I learned the recipe that delivers a perfect day of Perth food and drink.
- Take one venue, preferably a pretty, green expanse that’s easy to get to.
- Add an absolute bounty of culinary businesses from around WA.
- Stir in bright sunshine and a gentle breeze, and leave to stand until a warm, chilled and family-friendly atmosphere rises.
UnWined Subiaco was the first Australian festival I’d attended, and I could think of no finer way to spend a Sunday afternoon.
Ambling into Market Square Park, it was immediately apparent the organisers had done a good job. There were a plethora of stalls set out on the grass, but the whole event felt cosy rather than claustrophobic, with plenty of space left to sit and soak up the sun. A three-piece band (the name of which I sadly didn’t catch) hit the perfect note, sending mellow melodies bubbling out into the crowds.
The only thing missing was a glass of wine, so we decided to open our account at Margaret River’s House of Cards. Their 2015 Royals Chardonnay was delicious: fruity, with notes of nougat and oak. Light but flavoursome, it was also good value at $8 for a healthy glass; from my viewpoint the festival was reasonably priced overall.
Glasses in hand, we headed over to one of the three cooking classes arranged for the afternoon. I didn’t really know what to expect, but we got an enjoyable helping of gastronomic enthusiasm, useful advice and some delicious free samples. The chef was Michelle Forbes from the Subiaco Hotel, which I will soon be visiting if the food there resembles what we tasted in the tent. Focusing mainly on fish and seafood, Michelle talked a crowd of about 30 people through cooking ceviche, prawns and whiting, with a bonus of some pork loin to finish.
Generous complimentary servings were handed out during the hour, as the session host “VJ” kept things ticking along nicely. I’d be hard-pressed to choose between fresh crumbed whiting or succulent prawns with a citrus kick, but it was nice to hear an emphasis on buying local where possible to support WA’s farmers and fishing boats. Full marks for this class.
Appetites temporarily stalled, it was time for some more wine. I wanted to sample something from the Swan Valley, and a 2016 Verdelho from Sitella Winery was just the job. Light, clean and fruity, it was also satisfying for a wine novice like myself because one of the flavours highlighted on the description – lychee – came through loud and clear, confirming that my tastebuds do technically work. (It also gave a lovely sweet finish to each sip.)
Having heard that After Hours had grabbed some gongs at the WA Wine Awards the night before, it seemed only right to give them a look too. The bloke manning the stall was knowledgeable and generous with the samples, and the brand’s 9-5 Shiraz and SSB were tasty enough that we picked up a couple of bottles on the spot.
Handily, we were able to stash them in the “wine locker” provided for purchases on site, which meant our hands remained free for food. Surveying the array of catering trucks, I was struck by the duck-based delights on offer at Twin Beaks. I guessed we couldn’t go far wrong with a “Palmer”: duck confit, scratchings, goat’s cheese, beetroot relish, honey and rocket.
One of the best burgers I’ve eaten in months, it was an absolute quacker. The dark flavour of the just-charred duck meat was set off by the sweetness of the honey and beetroot and the melted creaminess of the cheese. Even the brioche bun – which by this point runs the risk of becoming nothing more than a doughy cliche – was delicious. The Twin Beaks team don’t have a fixed premises, but I’d highly recommend catching up with them at an event within five hours’ drive of you.
The burger took about 10 minutes to be ready, so we did what any sensible food fans would and used the time to scope another stall. The pizzas at Two Queens looked excellent, but as we didn’t want to fill up too much we limited ourselves to sharing some “cheesy balls” from their wood-fired oven. For $5, we received three little orbs of pure drink-snack artistry. Cream cheese and mozzarella made for a superbly smooth centre, with thinly sliced jalapenos lending a little extra warmth inside a thin, crispy crumb coating. Utterly delicious.
Restored, we decided to mix things up a bit with a mid-afternoon G&T courtesy of Bloom. The brand has recently teamed up with fellow UK firm Fentimans (they of the posh soft drinks) for some pre-mixed bottles. The standard G&T was pleasantly crisp, but the real find was the Rose Lemonade. Apparently the neat rose elixir is sourced from Bulgaria and comes in at $15,000/litre. Either way, it’s been en-gin-eered into a brilliant beverage for summer, with just the right amount of sweetness. I advise you to locate some and stockpile appropriately.
While my wine wingwoman polished that off, I stayed in good spirits by chatting with the staff from Limeburners. Their 43% single malt is super smooth, but the 63% cask strength version really surprised me on both flavour and deceptive-drinkability, which I think reflects quality.
Though the whisky was a tough act to follow, Talisman (Ferguson Valley) proved an ideal way to wind up my wines for the day. Their Zinfandel and Malbec were notably tasty, and I’ll now be looking out for their stuff in future. I’m already pretty familiar with the work of Gage Roads Brewing, and their staff cemented my loyalty by offering tasters, even though they weren’t permitted to sell us a pint as the event was coming to a close. Can’t say fairer than that, especially when the pumps included their moreish Break Water Ausssie Pale.
There was just time for a final food stop on our way out. Saigon Eats showed off the best things I associate with Vietnamese cuisine – bright, lively flavours that work together perfectly. Juicy prawns sat on crunchy salad and crackers, while smoky lamb ribs were beautifully seasoned with lemongrass and herbs. Keep an eye out for this lot at future events.
We left lugging bottles, as well as some Vinofood dressings; balsamic shiraz glaze, anyone? It was fun to have the chance to take away a few edible memories of what had been a superb event. There’s a bulging menu of festivals lined up for spring and summer, but UnWined set the standard for me.