The quaintly named CU@Park is located adjacent to a very pretty little park, complete with waterwheel, in the centre of Gingin. I had been a to a couple of vineyards up that way with a mate, it was getting on well past our eating hour, and had been told it served up pretty good food, headed there –and so it proved.
The restaurant is in an old house, very cosy rooms, warming open fire in one, and a neat little bar as well. At the front of the house is an open al fresco area, covered over by a solid roof, but giving a pleasant view across the park, and this is where we set up shop.
The wine list is small but has few nice drops on it – from local wineries and wider WA. While we examined the menu, we sipped on a glass of Jamie and Charli Riesling, from Willoughby Park in Denmark – a ripe, juicy example of Riesling, some pleasant citrus notes on the nose and a refreshing, soft, mid-dry palate
The menu is geared towards simple, country-style food – salt and pepper squid, cutlets, steak, fish and chips, grilled chicken breast, burgers and the like, with a couple of dishes just a bit different and we chose three of these – almond crusted prawns, scallops wrapped in bacon, and bouillabaisse.
The prawns, a generous serve, were on skewers, with a light tempura batter, rolled in slivered almonds, then quickly fried. Cooked with their tails, the prawns were juicy, moist and crunchy – the almonds providing a sweet, nutty flavour. Served with a fresh green salad and a pot of honey and soy dipping sauce it was a top-notch dish.
The scallops were pretty large beasts, wrapped in bacon, they were well cooked, tender and succulent, and also served with a fresh green salad.
Again it was a large serve and a satisfying and enjoyable meal.
Now the bouillabaisse certainly wasn’t a classic – that is a broth of garlic, onions, tomatoes, fennel, saffron, thyme and bay, and full of white fish and shellfish, with a rouille on spread on bread floating on top – but is was a pretty nice fish stew all the same. It was thick, tomato based, quite a lot of tender, sweet carrot, a hint of aniseed – from fennel or perhaps a liquor – well seasoned, and a touch of chilli spice.
It contained a good amount of well-cooked, tender seafood – squid, prawns and a lot of mussels – although these had been shelled – it would have been better, I think, if they had been plonked in shell and all. With a few slabs of crusty bread to mop it up, it was warming feast for a cool day.
At this stage we adjourned inside to camp by the fire while I had a glass of West Cape Howe Cabernet Merlot, and old Jack plumped for a bottle of Vale Ale IPA.
After downing these we wandered briefly through the gift shop at the front of the restaurant – local art and wares predominated – and paid for our food by the cake display in the cabinet – if I had noticed earlier the rocky road cheesecake may have tempted me – ah well, another time.
Certainly if you up that way, I would recommend dropping in at CU@Park – for a hearty meal, a coffee and cake, or a drink by the fire. Very pleasant surrounds, welcoming waiters, good food and drink, all an hour or so from the City.