These days there are a number of very, very good restaurants in and around the Swan Valley and the restaurant at Mandoon remains right at the top of the tree. The development itself is quite stunning, on the banks of the river, a beautifully fitted out restaurant, a dedicated tasting area with a cellar for private functions, Homestead Brewery, the magnificent grounds – rolling lawns, shady trees, a gallery, delicatessen and outdoors bar and to top it all, the vista of the vines, leaves turning orange and yellow and red as autumn proceeds.
We hadn’t been for a while but went along for lunch during the week, another gorgeous autumn day, sunny, blue skies and took our seat at the front of the dining area by the large glass windows open out to the veranda and the lawns beyond.
We were one of only two tables when we arrived, but by the time we had finished our meals a few other groups had turned up, and when we left we saw that the brewery was very full indeed.
Wines from Mandoon, beers from Homestead make up most of the drinks list and we chose to drink a bottle of their excellent rosé – well it was that kind of weather.
They offer a five or seven course dégustation menu, with matching wines, and also a two course lunch special with or without paired wines but as usual we looked to the à la carte menu for our choices.
This menu changes regularly and on this occasion the starters included charcoal beef tartare; marron with apple, fennel and leek and glazed quail. On previous visits I have ordered and enjoyed the seasonal entrée listed as the Taste of Spring and Taste of Summer so the Taste of Autumn seemed to be a good spot for me to start. Lady FWO set her sights on a dish of smoked salmon.
Among the mains were buckwheat and potato ravioli which I proceeded to order, char grilled cuttlefish, lamb and toothfish, which was the choice of Lady FWO.
The salmon, hot smoked, served with mild wasabi, slivers of avocado, cucumber and tomato jelly was a splendidly presented dish – in fact all of the courses we enjoyed looked stunning on the plate, but were equally flavoursome and well cooked. The salmon was tender, juicy and salty, and the other ingredients wonderful companions, providing coolness, sweetness, creaminess, and a slight zesty lift by degrees. It was light and refreshing; a perfect palate teaser for the mains to come.
The Taste of Autumn, as with its predecessors, is a salute to the fantastic vegetables available in WA, simply prepared and providing outstanding flavour combinations. Small dollops of pureed earthy beetroot and pumpkin dotted the plate, sitting alongside a mound of crisp green leaves, sheltering tiny oiled lightly cooked leaves of Brussels sprouts with their characteristic cabbagey taste, on a bed of sweet carrot puree with a few crisp florets of al denté cauliflower. Fresh, heady flavours, clean, earthy aromas made for a lovely, simple starter.
Buckwheat and potato ravioli had been cooked in a creamy sauce infused with Mandoon’s reserve sparkling wine sprinkled with globes of red caviar and a shaving of bottarga administered by our waiter and his trusty microplane.
The pasta was slippery, perfectly cooked, the creamy, tangy sauce clinging, and the caviar tiny explosions of salt and the sea. The salted cured fish roe provided another dimension of intense salty flavours. It was a very well turned out dish.
The toothfish sourced from Glacier 51, a sustainable fishery around Heard Island, came on a bed of nutty freekah scented with star anise, micro fennel leaves, with salty sausage flecked throughout and green grape halves to add juicy sweetness. The fish crispy skinned; the snow white flesh flaking into sweet clean tasting scallops was more evidence of the skill and care of the kitchen and the commitment to sourcing brilliant ingredients.
Now we turned our minds to dessert and could go no further than sharing a dish of spiced, cooked apple, marinated in their excellent full flavoured ale, Black Swan, which imbued the dish with hints of pine and hops. Sweet, velvety ice cream and nutty cinnamon bread accompanied the apple, making it a simply delicious and satisfying finish to our meal, and excursion to the estate.
As has always been the case when we have visited Mandoon the service was exemplary, friendly, professional, welcoming, and knowledgeable, adding to the enjoyment of dining here at the best restaurant in the Valley. We cannot recommend it highly enough.