anything can benefit in flavour from going through the wood fired oven, especially vegetables like cabbage, broccoli, baby carrots and cauliflower. Fremantle octopus has always been on our menu and works really well being grilled over coals before being coated in a nice glaze — at the moment it’s a za'atar glaze with spices, sesame, honey and verjuice.
Anything exciting on the horizon for the rest of 2020?
I think 2020 will be a challenging year for small businesses across the board, so we will continue to strive for our number one goal, value for money and bums on seats. We are planning on hosting a few special events through the quieter months and working on a take home produce range for our guests to purchase and remember us by. We are really excited about the new flights coming direct from the eastern states to Busselton, hopefully, we will see more visitors to our beautiful region this year!
Amelia Park Restaurant