Just after starting this blog in March, I began reading Gourmet Traveller magazines for inspiration. In one of the previous issues, I came across an article that stated Cullen Winery Restaurant is a definite must-try if you are heading to the Margaret River region. This note remained in my phone for months, waiting to be deleted after I had tried it for myself.
As previously mentioned, A organised this trip and where we ate. She did a lot of research before picking the places, as we were only there for 2 nights and 2 days. Luckily for me, she came across the following website in her research, which stated that Cullen Winery Restaurant is ranked #81 of top gourmet food experiences in Australia and booked us in for Lunch. A and I are both attracted to the biodynamic aspect of Cullen Winery Restaurant. They use only select local produce and try and source a lot of their fresh ingredients from their own garden.
On arrival, we both headed directly to the wine tasting area of the cellar. We tried the entire list of wines available to try and we both particularly liked the Verdelho wine. The lady serving us said that the Verdelho would be a perfect wine to match their Indian tasting dish.
When we sat down in the restaurant, we both looked at the menu and saw many choices that appealed to us. However, the Indian tasting plate that was mentioned in the cellar was particularly intriguing to both of us. We asked the waitress what it came with and were told Dhal, Palak Paneer (a North Indian curry made with Spinach and Indian Cheese) and Naan bread ($20). A and I decided to order this dish as our main as we were both very interested in trying it. We also ordered two glasses of the Verdelho wine ($8) to accompany our tasting plates, as recommended, and a small Cullens Biodynamic Garden Salad ($8).
The restaurant was decorated with Indian-style drapings from the ceiling and the lobby was full of Christmas decorations made in India which were all for sale. I was intrigued at this Indian-themed venue, so I asked a waitress for some background. The waitress told A and I that the owner had recently gone to India and was quite taken by the Indian food and culture. She also said that the Christmas decorations in the lobby were being sold to facilitate Indian women, who were financially struggling in India. One of the chefs in the restaurant had an Indian catering company outside of his employment at Cullen and the owner decided to introduce Indian dishes to the menu.
While we were waiting for our food arrived, we had a lovely time sipping on our Verdelho wine and checking out the other plates coming out of the kitchen. There was a lot of good looking and smelling food being served to tables around us. The restaurant is set overlooking the historic vineyard and provides a beautiful view.
The tasting plates came out to the table and on first glance I was a little apprehensive. The colours looked incredible but the plate looked quite small. However, by our first taste, those thoughts became non-existant. Each element was extremely good. The dhal was a lovely combination of spices and flavours. The lentils weren’t overcooked. The palak paneer was probably one of the best tasting palak paneer I have had, as I especially liked that the Indian cheese was lightly grilled and placed on top of the spinach, leaving the flavours separate. The naan bread was a bit different to typical naan bread but it could have been made differently or made without the usual Tandoori style oven. Regardless, this bread was still a perfect accompaniment, as it was lightly seasoned with sea salt which was a lovely contrast to the other elements of this dish.
The biodynamic garden salad was one of the best garden salads I have eaten. Each piece of the salad tasted so fresh and tasted more flavoursome than normal. The vinagarette was simple but beautifully balanced and didn’t overpower to taste of each vegetable. The waitress was definitely correct in suggesting the small size for the two of us, as the small size was more than enough for our side-dish. The verdelho wine was a perfect accompaniment to both dishes and we thanked the lady on the way out for giving us the suggestion.
This lunch was simple, unusual but was really good. I am very interested to return to Cullen Winery in the near future to try more on the menu.