For lovers of good food and wine, the South West of our fair state is a very easy part of the world to fall in love with. We are spoilt with an abundance of outstanding wineries and fortunately many of their beautiful cellar doors are accompanied by equally impressive restaurants. I’ve long had my list of favourites for a lazy lunch when in the region, but for some remiss reason I’d never been to Xanadu Wines.
The opportunity arose over the Australia Day weekend when we were booked in for a few nights in Dunsborough and were kindly asked if we’d like to visit Xanadu for lunch. It was as though the stars aligned and we booked in for a Saturday visit and were pleased to discover that Xanadu was a dog friendly winery given that we’d have our two pups, Chablis and Brillat, in tow.
The weather over that weekend was pretty outstanding and while we might not have had blue skies on the day we visited, the temperature was still entirely pleasant. So let’s lunch!
Xanadu winery itself is beautiful and as you meander your way down the long drive way from the road through to the cellar door, there are vast fields filled with vines, currently heavy with grapes. It was all very picturesque.
Recently appointed Xanadu Food and Beverage Manager Dexter greeted us and showed us to our table, which was right near some open doors so we could sit our two dogs in their beds nearby. It was lovely that they were so accommodating. The indoor dining space is actually a lot bigger than I expected, a lot of warm wooden tones and appropriately decorated with many a lovely old wine barrel. The seating spills into a pleasant alfresco and then there is the grass and beanbags for those keen to stretch the legs while they enjoy a glass of wine and bite to eat. It really is a beautiful setting.
We kicked things off with a glass of Xanadu Sparkling. There is just something about the fanciness of fizz that always puts you in the mood for a good lunch.
On the food side there are a few options, you can indulge in their tasting menu, which means you put the decision making in the very capable hands of the kitchen team or you can opt for al a carte. As everything sounded delicious the latter option was slightly trickier, but for those with slightly less lunching time available it was a good option. And that’s what we went with for our debut visit, so we started studying the menu and short listed what we were in the mood for…
Head Chef Melissa Kokoti and her team take inspiration from local producers, neighbouring farms, the sea as well as what is seasonally grown in the Xanadu vegetable garden. The menu is kept humble and elementary while keeping an impressive finesse throughout each course.
We decided to share two of the small plates and then ordered a main each. First to arrive was a surprise, a serve of the pig’s head terrine, piccalilli, plum, fried cucumber pickle, brioche. We hadn’t ordered this, but it was lovely that Chef Melissa sent the dish out for us to try. It presented beautifully, everything carefully arranged on the plate with pretty pops of colour. I particularly liked that you had your choice of either some of the soft brioche or the more crispy style cracker as a base to enjoy some of the delectable terrine. It created some interesting contrasts, and when paired with a generous spoonful of the house made piccalilli or plum sauce. It was an excellent terrine. The right balance of meat and fat and had been well seasoned, making it incredibly flavourful. The accompanying sauces were also delicious and both matched well with the terrine.
Up next were the Salmon and avocado tacos, which came in a serve of three, a colourful medley carefully arranged on top of small round tortillas. The salmon was so wonderfully fresh, combining well with the creamy goodness of the vibrant green avocado and slight crunch from the pickled cabbage and it was such a tasty and refreshing mouthful. Thoroughly enjoyed them.
Now as enamoured as I’d been with these first two dishes my favourite followed next, the Arkady lamb carpaccio, tomato, buffalo mozzarella, basil, caper. I’m a long time Akardy lamb fan and both GG and I are frequent flyers when it comes to ordering carpaccio, but I’d never had lamb carpaccio before so we were very keen to give it a go. It was one of those love at first bite moments. Every element on the plate had been given consideration and flavours had been expertly balanced. The wafer thin slice of lamb melted in your mouth, then there was a divine creaminess from the buffalo mozzarella (definitely high on my favourite cheese list), sweetness from the cherry tomato and a welcome salty kick from the capers. Such balance, such deliciousness. One of those dishes that I wished I could immediately revisit.
We had switched across to the delightful Xanadu Reserve Chardonnay and enjoyed that while we eagerly awaited our mains. As a lover of all things pasta it is always an exciting prospect to see a summery style pasta dish on offer, spinach + goats cheese tortellini, sauce vierge, courgette, smoked tomato for me. Across the table, GG went for the fresh fish, artichoke cream, gnocchi, asparagus, snap peas, fennel,and it was gold band snapper that day.
It had a pleasing amount of greenery and even the pasta itself had that vibrant hue. Flavourwise there was a delicious creaminess from the goat cheese, the tortellini had been cooked to al dente perfection, that slight resistance to each bite and the fragrant sauce vierge really brought everything together beautifully. It was fresh and light and ideal for a summer lunchtime and this year round pasta fan was massively on board.
Across the table GG gave rave reviews for his gold band snapper and from the bite I tried I can reiterate his sentiments. It was cooked perfectly and all the flavours were so well balanced, ensuring that the gentle fish remained the star attraction. The greens all had an ideal amount of crunch too, keeping the dish texturally interesting.
The dessert options looked entirely tempting, but our furry companions were slightly restless (they need more practise with long lunches it would seem) so we decided we’d have to leave those for another time and I definitely think there will be another visit sometime in our not too distant future.
So next time you are hungry in the south, whether you’d like something more formal with their indulgent tasting menu or slightly more casual enjoyed from a beanbag on the grass under an umbrella, know that there are plenty of options for everyone on the food front at Xanadu. Plus there are still all their lovely wines to try! So yes, perhaps hit up the cellar door first so you know what you’d like a glass of with lunch (I can vouch for their Reserve Chardonnay being a very pleasant drop) and take the time to enjoy yourself at this beautiful winery.
Thank you Xanadu for the invitation along for lunch. We’ll definitely be sure to visit when next in the south!